I am not a trainspotter. That said, I completely subscribe to the romance of travel by rail (even having experienced the seediness of rail travel in many European countries) – a transportation option not readily available in the Bluegrass. Perhaps a tiny bit of the railroad is in my blood – after all, the railroad came through our family farm in the last quarter of the 19th century. There were two depots on the farm during the heyday of rail traffic: Prewitt Station (a freight stop) and Klondike (or Klondyke), a small passenger station. My grandmother and her sister used to hail the train down and go into Lexington for a day of shopping, and even my parents traveled back and forth from Virginia to Kentucky on the train. When I was 10 years old, enormous machines began taking the track apart, and an important era in Mt. Sterling’s development was over.
On my jaunts across Kentucky, I am always looking for long-ago railroad beds, and lone surviving depots in small county seat towns. I was delighted, then, to find a wonderful little passenger station in Greensburg, Kentucky, the county seat of Green County. Established in 1792, the town was laid out into 180 lots on a courthouse square plan…but unlike other versions of this plan, Greensburg’s courthouse (the oldest courthouse west of the Alleghenies) is located on a corner lot rather than in the center the square. This adjustment had a lot to do with topography, and having the courthouse off to one side allowed for easier traffic flow. The railroad ran outside of this late-18th century plan, across a creek valley on the east side of town.
The L & N Passenger Depot is a one-story frame building, located on Depot Street on the east side of Main Street, and built around 1913. The hipped roof, clad in red tiles, has very deep eaves, accented with gently curved brackets. A series of dormers provide ventilation at the roofline, and the building has numerous windows to let in lots of light, as well as two-light transoms over the doors. An ell on the north side containing the freight office and baggage room was removed in the 1970s, but that loss does little to negate the charm of this early 20th century survivor of passenger rail service.
Like many communities across Kentucky, Greensburg didn’t receive rail service until the 1870s. The Cumberland and Ohio Railroad laid tracks to Greensburg in 1877 – but not through Greensburg. Two years later, a line from Campbellsville (county seat of Taylor County) came through town. This is the second passenger depot to be on this site.
While peering at the depot, and admiring the view of Greensburg’s commercial and business district to the west, I noticed another curious sight – a more stable form of the swinging footbridge common across Eastern Kentucky. Goose Creek, located in a steep valley, separates downtown Greensburg from the passenger depot. In 1928, the city authorized construction of a pedestrian footbridge to connect the public square to the depot. For $4,500, this wooden plank bridge (with a metal framework, and metal fencing along the sides) solved the access problem. The footbridge is 445 feet long, 40 feet high (at its highest point), and five feet wide.
The depot is now (from what I could ascertain) the home of the Green County Historical Society. I enjoyed walking around the depot in the chilly March sunshine – a number of historic homes are located on this side of Goose Creek as well, so there was plenty to see. As I climbed back into my car, I mourned our country’s reliance on personal automobiles, and the death of passenger rail traffic in the Commonwealth. At least places like the Greensburg Depot remain, to provide some inspiration for the imagination of generations that have grown up with the belief that the surface road system (not to mention the interstate highway system) is king.