Conway & Myrtle Beach Re-Connect - By Rail
The Carolina Southern Railway line that runs between Myrtle Beach and Conway, South Carolina, was reopened after fourteen years without use. The occasion was celebrated with an inaugural four-passenger car train that traveled from Conway to Myrtle Beach.
Pipen said that this event "was a historic day as it shows that with the motivation of private industry and the cooperation of government anything can be done".
Pippen claimed that his railroad would ease the traffic between Conway and Myrtle Beach as with every trip, four tractor-trailers will not be traveling on the roads. He continued, saying that Los Angeles voters had agreed to pay a tax to reinstate a similar railroad to reduce traffic and Myrtle Beach had saved itself from a similar predicament by allowing his company to service and use the railway.
Pippen received a number of awards for his renovation of the railway line, including Congressional Recognition by South Carolina Congressmen Henry Brown. he also received an Outstanding Service and Educational restoration Award.
"It was memorable to see one man's vision become a reality," said South Carolina Secretary of State Jim Miles,"it is also historic for our great state.
Pippen was given a fifty year lease on the railroad that began on April 22nd of this year (2001), and his goal was to have the track operational for an inaugural run in sixty days. Pippen achieved his goal, having the track ready and the train run on Friday, June 22nd, 2001.
Pippen said that he became interested in the track because of its potential to ship freight into Myrtle Beach, especially because the Conway connection was linked to the National Railway Line. "Once all repairs on the railway were complete, the train will probably travel once a week into Myrtle Beech because there is only one line in and out of the city", he said.
Pippen and Carolina Southern Railway have renovated railroads along the east coast, and they were responsible for reinstating the railway that shipped soldiers between the Army and Navy game in Maryland. The train now transports passengers to and from Orioles and Ravens games at Camden Yards in Baltimore.
Even though Pippen transported passengers for his inaugural trip, he has not been given a permit to ship passengers to and from Conway. The county must still approve his permit to carry passengers.
The inaugural Carolina Southern train left from Conway and stopped in Myrtle Beach; however, there would have been no pace to stop if it was not for Myrtle beach Resident Jack Thompson. Thompson saved the Myrtle Beach train depot from demolition earlier in the year.
The depot was scheduled for demolition because the depot owner had no buyers for the station. Thompson drove by the depot just as it was to be demolished, and he stood in front of the bulldozers. The workers called the owner,and Thompson convinced the owner to give him twenty-four hours to come up with an alternate plan.
Thompson approached the city council and stated that the last historic building in Myrtle Beach was to be demolished if they did not come up with the money to purchase it. The city agreed to help purchase and renovate the building if Thompson could raise $650,000 of the $750,000 necessary. With the help of the All Aboard Committee (An organization which records and helps restore historic railroad stations), Thompson has raised $420,000 to date. The Carolina Southern Railroad has donated a locomotive in support of the historic restoration, and Thompson has planned a sidewalk of history inscribed with the names of donators and contributors. A contribution may donate $50 and receive a brick inscribed with his or her name, or a family may donate $125 for a one foot by one foot piece of pavement. Corporate sponsors may donate $500 for their name to appear on a piece of pavement as well.
When asked what the future of the depot was, Thompson replied, "we want the depot to be a community reception center with historic value."
Thompson also responded to the idea of passengers being transported from Conway to Myrtle Beach by train, "if Pippen can get an addendum to his lease in order to transport passengers, then we would defiantly consider using the depot as a place to unload and load passengers.
(editorial originally appeared in the July-August 2001 issue of COAST magazine - Nicole (Levan) Hoke.)
(click pictures for larger view)