Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Welcome to East the Lost City of Chernobyl

SPECIAL NOTE: Since we first ran these photos East Berlin has, with Western aid and freedom, has experienced massive rebuilding, renovation and renewal. The comparison is outdated. The AMTRAK station at North Charleston, S.C., more closely resembles what has been left behind in the lost city of Chernobyl. The difference, of course, is that Chernobyl had to be abandoned and is going rapidly to seed. This AMTRAK station did not have to be abandoned, but was and has already gone to seed.

Unlike Chernobyl, it took no such drama to bring the AMTRAK station to its current state of disgrace. It required only total neglect. Countless billions were wasted by federal mismanagement of a deteriorated passenger rail system. What follows was our first impression of the site:

It is 4:00PM on a Saturday and we've come to snoop around the Charleston Amtrak Terminal. Through this palatial facility must pass all who depart from and arrive at Charleston, SC, by train. In the hard light of day it is a bit this side of eye candy. It reminds us of nothing so much as the photos of East Berlin when the Soviets held their tightest grip on their captive countries.

East Berlin became a metaphor for the failing corruption of the Soviet Union. The Amtrak Terminal could have been slipped right into East Berlin past Checkpoint Charlie and no one would have noticed. Every published photo from that dreadful sector was a reminder to Americans of how very fortunate we were by comparison. Just look at this place today.

The side facing oncoming visitors has several broken windows some of which are crudely patched, some left open. Several old and uninviting mattresses rest against one of the first floor windows. We'd feel safer sleeping on the tracks. A battered garage door stands slightly ajar. Notice the heavy rust on the interior of the rail siding roof. One must feel very special when gliding down this concourse. There is barbed wire strung everywhere further reminding us of the danger which is at hand. It looks like one of those war torn stations from which the movie hero narrowly makes his escape.

It is the classic movies from the 1930s and 1940s which remind us of how far the mighty have fallen. Travel by train was elegant, timely and safe in those days. It is an iron horse of a different color today. Comparing the Amtrak Terminal to the Charleston International Airport is shocking, but not entirely fair. The airport is operated by Charleston County Aviation Authority and Amtrak is run more or less by the US Government which bailed out Amtrak many years ago. Are we not then shareholders in Amtrak ? It appears that we or those we hired have not been good shepherds of our physical plant if that is the case.

We saw no one around the place at all. We wondered if the staff had left to help run General Motors.


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