When in Folkston, don’t just visit the Okefenokee – Part I

FOLKSTON, Ga. – Driving along U.S. Highway 1 on my first trip to Folkston, I spied a southbound freight train on the tracks to my right.

At a side street ahead, Kingfisher Landing Road, I turned, pulled up to the grade crossing and stopped my car. I rolled down my window and let the shutter rip.

As the train passed, I made a U-Turn and continued my southward journey along U.S. Highway 1. When I made it into town, I parked near the town’s historic depot and photographed the same train as it rolled through town.

I was officially in train heaven.

The first train, of the Savannah, Florida and Western Railroad, passed through town in June 1881, marking the beginning of an industry that would change the city’s history forever, a change that is still visible.

Today, more than 120 years later, the town is still known for its trains, as dozens pass through the Charlton County, Ga., seat daily. And, railfans from around the country gather on a viewing platform downtown to catch the action, opting to visit the viewing platform, instead of the town’s other attraction: the Okefenokee Swamp (the town’s nickname is “Gateway to the Okefenokee”).

“We’ve evolved into a second attraction in this area,” Folkston Mayor Marvin “Cookie” Williams was quoted as saying in a 2005 Associated Press article. “The big attraction, of course, is the swamp. I don’t think we’ll ever compete with the swamp and the number of people who come to see it. But it’s amazing to see the number of people who do come to watch trains.”

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