Once-grand Station Will Be Renovated

Posted: September 19, 1991

On a cool, sunny April day in 1912, a private train pulled into the Midway railroad station in Coatesville.

Talk was that former President Theodore Roosevelt was on board and would make a brief campaign speech, and a crowd had gathered for the chance to hear old Rough Rider himself.

With characteristic showmanship, Roosevelt stepped off the train and delivered one of his famous whistle-stop speeches.

Nearly 80 years later, the station that Roosevelt walked through still stands, but bears little resemblance to the grand Victorian terminal that was the town's pride at the turn of the century.

Today, the red brick building on East Third Avenue is defaced with graffiti, its wide arches and windows boarded up. A dark entrance tunnel and poorly lighted platform cause many travelers to enter the station with caution.

But all that could change soon.

City officials have big plans to restore the station and have raised nearly $200,000 to that end, most of it from state and county redevelopment grants, with renovations to begin this winter.

While the money will go to fix up the building, repair broken windows and rid the facade of graffiti, more funding would be needed to return the station to the days when Roosevelt visited.

That's why Coatesville officials are putting together a promotional campaign to raise more money for the station's restoration. The ultimate goal is to raise an additional $300,000 to $400,000, said Eugene DiOrio, president of the Graystone Society, a local historical society, and a member of the station restoration committee. One proposal is to erect plaques with the names of corporations and people who donate amounts of $500 or more.

If the fund-raising drive is successful, the city could afford to build a passenger shelter on the western side of the tracks and redo several potential commercial spaces inside the station. It also might be enough to add a third floor to the building. The city hopes to rent several commercial areas to local businesses, such as a restaurant and a newsstand. There's even space next to the station for an outside patio.

"That's my hope - that people wouldn't come here to just ride the train, but to be part of the ambiance," said city planner David Clouser.

The city has discussed the possible changes with Amtrak, which owns the station, and will continue to consult with Amtrak, said DiOrio.

"The rationale behind this whole effort is the basic thinking to do something to boost Coatesville," said DiOrio. "The station is one of the

entrance points to Coatesville.

"It's located on the Main Line railroad transportation system. It's a little-used and neglected asset. We want to make it safe, attractive, and have it lighted well and clean."

DiOrio said he expected more train riders because of worsening traffic congestion. One of the attractive services at the station is the direct line to Atlantic City that Amtrak offers, said DiOrio.

Coatesville's train station is by no means in mothballs. During weekdays, Amtrak stops six times each way and SEPTA three times each way, taking commuters to Harrisburg and Philadelphia.

Coatesville's Midway station got its name for being halfway along the rail line built in the 1830s from Philadelphia to Columbia, Pa., on the Susquehanna River, according to DiOrio. The rail line - known far and wide as the Main Line - was built as a public-works project by the state and later taken over by the now-defunct Pennsylvania Railroad.

The original station was at the west end of the city. In 1867, the present station was built on East Third Avenue, where it has since undergone several renovations.

City Council President Rodger Johnson said he had fond memories of taking the train as a boy with his parents on shopping excursions into Philadelphia.

It's sad, said DiOrio, that subsequent generations of Americans have grown up with no real knowledge of the railroad's glory days.

"They look upon rail transportation as second-class travel," DiOrio said. ''Whether or not (train travel) will revive in Coatesville is just something we have to try."

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