Train observation platform could be built by Christmas
PLANT CITY - A plan for a train observation platform at the historic railroad depot appears to be gaining steam. CSX has pledged $25,000, and fundraising continues for the remaining money. Mayor Mike Sparkman said about $200,000 is needed for the platform, which is designed to attract more rail buffs and other tourists to downtown. Sparkman hopes that the observation platform will be completed by Christmas. Retired CF Industries executive David Miller is heading up the committee to raise the money to build the platform. The platform will be built on a city owned parking lot just south of Union Station Welcome Center and Railroad Museum.No taxpayer money will be used in construction, Sparkman said. The platform will sit about 14 feet off the ground, and be covered with a roof for a total height of nearly 29 feet. The architecture is similar to the nearly century old Union Station, 102 N. Palmer St., which closed as a train station years ago. Al Collinge, a Greater Plant City Chamber of Commerce employee who is volunteer coordinator of the welcome center and railroad museum, said the number of visitors who come to watch the trains keeps growing and rail fan clubs of 20 to 30 people are common. An elevated platform would improve the view of the tracks, and discourage buffs who get dangerously close to the rails to photograph passing trains, Collinge added. The platform has been in the works for about five years, but CSX’s contribution helped move the plans along, Sparkman said. The Downtown Business and Merchants Association is supporting the project, said association president Darcy Stottlemyer, owner of All A Bloom floral shop. Stottlemyer said trains are already an attraction. “I was really surprised …. At how many people will sit and wait for the trains to go by,” she said. Railroads have always been a big part of the city, which was named for railroad magnet Henry B. Plant. Tracks crisscross the town, and the platform will be built near the intersection of two sets of tracks, Sparkman said. Other communities have railroad observation platforms, including Folkston, Ga. The platforms are a popular tourist draw, Sparkman said.