Dioramas added to Aiken Railroad Depot

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AIKEN --- Five dioramas were placed at the Aiken Railroad Depot on Monday, giving the future historic site a full replica of South Carolina's historic railroad system.

Model builders from Custom Model Railroads installed the railroad community dioramas for Denmark, Hamburg, St. George, Summerville and Charleston at the depot, located at the corner of Union Street and Park Avenue.

The replicas for Branchville, Blackville and Aiken were placed at the station earlier this year, said Don Barnes, technical consultant for the depot.

The dioramas took two years to create, and were transported from Baltimore on Monday. They put the tourism and historic site one step closer to its grand opening in May, but more money is needed to complete the project, he said.

"They were created from the actual blueprints from the stations that were built in the early 1830s," he said. "The towns are those that ran along the original Charleston-to-Hamburg railway. It was the largest in the country."

The actual railway extended 173 miles, Mr. Barnes said.

The dioramas took up $180,000 of the $3 million depot budget. The depot still needs about $800,000 worth of construction on its railcars, passenger platforms and baggage building, which will be used for receptions and other special events, Mr. Barnes said.

Jeff Springer, owner of Custom Model Railroads, said the dioramas were different than the usual railroad replicas his company designs.

"It was much more historic, and specific to a time and space," he said. "Those who view it will see exactly what it looked like then, and recognize some places."

The dioramas depict the railroad towns in June 1916, when the railroad industry was at its peak, Mr. Barnes said.

Railroad valuation maps and maps from the Sanborn Fire Insurance company were used to ensure the dioramas' historical accuracy.

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