Things change. They lose their meaning or their value. We lose them and forgot we ever had them. We archive them optimistically, desperately. The posts I made when I started this blog have gradually become less functional and slipped further and further in the page rankings as other, better content showed up– and that is a good thing. In an effort to keep sharing what I find interesting, I have been revising some of my older posts, and here I revisit the Baxter Avenue Train Station.
Sometime in 2008, I think, my friend had a couch surfer for a few nights and I thought she was insane. Couch surfing is like having the entirety of Craigslist show up at your doorstep and ask for a shower. I have had mixed experiences with it, from very nice, normal exchanges with people in Iceland, to my Kentucky attempts to host which included a lovely couple from a nearby city, but also: an evasive German magician, a demanding night owl, a guy who wanted to come to Derby for the “energy”, and a carny I threw out of my car. Luckily, her guest turned out to be a lovely English gentleman taking a sabbatical to sightsee by motorcycle across the United States. He was wonderful, charming and mild-mannered– and maybe a little unsure of what to make of us.
We managed a pretty good tour for the guy, including several local landmarks and the parks. We put messages in bottles and threw them off the bridge into the Ohio River, a practice he seemed unfamiliar with but was enthusiastic about all the same. He threw our bottles for us, because he was “the bloke” and we wanted them as far into the current as they could get. Some guides might have taken him to the Slugger Museum, or the Seelbach Hotel bar, or to bet on ponies at the track. Did we do that? On the contrary, I took him on a low-brow prowl: dive bars, dollar beers, an expedition through ruins of my burned apartment building, into an abandoned crematorium, and up to the gloriously bombed out Baxter Avenue Train Station Platform because I am a broke cockroach.
I’d been to the train platform before during a heat-wave induced fugue state. Trespassing on railroad property is particularly risky in the world of urban exploration. The lines hire their own police force to monitor the tracks, and this platform passes over a major road, exposing us on two sides in the middle of a city. It had also become a safe haven for the homeless and the sheltered spaces were strewn with scraps of cardboard with things like “Christian Veteran, Please Help” written across them, among other bits of hobo camp trash. Before entering a new section, we’d call out to ask if anybody was home.
You can read the post I put up afterward if you are into decay porn. Between the two trips, I was fortunate enough to take some good pictures and upload them to my panoramio account, before the platform was destroyed in 2009.
Though it was built in 1937 by the Louisville and Nashville Railroad, by the time I got there, the property had been purchased by CSX (the same company that owned the now-abandoned Moonville Tunnel and owns the infamous Pope Lick Trestle) and hadn’t seen passenger service in many decades. The line runs through the stockyards through Butchertown and at some point it might have been used for livestock or killing floor escapees had holed up there; the rooms still smelled strongly of pigs. I didn’t know it at the time, but I must have passed through the negro waiting room and the ticket office.
The demolition is well covered by Brandon Klayko on his site Broken Sidewalk and a local photographer caught the wrecking in progress. It’s a shame that it had to be torn down; it held a special significance as a PWA commissioned work, and was aesthetically striking, built in the Art Deco style. Dozens of early photos of the station are available at Louisville Art Deco, in an exhaustive post on the topic. They have posted several scans of news clippings, which I will post here to protect from link-rot, because they are really cool and deserve to be seen:
And now it is gone, the good and the bad of it, never to return– but that’s the way of things. The links in this page will break and the writing will age. I have aged. The people who went to the station with me are long gone in one way or another and I forgot the couch surfer’s name. I hope his trip went well for him. He seemed to enjoy his time in Louisville.