On Thursday, November 9, the Preservation Society of Asheville and Buncombe County (PSABC) will host Trains and the Transformation of Western North Carolina, presented by Ray Rapp, former Dean of Adult and Graduate Studies at Mars Hill University. The event will be held in the Habitat for Humanity conference room in Asheville. Doors open at 5 p.m. and the lecture begins at 5:30 p.m. The event is free but a $10 suggested donation will support the Preservation Society.
Rapp is co-chair of the Western North Carolina Rail Corridor Committee and has lectured extensively on regional rail history. As early as his undergraduate career, Rapp was fascinated by the way railroads united the country after the Civil War by linking east, west, north and south. “In ten short years after the arrival of the railroad in 1880, Asheville more than doubled its population and modernity transformed the mountains,” he says. “Especially fascinating to me was the challenge of building railroads up the Blue Ridge escarpment to the isolated mountain communities.” This was done by laying looping tracks up the mountain and creating the steepest standard mainline grade in the US.
Rapp will not only discuss the historical impact of the railroad on this region, but also provide a glimpse into current efforts by the WNC Rail Corridor Committee to restore passenger rail service to Asheville. “I truly believe that persons who are ignorant of history are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past,” says Rapp. “We saw railroads reshape national and regional life and culture and we need to understand the positive and negative changes that they brought with them.”
Habitat for Humanity is located at 33 Meadow Road. For more information, visit psabc.org.