A little brick building on the north edge of Midtown boasts both national historic status and direct links to New York and New Orleans.
, now known as Atlanta’s only Amtrak stop, connects the neighborhood to dozens of north- and south-bound destinations and to one of the city’s most revered architects.
Designed by Atlanta’s famed architect Neil Reid and opened 93 years ago, Atlanta Amtrak accommodated 112,314 passengers in 2010, according to a recent fact sheet.
“We host people from around the world heading to places all over the East Coast,” said Margo Phillips, a ticket clerk who started working at the station in 1995. “We usually help more than 300 people per day.”
The tile-roofed structure is unusual among Amtrak stations coast to coast, for it is set more than two flights above the rails, which are now operated by Norfolk-Southern. Passengers access the train platform via a long, steel staircase or elevator because the station originally served as a commuter stop.
Phillips says the building’s age surprises some customers.
“People are usually shocked that a city of this size has a station in an older building,” Phillips said.
Atlanta’s Amtrak stop does show its age, with some nostalgic charm. The main waiting area facing Peachtree Street features marble floors and three large hardwood benches that may be original fixtures. Most of the signage, however, is reminiscent of the iconic green and white directional touches installed across the city for the 1996 Olympics, when the station got its most recent major upgrades, according to Phillips.
Two trains on Amtrak’s southern Crescent line stop at the Midtown landmark each day, with a southbound departure bound for New Orleans scheduled daily at 8:38 a.m., and a northbound departure heading to New York’s Penn Station nightly at 8:21 p.m. Major stops along the Crescent include Birmingham, Charlotte, Washington, Baltimore and Philadelphia.
When asked if there is a “most popular” destination she’s observed, Phillips said a lot of passengers are students heading to and from their university campus.
“There’s a good mix of passengers – from families to travellers by themselves,” said Phillips. “We get a lot of college kids heading to and from school.”
On a recent evening, one student was making a connection to Washington, D.C., from Brazil.
“I found it best to fly to Atlanta and take the train the rest of the way,” said Adolph Maia, on holiday from classes in João Pessoa, on Brazil’s coastline. “It was easy.”
Georgia passengers “Jim” and “Brinkley,” a forty-something traveling duo from Columbus, Ga., who declined to share their last names, said they decided to try Amtrak for the first leg of a Manhattan weekend from which they will return by plane. They parked at the Atlanta airport, took MARTA to its Midtown station, and family members dropped them at Amtrak.
“We just decided to go a different way to New York,” Jim said. “We wanted a one-way adventure, since online reviews said ride one way and fly back, [and we] thought it was a good idea.”
Visitors to the Midtown building located at 1688 Peachtree Street may also enjoy the station’s small garden, which overlooks the Downtown Connector, dedicated to Jack Martin, a local corporate attorney who served as president of the National Association of Railroad Passengers.
Passengers during spring 2011 may also note the Atlanta Amtrak station’s modest parking lot is closed for renovations, with temporary parking available at the neighboring at 1690 Peachtree Street.