In the spring of 1916 Tallassee Power Company constructed the Badin Train Depot to serve both the community and Alcoa. A one story brick building with slate roof and small train shed was located directly in front of the Alcoa Plant, west side of NC74. Inside the structure there were waiting rooms, an agent’s office, and an express office. There was also freight storage with its own loading and unloading platforms. The Depot continued to serve the freight lines until the early 1970’s when it was torn down to accommodate new construction at Alcoa.
Long before then, direct passenger services had ended. In 1920, a single gasoline-powered car known as the “Spark Plug” or “Skeeter” was introduced to accommodate the public. It enabled folks to connect with a main passenger line at Hall’s Ferry, running two round trips daily, with a capacity of thirty passengers each way.
In its heyday the Depot welcomed many newcomers to Badin. Bankers and Industrialists came by train on business. Sightseers came just to see the “boom town” of Badin. On Sunday afternoons the locals came and passed time by “gawking” at the new arrivals. The train was the means by which many young engineers arrived for work. Later the same young single men came to see potential brides as new female teachers and secretaries arrived. Many veterans left for WWI through the Depot and returned home the same way.
Mr. A. J. Rice, a young engineer, recounts arriving in Badin for the first time:
“We rocketed along in the small train, following the outlines of a channel or canal, on a roadbed just a few feet above the water, past some higher ground on the river side of the track, which I later learned was Palmer Mountain. Turning a long curve to the right, I saw across the water of an inlet, a great number of shacks, looking more like bee hives than houses, scattered over a hillside. This was another eye opener to me, which I later learned to be the Hardaway Construction Company’s former camp. A mile or so further we reached the station at Badin, a typical small railroad station with a horse-drawn hack’ for passenger transportation available for anyone who wished to ride rather than walk to his destination.”
Spencer Holt remembers hauling bricks with a team of mules from the Depot to construction sites. Water wagons were pulled through town to spray the streets to keep the dust down. People were arriving daily by train to look for work.
Alva Hawkins, niece of Alcoa President Arthur Vining Davis, arrived by train at a young age with her parents. She thought it was “. . .wonderful. All those beautiful woods to play in. The Company kept me a horse, I rode it everywhere.”
When bride Mae Greenlee got off the train in Badin, she saw a bristly green wilderness, mudholes and plank walks amid the clangor of Alcoa plant and dam construction. “I was so upset, I cried for a year. The construction workers were kind of rough. It was a bad year for flu.”