January 10, 2007 | By: Aimee Nielson

In the early 1900s, railroad travel was one of the most popular means of travel and train depots were major hubs of activity. Most of those depots are now only memories. However, one University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension office in Eastern Kentucky recently recreated an old train depot to serve as a new kind of activity center.

The building may resemble the site’s original depot, but it’s actually an annex of the Harlan County Cooperative Extension Service and will be the site of meetings and other Extension activities.  

“People see that it is on the site of the original depot and it’s historical,” said Jeremy Williams, University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension agent for agriculture and natural resources in Harlan County. “A lot of folks were upset because the original depot was torn down in the 1980s and this has re-created it … and has brought something back to life on this piece of property.”

Charlotte Nolan remembers the old train depot. She grew up in Harlan, and at a ribbon-cutting just before Christmas she recalled what an exciting place the depot was when she was a young girl.

“This particular depot was the hub of our town,” she said. “The traveling salesmen came in here and stayed at one of the local hotels down the street. It was just a hustle and bustle. And then when they built it back, it looks so much like the original. Those of us who remember the early days are thrilled that it is back. They have given us back our history. We feel like a member of our family has come home. Isn’t that wonderful?”

Williams and other Harlan County Extension agents see the new depot as a way to create space for more programs, which allows more people to participate.

“We have never had this amount of space to provide educational programs,” said Teresa Howard, Harlan County Extension agent for family and consumer sciences. “We have gone from a cubby-hole in the courthouse, to an old home we remodeled with limited seating of 50 to 60 people. We have had as close as 100 in it, and that’s too crowded. So our board developed this dream of having a new building – one that we could have a big meeting in, or three smaller ones.”

Raymond Cox, Harlan County Extension agent for 4-H youth development has already had a few 4-H activities in the new depot.

“We have already had a reality store in here and we just started a new horse club, and we are meeting here right now learning the basics about horses,” he said. “We have a quilt club and a sewing club that meets here right now, so it’s going to allow us to do a lot more programs.”

The depot also is part of an effort to revitalize downtown Harlan. It was built without raising taxes or asking local people to pay for it.

“We had the funds in hand and the folks have supported it throughout the county, and it has caused a buzz county-wide, especially in downtown Harlan because so many people get to see it day in and day out,” Williams said.

Coal trains from the mines still run by the new depot today, but they don’t stop. Agents said the depot may be used in the summer as a location for a farmers’ market.


Jeremy Williams, Raymond Cox or Theresa Howard - 606-573-4464