KINGSTON, R.I.— On National Train Day 2013, the Friends of Kingston Station celebrated the organization’s 40th anniversary with a ceremony held at the Rhode Island Railroad Museum in the Kingston depot. The Friends group formed in 1973 to rehabilitate the historic 1875 building and advocate for its continued use and preservation. Following speeches by Rev. John Hall, a founder of the Friends, and representatives of the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) and Amtrak, guests enjoyed refreshments, a display of 1970s vintage cars and music.
Through four decades, the Friends have gathered to scrape and paint the depot; research its history for listing on the National Register of Historic Places; guide its restoration following a 1988 fire; and monitor its condition to ensure routine maintenance.
Kingston also holds a special distinction as one of the first demonstration projects funded through the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA), which opened up federal transportation funding for a variety of projects beyond highways. Kingston was used to explore intermodalism — then a relatively new concept — and the value of preserving historic transportation facilities. More than two decades later, the station is a treasured South County landmark with regional and local bus connections via the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority and access to the sea by way of the William C. O’Neill Bike Path.
Today the Friends group acts as an intermediary between the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, which owns the station, and Amtrak, which owns and operates most of the heavily used Northeast Corridor between Washington and Boston. In addition, the Friends run the railroad museum, teach children about railroad safety through the Operation Lifesaver program and mentor an emerging “Young Railroaders” club.
Across the nation, Amtrak works with similar volunteer groups in Kirkwood, Mo., Lacey and Kelso, Wash. and Lawrence, Kan.
Read more about the historic Kingston depot [LINK] and the history of the Friends.