Among his other obsessions — cocaine, murder, June Carter — Johnny Cash had a real thing for trains.
The Man in Black collected train memorabilia, a love that culminated in 1979, when he was given Madison’s dilapidated Amqui Station. And by given, of course, we mean Cash literally took the old train depot to his spread in Hendersonville, where he rehabilitated it and filled it with his rail-ridin’ goodies.
But when Cash died in 2003, Halo Properties, a Hendersonville development company, bought the depot and donated it back to Madison. The actual structure was returned to a site near the original, and the nonprofit civic enrichment group Discover Madison set about a major restoration and improvement project that was unveiled to the public earlier this month.
The renovated depot — once a stop 40 to 50 times a day for trains running along the Louisville & Nashville Railroad, a 187-mile connector that opened in 1859 and has basically run ever since — is a clever mix of past and future. While workers were careful to preserve historical details, they also introduced a number of forward-thinking “green” elements (consider the age-appropriate window frames, for example, with the double-paned glass inside them).
“First of all, it’s environmentally friendly,” Nathan Massey, president of Discover Madison and an electrical contractor who did much of the work on the depot, said. “It lowers our cost of operation.”
In fact, Massey said, installing a geothermal heating and cooling system, energy-saving windows and a computer system to control the lighting wound up costing the same as if they’d taken a more traditional route.
Massey said he hopes the revitalization will spark interest among residents and other local developers in “green” technologies. As well, he said, Discover Madison expects the depot to foster some renewed community among residents — they’ve already held a bluegrass concert there, and a public breakfast and writers’ night are on the calendar.
The nonprofit is operating the depot as a museum and visitors center; along with the history, there’ll be a nod to Mr. Cash.