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Railroad donates $33,750 to depot move fundraiser; eases deadline

Railroad donates $33,750 to depot move fundraiser; eases deadline

By Bob Steenson,

The Canadian Pacific Railroad has removed its March 31 deadline to raise enough funds to relocate the historic Milwaukee Road railroad depot in Charles City, but says the depot still must be moved as soon as possible.

To help in that effort, the railroad company has pledged $33,750 to the Save the Depot Initiative, representing the estimated cost the railroad would have spent to demolish the building and clean up the site.

“CP no longer needs the Charles City depot to support its operations,” said Andy Cummings, with Canadian Pacific media relations. “We are pleased to transfer it to a group that will move it to an off-site location and preserve it for the community’s benefit. We are pleased that we were able to reach an agreement that meets the community’s needs as well as CP’s.”

The railroad is also essentially giving the building to the community, selling it for a nominal $1.

Charles City Mayor Dean Andrews told the Press that the fund drive has raised $286,592 as of Monday afternoon.

“There is still about $24,000 of Jim’s money left to be matched,” Andrews said, referring to a $100,000 matching grant challenge issued by retired Charles City attorney James Smith.

If that money is matched that would put the total at almost $335,000, which is right in the ballpark of what is expected to be needed in the initial phase of saving the depot.

“The latest projection is about $330,000 will be needed for the move and for a new foundation, putting the depot in place and ready to start renovating,” Andrews said.

The Save the Depot Initiative — a collaboration between Friends of Save the Depot and The American Passenger Train History Museum — wants to move the depot a couple of blocks south, onto land donated by Bob Moen to the American Passenger Train History Museum.

The depot would sit at the corner of North Grand Avenue and 11th Avenue, next to the restored Charles City Western Railroad depot that is now the headquarters of Stacy Ackerson’s Shankland Insurance.

The building would be used as the entrance to the passenger train museum, and would also offer public meeting space, according to plans envisioned by the Save the Depot Initiative.

An important aspect of the plan that has been embraced by city officials is the possibility of also using the restored Milwaukee Road depot for a trailhead for the Charley Western Recreational Trail in Charles City.

Canadian Pacific Railroad spokesperson Cummings told the Press Monday, “In light of the fundraising success that the group has shown, the March 31 deadline is no longer in effect.”

He stressed, though, that something needs to happen this year.

“We have requested that the group still completes the depot move as soon as possible, and no later than Sept. 30,” Cummings said.

Andrews said the group has been in touch with Thein Moving Co., of Clara City, Minnesota, and that company is getting booked out into August.

The hope is to get the depot’s new location excavated for a foundation and the new foundation poured in June, Andrews said.

“The foundation has to be poured about a month before the move to cure” to support the weight of the building, he said. “That would give the concrete all of July to cure” before the depot is moved in August.

Andrews also noted that a special fundraising effort started recently in memory of Ron Turner has raised about $3,500.

The effort was started by a group of Turner’s friends to honor the popular Charles City teacher and coach, who died in 2014, and who had a lifelong love of trains and railroads.

The group hopes to raise enough in Turner’s name to raise him to a high level of giving in the depot fundraising effort.

They have currently reached the “Conductor” stage, for those who donate between $2,400 and $4,999. The next levels would be “Station Agent,” for a total donation of $5,000 to $9,999, and “Train Master” after that, for $10,000 to $19,999. Other, higher, levels are also available.

Contributions can be sent to Save the Depot Fund, PO Box 683, Charles City IA 50616.

Andrews said donations can still be given in Turner’s name, but people who want to do so should make sure to make a note that it’s for the Ron Turner fund.

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