Looking for old photos, recollections and testimonials
The small group working to save the Storm Lake railroad depot from demolition has decided to take their fight to the top, even if it means a long journey to Montreal.
Brad Strader and his committee have been working for months with the Canadian National Railroad's regional official in Chicago, but have grown tired of receiving no response to their efforts, and are now preparing a proposal to go directly to the president and CEO of the railroad in Canada.
The proposal will call for the railroad to donate the 1915 landmark depot downtown to the committee for historical preservation, which Strader said would take responsibility and liability for the depot off the railroad's shoulders. If the railroad responds with an offer to sell the site, or to trade it for another location where a storage building could be built to serve rail line needs, the committee would consider that, he said.
"We had a committee meeting Saturday, and the consensus was that it is time to quit any contacts with Chicago and go to Montreal directly with a formal proposal," Strader said. "What we've been doing isn't getting us anywhere, and we need a decision. We may get shut down, but at least we'll be able to say we tried, and we went straight to the top."
The committee hopes to restore the building, which appears to be architecturally sound. They would ideally like to see it used a community welcoming center, with a restored brick promenade to lead to the downtown area, with displays and museum exhibits, and possibly a trolley stop for a vehicle leading to the proposed Storm Lake Destination Park locations.
A photo presentation is now being prepared to Fed-Ex to the Canadian National CEO, along with an offer for Storm Lake railroad history experts Strader and Charlie Slagle to travel to Montreal and meet with the CEO. Committee member Hugh Perry, a local attorney, is helping to draft the proposal.
"Right now this important site is only getting more dilapidated.
We hope they will tell us to go for it, but at least we hope to come away with an answer. For all this time we've tried to work with Chicago, we've gotten nothing hot, cold or lukewarm back."
Prior to the committee's work, the railroad had sought bids to demolish the depot, to replace it with a prefab metal building for storage and an office. The railroad has entertained the idea of selling the depot to the community in the past, but only if it is moved from its current site near the rail line. The local historians believe it is important to preserve the depot in its original location, which is also the site of the city's first wooden depot in the 1870s.
The committee is still in the formation process, and has not yet chosen a name for itself. Interested persons may contact Strader, and he is also welcoming anyone who may be able to share old photographs, recollections or personal testimonials having to do with the role of the depot in Storm Lake.