A small group gathered this week to take the first step toward preserving the historic Illinois Central Railroad Depot in Storm Lake.
Like the proverbial "little engine that could," it's going to take an attitude of "perpetual optimism" to reach the top of that mountain, predicts local rail enthusiast Burt Bonebrake. Also involved were chamber of commerce leaders Chris Nolte and Marilyn Monson, and local rail historian Charles Slagle.
After brainstorming on how to approach the Canadian National Railroad, which now owns the site, the chamber plans to compose a letter to the company with suggestions on how to save the depot.
"We would like to work with them in such a way that the railroad could get some benefit and we could obtain the depot and possibly some land for parking," Bonebrake said.
The Illinois Central had planned to tear the depot down this year and replace it with a small modern building, despite it being one of the county's few listings on the National Register of Historic Places. They would have considered selling it very inexpensively, but wanted the building moved.
"If you take a depot away from the railroad tracks, it loses about 95 percent of its nostalgia value. We would like to be able to leave it right there, maybe with some safety fencing to prevent visitors form getting too close to the tracks and being a liability problem," Bonebrake said.
Local enthusiasts will be looking deeper into the railroad history of the area, and hope to visit the restored Cherokee depot museum next week to review how such a project can be done.