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Sunday, May 1, 2016

SL effort to save rail depot gets on track

Tuesday, July 1, 2003

Storm Laker Brad Strader has "picked up the ball" to lead the local effort to obtain the railroad depot in downtown Storm Lake.

The depot effort started over a year ago when local individuals contacted the Canadian National Railroad about purchasing the depot structure.

In the past, railroad officials have offered to sell the depot for as low as $1 - with the stipulation that it is moved from its present location.

Strader said the local effort will strive to obtain control of the depot without having to move it. Also working on the endeavor is local railroad history enthusiast Burt Bonebrake, Lakeside.

"It really serves us best in its current location," Strader said.

Strader has a personal interest in the project, with his father - "Stub" Strader - the former depot agent for Illinois Central Railroad in Storm Lake. Strader has plenty of experience with local projects, having led the medical center foundation's effort toward expansion.

"I always had thought this as something that would be a great project," Strader said of the depot.

Right now Strader is researching other depot deals between communities located along old Illinois Central lines. He also plans on keeping the lines of communication open with Canadian National officials in Chicago so they know Storm Lake is very much interested in arriving at some sort of agreement.

Though Strader would not want to see the depot moved, he said he can understand the railroad's concern over liability. However, in past discussions, there has not been any talk regarding the erection of some sort of barrier fence, he said.

If an agreement can be reached, that location could hold a number of distinct possibilities for the downtown, from serving as a visitors center to providing a place to host Thursday's Taste of Storm Lake events. Strader said a renovated depot could become a great addition, especially with the Clough Park already on the corner.

While Strader is hopeful, he is not certain where the effort will lead. "The railroad could shut us down very quickly," he said.

Arriving at an agreement is only the first step, Strader said. If an agreement can be reached, a plan needs to be formed for what the community wishes to do with the property, as well as a fundraising campaign to help pay for it.

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