Missouri railroad town rallies to save piece of history

Friday, November 26, 2010 | 12:59 p.m. CST

BISMARCK — In 2003 the city of Bismarck purchased the railroad depot from Union Pacific. The city paid a small sum for the town's centerpiece, but the work to restore the old building to its heyday form would be daunting.

To spearhead the restoration effort the city formed the Bismarck Depot Preservation Committee. Over the past seven years the committee has worked tirelessly to turn back the clock on the depot.

Liz Bennett has served as president of the committee since it was formed. Bennett's father retired from the railroad, and her brother is an engineer with Union Pacific.

"It's in my family history," she said. "My dad started as a water boy and retired as an engineer. If you had to pick one thing to represent Bismarck it would be the railroad depot."

After reviewing the blueprints for the depot, it was discovered it was a cookie cutter design, Bennett said. She said Union Pacific, formerly Missouri Pacific, went around towns in the Midwest building depots very similar to Bismarck's. Bennett said depending on the size of the town there may have been minor modifications.

"At the time the city bought it, everybody in town was concerned it would fall down or be vandalized to the point it would have to be torn down," she said. "Bismarck is a railroad town. The depot represents our history and our community. Our troops during World War II and Vietnam got on the train here. It's such a large part of who we are."

The first order of business for the committee was replacing the roof on the depot. Bennett said the committee held bake sales and other fundraisers to raise money for the new roof. She said the committee had enough money for half a roof.

"Gibson Quality Roofing agreed to go ahead and do half a roof," Bennett said. "But then once the guys started working, more local people started donating. I would have people stop me at the post office and hand me money. We ended up getting enough money to go ahead and put the entire roof on."

The committee then got a matching grant to pay for the architectural drawings of the depot. The city applied for a Transportation Enhancement Grant through the Missouri Department of Transportation. The grant was for $145,125. Under the grant guidelines, Bismarck had to contribute $40,000 and the Depot Committee had to contribute $10,000 from the grant it received from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The total amount for the grant with the local contribution is $195,125.

The grant paid for outside renovations to the depot and a new brick wall retaining wall.

"It was former Mayor Dennis Mayberry who had the vision to replace the rock wall," Bennett said. "It turned out so nice. When I was a kid I remember people sitting on the wall watching the trains go by."

The project incorporates sidewalk renovation on East Main Street to allow handicap accessibility for pedestrian and cyclist traffic. The major portion of the project consists of the renovation of the outside of the old depot.

The building is currently being painted traditional MO PAC colors. A stage sits on one end of the depot that can be used for various events.

Bennett said the committee is selling another round of memorial pavers to help fund renovation work to the inside of the depot. Order forms are available at city hall. A 4 by 8 brick cost $55 and an 8 by 8 brick costs $100.

"We hope to complete phase one of the interior work with the proceeds from the paver sale," she said.


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Captain Belly November 26, 2010 | 7:53 p.m.
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