Cheney Free Press -


By Dr. Peter Hansen

Trains have brought more than just noise to Cheney

Guest Commentary


This is about thinking outside the box.

For years, newcomers and some old-timers have complained about the number of trains and the noise they make going through Cheney.

I think they have forgotten why Cheney is here.

We wouldn’t have our town if it were not for the trains.

We are grateful for the railroad superintendent in the 1880s, donating land on the hill for the first teacher’s college in Washington.

Students began arriving from faraway places, all by train.

They then hiked up the avenue to register for classes.

There were no automobiles, buses or trolleys, but a few might have arrived by horseback.

As the years have passed, the number of trains has increased and so have the complainers and their complaints.

One thing seems quite certain, the trains are not going away and neither is the noise they make.

Turn around and look the other way, how can we make something positive out of this which will put Cheney on the map, bring people to town to spend their money, expose our quality of life, offer them a walking tour of College Avenue and give them a listen and view of the trains rolling by.

I know of no other American town, Cheney’s size, which has close to 50 trains rolling through each day.

To capitalize on this market of a renewable resource, bringing visitors and tourists to Cheney, we need a typical train station at the bottom of College Avenue.

We could move the one we have or we could build one like it.

It is a very unique structure and one ahead of its time when designed.

It came to be because of Washington’s Gov. Clarence Martin. He lived in Cheney and was the first govenor born in the state and thought the depot brought something special to our town.

Tourism is a renewable source. It can provide jobs, fill cafes, hotels, walking and motor tours of the EWU campus (the one room schoolhouse, the magical red field) and the historical part of town.

Sales tax revenue would increase.

For this, Cheney needs a visitor’s center that could also be used for other things.

Think about the train state being in the middle of Main Street.

If you walked around the old station, one covered area is open; it is a neat place for a music combo or folks waiting for the bus.

How about a little summer vaudeville, a museum display or an art show inside along with railroad memorabilia?

Cheney has a history, starting with the County Courthouse thieves.

All this seeing trains rolling though town, tooting their whistles.

There must be a way to staff a visitor’s center part-time with a merchant or Chamber of Commerce director and give an opportunity to young and old for volunteering to help out.

Dr. Peter Hansen grew up in Cheney. He now lives in Alaska, but frequently returns to the city.


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