By JOHN McCALLUM
Editor 

Cheney Depot Society holds open house, month-long exhibits

 

The sign above designates the planned future home of the relocated Cheney railroad depot. The house behind the sign sits on property already acquired at First and I streets while the property just beyond the house at Union and First streets is in the process of being donated.

The Cheney Depot Society would like to let people know where things stand with their efforts to relocate the city's historic Northern Pacific Railroad Depot. To accomplish this, the Society is holding an open house on Thursday, March 15, as well as a month-long exhibit at the Cheney Library featuring displays of trains and other area depots.

The open house runs from 6 – 8 p.m. and is free and open to the public. Depot Society members will be on hand to answer questions on many topics related to the depot that was built in 1929 and is a Spanish/Southwest architectural design which is unusual for the Pacific Northwest.

Depot Society member John Taves said one of the exhibits will be a rotating pictorial display of area depots from cities such as Sandpoint, Idaho; Ritzville, Davenport and photos from the Northwest Railroad Museum in Reardan. There will also be an exhibit of HO model train engines and cars, and an interactive table display asking "what kind of business would you like to see in the restored depot?"


The depot is currently owned by Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad, and is located just east of downtown Cheney between the BNSF tracks and tracks used by ADM Mills. When the depot was operational, students attending the various incarnations of Eastern Washington University would disembark on the east side of the station and then leave the depot and walk directly up College Avenue to the school.

Taves, who also serves on Cheney's City Council, said there will be displays showing the Society's progress towards obtaining, moving and refurbishing the station from BNSF. The organization began its efforts soon after BNSF filed for a permit to demolish the depot in April 2014 and the City Council passed on an offer to purchase the structure.

Since then the Society has found a donor in former Cheney resident Dr. Peter Hansen, who has agreed to match every dollar raised for the project up to $500,000. That match and donations has enabled the organization to purchase land on I and First streets, as well as work towards finalizing an agreement for a donation of property next door at Union and First streets owned by Sunshine Investment.

"We're making progress on that front," Taves said.

Taves said they are also working on a grant to help with relocation and refurbishment through the national Heritage Capital Foundation. Between the donated property, monetary donations and matches and the grant, Society members feel they can come up with the estimated $740,000 it would take to move and set up the depot for usage.


Taves said one of those uses might be a restaurant. The Society has also been in discussions with the Northwest Railroad Museum about the possibility of creating a "dinner train" that would run on Eastern Washington Railway tracks between Cheney and Reardan, a line that also runs through Medical Lake and terminates at Coulee City.

Depot Society membership applications will be available at the library as well.

"We're also offering people the opportunity to join the Depot Society," Taves said. "We're hoping to get people to, 'jump on board,' so to speak."

John McCallum can be reached at jmac@cheneyfreepress.com.

 

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