Valparaiso train depot move nears finish line
By James D. Wolf Jr. Post-Tribune correspondent July 5, 2014 10:56PM
The old train depot being moved Thursday in Valparaiso. The 3,000-square-foot structure's move to the Career Center is expected to be complete Monday. | James D. Wolf Jr.~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 7, 2014 6:31AM
VALPARAISO — Successfully moving a 3,000-square-foot building two city blocks can come down to an inch here and an inch there.
Since June 30, engineers and contractors have watched those inches as they’ve worked to move the city’s last remaining railroad depot to its new home.
It now rests between the Canadian National tracks and Bush Street on Franklin Street, waiting for the main event Monday and Tuesday.
About 5 a.m. Monday, Canadian National will shut down train traffic for eight hours, and utility companies will move their overhead lines while Dillabaugh Inc. of Crown Point moves the 1912 prairie-style depot across the tracks.
As per Canadian National’s rules, the building and the wheels of the hydraulic devices it rests on cannot touch the rails at all, so Dillabaugh will have to construct a sort of bridge out of blocks.
“People shouldn’t miss this. You’ll never see something like this again,” said Jon Groth, principal of the Porter County Career and Technical Center.
On Tuesday, they will move the depot onto the Technical Center’s property at 1005 N. Franklin St., where it will become a rehab project for the students and then classroom space.
The move is costing less than $200,000, and if someone built a school that size, it’d cost about $1 million, said John Blosky, owner of Amereco Inc., who donated his engineering on the project.
Work on acquiring the depot began about three years ago and included coordinating the move with utilities, businesses and the railroad.
“The city has been tremendous. The property owners we’ve worked with have been cooperative,” Groth said.
From their lawn chairs, Paul and Mary Johnston of Morgan Township have watched the move since it started from the corner of Bush and Calumet Avenue.
Paul Johnston is a railroad buff, but the depot has special meaning for them, too. In the 1960s when it still was a passenger depot for the Grand Trunk Railroad, Paul Johnston taught at Northview Elementary School and Mary Johnston taught in Battle Creek, Michigan. She would take the train down on weekends to date Paul.
As former teachers, they said they are happy to see the depot saved and used to train students.