Old train depot rolls to new home
By James D. Wolf JR. Post-Tribune correspondent July 7, 2014 7:42PM
A small crowd came out to witness the moving of the train depot down Franklin Street in Valparaiso on Monday morning, July 7, 2014. | Michael Gard/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 8, 2014 2:02AM
VALPARAISO — When something is 102 years old, it’s expected that it’ll move slowly.
However, the old Grand Trunk Railroad depot made it across the Canadian National tracks with about 90 minutes to spare in the eight hours the tracks were shut down Monday.
On Tuesday, it’s scheduled to arrive at its new home on the Porter County Career and Technical Center campus, waiting for its new foundation at 1005 N. Franklin St., and being prepared for renovation by students.
The 1912 prairie-style depot began its move June 30, being hoisted from its foundation and placed on a large mechanized platform, slowly inching for two blocks along Bush Street to Franklin Street. But Monday was the start of the major parts of the move, and the old station had a diverse audience of about 70 seniors, kids, train buffs and others watching it cross the tracks while not actually touching the rails.
“All morning, it’s been people coming and going because it’s so slow,” Jon Groth, principal of the Porter County Career and Technical Center, said.
On Tuesday, workers will clear utility lines to make way for the 3,000-square-foot depot, and the building gets set on the lawn, next to where the foundation will be set, Groth said. It will go on the foundation in about a month.
Carrie Durnell and Henry, 4, were satisfied with what they saw Monday.
“With a 41/2-year-old, with machines and moving buildings, it doesn’t get any better than that,” Durnell said.
Gavin Ellis, 10, expected it to be slow watching, and although workers had to stop and do the same thing over and over, he found it fascinating.
“It was cool to see it like actually move,” he said.
John Blosky, owner of Amereco Inc., which volunteered to do the engineering for the project, said the process had to take time.
“You move it fast, and the building’s going to crack up,” he said.
It was difficult because of the building’s size, but he found it fun because “it’s not everyday you get to move a train depot,” Blosky said.
Dan Dillabaugh, president of Crown Point-based Dillabaugh Inc., the moving firm that specializes in moving buildings, said the project was a labor of love that needed major planning and major improvising as they went along.
The hardest part was coordinating all the utilities such as NIPSCO, Frontier, Comcast and NITCO, especially after the storm last week meant that many of their workers were getting service back to customers. Blosky said the move would be delayed if the utilities couldn’t clear their lines on Tuesday.
Rob Klett was one of three former city council members who watched the move, and he recalled waiting at the depot at Bush Street and Calumet Avenue to take the train into Chicago while a student at Valparaiso University.
“I like to see old buildings recycled rather than torn down, especially buildings with history,” he said.
Mayor Jon Costas said there are “some fabulous stories associated with (the train station), and I’m sure more will come” as its history gets further researched. Preserving the historic building was the result of much cooperation between the city and the private sector.
“A lot of people came together to make this happen,” Costas said.
CN Railway planned to tear down the building more than two years ago, but city officials and some residents interceded to try to save it. The city planned to move it to Old Fairgrounds Park, but when that didn’t work out the career center emerged as the new site.
Groth said he wasn’t sure at first about placing the depot on school property, but it was determined to be structurally sound and Groth believed it would be a good project for the building trades students to renovate for classroom space.
Groth and others raised $250,000, CN agreed to the move, and other firms came through with donations of time and money.