Railroad history built by community

Jacob Lane · Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Some may have called it just a presentation on Saturday, but it was so much more.

Many gathered at the community center on Saturday to watch a slide show about the history of West Liberty's train depot and railroad.

However, as 175th committee member Clifford McFerren ran through images dating from the late 1800s to the present, he constantly looked to the left and the right, asking the audience one simple question:

"Does anyone have anything to add?"

As part of railroad recognition month, the West Liberty 175th Committee helped put on a visual history of West Liberty, given through a collection of photographs collected and presented by McFerren.

His talk highlighted the evolution of the train depot and the tracks surrounding it over the years.

"As you're going to see, things looked a lot worse before they got better," he said about the depot.

His images showed the structure decaying over time. Fortunately, the Hoover Nature Trail put tin on the roof to preserve it in 1992, and in 1999 to 2000 the West Liberty Heritage Foundation took over the depot, making it what it is today.

As the two hour event progressed, both young and old added to the history, including surprise guest Jose Carillo who worked on the depot during the late 1960s.

"I worked with the the Department Bridge and Building with Rock Island for nine years," he said. "Since I was the young guy in the group, I patched the depot’s roof."

Other prominent figures added to the discussion, including Ross Peters, who worked for the Rock Island Railroad, and Conrad Gregg, a local historian. It was truly a wealth of history via the community of West Liberty.

"What next is coming?" said McFerren as he concluded the presentation, "The campus has been resurrected, but we just don't know what's going to come out of the fog next."

To coincide with the event, IAIS train number 513 pulled into the train depot from Noon to 2 p.m. Community members climbed aboard the engine to take a look around.

The depot campus now boasts a caboose, barn, one-room school house, and various other pieces of history.
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