|Putnam Railfans offer Glimpse of Fort Jennings Railroad history|
|Tuesday, October 01, 2013 12:00 AM|
The depot was constructed by the New York, Chicago and St. Louis Railroad, better known as the Nickel Plate Road, in 1917 to service the town of Fort Jennings. At one time, five passenger trains traveled through Fort Jennings each day and for years, the depot served to transport freight in and out of the village. It also served as a center of communication to places near and far through its function as a Western Union Telegraph office.
However, as truck travel grew, the rural railways shrunk. The station in Fort Jennings was a victim of this, and consequently closed in 1969. Shortly thereafter, it was moved to a Cloverdale farm by a railroad employee and soon fell into a state of disrepair, housing first chickens, and later raccoons, rats, mice, owls and any other wild animal looking for shelter.
By the time Dr. Wes Klir found the depot, the roof had caved in, the windows were all broken out and the floor was giving way. The thought of losing a piece of history so integral to the early development of Putnam County served as an inspiration to Dr. Klir and his father, Joe, as well as many other volunteers who helped along the way to save the old depot.
In 2008, three years after dismantling of the building began, the depot reappeared in the countryside outside of Fort Jennings and has subsequently been a touring spot for nearly 1,000 visitors since it was reconstructed. The depot is now the home of the Putnam Association of Railfans, a local Putnam County organization committed to preserving railroad history and promoting the hobby of model railroading.
"I have been through many buildings like this across the country, and I am proud to say that this depot is one of the finest examples of restored rural railroad architecture that you will see in any exhibit," Dr. Klir, vice president of the group, said.
With the help of the Putnam Association of Railfans, displays have continued to be added to the depot exhibit. Current projects include the restoration of a 1920's wooden caboose and signal shed that were moved to the property. A model train display in the basement of the depot continues to grow and now operates seven trains simultaneously with interactive displays for little visitors to operate. A handcar can be ridden on the 200 feet of full size track that span the exhibit grounds, and for the last four years, the group has been constructing a 1/3 scale riding train that travels on a half mile of track.
"There's something for everyone here and all our attendees learn a little about history whether they want to or not. We make it that fun!" Klir joked.
The Fort Jennings Depot Exhibit is located at 15153 on Rd. 22-K in Cloverdale. The Oct. 12 open house will be held from 1-4 p.m.
|Last Updated on Monday, September 30, 2013 9:15 PM|