GALION — Train enthusiasts and history buffs alike — specifically Galion-history buffs — will find plenty of memorabilia and even be able to take some tours of Galion’s Big Four railway station on Aug. 22 during Depot Day.
Carol Kable, president of the Friends of the Galion Big Four Depot, said the group is hoping for a good turnout amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The Big Four Depot is located at 127 N. Washington St. And Depot Day will be celebrated from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“We have had a lot of different events off and on during the day” Kable said. “This isn’t going to be a real full blown event. We decided not to go with any food vendors because of COVID-19.
”Basically, what you’re going to see if you come is we have a pavilion there and the pavilion will be open with displays of railroad memorabilia and there will be some other train items on display. Chris Love, who is one of our members, is going to have a model display of the train yards that were there by the depot. It’s still very much a work in progress.”
“The depot itself will be open for touring guides will be available there who will take people where they can go,” she said.
The depot has been rehabbed throughout the years, and its hoped that some business will be calling it home again soon.
‘It’s not a finished project by any means,” Kable said. “But we would like them to see how we’re dreaming there a little bit. There’s a train master’s room that we’re going to hopefully fix up. You’ll be able to go up there and observe trains because it has windows that face north and south.”
Social distancing will be a given at Galion’s Depot Day event.
“We have those doors that go up on either side of the pavilion, so we’ll have those open and that’ll help a lot,” Kable explained. “I think people are pretty used to the protocol and will tend to keep away from each other.”
Due to COVID-19 restrictions. the depot pavilion is not being used as much as it can be used.
But she hopes area residents will turn out Aug. 22 to see the pavilion and learn a little more about Galion’s past history with the railroad.
The Big Four Depot opened in 1900 and served as division headquarters for the Cleveland, Chicago, Cincinnati, and St. Louis Railroad. Peak passenger usage occurred during and after World War I, when approximately 32 trains per day stopped there. It was also a whistle stop for presidential candidates, including Al Smith (1928), Franklin Roosevelt (1932), Dwight Eisenhower (1952), and Richard Nixon (1952). The depot officially closed its doors in 1969 and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.
After several owners, the City of Galion acquired the property in 2000 with help from the Freese Foundation.
In early 2019, the city contracted with Quality Masonry to make repairs to the exterior shell of the building on the track side, as well as sections of the roof. More than 40 windows were replaced or repaired. The track side of the building was then painted from end to end.
This year, windows and painting on the first floor exterior was completed. In addition, original stain glass in the lobby windows was uncovered and found to be mostly in tact. This glass was restored.
Depot Day will be a good way to make Galion-area residents aware once again — and to possibly make a donation — to assist with the Big Four restoration effort.
“We actually miss doing stuff there,” she said. “We get donations whenever people come because we’re a 501c3, so we love to have people come and see it because it’s still an advocacy thing for support.
“We have some great ideas, there are some things in the works that are some real positive things. We just felt like to keep this going, we wanted to keep it on the small side, so that way the momentum isn’t lost.”