GALION — Supporters of the Big Four Depot showed up last Saturday to help spruce up the historic train station in anticipation of an upcoming event.
The Friends of the Galion Big Four Depot plan to host Depot Day Galion on Saturday, May 22. The event is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will feature tours, displays, presentations, discussions, food, and mini-train rides.
“(Depot Day) is a showcase event for the building itself,” said Matt Echelberry, secretary of the Galion Depot, Inc., board of trustees. “We’re in the process of getting somebody from All Aboard Ohio to be here to talk about what’s going on with Amtrak proposal for expanded passenger rail service in Ohio. It’ll be a good day for railroad fans and supporters and people who want to see something happen with this building.”
Echelberry said the goal is to restore the facility so it can be open to the public again. The City of Galion acquired the depot in 2000, but it’s been closed to the public since 2004. Development of a rehabilitation plan began in 2017 and work started in 2019.
“It’s been a while since it’s been used or since there’s been any real activity here,” Echelberry said. “People still have a warm place in their hearts for it, especially people who’ve been affiliated with the railroad or who’ve been a passenger here at one point in their lives. It just holds a special place in the community. We want to see it preserved. It’s one of the last two remaining depots built with this (Queen Anne hybrid) architectural style. The other one is in St. Louis, Missouri.”
Echelberry said the renovation work could include space for both offices and historical displays. He noted that Seneca-Crawford Area Transportation (SCAT) has expressed interest in locating its office at the depot.
Irene Varhola and Dick Cope, both members of the Friends of the Big Four Depot, were among the volunteers who helped with clean-up on Saturday. Varhola described herself as a “train enthusiast.”
“I always rode the trains when I was young going back and forth to relatives just under Pittsburgh,” she said. “(Big Four Depot) is such a beautiful building. It’s really a shame to let it go. We have to keep these old things in people’s minds just so they can remember how things used to be.”
According to the Ohio Historical Marker located on the property, the Big Four Depot was dedicated on Dec. 27, 1900, and served as the division headquarters for the Cleveland, Chicago, Cincinnati, and St. Louis railroad, hence the name Big Four. The historical marker notes that the depot experienced “peak passenger usage” during and after World War I with 32 trains making daily stops in Galion.
Big Four Depot was a “whistle stop” for several presidential candidates including Al Smith in 1928, Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932, and Dwight D. Eisenhower and Richard M. Nixon in 1952. All four men made speeches from the train platform in Galion.
The New York Central Railroad acquired the Big Four Depot in 1929 and operated it until 1969. The depot was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.
For information about the Big Four Depot, visit its page on the City of Galion website. Go to galion.city. The Galion Big Four Depot link is located under the “Visiting” tab. Information is also available on the Galion Depot, Inc. Facebook page.
For information about Friends of the Galion Big Four Depot, visit its Facebook page.
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