Freight house comes back to Rockwell City depot

ROCKWELL CITY – A piece of Rockwell City’s railroad history is back where it belongs.

After 20 years on a farm, the freight house has been moved back to its former location next to the Rockwell City Depot, which once was served by the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway.

It’s not quite ready for visitors yet, but renovations are underway.

“You see the possibilities,” said Carol Hupton, president of Landmark Depot Preservation.

The depot was built in 1899, when passenger trains connected Rockwell City with Des Moines and the surrounding area. It is now a museum to the railroad era.

In those days the smaller, barn-like freight house would have been used to hold luggage after it was checked at the depot. It was later used as storage space out on the Pagel farm.

Joanne Pagel donated the building to the depot in October 2013, Hupton said, and the preservation group raised $4,000 to move it.

Now, the Calhoun County Community Foundation has chipped in with the restoration effort.

“We got a $5,000 grant for a new roof and windows,” Hupton said. “We’re going to tear the roof off, we’re going to power wash it and let the sun air-dry it.

“We’re going to leave the original windows in there. We’re just going to redo them.”

Underground electric lines have been installed as well, she said.

Hupton said she hopes the roof and windows will be finished by June 19 for the depot’s big annual car show.

New items have been donated to the depot, such as an old hand cart that would have been used to carry luggage. The items will eventually be on display in the new building.

“We want to get some old luggage, old trunks and stuff,” she said.

Recently donated railroad crossing signs, hitching posts and old rail switches will further enhance the depot’s look.

The depot building itself has seen work in recent years. Last summer the bathroom was completely renovated to make it wheelchair accessible.

Eventually Hupton hopes the freight house can be used as a welcome center, leaving more room in the depot for museum pieces.

Hupton moved to the Rockwell City area eight years ago, and has been the depot president ever since.

“The railroad is what got all these little towns started – if it wasn’t for the railroad all these little towns wouldn’t be here,” she said. “The younger generation isn’t going to know that. I think it’s a good part of history.”

The depot is open Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday in the summer, from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.