Robert Moen can't believe it.
More than three years after creating the American Passenger Train Museum in Charles City, a Milwaukee Road depot that's over 100 years old is now making its way to the site.
All day Wednesday, workers from Thein Moving eased the depot from its former spot near the railroad tracks by North Grand Avenue toward 11th Avenue.
"It's hard to realize that this could really happen," Moen said while watching the hydraulic system do its work. By early next week, the depot will make it to the site of the American Passenger Train Museum where it will ultimately serve as: an entrance to the historical site, a trailhead for the Charley Western Bike Trail and a space for meetings.
When 2020 began, organizers behind a "Friends of Save the Depot" campaign had a whole to take care of.
Dennis White, who's put a lot of legwork into the project, said they had to figure out the best place for relocation, what would make sense for future use and how to pay for the whole process. That last item was the biggest ask of the three. At least $250,000 would be required to secure things with Canadian Pacific, which oversaw the property, and pay for the cost of transport.
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Near the end of the year: Former Charles City residents Judy Sebern Beachy and David McCartney, second cousins and former classmates of White's, pledged $50,000 and $20,000 respectively as part of a matching campaign calling on residents, city officials and business leaders to get involved.
Following that: Charles City resident James F. Smith, a World War II veteran and former civic leader, offered up to $100,000 in matching dollars for new funds contributed to rescuing and restoring the depot. For Smith, part of the motivation was personal.
"I remember boarding the train at the Milwaukee Road depot in the 1940s on my way to Maryland where the troops were gathered," Smith said in a press release from December 2020.
That was the kind of push that organizers needed. "The community rallied and we've had almost 400 people who donated," Moen said.
Now that the move has happened, Moen said that organizers are entering into phase two of fundraising for the restoration of the building. According to him, that effort will likely last a year or so and could include seeking grants. Despite its age, one thing that Moen said is a major help in all of this is the shape the depot's in.
"We're already starting with a building in good condition."
Jared McNett covers local government for the Globe Gazette. You can reach him at Jared.McNett@globegazette.com or by phone at 641-421-0527. Follow Jared on Twitter at @TwoHeadedBoy98.