BRIGHAM CITY — The Historic Brigham City Depot ended up benefiting from a repair job that fell through at Ogden’s Union Station.
The 112-year-old train depot, now a railroad museum, received almost $5,000 in state Spike 150 celebration grant funds to pay for roof repairs, new interior flooring and handicapped access ramps.
“We were able to get the new floor in the office and everyone is marveling about it,” the depot museum’s 77-year-old director, Willie Nelson, said. “It’s a composite material we put in. It looks like old wood and looks absolutely wonderful.”
(Wille, by the way, said people joke with her “all the time” about her name, which she shares with a country music star. “I tell them I’m very musical — I know how to turn that stereo on and off.”)
Nelson’s husband, Norm, 79 — who plays Union Pacific Railroad’s Thomas C. Durant at the annual Golden Spike reenactment at Promontory Summit — said the flooring job never got high enough on the projects list until now.
But that changed, to the Nelsons’ delight, when a group of historical preservation volunteers in Ogden routed the Spike 150 donation their way.
Steve Jones, Golden Spike chapter president of the Railway and Locomotive Historical Society, said his group had applied for and received a $5,000 grant to fix the entrance door on the trains building in the rear of Union Station.
“It’s simply falling off of its hinges,” Jones said, explaining that his group hoped the door could be repaired before visitors flocked to Union Station for the Golden Spike 150th anniversary celebration last May.
The volunteers went to the Ogden City Landmarks Commission for approval of the repairs, which was granted.
“The next step was that management at Union Station needed to pull a building permit to actually get the work done,” Jones said. “They simply did not do that.”
Meanwhile, Jones’ group had been locked out of the train shop, where its members had been working for more than two decades to restore Denver and Rio Grande Western locomotive No. 223.
The city was reviewing the ownership status of 223 and possible safety and liability concerns. The restoration group is still on the sidelines, and now the state government is talking about putting the locomotive in a new planned state history museum in Salt Lake City.
So Jones’s group secured permission from the state to redirect the $5,000 to the Brigham depot.
“It turns out it’s really the same mission,” Jones said. “What we were trying to do at Union Station, now we are helping preserve and improve a historically accurate depot.”
At 833 W. Forest St., the Brigham City Depot has been restored comparably to its condition of 1971, when passenger rail service ceased there, Nelson said.
The brick depot was built in 1907 and served the Brigham City stop on Union Pacific’s Oregon Short Line.
Twenty-five years ago, Union Pacific donated the depot to the Golden Spike Association.
The railroad, Nelson said, “offered it to the city and the city didn’t want that old building, and the county didn’t either.”
Local preservation activist Delone Glover then spearheaded the drive to save the building, seeing to it that the Golden Spike Association took it on and restored it. Through the Nelsons and others, the association keeps it going today.
But it’s not easy, the Nelsons said.
The museum is closed from just before Christmas until May 1 each year because they can’t afford to heat it in the cold months.
“The heating bill one year was completely out of sight,” Willie Nelson said.
The museum is open on Saturdays so it can pass out community brochures for city and county offices, which are closed Saturdays, she said.
The museum also hosts Scarecrow Alley in the Halloween season and Christmas Tree Lane in December.
They like to give school and youth group tours.
“We’ve always been told we’re haunted,” she said. “I tell the kids it’s only Casper the Ghost, but they don’t even know who Casper the Friendly Ghost is.”
Railroad buffs from all over the world sometimes find their way to the depot too, she said.
But the Nelsons wonder what the future may hold for places of railroad history.
“It’s scary,” Willie Nelson said. “We don’t have the volume we used to. Now with the changing world the kids are on their computers and their phones or whatever.
“They either love the trains or they don’t.”