‘A fantastic front door:’ Waterloo unveils 1883 Amtrak station, Town Hall

June 27th, 2016

News Coverage:

June 25, 2016

'A fantastic front door:' Waterloo unveils 1883 Amtrak station, Town Hall

Dave Gurtz | News-Sun


A building from Waterloo’s history will play a big role in its future.

The town’s 1883 railroad depot began a new life Friday as a station for Amtrak passengers who board trains four times a day in Waterloo.

“Forty-five years after it was retired, it is once again back in passenger-rail service,” railroad historian Craig Berndt told a crowd at a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday morning.

“This is your front door, and it’s a fantastic front door you have here,” Amtrak official Charlie Monte Verde said about the remodeled building.

Waterloo made the day doubly special by also cutting a ribbon to open its new Town Hall in a former bank building at 280 S. Wayne St.

Town Council President David Bolton said these are exciting times for Waterloo.

Bolton reviewed the efforts to revive the depot as a working passenger station. He said the project had lost steam until the council hired Tena Woenker as the new town manager two years ago.

“I thought we should make one final push to make this a reality,” Bolton said.

Woenker said the depot has dominated her time for the past two years, but a team of engineers, consultants, contractors and government officials helped her reach the goal.

The first passengers to use the station boarded two Amtrak trains heading east Friday night. The town has hired two part-time employees to work in the depot and is looking for more.

“The employees will share information with the guests. They’ll keep an eye on things. They’ll notify the passengers if something comes up,” Woenker said. “A lot of people have called me who ride the train, and they’re just concerned that they want somebody there.*

Employees will be on duty at the depot from 5 a.m. and 9 p.m. until the morning and evening trains have departed.

While they wait for trains to arrive, passengers can browse an extensive collection of photographs and artifacts from Waterloo’s railroading history. The dozen-member Friends of the Depot organization created the displays.

“Everybody has worked really, really hard putting it all together,” said Ida Mae Hartman, a member of the Friends group. Much of the memorabilia had been stored in her basement.

“We need to preserve our history,” Hartman said. She recalled how her father worked at the depot as a baggage clerk years ago, and how the depot was damaged by a train wreck in 1957.

Passengers also can rest on one of the depot’s original benches, with a second original bench to join it soon. Hartman said Jesse Garrett restored the vintage furniture. Foley Pattern Co. of Auburn provided replacements for some of the metal armrests.

By fall, Amtrak will provide a digital sign to keep track of trains as they approach Waterloo. The passenger rail service is paying Waterloo $13,000 a year to lease the station, but the town will pay depot employees and costs of the building’s upkeep.

Though it was overshadowed by festivities at the depot, which included free food and music throughout the afternoon, an open house also took place at the new Town Hall. The town has remodeled the building donated by Farmers State Bank, which closed its Waterloo branch last fall.

The building features new offices for Woenker and Clerk-Treasurer Renata Ford, and it houses the town’s clerical and utility staff.

Before cutting a ribbon at Town Hall, Bolton said, “We’re excited for the opportunity to serve our residents and businesses more efficiently in the decades to come.”