Depot proves popular with passengers, visitors

August 10th, 2016

By Dave Kurtz | KPC Media 

WATERLOO — The historic train depot at Waterloo has become a popular place since it opened as an Amtrak passenger station June 24.

Train riders are giving the station rave reviews, and now the public can flock to see the restored 1883 building and its collection of vintage railroad photos and artifacts.

Purely tourist visits to the building had been inconvenient, because it was open only for train arrivals in the early mornings and very late nights.

Now, people who just want to admire the building can do so on Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. through October.

The first opening for tours came unannounced last Saturday and still drew a big crowd, said Waterloo Town Manager Tena Woenker.

“People just are coming and treating it like kind of a museum,” Woenker told the Waterloo Town Council Tuesday at its meeting in the Waterloo-Grant Township Public Library.

Volunteers from the Friends of the Depot organization decorated the building’s interior and will staff the depot during the tours.

Paid staff members who work during train arrivals also have proved to be popular.

“They really like having a station attendant. It’s overwhelming their response,” Woenker said. “We’re finding out that our station attendants have been over-the-top helpful,” with reports that they are assisting passengers with luggage and in boarding the trains.

“We’re getting a lot of great feedback” about the depot, Woenker added. “Survey responses are fantastic. It’s all excellent ratings.”

She said 42 percent of people responding to a survey were using the Waterloo Amtrak station for the first time.

“We seem to creating an excitement for riding the train from here,” Woenker said.

Waterloo had the third-highest ridership among Indiana stations with more than 22,400 passengers in 2014. Amtrak’s Capitol Limited train from Chicago to Washington, D.C., and the Lake Shore Limited from Chicago to New York and Boston both stop in Waterloo twice each day.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, council members discussed town Marshal Jay Oberholtzer’s suggestions for improving security at the new Town Hall, 280 S. Wayne St., in a former bank building.

The council will investigate Oberholtzer’s recommendations that include panic buttons that would be connected to the county’s Central Communications center to summon emergency assistance. He also called for improvements to entrances and securing the town’s computer server against fire or weather-related disasters.

During the discussion, Woenker suggested improved networking for the town’s computers, and Clerk-Treasurer Renata Ford asked for a buzzer that would sound when someone enters the front door.

The council also approved Oberholtzer’s guidelines for the use of tire deflation devices by his officers.

In past six years, Waterloo police have had only two incidents that called for using the devices, Oberholtzer said.

“They don’t have to do it,” Oberholtzer said about his offices. “They may choose to utilize, because it is a dangerous thing.” He said officers should weigh the risk of causing a vehicle crash against the need to apprehend the offender. The devices should not be used against motorcycles, he said.

The council also received a request to pay for soil testing at the site of a proposed skate park, on Wayne Street just south of the Norfolk Southern railroad crossing. It was tabled until September, because only three of the five council members were present Tuesday.

Woenker also reported that the town has demolished the last of nine blighted houses that were razed with money from a state grant.

She said installation of a pavilion and playground equipment at the new Pankop Park, on the town’s north edge, should be complete by October.