By Jeff Fox

The Chicago & Alton depot in Blue Springs, spared from demolition last year, still has months of renovation work ahead.

The public can get a peek at the museum-to-be on Saturday.

“There maybe  lumber around,” joked Mary Potter, president of the Blue Springs Historical Society. “ ... It’s a work in progress."

A couple of years ago, the 1926 depot, unused for years, was about to be torn down by the Kansas City Southern, which today owns the tracks through town. The Historical Society rallied the community, got a delay long enough to make plans and then, in June 2012, moved the depot to nearby Central Park, just off downtown.

People have been asking how renovations are coming along, Potter said. So from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, the Historical Society is holding an open house.  The park is at 1108 S.W. Walnut. At 10:45, U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., who sits on the board of the State Historical Society of Missouri, will speak.

The plan is to have the depot open next spring.

“I think people have been absolutely amazed at how fast we’re getting it done and how many people have volunteered,” Potter said.

The old waiting room will be turned into a museum on the history of the various railroads that owned those tracks through the years. There were several successors to the Chicago & Alton before the company, and the tracks, came into the hands of Kansas City Southern.

The larger part of the depot, the old baggage room, will become meeting space and exhibit space.

Altogether, Potter estimates, the project’s cost will exceed $100,000 – none from the government, she notes – and about $60,000 has been raised so far, including $5,000 from the Kansas City Southern.

“It’ll be owned and operated totally by the Blue Springs Historical Society,” she said.

There are a couple of other restored Chicago & Alton depots around, in Independence and Higginsville, though each is different. The Independence depot, for example, has two stories because at the time it was built station masters lived at the depot.

The original depot in Blue Springs burned, and – after intense lobbying by the city – it was replaced in 1926. Station masters no longer lived on site by then, so it’s a one-story building.

“So you’ve got three different styles representing Chicago & Alton architecture,” Potter said.

Potter said the restoration effort shows what a community that hasn’t saved much of its past can step up and do.

“This community has never, ever saved anything. ... This has been a whole new process,” she said.