Two or three days a week – often more – the two volunteers show up and work away at restoring a key piece of Blue Springs history.
“If these two didn’t do it, it wouldn’t get done,” said Frances Hose, president of the Blue Springs Historical Society.
Riley Burrus and Don Gfeller are renovating the 1926 Chicago & Alton Depot, which was saved from destruction three years ago. The Historical Society hopes to have it open to the public next summer.
“The railroad is very important to our history, because the town moved because of the railroad,” Burrus said.
The city originally sat where Burrus Old Mill Park – yes, that’s Riley’s family – sits today on Woods Chapel Road. The railroad came, with a depot on today’s Main Street just east of 15th Street, so the town moved to the east. That depot was lost to a fire in 1920, and the city got the railroad to build a new one in 1926.
The last passenger train stopped there on April 15, 1960, and the depot continued to handle freight for some time after that. But then it sat empty for years. The Kansas City Southern, which owns those tracks today, was going to have it torn down, but the community interceded, raised money and got the building moved to a site just north of downtown.
Gfeller and Burrus are restoring its original look, down the color of the walls and the maple floor in the station master’s office. The depot had three simple rooms: a waiting area, a baggage room, and, in the middle, the station’s master’s office with telegraph equipment and a bay window looking out to the tracks.
Hose said the Historical Society is working with a tight budget.
“We’re saving money by them doing a lot,” Hose said.
Meanwhile, Burrus has been collecting Chicago & Alton memorabilia to use when the restored depot is opened to the public.
“It’s going to be great,” Hose said.
Because the Historical Society now has three buildings to take care of – the depot, the Chicago and Alton Hotel and the Dillingham-Lewis Museum – it’s stepped up its fundraising efforts.
Today it’s holding the Taste of Blue Springs 2015 is from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the commons at Blue Springs High School, 2000 N.W. Ashton Drive.
Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door. Go to www.bluespringshistory.org/ for more information.
“We need money and volunteers,” Hose said.