SPOONER– The Friends of the Railroad Park (FORRP) is seeking donations for the developing Railroad Park, located in the heart of the historic rail yard area just off downtown Spooner.

It has been transformed by the addition of a new 36-by-48-foot railroad-themed pavilion. To the south of the pavilion is a portion of the original roundhouse, built in 1903, and the original turntable. This newly landscaped area is centrally located and resides next to the Railroad Memories Museum (the old depo). Both flank an old railroad route, which is used by the Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad Excursion.

Running along the railroad is the Wild Rivers Trail, which connects hundreds of miles of ATV, bicycle, and walking paths. It has been the desire of the city and community to develop this historically significant area (which is actually 18 acres large) into a welcoming, safe “green space” place for folks to sit, play, walk the area, and view the area that made Spooner what it is today.

The park is being developed through the efforts of FORRP, with funding coming from private donations and grants. FORRP created a pleasing area, with extensive landscaping to clear the area north of the roundhouse, prepping for the rock parking lot, and preparing the area for the picnic pavilion, which was built late summer of 2020. Railroad-themed signs were installed in the pavilion along with electricity and plenty of lights, picnic tables, and grills.

Part of the landscaping revealed the old decaying weigh station, now called “The Del Salquist Memorial Weigh Station/Spooner Scale.” FORRP restored the building, bringing it back to its original state, and added “fake” tracks, depicting original use. The group also installed: a sign describing the roundhouse with four more signs describing sites crucial to train operation soon to be installed; three “honor” benches around the pavilion with two more installed in the park; two new volleyball courts north of the pavilion; guardrail made of railroad ties defining the parking lot from the pavilion; and an ATV path from the Wild Rivers Trail to the parking lot.

Roundhouse

Moreover, FORRP restored the exterior brickwork on the old roundhouse. It’s a strong building, built like a tank, but urgently needed the repair as large portions of the walls could have failed and collapsed. Phase One of the repair was completed early in June, and made a huge difference in the structure and look of the historic roundhouse.

Phase Two occurred as there was a lot more damage both internally and externally discovered in Phase One. All of the eaves around the entire roundhouse had to be pulled off and rebuilt. Phase Two also included more cleaning as well as some treatment of the metal parts and doors.

The roundhouse is now secure and ready for future plans, hopefully becoming a community event center able to seat 1,500 people within five to seven years.

Upcoming projects

Plans for the near future include: a stamped-concrete, railroad-themed walkway to the pavilion; a magnificent railroad-themed archway at the entrance to the Railroad Park; painting all exposed wood trim on the roundhouse; building, rebuilding, and renovating the “mechanic building” on the turntable; cleaning the interior of the turntable; providing appropriate fencing around the turntable; installing four more “historically significant” signs; building an honor wall; and much more landscaping.

The estimated need is $7,000 to complete the signs, honor wall, walkway, paint and supplies, the supplies for the mechanic building on the turntable, and for completing the exterior brick restoration.

Donors

Four Spooner Railroad Park Donation Levels have been set:

Spooner Railroad Park Donation Levels:

Gandy Dancer – <$250: Recognition on website

Engineer – $250-$999: Recognition on website and 4-by-8-foot recognition brick

Conductor – $1,000-$4,999: Logo and recognition on website and 8-by-8-foot recognition brick

Yard Master – $5,000+: Logo and recognition on website, 8-by-8-foot recognition brick, a tree or bench

Donations can be mailed to: Friends of the Railroad Park (FORRP), PO Box 548, Spooner, WI 54801. For more information: Terri Reiter, chair, 715.416.2995. Volunteers are welcome as well.

Video

A new video outlining the Railroad Park project is with this article.

(Copyright © 2021 APG Media)

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