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(rshsdepot) Kingsburg, CA

Kingsburg needs depot deed for restoration start

By Patrick O'Donnell
Recorder Staff

Kingsburg cannot begin work on the $750,000 train depot restoration project
until it possesses the deed to the building and City Manager Don Pauley said
that the city is hopeful Union Pacific Railroad Co. will transfer ownership
to the city sometime after the first quarter of this year.

"We've been bugging them regularly," said Pauley. "If not, we'll send a
delegation to their headquarters and ask them where it is."

Fortunately, the weather has been fairly kind to the 10,000 square-foot
structure this year. Its exterior structure is so rotten that in some cases
the wood in the window and door frames is useless for attaching fasteners.

Pauley said that if it were not for the fact that the roof is in better
shape, he isn't sure the structure would have survived as long as it has.
There has also been talk of covering it in plastic so as to keep it from
being exposed to the elements but that has not been necessary thus far.

The original structure and 50 others like it were built around 1850, but
just 12 remain.

Kingsburg's first depot burned down in a fire in 1902. At that time, the
railroad moved in an identical depot that had been constructed in the city
of Mason in Tulare County in the same time period. In 1922, another fire
damaged the second depot and the building was moved south to its present
site and renovated. In 1968, the depot was closed to passenger service and
by 1988, it was retired altogether.

After the depot was closed the Southern Pacific Railroad, which at that time
had possession of the line on which the depot sits, was ready to demolish
the facility.

After the depot was closed the Kingsburg City Council acted to register the
depot as a state and county historical landmark, but the railroad
immediately scheduled the building for demolition.

Fearing an immediate loss of the building, a group of Kingsburg citizens met
in the depot lobby on Nov. 28, 1994, to begin negotiating for preservation
of the building.

The group made the railroad aware of the depot's registered historical
status and requested an agreement for use of the building.

Negotiations came to a halt when Southern Pacific insisted the building be
moved off the site. The citizens group felt that moving the building would
destroy the building's historical significance and negatively impact
downtown Kingsburg.

When no proposal was to move it was made, the railroad discontinued all
negotiations concerning the depot and would not allow anyone access to
maintain it.

In 1996, S.P. sold the railroad to the Union Pacific. U.P. was a company
known to be sympathetic to preservation of buildings so the city was
thrilled at the transaction.

In 1997, Kingsburg Mayor John Wright was able to open negotiations with the
U.P. for control of the depot, and the city was granted access for
maintenance in a 1998 lease.

Since then, the U.P. has promised to give the depot and property as a gift
deed to the city, but the process of transferring the deed has been
extremely slow and consequently, no restoration efforts could be started.

On Dec. 2, 1998, the city council voted to establish a Train Depot Planning
Committee, whose job it would be to decide on a purposes for the depot;
identify the extent to which the building should be restored; establish a
means of phasing in the restoration so that the entire project did not have
to be completed at once; and identify the resources, financial and other,
that would be needed to complete the restoration project as well as identify
the resources which would be needed to maintain the facility. The committee
was given a year to conduct its research and bring its findings back to the

It has been proposed that the restored depot could serve multiple purposes.
According to proposals, it could serve as a full-time regional
transportation center, with accommodations for charter tours.

It was also felt the facility could function as a full-time living museum
and learning center which would accommodate students in the region studying
California history in a "hands on" environment with emphasis on the 1869
Transcontinental and 1872 San Joaquin Railroads.

It was also decided that the building could be used for indoor and outdoor
events associated with festivals including food, crafts, music and other
performances. It was also felt that at some point in the future, the
building might also be used as a rail transit site, for rail transportation
services, a train excursion destination for passenger trains arriving on
trips of historical significance and possibly as a public meeting center.

The facility would also include a visitor's information center, which would
accommodate a display of information about Kingsburg and the surrounding
areas including opportunities in education, business and recreation.

Pauley said that when the deed is secured the city could probably start work
six months to a year after the completion of the federal environmental
reviews but nothing can happen until the city has the deed.

He said that the city's grant funds, including the Transportation
Enhancement federal grant, for the project are not in jeopardy and will be
secure for another two to three years. "But I'm afraid it still won't be
enough, we'll just have to wait and see."

The Kingsburg Recorder

The Railroad Station Historical Society maintains a database of existing
railroad structures at: http://www.rrshs.org