NEWTON The Newton Depot Authority board of directors wants to build on what it has started in the city.
Authority members laid out a long-term vision for its train museum during the Newton city council’s annual workshop at Newton Depot on Friday. Newton Depot Authority is leading the effort to build the Southeastern Narrow Gauge & Shortline Museum behind the depot.
Matt Bumgarner, an authority member and secretary of the Alexander Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society, discussed the three phases in the group’s vision for the museum.
The group is still working on a roofed structure with open sides that will house various train cars, including some used locally by the Chester & Lenoir Railroad, as well as a boxcar from Tweetsie Railroad and a Southern Railway caboose.
Bumgarner said the shelter that will protect restored train cars and engines is up but the group still needs to pour concrete walks and put up fencing. He said the group started last weekend to restore a steam engine that will be housed at the museum.
The next phase of the group’s vision is to expand to create indoor museum space, a mini-auditorium, which the group figures would cost around $269,000.
Phase two would include setting the stage to showcase the museum and make it a tourist draw. Bumgarner called it a unique opportunity to upgrade the northern side of the city.
Phase three would include operating a tourist and freight railroad, Bumgarner said, similar to the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad.
The hope is to work out a deal with Norfolk Southern to operate a tourist and dinner car train, Bumgarner said. He said the train could run from Newton to Maiden.
Ideas for raising funds
The group estimates it will take between $2 million and $5 million to get it up and running. It’s something the group believes can be accomplished, Bumgarner said.
He and other members stressed the group is not asking the city of Newton for money. But they asked city officials to pass on information to them about any grant they know of.
Tom Warlick, vice chairman of the authority, said the group has run out of room, saying since it started the museum project people have contacted them wanting to donate train memorabilia and pieces.
Newton Mayor Anne Stedman suggested the group could get a railroad dinner car and host events on it to raise money to realize its dream.
“It’s ambitious and I love the idea,” Stedman told the group. “It would be terrific and revitalize north Newton.”
Mayor Pro Tem Bill Lutz said north Newton is his old home area and he would love to see the area revitalized.