Perry Rock Island Depot Restoration

$5,905 of $9,000 goal

Raised by 67 people in 9 months
Unless it can be moved soon, a century-old Rock Island Railroad depot in Perry, Arkansas will be torn down. It has taken a lot of negotiations with different entities, but a plan seems to be coming together to move the depot a couple hundred feet down the track onto a city-owned piece of land where we would like to restore it as a museum looking at the history of Perry County, as well as the important role the railroad once played in the community.

For 68 years passenger trains rolled through here, including the Rock Island's Choctaw Rocket, which ran between Memphis, Tennessee and Amarillo, Texas. Unlike other depots and passenger stations, this one was never abandoned after passenger service ended, which is why it's still in relatively good condition. It's the railroad's last wood-frame depot left in Arkansas and still features semaphore signals.

After the Rock Island was shut down in 1980, this became the home of the shortline Little Rock & Western Railway, which continues to operate a 79-mile stretch of track. In recent years the depot has only been used for storage. The railroad wants to expand a locomotive servicing facility on the property and has been giving us time to come up with plan to move the depot. You can read full details of the project on the link below.

A house-moving company has given us an estimate of $7,000 to $8,000 to complete the move. We'll also need to build a foundation for the building. The Perry County Historical & Genealogical Society has allocated $4,000 for the project, which will serve as the down payment for the company to complete the move. Afterward we'll need to pay the remaining balance. We'll also need to pay for a foundation. We're asking for $5,000, hoping that will cover the cost. That doesn't include the restoration work we'll be doing on the building itself. If any money is left over, it will got toward the restoration.

The Perry County Historical Museum, which is a non-profit 501(c)(3) is partnering with the Perry County Historical & Genealogical Society on this project. This is strictly a volunteer effort, there are no paid staff members, so all money raised will go strictly toward moving the Perry depot.  http://hibblenradio.com/railroads/rock-island-in-arkansas/plan-coming-together-to-save-former-rock-island-depot-at-perry-arkansas/ 
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I'm past due for an update on our effort to preserve the Rock Island's Perry, Arkansas depot. We've completed the first phase of the project, which was for the house moving company to remove the depot from its current location to keep it from being town down. Now we will build a new foundation on an adjacent lot for the depot to be placed on.

I've written a full update with photos of the move on my website:


Sunday evening I'm hosting a fundraiser for the depot at the White Water Tavern in Little Rock, 2500 W. 27th Street, 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. A few musician friends are volunteering to perform and everything we make at the door will go toward the project. You can read more here:


Preserve Arkansas, which last year named the depot one of the state's 10 Most Endangered Places, is helping us promote the event. The group is also providing guidance as we aspire to get the depot on the National Register of Historic Places. We're asking for a $10 donation at the door. If you have been one of our supporters, I'd love to meet you to say thanks!

It's worth noting that the Rock Island's main line heading west from Biddle Yard ran right by the White Water Tavern. It's an area where the Rock Island and Missouri Pacific were right beside one another with two railroad overpasses above 7th Street.

Let me know if you have any questions or advice as we proceed on the project and if you know anyone who might be interested in helping, please share this with them.

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Thanks to everyone who has donated to help in our effort to preserve the former Rock Island depot at Perry, Arkansas.

On Sunday, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette wrote a great story about the campaign, along with the good news that paperwork has been finalized to allow us to move the depot from its current location to save it from being demolished.


I'll share a date on when the move will take place. We will still need to continue fundraising to cover the rest of the expense to the house moving company, but we have made tremendous progress.
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I've got good news on our effort to save the Rock Island depot at Perry, Arkansas. The Little Rock & Western Railway has approved our plans and provided us with an asset purchase agreement. Assuming the city now agrees to the paperwork, we'll buy the depot for $10 and be free to move it to a neighboring lot along the railroad tracks. You can read details on the link:


Thanks to everyone who has donated and helped make this happen! We're now stepping up fundraising efforts to pay for the next phase of the project. Please share this with others who can help!
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THANK YOU to everyone who has donated in our effort to save the Rock Island depot at Perry, Arkansas. You can read more details and see photos at this address:


I've also posted much the text below. Please excuse any typos! It has been a long day planning what's next.

This was an important day in the effort to move and preserve the former Rock Island depot at Perry, Arkansas for two reasons. First, this was the deadline that the shortline Little Rock & Western Railway had given us to move the 100-year-old depot or steps would begin moving forward to demolish it. Second, today our online fundraising campaign crossed the halfway mark toward our goal of $9,000.

As I write this on Sunday evening, we’ve raised a total of $4,565 through Go Fund Me. Also, the treasurer of the Perry County Historical Museum reports that as of Thursday, June 28, we have also received $1,601 in checks. Based on verbal commitments, we expect to receive at least a couple more checks in the mail this coming week.

That totals $6,166, which should be enough to start the project and move the depot off its current location, where the railroad now operating that stretch of track wants to build a new locomotive servicing facility. If you haven’t been following this project, you can read earlier posts below to learn the whole story and how we have addressed the many challenges that keep popping up, mainly from the railroad’s parent company which is looking at liability concerns.

Regarding the deadline, with what we’ve raised at this point, we were prepared to pay a house-moving company to start the project this coming week by placing it on the back of a trailer until a nearby location offered by the city of Perry is ready. But new issues have again left us scrambling.

On the cost to move the depot about 150 feet to an adjacent piece of land, Combs Home Builders & House Movers gave us an estimate of $7,000 to $8,000. The first $4,000 will be due before the move, and the Perry County Historical & Genealogical Society has allocated $4,000 to cover that. The balance would be due afterward.

The railroad’s corporate parent company wanted the house-mover to have $6 million in aggregate insurance coverage. That would be the maximum amount paid if something goes wrong. As I noted in my previous entry, after some struggle we finally found an insurer willing to back the project. It was expected that would add $3,600 to the cost, but last Thursday, June 28, we learned from the insurer that will cost is a total of $4,500. That’s $900 more than was planned, but we can absorb that to get the project going.

We got another surprise Thursday, three days before the July 1 deadline, when parent company Genesee & Wyoming said it wanted the house-mover or the Perry County Historical & Genealogical Society to have environmental and/or pollution insurance. The concern involves the possibility that when the building is lifted up asbestos or pieces of lead paint could contaminate the site.

Asbestos and lead paint are very legitimate concerns, but this shouldn’t be an insurmountable problem. Old buildings like this are moved on a regularly basis, so we’ll immediately reach out to environmental experts or environmental attorneys to learn the best steps we can take to address the concern.

This is a relatively small depot and I’m told the only asbestos is within the operator’s bay. There apparently was an assessment done a couple of years ago. The asbestos likely would have been between the walls or in the attic. Looking at photos from when I was allowed to go through the depot on August 19, 2017, the walls appear to be cheap wood paneling that became popular in the 1950s. It also looks as though the ceiling was lowered, so perhaps there is asbestos above that.

I’ll find out what an environmental insurance rider would cost to address the possibility of chips of lead paint or pieces of asbestos coming out. I’ll also find out if a letter of indemnity could be agreed to by the railroad that would release it from any liability.

From my discussions with others who have preserved historic railroad stations, it sounds like a relatively simple process of using a sealant that covers areas with asbestos so that fibers are not released. Removal would be more expensive, but it sounds like if we get the depot moved, grant money will be available to assist.

As I noted, today was the deadline the Little Rock & Western had given for the depot to be moved. I’m told contractors will be at the site on Monday, July 9 as part of the process to make bids on building a new locomotive servicing facility. Management wants to know by Friday, July 6 at the latest if the move is going to take place. I’m going to be hustling on the phone to see what I can learn.

If we can come up with some kind of plan in the next few days it will take money to make it happen. If you haven’t donated and are interested in helping, please give. Also sharing on social media to let as many people as possible know about the campaign would be a big help.

If we get the depot moved and keep it along railroad tracks as the current plan calls for, it would most likely be eligible for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places, according to experts who have been consulted. If that effort succeeds, significant grant money would be available for the depot’s restoration.

Over the past week I’ve been communicating with the Department of Arkansas Heritage. Two people with the department’s Arkansas Historic Preservation Program say the reason the depot is not eligible for the national designation in its current location is because of the addition in the 1980s of the large, attached metal shed where locomotives are serviced.

If the depot is moved to the proposed location and run by a not-for-profit entity, which the Perry County Historical Museum is, then it would most likely be eligible, the department says, and the state would work with us in preparing the application.
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$5,905 of $9,000 goal

Raised by 67 people in 9 months
Funds raised will benefit:
Perry County Historical Museum
Certified Charity
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Perryville, AR
EIN: 202373844
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