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“It is so exciting to see so many historical buildings being brought back to life,” says Skykomish Mayor Tony Grider.

With several historic buildings undergoing renovations and attracting tourists, the small town of Skykomish is becoming quite fascinating to those passing through. One of the refurbished structures is the Historic Great Northern Depot in the Skykomish Town Center, constructed in 1898. Having already endured the external repairs and most of the internal patch-ups on the east end of the building in 2012, the central section and west end are next in line.

The east end of the Great Northern Depot is currently hosting the Great Northern and Cascade Railway’s mini-train gift shop. After an oil spill called for the Great Northern Depot to be temporarily moved during the cleanup of oil from soil beneath the foundation, BNSF was planning to demolish the building rather than return it to its original location.

The Town of Skykomish stepped in and expressed interest in leasing it from BNSF instead. The town coordinated with BNSF to move it back to its original location, where it sits today. Resident Kevin Weiderstrom pitched the idea of running a mini-train through the railyard and, when the city council approved, he made it happen.

Weiderstrom was already working on the Skykomish mini-train project, so when the depot was available for use, he stepped in to oversee development, as well. Since re-establishment and obtaining 501(c) 3 status as a historical museum, Weiderstrom has supervised the operation of the Great Northern and Cascade Railway mini-train’s gift shop.

Weiderstrom oversaw the renovations needed to restore the east end of the depot in 2012. To renovate the east end of the depot, new windows were installed, the exterior was repainted and the false ceiling was stripped, which was solely financed by Weiderstrom. The foundation had to be replaced due to the contamination caused by the BNSF oil spill several decades earlier. These renovations took most of 2012, but there are still more internal repairs needed today. The east end of the depot was almost completely finished for the grand opening of the mini-train in May 2013 after a tiring year packed with hard work.

Since the grand opening of the mini-train, a new bathroom was installed with funds from a private grant in August 2013. The east end of the building is currently in need of interior painting, which is scheduled for this summer.

The Town of Skykomish recently received a $48,000 grant from 4Culture, a nonprofit organization that offers grants to preserve historical landmarks in King County. After the necessary repairs are made with the financial support from 4Culture, the Skykomish Historical Society will be using the space as a train museum, where its train memorabilia will be available to the public. The space between the gift shop and the soon-to-be train museum will act as a visitor center.

Mayor Grider says that renovation materials are being ordered this week and that he hopes to see the Skykomish Historical Society’s train museum and the Visitor Center up and running by mid-Summer. The Skykomish Historical Society will run the Visitor Center and train museum on weekdays and the gift shop and mini-train will be open on the weekends, creating an unstinting balance between the two sources of entertainment for, both, the town’s weekday and weekend tourists.

The restoration will repair the damage from a computer fire that occurred in 1985 that failed to have been restored, in addition to a general clean up that is direly needed after years of not being maintained. Grider said he “can’t wait to clear it out, bring it up to code and get the Skykomish Historical Society in there.”

“We want to encourage people to come in and explore Skykomish,” Grider said, adding the visitor center will be an inviting place for navigating tourists to hiking trails, bike paths, local entertainment and more — a “hub for recreational access.”

Grider said he wants “to make Skykomish more public friendly”. With the mini-train and, soon, the train museum and Visitor Center, he wants to add more to the railyard. He envisions shade trees, picnic tables, barbecues, and perhaps even a playground. If more grants are awarded and sufficient volunteer support is acquired, this once unoccupied rail yard could become the heart of the community.

With the busy months quickly approaching, Grider is in search of volunteer support. Volunteers would initially be focusing on the landscaping aspects of the project, such as pulling weeds, planting flowers and embedding trees. Those interested in volunteering can contact Grider at 360-677-2388 or mayorgrider@frontier.com.