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East Palestine train depot gets new life

EAST PALESTINE — For more than 120 years, East Palestine’s historic but dilapidated train depot has stood in the village as a silent and neglected microcosm of the blue-collar bond between the rails and the evolution of the village. Norfolk Southern’s commitment to righting the wrong of the Feb. 3, 2023, train derailment has breathed new life into the depot.

Norfolk Southern announced plans on March 22 to renovate and donate the historic depot back to the village along with a $100,000 grant to “support the village’s continued development of the space.”

“East Palestine should be proud of their history with the railroad industry,” said Kristin Wong, director of corporate giving for Norfolk Southern. “We are honored to donate this train depot to the community as a symbol of that history.”

The depot was built in 1905 at the corner of Taggart and Market Streets by the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago Railway, which was a major part of the Pennsylvania Railroad system, extending the PRR west from Pittsburgh via Fort Wayne, Indiana, to Chicago. That line eventually was passed to Penn Central Transportation in 1968 and Conrail in 1976. In 1998, following the breakup of Conrail, Norfolk Southern acquired the line east of Crestline. The depot came with the line.

The depot last received a facelift in 2005 when volunteers and East Palestine High School students painted the exterior of the building as part of the village’s “Dog Days” — an annual day of volunteerism for the good of the village. In the 19 years since, the depot has fallen into despair

with peeling paint and with little, if any improvements, until work began

recently.

New Waterford-based Dynamic Structures won the renovation bid.

According to Norfolk Southern, the past and the future of the building was considered in the plans, as the exterior will be both restored and upgraded while the interior will be turned into a blank space so the community may develop the property, according to its own vision.

“As I’ve talked with those who live in East Palestine, I heard early on that they wanted to own and determine the future of this central building,” added Wong. “We’re committed to making things right in East Palestine, and it is a privilege to donate this train depot to the community and to watch what it will become next.”

The depot project, which is expected to be completed this year, is just one of many projects to improve the aesthetic of the village as East Palestine moves past the events of Feb. 3, 2023. Work is also underway at the former Brittain Motors building at 428 N. Market St. That building will be transformed into a Norfolk Southern Field Office, which will house and support both community engagement and operational functions. When completed, the office is expected to complement existing structures on North Market Street with a “brick facade to better match the aesthetic of the downtown district.”

An artist rendering of the finished exterior of the building closely resembles that of the East Palestine Library. Norfolk Southern said that more than $1 million in building renovations to the field office will be completed by local contractor, J. Herbert. Youngstown-based Strollo Architects developed the designs and work is expected to be completed in the late first quarter or early second quarter of next year.

selverd@mojonews.com

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