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Newton Depot Authority breaks ground for new museum pavilion

Newton Depot Authority breaks ground for new museum pavilion

NEWTON, NC (September 7, 2012) – The Newton Depot Authority held a groundbreaking ceremony on September 5 to symbolize the start of construction of a new pavilion for the Southeastern Narrow Gauge & Shortline Museum. A good crowd gathered on the North College Avenue side of the depot as local leaders and depot authority members expressed their excitement about the new outdoor museum.

The depot authority kicked off its “Golden Spike” capital campaign in mid-2011 to help raise funds and solicit donations for the new outdoor museum. According to Depot Authority member Matt Bumgarner, support has been favorable thus far, but additional donations are needed to help complete the museum.

“The pavilion will be the cornerstone achievement of the ongoing $750,000 capital campaign, which is being used to create the museum,” Bumgarner stated. “As of August 23, over $475,000 in pledges and in-kind donations have been received for this project.”

Bumgarner said the pavilion will be an L-shaped structure covering approximately 300 feet of dual-gauge railroad track, and will house the museum’s rolling stock.

“The structure shape is based on the floor plan of the old Carolina & North-Western Railway shops that were located in Hickory from 1912 to 1974,” Bumgarner related.

The pavilion is an integral part of the outdoor museum which will help achieve the depot authority’s goal of heritage education about the importance of the narrow-gauge railroad in the industrial development of this area. The focus of the outdoor museum is to collect, restore, and preserve railroad equipment representative of the long history of railroads in western North Carolina, and to provide an enjoyable educational experience for individuals, families, school groups, and tourists.

The pavilion, which will be located just behind the depot off North College Avenue, will house restored narrow-gauge railroad cars that were used locally by the Chester & Lenoir Railroad, a boxcar from Tweetsie Railroad, a Southern Railway caboose, and other railroad stock.

The arrival of the railroad provided the first viable mode of mass transportation for residents of Newton and the Catawba Valley area, linking local communities with larger cities. Locally, the impact of the railroad during the 1850s and later decades created the communities of Catawba, Claremont, Conover, Maiden, Whitnel, Treland, and Sawmills. The arrival of the railroad fueled the growth of Hickory as an industrial center for furniture and textiles, and Newton as an agricultural distribution center.

For more information, visit www.newtondepot.com or call Thomas W. Warlick at (828) 464-3930.

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About the Newton Depot

Rails of the Western North Carolina Railroad (WNCRR) first reached Catawba County in 1860. In 1881, tracks of the Chester & Lenoir narrow-gauge railroad reached Newton and joined the rails of the WNCRR. Several small wooden depots served Newton in the 19th Century, and as economic growth continued for the next two decades, the existing depot was built as an all-brick structure by the Elliott Building Company in 1924. For the next fifty years, the depot handled freight, as well as some of the most famous passenger trains run by the Southern Railway, including the Carolina Special and the Asheville Special. In June 1975, passenger service finally ceased, and ten years later, the station was discontinued as a freight agency. The depot languished as an abandoned building until 1995, when a group of concerned citizens founded the Newton Depot Authority. With immense local support and volunteer labor, the depot was purchased, moved, and refurbished ten years later at its current location of 1123 North Main Avenue. The renovated depot opened to the public in September 2006 and houses a railroad museum and model railroad club, as well as a banquet room available for public and civic rentals.