On the move again
Train depot relocated for at least third time

DULUTH - Even after three years and eight months of planning, Mike Dudley had to take care of last-minute details.

Late for the send-off, when Dudley began walking down Pleasant Hill Road, he was met with an overwhelming site.

"All I saw was a forest of bucket lifts and utility trucks and police cars," Dudley said. "It was a remarkable scene and a remarkable experience."

The crews and cops shut down Pleasant Hill Road on Friday to move a historic train depot from a Duluth park to the Southeastern Railway Museum. The depot, which Dudley believes dates back to 1871, will become a new entrance and focal point for the state's transportation museum on Buford Highway.

"It was an incredible moment when we made passage to our entrance," Dudley said, grateful for the safe two-mile journey. The only damage to the structure was when a downspout fell off and some siding was damaged as the depot left W.P. Jones Park.

It was the depot's third, or possibly fourth move.

The structure was once located at Duluth's downtown entrance at Ga. Highway 120 and Buford Highway. Dudley believes it was once located on the southern side of the railroad tracks with a freight depot on the opposite side. It may have been moved when the freight depot was torn down.

But historians know for certain the depot was moved in 1974 from the tracks' right of way, at the request of the railroad company. The city did not have the money for the move, so it was done by late businessman and philanthropist Scott Hudgens.

At the site of the current Gwinnett Medical Center - Duluth, the depot served as Hudgens' office until it was moved across Pleasant Hill Road to the park in the 1980s.

There it served as an office, a police substation and as a community room for years until the city reached an agreement with the museum, which will lease the structure for $1 a year as long as it is restored and opened to the public.

"That's where it belongs," said Jane Kuykendall, as she watched the house travel past her Charleston Bay neighborhood Friday morning. "This is an amazing feat. I'm so glad they are putting it up with the train museum. ... That building looks so much bigger on that truck than it ever did in the woods (at the park)."

The 1,600-square-foot building has been renovated extensively over the decades, Dudley said. So people on the project have a lot of decisions to make, including whether to return the structure to its original color, replacing the doors and the refurbished roof and more. One thing is for certain, he said; the ceiling that was dropped to 10 feet when it became Hudgens' office will be returned to 13 feet.

Dudley, a volunteer who has taken the reins of the project, said he hopes to complete the work by next spring, so the depot can be opened to the public.

After paying a half million dollars for land to expand the museum and a quarter million dollars for Friday's move, the restoration is likely to take another $500,000, he said.

"Along the way, as the costs were mounting, I began to wonder, is this the right thing to do?" he said. But the project provides a new focal point for the museum, not to mention a great historical feature.

The museum was able to secure a $625,000 grant from the federal government and raise the remaining money through donations.