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Leaving the station
Train depot will move to museum

DULUTH - For years, members of the Southeastern Railway Museum have coveted a Duluth train depot.

Next summer, they'll finally have it.

The city agreed to lease the depot at W.P. Jones Park to the museum for $1 a year, an agreement that will allow the transportation museum to have a visible presence from the road and ratchet up its displays.

"It's going to be a big deal," said Mike Dudley, chairman of the museum's planning committee.

In the past, the depot has housed a police precinct and the city's parks department. Dudley said it will be moved to the museum on Buford Highway, restored to its original configuration and filled with exhibits the museum has, but does not have room to display.

Dudley said he thinks the depot is more than 100 years old. The museum will spend more than $800,000, much of it from transportation enhancement grants, to move and restore the structure.

Because the depot is 13 feet high, Dudley said four traffic signals and 17 phone, cable and power lines have to be moved for the 1.9-mile trek from the park to the museum. The trip has to be completed before the Pleasant Hill underpass is finished because the depot will not fit under Buford Highway.

"We're scrambling; we're working very hard to make it happen," Dudley said. "We've always wanted to have a depot on our property for quite some time."

The museum contains a checkered cab and a motor bus, but Dudley said this will be the first display that does not move. He expects its presence to greatly increase the number of visitors to the museum, in part because the depot's placement will make the museum visible from Buford Highway. Many visitors, Dudley said, tell him they did not know the museum was there before coming to it.

Susan Weber, the senior administrative assistant to Duluth city administrator Phil McLemore, said the city will continue to own the depot, which is called "The Airline Belle" or "The Belle" in city history.