VALPARAISO | Jon Groth is looking forward to "an amazing day" on July 7.
That's the day the Canadian National railroad tracks will be closed for eight hours while the historic train station on Calumet Avenue is hoisted onto a truck and moved to the Porter County Career and Technical Center grounds, where Groth is principal.
Groth told the Valparaiso Community Schools board at its April 3 discussion session a number of steps still have to be completed before the planned moving day, including an appearance Tuesday before the city's Site Review Committee. The precise route of the move still is being worked out, and it will require a couple of temporary rights of way for that.
The station will still end up next to the tracks but on the other side. Groth said adding it to the career center site will violate the minimum green space requirement of the city code, but that can be corrected either by eliminating a few parking spaces or rounding a few corners in the lot. A rain garden is planned next to the station with prairie plants to be reminiscent of how it might have looked when it was built in 1912.
Dillabaugh Inc., of Crown Point, will do the moving. Groth said excavation will start around May 19 to get ready for the move. Dillabaugh expects to complete the move in six hours. Groth said he wants to organize a community work day to pack up paving bricks around the station so they can be moved to the new location too.
It is going to cost $160,000 to move the building and build the new foundation on which it will be placed. Groth said Urschel Laboratories and Task Force Tips have each donated $84,000 to cover that cost because of their relationship with the school and hiring some of its graduates.
The building will be used as much-needed classroom space, but, first, it has to be restored. Part of that work will provide training for building trades students, and the project could get an unexpected assist from Davis & Elkins College in West Virginia.
The college contacted Groth after learning of the project and offered to send several of its students enrolled in a railroad heritage restoration class to do an unpaid internship working on it next winter. Groth said he also hopes to tap into the school's expertise in historic restoration for any work the students don't complete.
"There's a fair amount of interior demolition needed that would be perfect for them," he said. "We started this project about three years ago. Our building trades class does a house about every three years, but they won't be available to work on the station this year."
He plans to add geothermal heating and air conditioning to make it a "green" building.
"We want to prove you can take an old building and do that," he said. "This is something I have a passion for, and we want to make it a demonstration of the restoration of a historic building for modern use."
He estimates it will cost another $100,000 to restore the building, and he hopes to raise that over the next two years. CN is cooperating in the move and providing a flag man for the day of the move, which Groth said will save the railroad about $80,000 in demolition costs.
The building has been deeded to the Porter County Building Trades Council, which will turn it over to the school district after the move is complete. Groth said the School Board will be responsible for maintaining the building after that and he asked if that was OK.
"I'd hate to move it and find out you didn't want it," he said.
The board said it was all aboard with the project. Next stop: an amazing day.