VALPARAISO | Residents in lawn chairs lined Franklin Street on Monday morning to watch history on the move.
Workers from Dillabaugh Inc. had eight hours, beginning at 5 a.m. to maneuver the former Grand Trunk Railroad Depot, jacked up about 6 feet atop eight sets of wheels, across the railroad tracks now operated by Canadian National.
"It's nice to see them preserve this instead of just demolish it," said Paul Johnston, a train buff from Morgan Township. He and his wife, Mary, came out to watch the depot make its way down the street.
The historic building had moved over the tracks to be placed across the street from the Porter County Career and Technical Center. On Monday, it moved onto the center's property, right next to the stakes that marked its future home. The 3,000-square-foot historic building, originally located on Calumet Avenue north of Bush Street, will be reused by the career center as a classroom, said Jon Groth, director at the center.
"There's going to be a fair amount of action (Tuesday)," Groth said.
The move across the tracks progressed at a snail's pace. The men built a make-shift road of wooden beams and metal gratings to keep the building level. Every few inches, the building came to a stop and the pieces of the make-shift road were moved forward.
"You can see how fast it doesn't move," said Jan Dick, president of the Valparaiso City Council. "People have likened it to watching paint dry."
The project has been a community affair. Businesses along the Bush Street from Calumet Avenue to Franklin Street agreed to let the station move across their properties. Miracle Water Co. agreed to let the team cut out scrub trees at the back of its property, Dick said.
"Obviously the community came together," he said.
On Monday, NIPSCO crews removed some wires and Canadian National removed train signals to allow the depot to cross the tracks at Franklin Street. Utility companies rearranged cables to clear a path onto the career center's property.
John Blosky, an engineer from Amereco Engineering, coordinated the move with all the companies involved and the city, pro bono.
"I just wanted to do it to help the school out, to help the city out," Blosky said.
The Porter County Building Trades Corp. has been collecting donations since May to cover the cost of the move and the refurbish project. The move came with a price tag of roughly $160,000 and has been completely funded. Groth expected the refurbishing to cost about $100,000. Donations still are being collected for that. Volunteers and career center students will do the refurbishing.
"This is the end of the beginning," Groth said. "We still have a lot of work to do refurbishing this building."