Alton gets gift of historic train station

  • Published in Local News

A private property owner has donated one of Alton’s circa late-1800s train stations to the town. The Board of Selectmen formally accepted the old wooden building, which is approximately 300-square-feet, at its meeting in the Town Hall Monday night. Members of the Downtown Revitalization Committee (DRC), which will be in charge of the building, presented the proposal; the group hopes to move it to the Alton B&M Railroad Park behind the municipal office building some time next spring ...

A private property owner has donated one of Alton’s circa late-1800s train stations to the town. The Board of Selectmen formally accepted the old wooden building, which is approximately 300-square-feet, at its meeting in the Town Hall Monday night. Members of the Downtown Revitalization Committee (DRC), which will be in charge of the building, presented the proposal; the group hopes to move it to the Alton B&M Railroad Park behind the municipal office building some time next spring and then restore the historic structure. Judy Fry, chairman of the DRC, said yesterday she and other local history buffs that have been involved in the park’s development over the last few are very excited about the opportunity to add the old railroad station. “The whole point is the town, except for the Alton Bay station, does not own any of the little railroad stations (that were once part of the town),” she said “We let one slip through our fingers last year, the Springhaven station in West Alton. This will be a wonderful opportunity to own an original (Alton) train station and a piece of railroad history. And what better place to have it than the B&M Railroad Park?” Marty Cornelissen, a resident and history buff who’s helped to restore the old caboose and the J. Jones Freight Building already on the property, said the chance for the town to get what was once known as the Loon Cove railroad station is a unique one. “It’s the last opportunity to get a (town) train station,” he said. “It’s the last one that will ever be available.” Cornelissen said there were once 11 railroad stops in Alton and four stationhouses: the Alton Bay station now serves as a community center; the Springhaven station was recently sold from one private property owner on Rte. 11 to a nearby campground owner where it is being converted into a combination recreation hall/office for the business; another station in West Alton has been converted into a residence; and the last one was taken down to make room for the current Police Department station. Cornelissen said the Loon Cove station, which he called “nearly a clone” of the Springhaven station, is in relatively very good shape for its age. “It’s pretty much all in the original condition,” he said. “It’s the original building with a slate roof. It has a five-foot (roof) overhangs. There’s a fire-foot deck all around the building. You’ve got to take it with a grain of salt but it’s not rotting or damaged or falling down. Most all of the original woodwork is all there. There are additions that have been put on but we can take those off. It’s really hard to come by something (like this).” Fry said the committee had hoped to get the Springhaven station when plans were announced the building was available some time ago but was disappointed when the idea didn’t work out. “All of a sudden, about a month ago things started happening (with the Loon Cove Station) — and quickly,” she said. That’s when Thomas L. Moore III of Manchester, who owns the station, contacted the town through some relatives who live in Alton, Fry said. Officials learned that Moore’s building was on land owned by the N.H. Department of Transportation and state officials wanted the structure removed by this coming spring. Right now plans are for a corp of volunteers to clear out space between the building, which is located off Route 11 near Alton Bay, and the state highway during the next few weeks, Fry explained. Then in the spring the volunteers and donations will join forces to actually move the structure to the park. After that, the DRC will begin looking at a restoration project. Fry said she has no estimates right now on what the cost of either moving or renovating the station at this time and there are no plans for any town funds to be used. Cornelissen said the cost of such work would be extraordinarily high if not for the volunteers and contribution. “It’s a significant project and it will take some labor and effort but it’s not complicated or hard to do.” Doing it with the contributions and efforts of the volunteers makes it more special, he added. “It’s more satisfying with the volunteers.” When the Loon Cove station is added to the park it will bring a significant aspect to what began as a modest effort among a group of volunteers to have a town park in the village. Besides the two old railroad structures that are there, the park now also include a walkway, a nature walk and a playground for toddlers. Cornelissen said a portion of the freight building might be opened next year as part of eventually turning the space into a combination railroad/town museum and educational center.