Generous donations fuel improvements at Butler County Museum

Pure Nebraska
Published: Jul. 21, 2022 at 11:22 AM CDT|Updated: Jul. 21, 2022 at 11:29 AM CDT
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DAVID CITY, Neb. (KOLN) - From better parking, to more safety fencing around the building, volunteers with the Butler County Historical Society are excited about exterior improvements to their museum.

The museum is housed inside David City’s old train depot.

“The Burlington Depot was built in the 1914-1915 era to replace an earlier depot,” Butler County Historical Society volunteer Jim Reisdorff said. “The railroad itself has been in town here since 1880. Back in the early 1900′s, town promoters convinced the railroad to build the new depot. The depot served the community until 1969 when it closed. Passenger service was on the line until 1953.”

The era of passengers using the depot has long since passed, but when you walk inside the building you can still see remnants of a memorable time of rail travel. Benches that people used to wait for the trains line the walls.

“Those who have been in railroad stations are familiar with the fact that the waiting room was pretty much the center of a community at one time for people who came and went on the train,” Reisdorff said. “It’s where people waited for loved ones to come back from the war, or where people left for far off places to visit.”

Some of the other features in the depot include the old ticket counter. Down the hall, you can see the door that leads to the baggage room, which is now a storage area for the museum. When the depot closed in 1969, the Butler County Historical Society acquired the depot to use as a museum facility.

“When they learned this depot was closed and was for sale, historical society members sought to have the building donated, and the railroad was willing to do that. So, we’ve had the building since about 1970. The historical society owns the building, but the property around it still belongs to the railroad. Trains still go by the depot every day. In recent years the railroad has become more active in the community because of an ethanol plant in Columbus, and the railroad serves that facility,” Reisdorff said.

With trains coming through daily, you might think the rumbling and the movement might take a toll on the depot. But the old depot is still standing its ground.

“The integrity of the building itself is still pretty solid after more than 100 years. Of course, the vibrations do things like sag the floor, and bust the light bulbs in the building. But, we have made efforts to replace those items that needed replacing,” Reisdorff said.

An air conditioning and heating system is now in place, and new windows are also a part of the list of interior upgrades that help volunteers maintain the artifacts. Butler County Historical Society President Steve Barlean says a more recent decision was made to improve the exterior of the building, too. This includes better parking.

“We basically had visitors walking across railroad tracks and walking through a graveled area to get to our museum,” Barlean said. “So, we decided to raise funds to get a concrete parking lot.”

Museum volunteers say local donors made a real difference.

“Butler County people sent us thousands of dollars,” Barlean said.

The city provided a street light, and the Burlington Northern Foundation is helping with safety fencing between the depot and the tracks.

“As soon as this project started, the Burlington Northern Foundation granted us the money to build a long piece of fence between the depot and the tracks,” Barlean said.

Future improvements include more fencing and getting the depot exterior painted.

“It’s just really turning this into a nice, visually pleasing, and safe attraction for Butler County,” Barlean said.

The goal is to keep the museum going for years go come.

“It’s very much an example of small town volunteerism,” Reisdorff said.

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