Depot fund-raiser slated Nov. 13

The annual homemade chili meal fund-raiser to benefit the International & Great Northern Historical Depot is set for Saturday, Nov. 13 at the Fair Park Clubhouse.

Hours are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., according to Chamber of Commerce President Denice Doss.

The meal includes homemade chili and desserts to eat in or take out.

Last year’s meal raised over $1,000.

The fully-restored depot, located at the corner of Main and Milam in downtown Rockdale contains a museum, caboose, dining car and blacksmith’s shop.

Last year it was won the “best restoration” category in the 2009 Texas Downtown Association (TDA) President’s Awards Program.

HISTORY— The depot was built in 1906.

It was Rockdale’s third passenger train depot.

In 1925 the I&GN was leased by Missouri-Pacific and was operated as a division of the famed Mopac line until 1955 when it officially merged with MissouriPacific.

Rockdale’s depot aged, first gracefully then not so gracefully. Its distinctive cupola was removed in 1936 when a new roof was added but the depot was a Rockdale hotspot during the golden age of passenger trains which lasted until the mid-1950s.

At one time six passenger trains served Rockdale daily.

But it couldn’t last. Cars and airplanes displaced the train as America’s preferred method of travel.

By the 1960s, passenger train service was down to four trains per day in Rockdale.

In 1967 the U. S. Postal Service cancelled its mail contract with the railroad.

Three years later Rockdale’s train depot was histor y as a working facility. The final passenger train departed Rockdale on Sept. 21, 1970, ending 96 years of passenger train service to the town.

For the next 29 years the depot was a feed storage facility. A fire damaged, but did not destroy, the building.

In 1998 the Rockdale Historical Society was formed and announced plans to restore the depot to its former glory.

The depot was purchased from Adolph McVoy on Dec. 1, 1999, and the restoration began.

A new cupola was constructed by volunteer Gary Jackson and the historical society put in countless hours bringing the structure back to its Victorian Era splendor.

Its grand reopening as a historical museum was held in 2008 and the building is open on weekends.

Currently it houses a display of Dr. Pepper memorabilia, loaned by collector Bill Hall.

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