IN A FEW weeks, the New Haven Junction train depot will be moving and heading to its new home next to the city office on North Street. In the meantime, windows, flooring, paneling and other interior items have been removed and steel supports are being put in place to maintain the stability of the building. Independent photo / Christophe Ross
NEW HAVEN – Plans to relocate the historic New Haven Junction train depot have taken an adventurous turn in recent weeks.
The plan was to haul the depot a mile and a half east along Highway 17 from its current location at 5450 Ethan Allen Highway (Highway 7) to a city-owned parcel on North Street. But complications – including higher than expected costs to temporarily move power lines out of the way – have forced city officials to consider alternative routes, including one of their own.
As it stands, New Haven intends to make its own route through private property to bypass a number of power lines. The route would start at the top of the first hill on Route 17, as you drive east from Route 7, cut through a cornfield and come out onto North Street, not far from the new depot house.
“We are currently working with the landowners to get their clearance,” said Steve Dupoise, selection committee member and chair of the historic train depot committee, the day before Thanksgiving. “And we’re working feverishly to get this thing moving ASAP.”
Authorities had initially hoped to move the building from December 16, but the new route will require a deep Vermont frost to make the ground hard enough to support the operation. The new plan is therefore to try in mid-January.
MOVE IT OR LOSE IT
Built in the second half of the 19th century, the repository was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.
The Vermont Division of Historic Preservation (VDHP) owns the building, but the land on which it stands is owned by the Vermont Department of Transportation (VTrans).
Last winter, as plans to expand passenger train service from Rutland to Burlington began to take shape, VTrans informed VDHP and its (now former) tenant, Roundtree Construction, that the depot should be moved off-site. or demolished. It was too close to the tracks and would dangerously interfere with the visibility of passenger trains approaching Highway 7 from the east – at 59 miles per hour.
Within weeks, city officials and residents had formed the Historic Train Depot Committee, and by the spring they had identified a new home for the building.
Since then, New Haven has received two major grants for Project In Motion: $ 350,000 from the Northern Border Regional Commission, a federal-state partnership for the economic and community development of northern New England and New York; and $ 400,000 from VTrans.
That $ 750,000 will be enough to move the building to a temporary site, until a new foundation can be poured in the spring, but that won’t be enough to cover the cost of the entire project, which Dupoise estimated at $ 1.1 million.
“We’re about $ 300,000 short right now,” he said last week, “but we’re looking at other grants.”
Once the building has been permanently relocated, VDHP plans to shell out $ 25,000 for roof repairs.
The two-story brick depot is 44 feet long and 25 feet wide.
Messier House Moving & Construction East of Montpellier has been on site since early November, preparing the building for next month’s move.
“There will be 40 tonnes of iron under this building,” co-owner Norm Messier told the Independent, referring to the steel support beams, some of which will be 60 feet long. He estimated that the building itself weighs 80 tons.
Messier’s son Jason said the team would likely work until Christmas, hoping to get the building off the ground in early January.
Once the support beams are in place, explained Norm Messier, jacks will be used to lift the deposit off the ground and a number of carts designed to move buildings will be positioned below. A hydraulic pump which will supply the trolleys.
VTrans will likely ask them to start very early in the morning, in order to minimize traffic disruption, Jason Messier said. They will start by crossing the Jiffy Mart parking lot, to avoid congestion on Route 7, then they will turn east, up Route 17, before exiting the road at the top of the hill.
The Messiers have a four day window to move the building once they start up, in case they run into any unforeseen obstacles or the weather stops cooperating. It is likely that they will have to make the trip in segments, parking the building overnight before continuing the next morning.
Along the way, they will encounter a few overhead power lines, which will need to be shut down when they pass underneath, said Norm Messier.
As for the land, a lot will depend on Mother Nature, he added. But he’s used to it. He has been doing this job for over 50 years.
Messier expects the move to cause quite a show, drawing crowds from everywhere.
The Independent will be there too, with the iPhone cameras set to “video”.
In the meantime, keep an eye on these pages for further updates as moving day approaches.
Contact Christopher Ross at firstname.lastname@example.org.