ELKADER — Larry Lerch’s efforts to preserve Elkader’s rich railroad history will move one step closer as water and sewer lines for a replica of a train depot are expected to be dug this month. A concrete foundation and sub-floor for the building will be poured later this fall.
Lerch said that he always has been fascinated by trains and that his dream is to keep Elkader’s railroad history alive for future generations. His efforts really started moving in 1989 when he bought a 1949 Ribside caboose and had it relocated near the Elkader City Park. In 2015, a 1953 box car was added to the caboose and both were moved to a spot near the site of the old rail line.
The railroad first came to Elkader in 1875 with the arrival of the Iowa Eastern Railroad. That railroad company was later purchased by the Milwaukee Road railroad line and served Elkader until 1974, when the line into the town was closed and the depot was torn down.
Lerch plans to construct a 24-foot by 60-foot building using plans of the original depot that were provided to him by the Milwaukee Road Historical Society. The inside of the building will contain Milwaukee Road memorabilia provided by the society on a rotating basis. It will also contain area railroad memorabilia as well as a train layout which will be donated by the society.
“We don’t have quite enough money to start on the building itself,” Lerch said. “I hope to raise some funds from our annual train show on August 19 and from donations. Maybe we can start on the building next year. The estimated cost for the building, not including interior work, is $97,000, but prices are always changing.
“I’m doing this to preserve some of Elkader’s railroad history for ourselves and our children,” he continued. “We started planning this project six years ago. It’s been a slow process trying to raise money on our own, but it will be worth it in the end.”