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Tuesday, October 20, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Cheney rail depot closer to being moved, saved

A train passes the 1929 train station near downtown Cheney on May 21, 2014. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
A train passes the 1929 train station near downtown Cheney on May 21, 2014. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

The historic Northern Pacific Railway depot in Cheney is a big step closer to being moved and saved.

The Cheney Depot Society has purchased a residential lot at First and I streets.

At the same time, a group of investors has offered adjacent land to the west as a donation.

The effort to save the 1929 Spanish mission-style depot dates back at least two years and has been spearheaded by community leaders.

BNSF Railway, which owns the depot, has been holding onto it to give the community time to come up with a plan.

“It’s a pretty big step forward for us,” said Cheney City Councilman John Taves, who is also a society board member.

Society board member Bonnie Eccles said, “There is still a long way to go.”

The chosen site for relocation sits right next to the state-owned Palouse River and Coulee City Railroad, which is operated by the private Eastern Washington Gateway Railroad.

Because the location sits next to the state-owned tracks, the depot could eventually be brought back to life with an excursion run from Cheney to Reardan and back.

The new Inland Northwest Rail Museum was opened earlier this year right alongside the same state-owned feeder line about 2 miles west of Reardan along U.S. Highway 2.

The rail line, which has been undergoing state-funded restoration, mainly hauls grain and is linked to a new grain loading terminal north of Four Lakes and Interstate 90.

Taves said the society envisions dinner trains, which will offer sightseeing, food and a look through the rail history of the Inland Northwest, probably both at the Cheney depot and at the museum near Reardan.

Dr. Peter O. Hansen, who grew up in Cheney and practices medicine in Alaska, has offered up to $500,000 if the society can come up with matching money dollar-for-dollar, Taves said.

The residential property next to I Street was recently auctioned to the society for $48,000.

The adjacent commercial site is assessed for property taxes at $86,700. Hansen agreed to apply the value of the donation as matching money, Taves said.

The investment group that owns the commercial property is made up of Lynda Gumnick, Robert Paetz and Gary Geschke.

Both properties will need environmental investigation to determine whether they have any spilled petroleum or other contamination. If so, they would need to be cleaned up.

Moving the old depot will be a challenge. The building will have to be cut into three pieces and then reassembled at the new location, Taves said.

Gus Melonas, regional spokesman for BNSF, said that the company had been considering demolition of the old depot, but wants to make it available to the community and is willing to wait for the plan to develop.

“We certainly understand the historic significance,” Melonas said.

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