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by Tumbleweed Smith

A group called Friends of Historic Comanche has started to restore the city’s train depot. Nancy Wilkerson is President of the organization.

“Lots of people who were not particularly interested in saving old buildings were very interested in the old depot. It seemed to touch people’s lives more than other historical landmarks.”

Nancy says the cost estimate to do the restoration is around half a million dollars. The building was in bad shape when work started on it.

“It had really deteriorated. Our first job was to dry out the building. We put on a new roof and stabilized the floor. The first phase of the restoration has been completed.”

Citizens of Comanche are interested in the project. Crowds of volunteers show up to help in any way. People drive by to check on the progress.

“The train stopped using it as a depot in the fifties,” says Nancy. “But it was used as a storage facility. The railroad came to Comanche in 1890 and it was a lifesaver to this town because it was not growing. It was extremely difficult to get goods in and out.”

She says a group of about twenty businessmen in Comanche set out to get the railroad to their town. They spent a lot of their own money to acquire land for the tracks.

“The Fort Worth and Rio Grande Railroad said they would build the railroad if the people of Comanche could see that they got the right of way. So these men worked very hard for a number of years to acquire all that land. It was a grand day when the train arrived here. The town nearly doubled in size. It was a lifeline to the outside world because we were at the edge of the wild frontier.”

Nancy says the depot stands as a reminder of how important the railroad was to the growth of Comanche and is certainly worth saving. The terra cotta bricks on the depot walkway were made in Thurber. When Nancy and her group found out the railroad didn’t want the depot, they started about five years ago to see about restoring it. Funds for the restoration are coming from local fundraisers and grants.

The city of Comanche will own and maintain the depot. The railroad said it would give the depot to the city if it would be used as a public building. It could not be sold to a private individual or a business. Once the restoration work is completed, the building will house the Comanche Chamber of Commerce, which was organized in 1912, the same year the depot was built.

“There’ll be a conference room area and a visitor’s information area and also a small railroad museum. So we’re hoping that in 2012 we will have completed the restoration project and we’ll have a big 100th birthday celebration.”

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