Carl Timko, FCVRRHS
Owned by the French Creek Valley Railroad Historical Society (FCVRRHS), the Meadville Railroad Depot began when the newly formed group was searching for a place to call home. Not only did they need a permanent location, but also wanted to store and display the history of the area’s railroads for the community. At one time, forty-five percent of the population of Meadville worked for the railroads, making this a valuable part of Meadville’s history. The FCVRRHS wanted to honor those who worked — some folks for their entire lives — on the railroads. Not only were the railroads the lifeforce of Meadville’s economic growth during this period, but they kept the entire country running, especially during times of war and depression.
To help spread community awareness about the area’s important railroad history, the organization designated the Museum Committee to collaborate with the National Tooling & Machining Association, the Johnson-Shaw Stereoscopic Museum, the Crawford County Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Crawford County Historical Society to form the Northwest Pennsylvania Railroad and Tooling Heritage Center. The goal was to share information and experiences to find a way to establish and build a museum that contained artifacts from the railroading industry and the tooling industry, both industries that put Meadville on the map. The Crawford County Historical Society also played an important role in helping the FCVRRHS grow its membership.
The FCVRRHS tried to acquire and build a museum along the French Creek Parkway on the grounds of the Erie Railroad shops, the old 84 Lumber Co. and numerous other locations, but these efforts were not successful. Despite multiple setbacks and delays, the FCVRRHS never gave up.
During the FCVRRHS’s search for a permanent location, the organization acquired authentic railroad equipment to add to its collection, including the ErieLackawanna caboose (2006), the Erie Railroad ALCO S2 switching locomotive (2012) and the B&LE boxcar which was put on display through a lease arrangement with the Lake Shore Railway Historical Society in North East, PA. Finally, the former Conrail and Delaware Lackawanna & Western Railway snowplow joined the collection in 2018.
In 2018, when Meadville Farm & Garden officially closed its doors, the FCVRRHS filed for the depot’s acquisition. The long wait was finally over on December 20, 2018, when the building was awarded to the FCVRRHS for $25,000.
Now that the FCVRRHS finally had ownership of the depot, the hardest part began: restoring the depot to its grandeur of days long past. The changes that were made during Meadville Farm and Garden’s ownership — in addition with the other challenges that accompany a 137-year-old building — made the members wonder just how they would accomplish this task. The floors were nine inches out of level and there were holes in the walls and floors. The grain elevator had to be removed along with a huge sign for the previous business. With all of this considered, the renovation couldn’t begin without demolition. Flooring had to be removed, along with the ceilings, and the large sliding doors that let in a huge amount of cold air. The wiring and plumbing had to be redone and new furnaces had to be installed. Insulation of the floor, walls, and ceilings were done. New windows and doors were installed and restrooms were built. But, through the support of Meadville and Crawford County residents, businesses and government agencies, the renovation is nearly complete after three and a half years. Today, the building hasn’t looked this good since it was built in 1881 for the Meadville Railway.
The FCVRRHS is proud of the way the depot turned out and proud of its community that helped with donations, grants and physical labor. The depot can now serve the area as a home for the organization and museum, but also has a room that can be used for meetings, parties and small events in the community.
The French Creek Valley Railroad Historical Society thanks everyone, from the smallest donor to the largest donor, all the contractors, volunteers, businesses, agencies, members and every visitor that has stopped to see the Meadville Railroad Depot.
We’re proud of the depot, but even more so of the way everyone came together in the spirit of our Crawford County community!
To plan a visit or to learn more about the Meadville Railroad Depot please visit their new location 136 Mead Avenue, Meadville, PA on Saturdays from 1 p.m. – 4 p.m. Admission is free. Message them on Facebook to learn more about renting their space for your next event.