OSCEOLA, IOWA – Town officials, Amtrak representatives and residents gathered on Aug. 1, 2016 to cut the ribbon on the town’s refurbished Prairie style depot, which was built by the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad and opened to the traveling public in 1907. After agreeing to construct new railroad offices for BNSF Railway, which then occupied most of the depot, the city gained full ownership of the historic building in 2007. It soon laid out a vision for a multi-phase rehabilitation that spanned nearly a decade. Partners included the Clarke County Development Corporation and the Osceola Chamber of Commerce.
City leaders honored Fred and Ann Diehl during the dedication ceremony. Fred Diehl served as mayor when the project got underway, and Ann Diehl sits on the city’s Historic Preservation Commission where she has advocated for the preservation of Osceola’s historic assets. An adjacent plaza has been named for the couple. Following speeches, attendees took tours of the depot and enjoyed light refreshments.
“Amtrak staff have been impressed by the pluck and tenacity of Osceolans,” said Derrick James, senior manager, Amtrak Government Affairs. “Led by Mayor Fred and Mrs. Ann Diehl, they came up with an innovative way to acquire the building. Osceola then turned over every stone to secure the funds to pay for a loving restoration. The town cherishes this structure for the role it has played in their civic life for more than 100 years.”
The city initially received $600,000 in federal funds through the Iowa Department of Transportation for restoration of the depot’s exterior. This project included the installation of a new roof, reconstruction of a damaged chimney, restoration of existing windows, installation of new historically-appropriate storm windows, manufacture of new entry doors that match the originals, re-pointing of the mortar that holds the bricks in place, and general rehabilitation and cleaning of the brick and stone surfaces.
Remaining funds were then combined with $150,000 from the city, $100,000 from a local non-profit development corporation and $750,000 from the Federal Highway Administration’s Transportation Enhancements program to cover the cost of interior rehabilitation, a restored brick platform, new hard-surface parking lot, improved lighting, and landscaping around the building.
Inside, the space has been restored to reflect its early 20th century appearance. Bead board covers the bottom third of the walls and the original ticket windows are in place. Handsome wood benches provide ample seating, and customers can enjoy Wi-Fi access while waiting for a train. Future plans call for commercial tenants at the depot.
Located 50 miles south of the state capital along the Interstate 35 corridor, Osceola is considered a “gateway” for rail passengers from both Des Moines and Kansas City who are headed west to Denver and California or east to Chicago by way of the California Zephyr (Chicago-Emeryville). Subsequently, it is the busiest Amtrak stop in Iowa. In Fiscal Year 2015, nearly 14,000 customers began or ended their journey at Osceola.