Vinton Train Depot is a standing testament to town’s history

A part of Our Town Vinton's history is becoming a piece of its future.
Published: Aug. 5, 2020 at 7:44 PM CDT
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VINTON, Iowa (KCRG) - The 120-year old Vinton Train Depot still stands next to a functioning railroad. It serves as an example of what life used to be like.

“Vinton actually came about because of the Depot,” Sharon Happel, Benton County Historical Society president, said.

From transporting people, to cattle, even people who didn’t have a ticket might hop on the train: a tool shed shows markings from people riding the rails during the Great Depression leaving messages and warnings about the area.

Phil Borleske, a member of the Benton County Historical Society, said at its peak that12 passenger trains ran through Vinton. The train was part of making Vinton the former sweet corn capital of the world.

“All that material went out the product went out by rail, the tin cans, the salt, and all the other ingredients needed, except for the corn, that was grown locally, came in by rail,” Borleske said.

The depot is a testament of the train’s importance at the time, from its original tile flooring to the wainscoting.

“The brick for the depot came from Shellsburg Brick Factory, the exterior stone came from a quarry at Postville,” Borleske said.

A building that’s seen its own history, from a temporary flower shop, to offices for Hawk Bilt.

“We are so lucky that the people who came before, Hawk Bilt, and others, canning companies, took the effort and time and money to invest in this to keep it the way it is,” Happel said.

The Vinton Train Depot was built in 1900, but what really makes the building unique is everything that’s still original and was used back then, including the telegraph machine which was used in WWII to send back messages about soldiers overseas. Now, the building is home to a model train and is on the National Register of Historic Places, housing artifacts of how the train changed town when it first rolled through in 1869.

“Once you lose your history, I think the community loses a sense of who they are and where they came from,” Happel said.

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