SHELTON — City leaders and a contingent of railroad history buffs want to bring a rail museum to Shelton with discussion of several options rolling.
Steve Goins, city director of community and economic development, presented the options Monday night, which included mothballing the existing historic railroad roundhouse on the former Simpson mill site near the Oakland Bay waterfront.
Goins also talked about nominating the roundhouse for the National Historic Register.
A railroad museum, with a nearby hotel and railroad excursions for tourists are also part of the discussion.
“The working exhibit is something that is seen as an exciting opportunity,” Goins said, addressing the city commissioners during an informational presentation. “I think that is an emerging strategy in the museum world that could be very interesting and unique here.”
A train excursion from the Shelton museum site could run from the old Simpson mill location at Front Street to Little Creek Casino Resort, even Vance Creek Bridge, Goins said.
“Obviously this type of facility is going to draw a lot of tourism. We are experiencing an upswing of tourism in Mason County,” Goins said. “It would be nice to have something that is really focused on Shelton and bring people to town. This would do that.”
Goins said support for the project runs around the region. State Sen. Tim Sheldon of Potlatch is on board with the railroad history concept. he said.
So is Mayor Gary Cronce who said, “I think it has potential to be a phenomenal thing.”
Cronce called for a grassroots movement of volunteers willing to make a five- to 10-year commitment to see the project through.
Cronce said he saw the city’s role as move of a facilitator, working with the volunteers and helping to seek and write grants to fund the effort.
Commissioner Kathy McDowell said she saw smaller volunteer efforts bring a dog park and public swimming pool to Shelton.
“It may take a while but it can get done,” she said of the railroad history project.
Commissioner Tracy Moore, who is on the Mason County Historical Society’s historic preservation committee, said she was always on board with saving historic railroad structures at the Simpson mill site.
“As a private citizen, even if I wasn’t a commissioner, I would be involved with this,” she said, call it “a once in a lifetime opportunity” to reuse the railcars and tracks.
During a Monday interview with iFIBER One New Radio Daybreak host Jeff Slakey, Moore said when the former Simpson mill shut down it was announced that many of the historic buildings, including the red-brick roundhouse, were designated to be torn down.
“I started thinking about the roundhouse because I knew it was a rare building with a working turntable and a very historic building,” she said.
She then checked into it to find “it was even more rare than I even realized. It’s very important to a city that has lost too many of its historic buildings.”
Josh Kaivo, a former Simpson railroad mechanic and the last one in to work in the roundhouse, told the commissioners a nonprofit or for-profit organization could be formed to support and promote the project.
“It could be self-sustaining and sustainable for the economy,” he said.
Russell Holter, who works for state in its Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation but was there as a private citizen, voiced support city to work with any private entity.
He challenged commission to “make no small plans.”
He cited and South Cle Elum group, Cascade Rail Foundation, which raised $900,000 for the rehabilitation of the train station there. South Cle Elum has a population of about 500.
Shelton resident Joel Hawthorn, suggested the city look into railcar storage on unused track, which could raise income for the railroad project.