Tuesday, November 25, 2014

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Goodyear makes a railroad connection with its pre-suburban yesteryear in honor of the Centennial.


In its heyday, the Litchfield Train Station in Goodyear served as a vital gateway to the outside world: Hollywood stars alighted on the West Valley to film Westerns and rusticate at their ranches, and executives chugged in from the East to tend to their burgeoning business interests. The station even served as a launchpad for the area’s cotton industry.


“The depot symbolizes connectivity,” says Goodyear Councilwoman Wally Campbell. “It really was the lifeline of the Valley.”

Local preservationists hope to honor this legacy by renovating the 1928 train station and making it the centerpiece of the Goodyear Centennial Train Park. The Goodyear Centennial Committee anticipates the park’s completion in 2016 and estimates the renovation will cost $400,000. It’s a small price to pay for such a huge piece of West Valley history, Campbell says. “We have such a rich history in Goodyear, so it’s the perfect legacy project.”

In the early 1900s, the Litchfield depot was a feeder station for the Southern-Pacific Rock-Island Line. The rail served two primary purposes: exporting cotton and shuttling Goodyear Tire Company execs and their families to Wigwam Resort. The line also bussed in Hollywood celebrities like Bing Crosby, who would vacation at the resort during filming breaks.

In 2009, Goodyear purchased the station for $5,000 from a farmer who used it for storage and horse stabling. The bulk of the cost came later, when the city trucked the depot three miles to city land on Maricopa County 85 and Estrella Parkway. The move alone cost more than $30,000.

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The city plans to build the park on 10 acres near Estrella Parkway. Goodyear envisions using the restored station as a living history museum, showcasing the West Valley’s past through archival photos and railway relics like the depot’s mail hook. The depot will also have meeting and gathering places to further community involvement.

“We’re making our history real by providing the opportunity for others to participate in it,” committee member Sharolyn Hohman says.

The committee is impressed with the station’s condition, considering its age. The 2,000-square-foot structure is a prime example of Spanish colonial architecture of the early 1900s, with its white stucco walls, red tile roof and brick trimming on the base. The original wood-burning stove is also intact. But Campbell says the station needs a concrete foundation, and updated electrical wiring and plumbing. The committee is also looking for more original fixtures and artifacts to “restore its historic look.”

If all goes as planned, the park will showcase a vintage rail car or train engine, similar to Scottsdale’s McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park.

“Then, youngsters can come to the park and play engineer for the day,” Campbell says.

So far, the city has raised $4,000 of the $400,000 needed to fund the renovation. It’s a long way to go – hence the 2016 projected completion – but Campbell is hopeful that the city will meet its goal with the help of corporate sponsors, grants and fundraisers. This spring, Goodyear will host its second car show and barbecue at the Goodyear Ballpark in an effort to raise more money.

Once complete, the Train Park will honor the Arizona Centennial by commemorating Goodyear’s past and its future, Hohman explains, adding that keeping history alive is especially crucial to the still-developing city. “We don’t have a lot of old buildings in Arizona, especially in the West Valley. You have to hold on to the history you have.”

••The Litchfield train project is just one of the committee’s efforts to honor the Centennial. Goodyear and Avondale will host a “Tale of Two Cities” Centennial parade Saturday, Feb. 25 at Goodyear Community Park, 3151 N. Litchfield Road. Post-parade festivities will take place at Estrella Mountain Community College, 3000 N. Dysart Road.

 

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