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Depot built during bustling time in city

Andrew Elwick talks about history of the Vinton Depot and other areas of Benton County. Photo by Jim Morrison

VINTON – Andrew Elwick spoke to Vinton Noon Kiwanis members about a fund raiser for the Benton County Historical Society.

Reproductions of a watercolor of the depot painted by Hugh Mossman are being sold. Mossman created the watercolor several years ago with the idea that it could one day be used to raise money.

Sixty three of 150 numbered reproductions have been sold. It is hoped more can be sold during the sesquicentennial celebration of Vinton next year.

The depot was built in 1900 for $20,000. Thirty to 40 passenger and freight trains came through Vinton each day during that era, said Elwick.

“You can imagine all of the excitement with all of the trains coming through town,” said Elwick.

During that same period, many improvements were being made in the city. In addition to the depot, the overpass was constructed beside the old ham plant property, an underpass was constructed on Fourth Avenue and a “turn table” was built on the east side so trains could be turned around. Stoney Arch was also completed during that time because previous bridges were being washed out repeatedly by storms, said Elwick.

“If you read the paper back in the 1870s and the 1880s, there were a lot of big wrecks going over that bridge,” said Elwick.

One iron bridge had a span of 120 feet and was 30 feet in the air.

That hill was called The Vinton Hill by railroad people, said Elwick.

“It was a dangerous area before they put the stone arch in because there was a pretty good hill there they had to try to get over,” said Elwick. “They had to get some pretty good speed to get over that hill without breaking the train apart. One of the reasons they put Stoney Arch in was so they could handle more cars.”

Before Stoney Arch, only about 20 to 25 cars could be pulled over the hill, said Elwick.

The historical society seeks to raise $88,000 to be used to replace the depot roof. Elwick said this metal roof would be similar to that on the Vinton Library or the Methodist Church. About $30,000 has been raised for the project. It is hoped a matching grant can also be obtained.

“It will have that original clay tile look to it,” said Ewick. “There is a lot of support for that.”

Also in the future for the historical society is the reproduction of a detailed map of the city as it existed in the 1880s.

“It is a very detailed map,” said Elwick. “You can see the trees and the road and the windows. It is very well done.”

Elwick said only three are known to exist – one in the library basement, one donated by Regions Bank to the Benton County Historical Society and another.

The map was drawn by an artist from a position on Riverside. It was offered for sale in the city through newspaper ads.

“I don’t know how many were sold, but not many have hung around,” said Elwick.

It is Elwick’s favorite map of Vinton and he believes it will sell well.