I moved here from the West Side about 25 years ago.
Why did you pick the Reardan/Davenport area?
As luck would have it, a friend of mine in the Mukilteo Lions Club was from this area. His family was selling their farm place outside of Reardan and we purchased it.
How about a little about your background… What line of work were you in?
I have been in the publishing/newspaper/magazine industry my whole life. When we moved here I worked for a couple of newspapers and directories. Soon we went into business by publishing Horses West newspaper, a senior publication and are now concentrating on the Lincoln County Visitor & Business Guide as well as one for the West Plains area.
Were you involved with as many organizations on the West Side as you are here?
Yes, probably a few more. As a Lions Club member for over 40 years it got me started in community service there and here as well.
It just seemed to mushroom from Lions. I was the chairman of Reardan Mule Days for 13 years, helped restart the Reardan Area Chamber of Commerce, began the Reardan Area Public Development Authority, was a founding member of the Lincoln County Public Development Authority, serve on the Lincoln County Visitor Commission and Inland Northwest Rail Museum. I am currently president of most of these groups or have been in the past.
How did you get started with the railroad museum?
As the president of the chamber I heard that the non-profit group Inland Empire Railway Historical Society had been asked by the Spokane Interstate Fairgrounds to move out after being located there for almost 40 years. They began looking for a new home.
I thought it would be a great idea for Society to move to Reardan as the visitor traffic could be a great help to local businesses. One of the prerequisites was that the group wanted to be next to a rail line. The Reardan area was ideal as a spur line ran through here from Cheney to Coulee City. A local farmer presented an affordable location and I made that a part of the presentation to the Society to move Reardan. They liked the area and choose our location in front of other area presentations That was 15 years ago!
As a part of the process I became heavily involved in planning the move, securing financing and getting grants whenever available. It was a long process. One of our deceased members left of a sizable sum of money and we financed the rest to build a building. It became evident that simply a tin shed to work in would not secure our success.
From the very beginning we looked to professionals to give us ideas and help in moving forward. A consultant helped us visualize a layout for the 30 acres we purchased and we are proceeding along that plan. Our present building is the first in a series that will be built over time as money becomes available.
Originally planned as a shop, the first building is named the Lee Tillotson Conservation & Restoration Center. We soon discovered that to support the building we needed to make it multifunctional so it now houses a shop area, memorabilia display and a small gift shop. It also includes the last Spokane Streetcar and a 1914 Diner. Both are restored and an integral part of our displays.
Preserving History…Building A Future! That’s our motto. The museum is dedicated to the railroads that serve, and served the Inland Northwest. It is divided into sections for each railroad, past and present, and the collection of memorabilia is very interesting. We will celebrate our third anniversary in August, and are still unpacking items for display. In addition, we get ongoing donations from ex and families of ex railroad workers. It’s quite an adventure opening some of the boxes we receive.
I’m happy to say that we have had visitors from virtually every state and a number of foreign countries. Last year we had almost 6,000 walk through the door. Railroad history is universal and individuals who like history, and railroads, compliment us on our progress.
How does the museum run?
The Inland Northwest Rail Museum is an all volunteer organization. I have served as president for the past few years, but I don’t and cannot make it function without members stepping up. We are open 140 days a year, Friday through Sunday, from 10 am-5 pm so it takes a lot of man hours. In addition to keeping the doors open, volunteers continue to work restoring antique rail cars continuously. We always welcome help and hope more individuals lend a helping hand.
What kind of plans do you have for the future?
In addition to building on our master plan, one of our top goals is to offer full size train rides on the rail line that runs adjacent to the museum. We did a feasibility study on offering what we call an “Ag Tour Train”. It will become a viable arm of the museum to help support the museum and also give area residents and visitors the opportunity to ride a real train. To that end we are in the process of restoring cars to run in that train. In addition to completing the restorations the only delay will be in the progress of upgrading the tracks to allow for passengers.
I see a bright future for the museum. Like anything worthwhile, it takes time and money to accomplish long term goals. But we’ll get there…work, work, work is the theme of the day!
If you would like to visit the Inland Northwest Rail Museum, it is located 2-miles west of Reardan at 27300 Sprinkle Road North just off State Hwy 2. Call them at (509) 796-3377 or visit their website at: www.inlandnwrailmuseum.com