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Historical society celebrates National Train Day

ROUSES POINT History came alive as the Rouses Point-Champlain Historical Society joined railroad enthusiasts nationwide in celebrating Amtraks first annual National Train Day May 10. Designed to celebrate the glories of the railroad era and remind riders of the joy and convenience of train travel, the event featured simultaneous nationwide open house events, including a rare glimpse inside the former Delaware and Hudson station in Rouses Point. However, if the historical society has its way, inside glimpses of the historic station will become far from a rare event. The society, which was formed in 2000, is leading a fundraising drive to renovate and completely restore the circa-1889 building, starting with the roof. According to village Mayor George A. Rivers, the plan is to house a museum at the defunct station focusing on the history of the village. Rivers claims it hasnt been long since Rouses Point was known as a railroad town. In fact, he asserts during the heyday of the railroad era, Rouses Point had five different railroads using the tiny village as a waypoint. There were more railroads running into this town than into Chicago, Rivers boasted while sharing some of his childhood memories. Around the empty station, he pointed out where nickel candy and penny gum machines sat and told of an engineer in the south yard who used to let him run the engines after school. That story sounded familiar to Rouses Point village historian Donna Racine. Theres not a native family in Rouses Point that doesnt have a railroad connection, Racine claimed. Even young boys who left to attend Cornell University during the late 19th century returned during the summers to work on the railroad, she added. At one point, more than 250 people were working at on the railroad in Rouses Point, but Rivers sadly remembers how the industry slowly dried up. To see steam engines go its economics but to see the great horses just disappear, it hurts, he explained. Rivers is hoping, however, the proposed museum would become a true area attraction, dedicated not only to preserving the memory of the railroad, but also to the history of Rouses Point and the region. Theres tons of memorabilia thats being donated, he exclaimed, its going to be great to have it under one roof! So far, the historical society has raised nearly $50,000 of the estimated $100,000 required to repair the roof, the first step of many to bring the station back to usable condition. Rivers is also hopeful the village will receive a $500,000 state Department of Transportation grant, an amount he feels would be just about enough to complete renovations to the building. The public is also invited to attend historical society meetings in order to learn more about the restoration project. Meetings are held the second Wednesday of each month at Halstead Hall of Rouses Point Civic Center, 39 Lake St., beginning at 6:30 p.m. Those wishing to make donations may send checks payable to the Rouses Point-Champlain Historical Society to P.O. Box 144, Rouses Point, N.Y. 12979. For more information contact historical society president Geri Favreau at 297-2964 or vice president Mary Racicot at 297-6138.

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