SPECIAL REPORT: The history and future of the Historic Railpark and Train Museum

Published: Jun. 5, 2019 at 9:53 AM CDT
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Part of what makes Bowling Green unique is its history.

The L&N Train Depot, better known as the Historic Railpark and Train Museum, has tracks that take us back to our past and continue leading us into our future.

"Bowling Green just wouldn't be as big as it now is without that line coming through this town," said Executive Director, Jamie Johnson.

"The industry that is here, the businesses that are here, the college being here, all of those things, really, can be attributed to the Louisville Nashville line coming through this town," she said.

What several people don't realize is that this line almost didn't happen -- at least not in Bowling Green.

"Prior to the Civil War, there was a possibility of the Louisville and Nashville line going through the town of Glasgow and the citizens of Bowling Green pulled together, raised one million dollars back in that time, so in today's money that's a lot of money, and actually were able to win the railroad coming through Bowling Green, making this community what it is today," explained Johnson.

The current depot building dates back to 1925, but this is the third depot here.

"Certainly with any landmark, you want to preserve that history in your town as long as you can," added Johnson.

According to the depot's website, at one time, over 20 trains per day departed the current site, providing a hub for Bowling Green's economic foundation and exposure to travelers between Louisville, KY and Nashville, TN.

The trains no longer run from this depot, but the history is still very much alive.

"We offer something that no other train museum really does, we offer that tour going through the restored rail-cars," said Johnson.

When touring the trains there's mail cars, dining cars, first, second, and third class seating, and guests can even look out the window from the conductor's point of view.

"You really feel like you've stepped back in time and got a true glimpse of what it really was like to travel back in the golden age of travel," said Johnson.

But this part of Bowling Green's history is at risk of closing to the public.

In 2019, the Save The Depot campaign launched in hopes of keeping the doors open.

"Our Save The Depot Campaign is an initiative we came up with to help market the idea that we need the community to step up and help us save this place," explained Johnson.

Through the campaign, the museum is unveiling a new poster each month, highlighting various initiatives.

"Our goal is not only to preserve this building but to preserve the use of this building," she added.

Besides the train tours, there are several community members who use the depot on a regular basis for events and meetings.

"We offer a lot of different things here at the railpark. Events is a big deal for us. We do a lot of great things. Everybody knows about our Polar Express event that happens in the month of December but along with that, we've added a lot of things. We've added an event called Romance at the Railpark that we hold around Valentine's Day, we do Brunch with the Bunny, we also do a haunted lantern tour which is actually a haunted tour through the rail-cars where we tell ghost stories and we have something we do off-site, we'll be in our second year now called Unseen Bowling Green, which is the downtown historical walking tours," said Johnson.

She said efforts are already underway for 2020's campaign to save the depot.

"We know that we have to get the community involved, not just for this one year, not just this one time, but for the long-term."

Johnson said she hopes by the time 2019 comes to a close, the depot will have made "great strides" in the effort to save this history.

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