Foundation supports Clayton County railroad depot preservation project

“My parents’ house was brought to Elkader on a train in 1912,” says Andy Reimer. “It was shipped as a Sears kit and built by my great grandparents. It belongs in a Victorian magazine.” 

Reimer is the board chair for the Clayton County Foundation for the Future. His family home was delivered to Elkader when the city was an active stop on the Milwaukee Road. Today, he and his fellow board members are actively working to preserve this part of local history. The Foundation has awarded several grants to the project since work began to promote, educate and preserve the railroad legacy by building a replica of the Milwaukee Road Depot that once operated in Elkader. The museum is on track to open to the public next year. “This project is unique, it’s historical and it’s intriguing,” says Reimer. 

Grant dollars have been used to install handicap accessible entry doors and insulate the depot ceiling. “We have been blessed to receive money from the Foundation,” says Mary Witt, a volunteer with the project. “We not only appreciate all the financial help from the Foundation, but we were honored to have the board take time and come and visit our project. We enjoyed showing our depot to the board, answering their questions and knowing their sincere interests in our project.”

Accessibility is an important part of the depot project. “The committee has worked very hard to erect the depot according to the original blueprint and yet make it accessible so neither age nor ability will deprive anyone the use of this community asset,” says Witt. “We will have displays for young and old, such as working model train layouts, a wonderful collection of photographs that have captured the history of the area trains, vintage train clothing and dishes used in dining cars.” An original, working telegraph machine will allow students and adults the opportunity to learn how this once high-tech device worked and show its importance in the evolution of communication. 

The depot committee recently hosted its ninth annual train show, which has grown from 49 tables with one venue to 102 tables and two venues with a shuttle driving guests between the event centers. 

Witt looks forward to future partnerships that will allow the Elkader Depot to be a center for area school trips; to work together and share programs with local libraries; to reach out to area care centers where residents can share their knowledge of the local railroads; and connect with other groups so members can share and participate with railroad programs.

“Our project has already had an impact on the community as the committee is very committed to supporting local businesses,” says Witt. Since breaking ground for the depot, all materials have been purchased locally and area contractors have been hired for any necessary labor. “All this adds up to thousands of dollars added to the area economy.”

When the depot opens and begins holding tours, the committee anticipates visitors will stimulate the economy in Elkader and surrounding communities.

“This project really impacts the whole county and aligns with our mission to inspire giving and build stronger communities,” says Emily Sadewasser, Foundation coordinator. “We connect important community needs with resources by working with donors, nonprofits, and community partners. Our goal is to improve quality of life for the 17,000-plus residents of Clayton County and ensure a strong future for our area.”

To learn more about how to make an impact in your Clayton County community, contact Sadewasser at