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On track to relocate


The Prineville-Crook County Chamber of Commerce is moving to the former City of Prineville Railway building

by: KEVIN SPERL - The chamber has plans to modernize the building, yet maintain its history.

On March 1, the Chamber of Commerce will call the Prineville Railway building their new home, having just signed a 20-year lease with the city.

Located at North Main and 10th Street, the historic building will prove to be a perfect location to continue the chamber’s theme “Forever Country.”

“As far as I’m concerned, railroads are country,” said Holli Van Wert, the chamber’s executive director. “And, we will be successful in turning this building into a tourist attraction. Other chambers have done it and it is a perfect time for Prineville.”

Built in the 1950s, the building, and its staff, saw upwards of 10,000 rail cars a year, leaving the city loaded with lumber and other materials.

“We offered connections to the Union Pacific and Burlington Northern railroads,” explained Dale Keller, business development manager for the railway. “That was a rarity in those days.”

But, primarily due to the closing of the wood mills, transportation needs have changed and the city currently handles only about 87 railcars annually.

Keller was the last rail employee to move out of the building, and now works out of the railroad's freight facility on Bus Evans Road.

The reins now pass to Van Wert and the chamber as they take on the challenge of modernizing the building for today's traveler, all while maintaining the building's history.

Changes will include an ADA-compliant bathroom, an outside handicap ramp, removing walls and restoring the cathedral ceiling and sky lights.

"We will first do what we need to do," she said. "Then what we want to do, as the money allows."

Van Wert acknowledges that the move could not be done without the help of the community.

Dan Mattioda, of 3 Pines Construction, will donate his time for demolition and framing work, and Cornerstone Drafting is preparing the renovation plans.

"Now we just need a lot of bodies to get us moved," said Van Wert, noting that railroad buffs throughout the area are eager to be involved.

Other notable features will include desks and counters that mimic the Crooked River, and plenty of parking for RV's to safely negotiate entering and exiting the facility.

A model railroad belonging to Evie Cross, currently hanging on the wall, will be relocated to a trestle bridge hanging high overhead, maintaining a connection with the building's railroad past.

Keller is one railroad enthusiast who appreciates what the chamber is doing to preserve the building's legacy.

"It is a neat building with a lot of history and character" he said. "There is a lot of stuff here that is old," he added, noting that some of the memorabilia will be moved to City Hall and the Bowman Museum.

The move has benefited Keller, and the railroad, as much as it has the chamber.

"The move has provided us a lot of efficiencies," said Keller, "We are now in the middle of our business and where our customers are. It was beginning to cost too much to have one person in the building. It was a business decision to move."

It was also an opportunity city and the chamber to work together.

"The city and the railroad have been incredible to work with," said Van Wert, "we now have our forever home."

A grand opening celebration is tentatively scheduled for the weekend before Memorial Day, depending on weather.