TUSCUMBIA — Appearances can be deceiving.
The roundhouse at the old Tuscumbia Depot looks complete, both inside and out. The turntable leading to the roundhouse also appears ready.
In fact, John McWilliams, superintendent at the depot museum, said two people were able to turn it by hand last week, just like it’s designed to do.
That has people asking about tours and calling to reserve the roundhouse for events.
But it’s not quite at that point, McWilliams said.
He said a family emergency sent the contractor home for a week, but the final touches on the roundhouse are expected to be completed within two weeks.
After that, the roundhouse will be turned over to the city for operation.
“They’re going into the punch list,” he said. “Unless something really goes wrong that we don’t know about, it should be a couple of weeks. Then we’ve got a few things to do when they do that.”
He anticipates it being open for business by the end of September. “That’s our goal, but we can’t guarantee that yet.”
City workers are making molds that will be placed over the track at the roundhouse when a train car or engine is not in the building. That way, it will have a level surface, McWilliams said.
They also are building a pathway from the roundhouse to the depot for easy access, making sure it’s accessible for people in wheelchairs.
Meanwhile, the sight of the roundhouse is catching the public’s attention.
“(In one day), I had two different people inquire about renting it for an event and had to tell them it’s not ready yet,” McWilliams said last week.
Renting the roundhouse for events is among uses officials had in mind when building the roundhouse. It will serve as a museum, working roundhouse and events facility.
The facility received a boost in August when Tennessee Valley Authority in-lieu-of-tax money provided it with $8,000 in tables and chairs, and $10,000 for a sound system, McWilliams said.
It has taken time for the project to near completion. Harvey Robbins, a retired Tuscumbia industrialist who donated a great deal of money toward the project, purchased the turntable in 2006 and a hole was dug to begin construction of a turntable to lead to a roundhouse.
Then a lack of funding and other matters stood in the way.
A turntable is used as a place where train engines are turned to another track or to the roundhouse, which is where repairs, maintenance and other work is done. The turntable is balanced so precisely it can be turned by hand.
That’s the way turntables operated in early railroad days.
The turntable was reportedly built in 1870. An inscription on the turntable when it arrived in Tuscumbia states it was built by Union Bridge Co., of Athens, Pa. It was used in Maine by the Belfast and Moosehead Railroad until 2004.
Depending on liability issues, it is possible that museum visitors will be able to move the turntable with a boxcar or engine on it, McWilliams said.
Bernie Delinski can be reached at 256-740-5739 or bernie.delinski@TimesDaily.com.
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