News From Terre Haute, Indiana

December 10, 2012

Deming Depot

Plans under way to expand tracks, building Big Four station replica

Brian Boyce
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — A blast from the past is in the works for “The Spirit of Terre Haute.”

Outside the Terre Haute Parks and Recreation Department’s Torner Center in Deming Park, a small shed serves as Kauffman Station, home of the park’s locomotive, which offers short but scenic rides throughout the summer months, as it has since 1967.

Now, Bruce Rosselli, the park system’s director of recreation, hopes those rides get a little bit longer in coming years with the help of the Indiana Rail Road Co. and students from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.

The goal is to build a new depot for the train and extend its 2,200 feet of track about half a mile in length. “We have multiple designs at this point,” he said.

Plans for the new are inspired by the former train depot that operated near Seventh and Spruce streets until 1986, an enclosed structure which he said resembled a small castle.

“They called it the Big Four Depot,” Rosselli said, recalling childhood trips from that depot aboard Amtrak cars.

Planning for the project has been under way since late summer, but Rosselli noted he and others have been interested in expanding the current ride to nearly three minutes for some time. Interest abounds. Funding was another story.

“We as a park do not have the funds to do this,” he said, crediting Indiana Rail Road Co.’s founder and president Thomas Hoback as instrumental in moving the idea to reality. “Fortunately, Mr. Hoback is a train enthusiast and restores old cars.”

The Indiana Rail Road Co.’s lines run across the west entrance of Deming Park, and Rosselli said once completed, the group hopes to partner with the Terre Haute Children’s Museum and schools in providing an educational experience about trains.

“It’s one of the only remaining ones like it in the Midwest,” he said, pointing out children come running at the sound of a whistle heard from one end of the park’s 177 acres to the other.  

Some Rose-Hulman students have adopted the project’s planning phase and are at work on design concepts to be ready for review this spring.

Nathaniel Wallen, a senior civil engineering major from Knox, said the four-student team chose the project for its senior design class. As part of the learning process, each member switches roles within the team, from project manager to client liaison.

“The biggest thing that got me interested in this is there are a lot of opportunities for creativity, and there are several aspects of the project which are interesting,” he said. Plus, he said, it’s a way to give back to the community.

The prospect of working for a railroad company someday is also in the back of his mind.

“And it gives me something to talk about with employers as well,” he said.

Rosselli said the project has value to all involved, and other local businesses might be interested in sponsorships. Once complete, the park hopes to use the depot to sell souvenirs and concessions.

“They’ve got great ideas,” he said of the team, adding that at some point he’d like to see an ice rink and WiFi added to Deming Park’s offerings.

Known as “The Spirit of Terre Haute,” the train has operated inside the park since 1967, operating seven days a week between April and August, with some special events as late as October, he said. Plans are to have the extension and depot completed some time in 2014, with project costs totaling under $100,000 considering in-kind donations afforded by Indiana Rail Road Co. and Rose-Hulman students, he said.

Brian Boyce can be reached at 812-231-4253 or by email  at