WINDHAM – Several Windham Historical Society members spent time recently investigating railroad-related historic structures in both Windham and Raymond.

After getting permission from Jim Cummings, the owner of the former South Windham train depot located near the intersection of Depot and High streets, members spent Thursday and Friday, Aug. 9 and 10, salvaging what they could of the historic but crumbling structure that once served as the hub of travel and commerce in South Windham.

A few members also went to Raymond on Friday, regarding the donation of a Maine Central Railroad Co. storage building located there.

At the South Windham site, members were allowed to dismantle the building as they saw fit since Cummings recently received Planning Board approval to build a condominium. Before he can start construction, he must first raze three buildings on site, including the depot and the former Pendexter General Store.

The depot, said the historical society’s president, Linda Hanscom, has plenty worth salvaging, including chair rail, bead board, window frames and ornamental wooden roof brackets that adorned the underside of a 5-foot overhang that ran the length of the building and protected travelers from rain and soot that belched from passing trains. But the cost to salvage the entire depot proved too great.

“It’s a beautiful old building, but we just don’t have the kind of money it would take to move it,” Hanscom said. “The bids came back no less than $20,000.”

Hanscom spent several weeks earlier this year seeking bids from local moving contractors since the organization was considering installing the depot in the proposed Village Green in Windham Center. Now that Cummings has received town approval for his project, Hanscom and other society members were allowed to salvage what they wanted.

“It’s great Jim’s allowed us to come in here. We are very appreciative, but we have to work quickly,” Hanscom said while rummaging through the building last Thursday morning.

The original layout of the old train depot is difficult to determine from evidence left on site. But by reading books on Maine Central, Hanscom believes the South Windham depot featured three sections: a stationmaster’s office, a waiting room, and a baggage/freight storage room. There was also interior storage for coal adjacent to the stationmaster’s office, some of which is still on site.

“And we’re finding it all over the place, even in between the walls, which is strange. Not sure how it got there,” Hanscom said.

Society member Sam Simonson of Westbrook will take some of the coal home to see if it still lights.

Raymond connection

After hours spent dismantling the depot, Hanscom and the society’s vice president, David Tanguay, and member Anne Dunbar traveled to Raymond on Friday to inspect an old Maine Central storage building.

The 20-by-22-foot building, which features a clipped roof common with the architectural style of turn-of-the-century America, sits in a yard off Route 302 near Panther Run. Owner Tacy Hartley learned about the historical society’s desire to move the depot months ago and called Hanscom to inquire whether the group would want her storage building, and members are now looking into the possibility of moving it to the Village Green in Windham.

In the 35 years she’s owned the building, Hartley has used it to board horses and as general storage. She’s put a new roof and fascia board on it. She said it’s in good condition and rests on a foundation of old railroad ties covered in creosote, a preservative. Hartley, the niece of late Raymond historian Ernie Knight, hopes the society can make better use of the building.

“I want to preserve it. I want to save it. I don’t know if it’s a got a cent of value and I don’t care,” Hartley said. “I don’t want someone to come down, and say, ‘Oh, look at that old building,’ and put a bulldozer to it and have a bonfire and call it good. Because I believe in preserving things

“Plus, there’s not a whole lot that needs to be done with it, other than a paint job.”

Hartley bought the building from the late Cliff Plummer, who lived on Main Street in Raymond Village. Plummer, she said, worked for Maine Central, and used the structure, which has two large sliding doors, as a garage.

Hanscom is delighted with the donation and is looking into the feasibility and cost of moving the tall structure to Windham.

“The magic number is 17. If the structure is more than 17 feet tall, we’ll have trouble moving it along the road because of the overhead wires,” Hanscom said. “And, of course, we have to see how much it’s going to cost. But it looks like a good building, and we are thankful to Tacy for letting us have it.”

Windham Historical Society members Anne Dunbar, left, and Linda Hanscom check out a section of chair rail salvaged from the South Windham train depot recently. (Staff photo by John Balentine)
With Ernest Mitchell of Windham looking on, Sam Simonson of Westbrook works to remove siding from the old South Windham train depot recently. Windham Historical Society members were at the soon-to-be-razed depot salvaging historically significant items. (Staff photos by John Balentine)

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