The city has applied for a $300,000 grant to fix up the abandoned Mechanicville train station that operated from the late 1800s through the 1960s.
The grant is available through the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, and would require a $150,000 match from the city. Officials say the city could use the building’s estimated $170,000 value as its contribution, even though the city paid only $1 for the property.
City officials agreed to buy the building on the condition that its upkeep wouldn’t cost city taxpayers, said Accounts Commissioner Mark Seber.
The city bought the building on July 1 from Ernie Anastos and the Anastos Media Group, Seber said. The building was most recently home to the media group’s radio station, but hasn’t been used in several years.
The Mechanicville Heritage Society founded last year wants to fix up the building and eventually turn it into a museum about the city’s railroad history.
“Much of our heritage is the railroad,” Seber said.
The station at the corner of 2nd Avenue and Elizabeth Street served as the city’s passenger rail station for the Delaware and Hudson Railroad and also the drop-off point for the RDA Express, which sent packages and mail by train, said Mayor Anthony Sylvester Sr.
“We used to call it the 6 o’clock train,” Sylvester recalled. That’s because the train left Mechanicville for Albany at 6 a.m. and returned at 6 p.m. carrying state workers and other people who commuted to the state’s capital each weekday.
Local residents also rode the train to go to Albany to shop, Sylvester said.
Sylvester remembers sitting on big baggage wagons outside the station and watching the trains come in, many of which were steam engines.
He recalls the station closing after the Adirondack Northway opened, allowing easy and fast highway travel from Albany to Saratoga County.
The building needs a good bit of work, including repairs to its slate roof and wood floor, and replacing windows and the ceiling.
But the building retains much of its charm, with an arched entryway on the side of the building facing the railroad tracks, two gables also facing the tracks and a cupola on the roof.
“Structurally it’s in pretty good shape, we’re told,” Seber said.
Sylvester, who in addition to being mayor is also a member of the Heritage Society, is trying to find photos of the train station the way it used to look inside. That way, the society will know what to aim for when it does renovation work.
“I’d like to get it as close as possible to the way it was,” he said.
Even if the city doesn’t get the grant, volunteers with the Heritage Society plan to offer up their own time and money to do work on the building.
Word on the grant status is likely to come in September or October, Seber said.
The city also bought the XO Tower across Elizabeth Street from the railroad station and fixed it up for use by the chamber of commerce.
“The upstairs is going to be a lookout,” Sylvester said. “It’s going to be a place where you can go up, watch the trains come in and out.”
The brick tower was once a control area for an operator who worked the signals and the switches controlling which train went on which track, Sylvester said. The operator also would hand off paper orders to passing train conductors.