By Rob Glidden
The railroad line that once guided trains through Southington is now the popular Rails to Trails corridor, but the Milldale train depot is a reminder of the area’s past. Officials and volunteers hope to refurbish it and create an attraction for the many walkers who now use the trail.
The Southington tracks haven’t been used for transportation since the 1920s, but the Milldale depot was used for deliveries for decades afterwards. The last item that arrived there by train was a drop forge for use at the nearby Rex Forge.
“It’s been unused since the heyday of the railroad line,” said Ken DiMauro of the Southington Historical Society. “A train hasn’t come through there since the 1990s.”
The depot was also featured in the 1959 film “It Happened to Jane,” starring Doris Day and Jack Lemmon. DiMauro said an autographed photo from the film signed by Day is included in the historical society’s collection.
Numerous volunteers from different organizations have joined together in an effort to clean up the depot and turn it into a small museum.
Southington Paint is less than a mile from the depot, and co-owner Mark Adams donated his time and materials to put a new red coat of paint on the building. The town’s Parks Department is cleaning up the building’s interior, although Eagle Scout Scott Casolo painted the walls inside.
“Most people probably don’t remember the significance it had at one time,” Adams said. “I’ve been around that building since I was a kid. My mother used to go there and pick things up. It’s a good landmark in town and it’s nice to spruce it up a bit.”
The Historical Society will be donating some items related to the depot that will be displayed on a new display case built by the Kiwanis Club. DiMauro said these items would be mostly photographs and narrative. The track handles inside the building no longer work, but they will be preserved as part of the museum.
“Without the local volunteers, this would not have happened,” Town Attorney Mark Sciota said at a recent council meeting. “I think it’s something we’re all going to be proud of.”
The work is expected to be completed by July, and the museum will be open to the public on weekends from July to September.