Beach depot has seen better daysA historical preservation group in Beach is trying to save a World War II inscription painted on the interior of an old railroad depot.
By: By Jennifer McBride and Beth Wischmeyer, The Dickinson Press
A historical preservation group in Beach is trying to save a World War II inscription painted on the interior of an old railroad depot.
The 100-year-old brick building is near a town park, complete with boarded up and broken windows. The building once bustled with life and, if all goes as planned, the site will sit empty after Aug. 15 when it is torn down.
“It’s a little nostalgic part of Beach,” Mayor Walter Losinski said. “It has a unique structure.”
The hand-painted message inside reads, “Japs invade Alaska. June 1942,” referring to the June 3, 1942 Japanese invasion of the Aleutian Islands, said Jerry DeMartin, a member of the Beach Historical Preservation Committee, the group interested in saving the inscription.
“I think it’s a unique artifact,” DeMartin said. The invasion marked the first time since the War of 1812 that foreign troops set foot on American soil, he added.
The preservation group was formed in the 1990s to save the depot, which is owned by Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Corp. It was then that the members became aware of the inscription.
“We’re certainly willing to work with the group so they can get the photos they need before the demolition,” said Amy McBeth, BNSF spokesperson. “If it’s possible to save the piece of the wall with the message on it, they’d do that as long as it doesn’t present any safety issues.”
Among its many uses, the depot was once a stop for an Amtrak passenger train called the North Coast Hiawatha, which served the area from 1971 to 1979, according to BNSF. It originated in Chicago and made numerous stops before its destination in Seattle.
And Losinski remembers his childhood job of dropping cream cans off at the depot and the railroad would pick them up, he said. “The train would come by and you’d get a slip for the cream and they’d take them to wherever it went.”
DeMartin said the group may look at grants to help in preservation efforts and he said BNSF has been supportive.
“They would be very happy to give us the building if we moved it, but moving it was just too big of a task,” DeMartin said. “They (BNSF) seem very interested in working with us to try and save what we can.”
DeMartin said he doesn’t know what condition the wall is in. “If for some reason it cannot be saved, “then we want to photograph it.”
BNSF is interested in having a meeting with the group before demolition begins, McBeth said.
“I know the structure presents problems and they were going to tear it down years ago and the citizens got together and tried to make money to move it and it became more of an expense and effort than it was to move it,” Losinski said.
DeMartin asks that anyone who has information regarding the inscription contact him at 701-872-3855.