Depot, Boxcar Restoration Project Nearly Complete

A multi-year restoration project of the historic GM&O Depot will be completed this fall. After serving as the headquarters for the department’s Historic Preservation Division from 1984 to 2006, the depot is set to become the new home of the Museum Division, as well as the Mississippi Heritage Trust.

“We are looking forward to the staff being together for the first time in years, as well as being closer to the main campus of the department where most of our work takes place,” said division director Lucy Allen. The Museum Division has occupied temporary office space beside the new farmer’s market on High Street since 2005, when damage from Hurricane Katrina forced them out of the Old Capitol Museum.

The GM&O Depot sits between the Charlotte Capers Archives and History Building and the Naval Reserve Building. It was constructed for the New Orleans Great Northern Railroad in 1927 and partially remodeled along Art Moderne lines in 1939. The depot provided passenger rail service until 1954 but was abandoned in 1972.

As part of the project, the French Merci boxcar has been moved from its platform behind the War Memorial Building and will be restored. The historic wooden train car was given in gratitude to Mississippi by France following World War II. The ten-ton boxcar was raised using a lift and carefully transported on a flat-bed trailer around the block and to the depot. A full restoration of the boxcar, also known as a 40 and 8 car because it would accommodate forty men or eight mules, has begun.

The Depot restoration project, which is being funded through the Community Heritage Preservation grant program, will not only provide much-needed operations space for staff, it will allow for the boxcar and depot to be interpreted together, showcasing both as a significant part of Mississippi’s rail history. Once the historic wooden boxcar is restored, a canopy will be built to protect it from the elements. Forty of the objects from the Merci train are still in the department’s permanent collection for display in the planned Museum of Mississippi History.

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