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Stonefort depot museum a real step back in time

  • Kenneth Yandell and his wife, Mary, who live near Tunnel Hill, look at a display at the Stonefort Railroad Depot Museum Tuesday afternoon.

    Kenneth Yandell and his wife, Mary, who live near Tunnel Hill, look at a display at the Stonefort Railroad Depot Museum Tuesday afternoon.
    TRAVIS DENEAL PHOTO

  • Linda Blackman, curator of the Railroad Depot Museum in Stonefort, displays a photo of how the depot looked when it first was built in 1890.

    Linda Blackman, curator of the Railroad Depot Museum in Stonefort, displays a photo of how the depot looked when it first was built in 1890.
    TRAVIS DENEAL PHOTO

  • Linda Blackman, left, owner and curator of the Stonefort Railroad Depot Museum, talks with Wendell Hundley of Waterford, Mich., Tuesday afternoon. Kenneth Yandell, who lives near Tunnel Hill with his wife Mary and is a cousin of Hundley's, examines a display.

    Linda Blackman, left, owner and curator of the Stonefort Railroad Depot Museum, talks with Wendell Hundley of Waterford, Mich., Tuesday afternoon. Kenneth Yandell, who lives near Tunnel Hill with his wife Mary and is a cousin of Hundley's, examines a display.
    TRAVIS DENEAL PHOTO

  • Linda Blackman, owner and curator of the Stonefort Railroad Depot Museum, stands at the museum's entrance.

    Linda Blackman, owner and curator of the Stonefort Railroad Depot Museum, stands at the museum's entrance.
    TRAVIS DENEAL PHOTO

  • Ralph Maxfield, a volunteer assistant at the depot museum, stands next to a railroad crossing sign he donated. Maxfield has been collecting railroad memorabilia and related items for many years and has been a regular donor to the museum.

    Ralph Maxfield, a volunteer assistant at the depot museum, stands next to a railroad crossing sign he donated. Maxfield has been collecting railroad memorabilia and related items for many years and has been a regular donor to the museum.
    TRAVIS DENEAL PHOTO

  • A detailed look at an early photograph of the depot shortly after it was built in 1890.

    A detailed look at an early photograph of the depot shortly after it was built in 1890.
    TRAVIS DENEAL PHOTO

 
BY TRAVIS DENEAL tdeneal@dailyregister.com
updated: 8/11/2017 5:31 PM

STONEFORT -- A vistor to Stonefort's Railroad Depot Museum could be forgiven for thinking he or she had stepped out of a time machine into the village's railway heyday.

Old signs from railroad companies and businesses long gone adorn the walls, and various tools and machines hearken back to a simpler time when the railways and telegraphs connected the country.

For museum owner and curator Linda Blackman, it's a testament to preserving the history of her hometown.

Blackman, a retired Regional Office of Education superintendent, inherited the building after the passing of her parents, Virgil and Amy (Lewis) Blackman.

"My father acquired the building from the New York Central Railroad Co. in 1965," she said.

He intended to move his hardware store into the building, and added a pole structure to the building to contain his inventory and shop.

After her parents were gone, Blackman had the idea of transforming the former depot, built in 1890, into a museum to preserve the town's heritage. The building is easily accessible, just off of U.S. 45 in the middle of Stonefort.

Today, the museum provides visitors with a look at what Stonefort and the surrounding area looked like in its peak, which she said was approximately from 1890 to 1930. Different sections of the building offer displays and other historical information to visitors.

In addition to the railroad memorabilia, Blackman maintains various historical records of the town.

"That wall there is filled with three-ring binders of invoices and other documents from local businesses," she says, pointing. "I've turned this into a research resource."

Technically, three museums exist within the depot structure: the Railroad Depot Museum, the Stonefort Community Museum and the Hardware Store Museum.

Blackman said what she enjoys most about the museum is the opportunity for visitors to see the displays and exchange old stories.

"I love it when people come in and they tell stories they learned when they were younger, and then I can tell them some of my stories," she said. "It's just enjoyable to sit down and talk."

In addition, she said she's looking forward to the museum's 9th annual Railroad Day event, which is 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 26. The event coincides with the last day of the the Stonefort Old Soldiers and Sailors Reunion, the village's annual celebration.

That event features Saline County railroad expert Hovie Stunson, Saline County Historical Society President Mark Motsinger, and others with information about railroad history and the Stonefort area.

Blackman is quick to note that Stonefort is also known for the Four Corners area, a spot where Saline, Williamson, Johnson and Pope counties share a common corner.

"The reunion was known as the Four Corners Reunion before it became the Old Soldiers and Sailors Reunion," she said.

She also said she hopes an expected influx of travelers for the Aug. 21 total solar eclipse will have the chance to view the museum.

On this particular day, Blackman and museum volunteer Ralph Maxfield are entertaining Kenneth and Mary Yandell, who live near Tunnel Hill, and Kenneth's cousin Wendell Hundley of Waterford, Mich.

"It's nice to see all of the things they have preserved here," Kenneth Yandell said. "My cousin said he wanted to see it the next time he visited, so we thought we'd better come by."

The museum is open Saturdays from 1 to 4:30 p.m. and Sundays from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. It's also open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1 to 4:30 p.m. Other days and times may be arranged by appointment, Blackman said. To make arrangements, call (618) 252-5112.

She said she hopes to continue to provide enjoyment to those who come visit.

"I've had people come in and ask if there's a fee, and I say 'only a smile,'" Blackman said. "There's not too many who won't give a smile."