There is light at the end of the fundraising tunnel for Kirkwood’s historic train station
As Amtrak’s Missouri River Runner resumes full service Monday, one of the stations on the route is closer to its first major overhaul in more than 80 years.
Gov. Mike Parson recently signed legislation to pave the way for a federal matching grant of $2.5 million for Kirkwood’s train station, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.
The East-West Gateway Council of Governments, a consortium of local governments and agencies in Illinois and Missouri, is providing $1.5 million, which will be part of the city’s share of the matching grant. The rest is being covered through private fundraising. The overall price tag is expected to be around $5 million.
"We’re within about $180,000 of being able to match that 2.5 million," said Art McDonnell, former mayor and current Historic Kirkwood Train Station Foundation president.
The group has been raising money for the project since 2016.
The station is a link to the railroad's prominent role in Kirkwood's history. The first train arrived in the St. Louis suburb in 1853. A Pacific Railroad of Missouri line west to Kansas City was not finished until 1865.
An original structure went up on the train station site in 1863, and the current station was built 30 years later. Its last major renovation was in 1941.
The building is showing its age, and McDonnell said several things need to be done. “It needs a new roof. Also, we need a new heating and air conditioning system and a new sprinkler system. We’re going to put an extension on the east side of the train station, which is going to be a patio for people to gather or entertain.”
More gathering space will be a welcome addition because people have been coming to the building for decades to catch a glimpse of the rail cars.
“I used to come down here like many kids in our community, and adults, just to see the trains go by. I mean everybody seems to have a fascination with trains and real, live trains,” McDonnell said.
Station manager Bill Burckhalter said people of all ages still want to get a peek at the trains going through Kirkwood. "I’m talking little girls. I’m talking boys. I’m talking families come down here and sit, especially at train time," he said. "They’ll all show up.”
Burkhalter also helps with the fundraising effort and said people with Kirkwood connections who now live as far as Texas and Florida have donated money.
“It’s the focal point of our community,” he added, and that thought is shared by McDonnell.
“The train station needs to be restored in order to make it the shining star of our community.”
Even though some money still needs to be raised, the city is moving ahead with the project. It recently approved a contract with an architectural firm for design work.
If all goes well, construction could begin in late 2024.