An enthusiastic crowd of over 100 gathered at the Orange depot on Monday, May 19, for the ribbon cutting that kicked off the first phase of formal fundraising for the restoration of the Southern Pacific depot, built in 1902. The Chambers of Commerce of Orange, Bridge City, and Vidor were represented by their Ambassadors. It is evident that the project of restoring the depot will be a county wide effort.

After welcoming comments by Orange mayor Jimmy Sims, the chairman of the committee responsible for brick sales, David Derosier, explained how bricks may be purchased and how they will be used to enhance the grounds of the depot. A commemorative brick in a 4X8 inch size with two lines of 16 characters engraved is available for $50; a brick in an 8X8 inch size with four lines engraved is only $100. The bricks will be the walkway to welcome visitors to the depot.

FOOD president Carrie Wolliver cuts the ribbon to start the Pave a Path to your Depot campaign

FOOD president Carrie Wolliver cuts the ribbon to start the Pave a Path to your Depot campaign

Carrie Wolliver, who along with her husband, Ron, was responsible for starting the effort to acquire and restore the depot made comments that she was hoping that the effort to restore the depot would result in an impressive entrance to Orange’s Historic District. She also thanked the members of FOOD, and the local and county officials that have been working on the project.

After Wolliver’s comments, the members of Friends of the Orange Depot (FOOD), and mayors Sims of Orange, and Kirk Roccaforte of Bridge City, along with the chamber Ambassadors gathered around Wolliver as she cut the ribbon to start the “Pave a Path to your Depot” campaign.

Also attending the ribbon cutting were two former employees from the operating days of the depot. Juanita Timberlake worked in the ticket office for 29 years and Robert Mitchell worked as a baggage handler for 17 years. Both of the former employees took time to share stories about their years at the depot.

Mitchell related a story about rushing to save a conductor who missed his step getting on the train and was being drug as the train was leaving the depot. Mitchell was able to run to the conductor and grab him before he was pulled under the wheels of the train. The conductor only had rock scrapes and a torn uniform, thanks to Mitchell’s quick actions.

Tuesday night was the last meeting of the Friends of the Orange Depot until August. It was decided not to have meetings for the months of June and July, but there are activities that will be ongoing.

FOOD will have a booth at the upcoming Drag Boat races the weekend of May 31 and June 1. There will be forms for orders of commemorative bricks. Tee shirts will be sold and there will be information and architects drawings of how the completed depot will appear when finished.

Orange mayor Jimmy Sims makes opening remarks. Bridge City mayor Kirk Roccaforte and Brick Sales Chairman David Derosier in background.

Orange mayor Jimmy Sims makes opening remarks. Bridge City mayor Kirk Roccaforte and Brick Sales Chairman David Derosier in background.

Mike Hoke and Brown Claybar will be available to give presentations to any group or organizations that will issue an invitation. Hoke and Claybar give detailed information about the plans for the restoration of the depot.

Work is beginning on the offer from the City of Beaumont to transfer ownership of a unique Pullman car to the City of Orange. Once this is done then the City of Orange can begin the process of either selling or donating the car to the depot. The car was built during the WWII years for use as a troop transport car. It will be displayed on the depot grounds as part of the restoration.

“Just because we are not meeting does not mean there will not be a lot of things going on. We will be working on brick sales, and work shopping ideas for fundraising,” said Carrie Wolliver, president of FOOD. “We are exploring the idea of having a fall festival as a fundraiser for the depot. There are several other ideas we will be working on the two months we will not be meeting formally.”

Juanita Timberlake and Robert Mitchell were long time employees at the depot. (Timberlake was in ticket office 29 years. Mitchell was baggage handler 17 years) RECORD PHOTOS: Mike Louviere