All aboard!

Visitors from across East Texas and the Marshall community turned out on Saturday for the 20th anniversary celebration of the Texas and Pacific Railway Museum and Depot in Marshall.

The event, hosted by the Marshall Depot Board Inc., celebrated the 1999 opening of the restored, three-story Marshall Depot and the Texas and Pacific Railroad Museum inside.

“This is such a thrilling day for all of us,” board member Cathy Wright said on Saturday at the Ginocchio Hotel where the celebration was held. “Especially for those of us that remember when this all started, back in the 1980s and even before then. Twenty years ago this month, our beautifully restored Marshall Depot reopened with a community-wide celebration.”

Wright said the celebration then cheered the culmination of years of fundraising and hard work to restore the historic Marshall Depot and create the Texas and Pacific Railroad Museum inside that would show the history of the railroad in Marshall to every guest who walked within its doors.

“It was a long and arduous process,” Wright said. “Sixteen years before, in 1983, the Friends of the Depot organized to restore the depot, but they kept meeting so many obstacles that it stymied the project. Then, in May of 1988, our community was shocked when Union Pacific announced they would demolish our precious depot in just two months — in mid-July. Marshall rallied around to save the depot from demolition. Our community rallied around the effort to save the depot and the Amtrak service.”

Wright said the community’s efforts were successful and helped keep tourism alive in Marshall in years since. Wright said on that day of the opening alone, more than 1,000 visited the depot.

“But every project needs a champion, and Audrey Kariel was just the champion that this project needed,” Wright said. “Her ability to rally people around a cause is amazing, and I’m still amazed by that today. At the opening day ceremony on that Saturday, Audrey challenged those present to think about the depot’s future.”

Athens couple Alan and Mary Ahlgrimm celebrated their 57th birthday on Saturday by cheering the 20th anniversary of the depot and touring the museum.

“It’s a great exhibit,” Alan Ahlgrimm said on Saturday. “We are staying in Jefferson for our 57th anniversary this weekend, but we came to Marshall today to see the depot and museum.”

Wright said the depot is essential to Marshall’s tourism economy.

“Here we are today celebrating 20 years of our historic depot,” she said. “This is the anchor of Marshall’s tourism economy. Sometimes we forget that but we all need to remember that — it draws people to Marshall. We are celebrating 20 years of the preservation of the education about our local history. We are celebrating 20 years of providing a good transportation option to Marshall citizens.

“Marshall still loves their train depot and this community will continue to rally around you as you boldly move forward into the next 20 years.”