The old Depot and freight station in Momence was built in 1881, with the original three-room frame building still in daily use until December, 1960. Originally, the station was used by the Three I (Illinois, Indiana and Iowa) Railroad and operated for about 20 years prior to the New York Central taking charge in the early 1900's. A freight station exclusively since 1936 when passenger service was dropped here, the depot was once the site of bustling activity, particularly when the railroad was conducting regular excursion trips into South Bend, IN and Niles, MI. In 1960, about eight trains were served daily by the local office, with station agent C.A. Kennedy handling the operations alone. A freight station operated exclusively since 1936 when passenger service was discontinued.
Starting December 20, 1960, a new freight service, labeled as the centralized agency system went into effect on the NYC, and the days of the local depot were terminated. As a New York Central veteran of 35 years service, including eight at Momence, Mr. Kennedy began his new duties as a railroad representative under the new system. The old depot was retained in case the ever-changing business operations should again necessitate its use.
The building was acquired by Bill and Phyllis Munyon in August of 2000, and was fully restored to contain railroad artifacts, military memorabilia, and hundreds of photos of area military veterans.
The Museum also honors Rex Rowe, a WWII POW and a former mayor of Momence, with a statue on the front lawn of the Depot. Born in 1921, he served as a Sergeant in the U.S. Army during World War II and was a prisoner of war and a Purple Heart recipient. Rex was captured by the Nazis while serving in Germany, and was sent to Stalag 3C near Alt Drewitz, Prussia, where 1561 other Americans were held. Rex's capture was first reported to the International Committee of the Red Cross on Sept. 21, 1944, and the last report was made on May 10, 1945. Based on these two reports, Rex was imprisoned for at least 231 days. Ultimately, Rex was returned to military control, liberated, or repatriated.
In the spring of 2022, the Earl Schoeffner Museum Group gained control of the Depot, and began a thorough renovation. The old building was painted and spruced up and a new HVAC system was added. Photographs of early Momence railroad history line the walls of the original waiting room and station master's ticket booth along with shelves of additional train cars and some original artifacts.
A 5'x16' HO scale model train set-up is the centerpiece of the waiting room with 2 trains running the course.
What was previously an old storage room has been completely restored with local military memorabilia, uniforms, flags, and scanned copies of all of the veteran's photographs that Bill Munyon had hanging on the walls of the waiting room. Many of these photographs were digitally enhanced as the sun and the elements took their toll after years of inattention.
The Depot is open on Fridays and Saturdays from 10am - 4pm. Your docent Bob Sharkey awaits your visit!