Red Oak Depot celebrates 120 years, Adams honored

The Restored Burlington Northern Depot and World War II Museum celebrated a major milestone Dec. 10.
An anniversary celebration was held for the building’s 120th anniversary of construction, as well as the 20th anniversary of the building’s rededication during a special ceremony held at the depot. Lynn Adams, who spearheaded efforts to restore the depot to its present state, recalled how he and his wife Jackie first became involved in efforts to save the depot.
“The city manager called Jackie. She was with the Red Oak Historical Society at the time. He told her Burlington Northern was there and they wanted a demolition permit. Jackie told him to stall them, and then she started making contacts with everyone she could to save the depot,” Adams said. “The depot came available to us at a time when Jackie and I were retiring, so we had the time and the interest to take it on.”
Adams admitted it was a lot of hard work to save the building from demolition, and efforts were met with some pushback.
“Jackie talked to the City of Red Oak and asked for a meeting to talk about saving the depot and the efforts we would take, and at the time, the city didn’t want to get involved or put any money into that building. So we went to the Montgomery County Supervisors and they didn’t want to get involved either, so we kept working and she kept calling around to everyone she could,” Adams stated. “Once she got in touch with the head of Burlington Northern, things started happening after that.”
Adams said as part of the agreement, they had to meet several requirements from Burlington Northern.
“We had to install a chain link fence, so we raised money for that. Then the railroad said we had to pay a lease on the land; they could give us the building but they couldn’t give us the land. We also had to have $5 million in liability insurance, so we had to come up with that. We also had to maintain the building for at least 20 years, and they wanted us to keep the building in just as good a condition as it was when they gave it to us, which wasn’t very hard,” joked Adams.
After they got the depot, Adams said there were questions on what to do with the building after its restoration.
“Some people suggested we build a restaurant here, and there were other suggestions, but we decided to make it a museum honoring World War II military. we honor World War II History, Montgomery County History, and the depot’s history,” Adams explained.
Adams said it was a wonderful feeling to see the depot thriving after their efforts to save it.
“I’m really proud that it’s still in existence. One of the things that makes this possible is all of the volunteers,” stated Adams.
Adams also offered high praise to volunteers Cheryl and Cliff Racine for all the work they did on the depot’s restoration.
“We had a lot of volunteers, but the Racines did more work in one day than a lot of the other volunteers, and they did a lot of the work. The woodwork, Cheryl Racine did all that. She’d work on something then call me and tell me we needed to move the scaffolding. There was also paneling behind a steam radiator that deteriorated and he replaced it and you can’t tell it wasn’t original. They did so much, and they never handed me a bill for any of it,” explained Adams. “They really deserved a parade around the city for their efforts. Over the years, in addition to the Racines, we’ve had a lot of great people come in to help us. We appreciate that, and we want to keep it going. We’ve been able to save a lot of the buildings in the downtown area, but this building is our pride and joy.”
Lynn Adams’s son Steve also spoke during the event, citing the efforts his mother Jackie Adams took to save the depot.
“When she heard they were going to demolish the depot, I believe the first person she called was Sen. Tom Harkin, and somehow she got out of the administrative assistant the phone number to the head of Burlington Northern Railroad. She was persistent enough to get this done,” Steve said.
Steve also heralded the efforts of Cheryl and Cliff Racine in the seven-year process to restore the venerable old building.
“If you look at the ceiling, Cheryl was on scaffolding for about five summers and winters with a putty knife and a heat gun scraping off all the old layers of paint around here,” said Steve.  “Cliff was the one who, while scraping paint off the windows that we actually had stained glass in here. Rumor has it that the windows were painted over during World War II as part of the blackout process.”
Steve said the Racine’s efforts, as well as the efforts of other volunteers, to restore the building truly went the distance in recapturing the building’s history.
“Cliff Racine managed to salvage enough lumber out of the building to recreate the kitchen in here. There’s a picture on the south wall of the museum that shows the wonderful job he did in recreating the wonderful lunch counter here. A lot of work and volunteer hours went into this, and that includes not only the Racines, but George and Pat Maher, my father Lynn and my mother Jackie, and me to a small extent,” commented Steve.
The depot saw many of the troops from Company M and Company F leave for World War II, which is why the depot serves as a World War II museum.
“We lost more men per capita than any other city and county in the country. The Red Oak Victory ship was actually named in honor of the number of troops we lost during World War II. The 34th Infantry Division was in combat for 517 days from February, 1941, through November, 1945. Company M and Company F were one of the very first engagements in World War II,” advised Steve.
Steve took an opportunity to recognize various veterans in attendance at the event, including World War II veteran Alvin Hays, the oldest living veteran in Montgomery County.
“There are stories to tell here, and he’d be happy to let them in on you, but he doesn’t brag much. In World War II, he was in the Navy Scouts, which became the Navy Seals. He went out in World War II to scout out the islands and we can’t imagine what a dangerous job that was. We certainly appreciate and recognize all of his efforts,” advised Steve.
The event also served as an opportunity to honor Lynn Adams. Red Oak Mayor Shawnna Silvius spoke during the event and shared details of a proclamation for Adams.
“Whereas the City of Red Oak takes great pride in its rich history and cultural heritage, whereas the Red Oak Depot stands as a symbol of the city’s past, present, and future, and whereas Lynn and Jackie Adams have demonstrated exceptional dedication and tenacity in preserving and revitalizing the Red Oak depot, and as we celebrate the 120th anniversary of the building of the depot, and the 20th anniversary of its rededication by the unwavering dedication of Lynn and Jackie Adams, The City of Red Oak officially declares Dec. 10 as Lynn Adams Day,” Silvius said.
Silvius also cited that despite challenges, continued to care for the depot with love, passion and commitment, and that the City of Red Oak recognized the relentless hard work undertaken by Lynn and Jackie for the continued preservation and existence of the historical landmark.
“This honor is awarded based on your extraordinary dedication to the Red Oak Depot, and the invaluable contribution to the preservation of our city’s heritage,” Silvius declared.
The featured speaker at the anniversary celebration was Bill “Bo” Williams with Patriotic Productions. The nonprofit organized 13 Nebraska and Iowa Honor flights taking 3,500 veterans to Washington, D.C., to see their memorials, as well as the creators of the “Remembering Our Fallen” memorials, which have traveled the entire country. Containing photos of 5,500 photos of fallen service members from the war on terror.
Willams told the crowd he was not only pleased to celebrate the history of the depot, but to honor Lynn Adams.
“We all owe Lynn and Jackie a thank you for what you did, especially in comparison to the North Platte Canteen, in the Union Pacific Depot. It was known all over the country that greeted troop trains. In the early 1970s, a bunch of citizens were working to save that depot. In 1973, the railroad swooped in and flattened it. Our first seven honor flights were World War II vets. I remember asking them about the North Platte Canteen, and it was a sensitive subject. That didn’t happen here because of Jackie and Lynn. We all owe them a tremendous amount of gratitude for what they did,” said Williams.
Williams cited Adams efforts to remove the old coal boiler from the depot’s basement.
“Lynn dismantled it himself and lugged it piece-by piece up the stairs and out. The work that went into making this happen is extraordinary. That’s why we’re here to honor you and that’s why we’re trilled this is Lynn Adams Day,” Williams commented. “Most of us wonder when we look back at our lives if we did anything to make a difference. This man does’t have that problem.”
Williams recalled his own experiences using the Burlington Northern Depot when he was in junior high.
“We’d spend the day in Omaha, ride the city bus out to Crossroads, and then make our way back to the Burlington station. We’d buy a train ticket on the passenger train which stopped here in Red Oak, and pedal home,” Williams stated.
Some of the members of Adams former classes when he was an educator also spoke, including Deanna Viner.
“I was in the first play that Lynn Adams directed 67 years ago in 1956, “Arsenic and Old Lace. I’m presenting Lynn the original program, and my original script with all the lines. The book is still good,” Viner said.
To learn more about the depot, visit or call Jolene Crawford at 621-9099.
Regular hours of operation are daily from 10 a.m. to noon. In January and February, it is open by appointment only, and can be open by appointment on other days as well. The space is also available for rent for anniversaries, business and organizational meetings, birthday parties, weddings, and social events.

The Red Oak Express

2012 Commerce Drive
P.O. Box 377
Red Oak, IA 51566
Phone: 712-623-2566 Fax: 712-623-2568

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