Nearly two years since the 100th anniversary celebration of the massive Tunkhannock Creek Viaduct, Nicholson is still without a welcome center, and organizers are beyond concerned.
“It has been horribly frustrating, trying to get that project moving,” Wyoming County Commissioner Tom Henry said Thursday morning.
He recalled in January 2014 meeting with PennDOT representatives, and the people of Nicholson who were so enthusiastic about the possibility of telling the community’s history emphasizing its rich railroad legacy that stretched back to 1849 when a freight station was built which by now they hoped would be the home for sharing that story.
When Nicholson Heritage Association members received the good news 10 months later that they had been approved for an $821,276 grant from the Department of Transportation’s TAP program to make renovations to the town’s historic DL&W Railroad Station, they were excited, but skeptical it could be done in time for the following September’s centennial celebration.
Now approaching three years from that announcement and two years after the celebration, Craig Smith of the heritage group told fellow NHA members Wednesday night that the process had been unbelievable.
Smith said he had submitted a pre-qualification bid letter to PennDOT this week which he believed and hoped was the final hurdle in a marathon he never imagined could take so long.
“It looks like by the end of next week or the second week of August at the latest, it’s going out for bids,” he said. “However, I won’t believe it until I see the advertisement in the newspaper with my own little peepers.”
He said in a best case scenario a bidding window would take only two or three weeks.
Smith said he is hopeful that would mean an announcement before Sept. 10, when downtown Nicholson dresses up with a Nicholson Bridge Day street fair with the massive big bridge serving as a backdrop.
“All eyes will be on us,” he added, noting that it would be a good time to raise $70,000 which the heritage group realizes will still be needed to pay for inspections of the Welcome Center project that cannot be covered by PennDOT money.
Commissioner Henry said he’s expecting and hopeful that there will be some businesses ready to sign on as supporters once they see movement from the state.
Henry said the process apparently got stuck when a consultant went bankrupt, and nothing could be done to move it along while that was in limbo.
He said all three commissioners were frustrated “by doing a lot of repeat work behind the scenes with no obvious resolution. We are thrilled that’s about to change.”
NHA president Marion Sweet echoed the comment.
“It has been a long, hard road and many bumps but I’m keeping my fingers crossed we will finally get there,” she said.
Construction began on the DL&W Railroad Station in 1849, and from 1851 to 1915 it served as both a passenger and freight station.
With the completion of the Tunkhannock Creek Viaduct in 1915, a new passenger station was constructed at the north end of the bridge. Consequently, the DL&W station became exclusively a freight station, and remained so until 1971.
The station will serve as a museum and information center, documenting the history of the Nicholson station and the region’s railroad history more broadly. It will also reflect some of Nicholson’s non-railroad history, and feature the people and events that constitute the history of the town.
“New life for the old station will be wonderful,” Henry said.