To members of the Nicholson Heritage Association, an attraction like the Nicholson Tourism Center at the Historic DL&W Railroad Station can be one step toward the town’s revitalization.
The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a wrench in the association’s timeline for opening the center, but the excitement of at least seeing it mostly finished isn’t lost on NHA Chairwoman Marion Sweet.
Organizers had hoped the public might be able to share in the station's grandeur during what in recent decades has been Nicholson Bridge Day in this part of Wyoming County on the second Sunday in September but that will have to wait.
“Oh, it’s gorgeous,” she said. “Just gorgeous.”
The nonprofit purchased the 171-year-old railroad station back in 2012 and received a Transportation Alternatives Program grant through the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation two years later for its preservation and rehabilitation. By early 2019, Perry’s General Contracting had started on the renovations.
At this point, Sweet said they need to tie up some loose ends before bringing in photo albums, railroad memorabilia and more for display.
While PennDOT awarded a substantial grant, Sweet estimates that the NHA still needs to raise $30,000 to $40,000 for the project.
Sweet and Treasurer Rick Lochen have been working on soliciting donations and fundraising, while Josh Stull, who chairs the NHA Grant Committee, has been pursuing additional grant funding. He no longer lives in Nicholson, but keeps close ties to the area.
Stull has been documenting the transformation of the station over the last 18 months, which looks good as new these days with vibrant red and green paneling.
He said the renovations have “breathed new life into the station,” and as a railroad buff, it’s especially exciting for him to see this piece of railroad history being restored in his hometown.
“It’s incredible,” he said. “It’s been a long journey, but we’re almost there.”
The NHA hoped to have it finished by Nicholson Bridge Day this September, but the Nicholson Women’s Club canceled the event this year anyway because of the coronavirus.
Once it opens, visitors can come learn about local history and even purchase a book.
It will be completely volunteer run, and Sweet hopes people could step up for when the older generation isn’t around anymore to share this history. Sometimes, she hears people say they don’t know enough about local history to volunteer.
“Well, come on out and learn,” she said. “The town has quite a history. If it wasn’t for the railroad, there wouldn’t be a Nicholson.”
In the end, she hopes it attracts more visitors to town.
“Little towns are going by the wayside,” Sweet said. “They all are. It’s not just Nicholson.”
As a result, she said Nicholson may see increased foot traffic at local businesses, and perhaps more people will be inclined to rent out empty storefronts.
When it’s finished and the timing is appropriate with the pandemic, Stull plans to organize a grand opening with a ribbon cutting ceremony.
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 mammoth Nicholson Bridge or 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.
Thanks to the then abounding agricultural and dairy industry in the Nicholson area, trains carrying milk and dairy frequently passed through the station, loading and unloading goods for and from the town's five creameries.
For more information about the Nicholson Tourism Center, visit nicholson heritage.org.