Dirty Demolition, the Montana Centennial Train, and Boxcar Road Books
I'll admit I've been a little hesitant to report in on the goings-on at the intersection of Boxcar Road and Hwy 117 near Park Grove.
Recent calls into the Courier office over the holiday weekend about the demolition unfolding at the site would doubtless have prompted a story of some kind in the coming weeks.
My concern stems from the fact that I, as many readers will already be aware, am in the process of purchasing the place. So in a way (gulp), it's a story about me.
My plan is to scrap-there's no kind word for it-two of the westernmost railcars in the process of restoring a third car that rests along the east edge of the approximately 1/7 acre constituting the actual real estate.
I happened to meet one kindly neighbor who turned out to be one of the folks who called in about the demolition while I was taking the photo featured on this page. Here's what I said:
The two railcars being removed currently were part of the local passenger/mail fleet that served the area back when Boxcar Road was a place where commuters (were they called that?) were forced to wait out trains headed north and south to and from the dam and elsewhere before proceeding east to the banks of the Missouri.
The trouble is they're made of wood in some very important places like the roofs and the flooring and decades of alternately scorching summers and freezing winters have rendered any restoration projects unthinkable for a person of limited means.
The doomed cars might have been repurposed in interesting ways if the Dickensian saga of proposed restaurants, tourist attractions, educational sites, etc., are any indication, but I contacted various historical institutions in the area and elsewhere and while there was some interest out there, it wasn't enough to fund even a simple relocation effort.
The good news: A third railcar (obscured from the highway by the older, more seriously damaged cars) was part of the Montana Centennial Train that made its way to the 1964 New York World's Fair. Its historical significance, paired with the fact that it's in much better
condition, should allow me to make something out of the mess (temporary!) that I've helped create.
My first and likely best idea for the site is a writers retreat and secondhand bookstore.
The writers retreat would be for me, as I have a nonfiction book due out from Schaffner Press in 2016 and I need someplace to finish it. There may be others who gamble on the isolation of a Northeastern Montana winter to keep them pecking away on schedule, but even if I move in permanently like some mad recluse, the idea appeals to me.
A retreat notwithstanding, the bookstore is practicable and would be a resource for all of Valley County. Talks with board members from the Friends of the Library and other civic-minded area residents have indicated that if I can find and develop an appropriate space, this community may very well come together to help establish the only bookstore serving the region for a very long distance in any direction. Boxcar Road Books is currently the most popular name I've put forward.
That's about all I've got in the way of column inches for daydreams about my own private paradise for now, so feel free to take me up on the subject as plans progress over the summer.
The most common question I've been asked is how I intend to find the time and money to make any of this happen. Fair question, that. For starters, I'm going to type a period on the end of this sentence and get back to work.