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updated: 9/29/2013 8:01 AM

Restored Itasca train museum reopens

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  • Hannah Gelinas, 8, of Arlington Heights tours a 74-year-old newly restored caboose as the Itasca Historical Depot Museum hosts its grand reopening event.

       Hannah Gelinas, 8, of Arlington Heights tours a 74-year-old newly restored caboose as the Itasca Historical Depot Museum hosts its grand reopening event.
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • L.J. Slavin of the Red Oaks String Band plays a tune, as the Itasca Historical Depot Museum hosts its grand reopening event.

       L.J. Slavin of the Red Oaks String Band plays a tune, as the Itasca Historical Depot Museum hosts its grand reopening event.
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • Art Roth, vice president of the Milwaukee Road Historical Society, talks at the Itasca Historical Depot Museum's grand reopening event.

       Art Roth, vice president of the Milwaukee Road Historical Society, talks at the Itasca Historical Depot Museum's grand reopening event.
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • Mallory Leno, 8, left and Hannah Gelinas, 8, right, both of Arlington Heights, tour a 74-year-old newly restored caboose as the Itasca Historical Depot Museum hosts its grand reopening event.

       Mallory Leno, 8, left and Hannah Gelinas, 8, right, both of Arlington Heights, tour a 74-year-old newly restored caboose as the Itasca Historical Depot Museum hosts its grand reopening event.
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer

 
 

The grand opening of the restored Itasca Historical Depot Museum was a train-themed extravaganza, complete with the sounds of train whistles and horns everywhere. The museum also includes a 1939 Milwaukee Road caboose.

A steady stream of people, mostly families with children, came to see the 140-year-old museum on Saturday afternoon. The museum is now much brighter and well-organized, said Elizabeth Crandell of Itasca.

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"I thought they did a beautiful job," Crandell said. "Everything is clear and labeled. It's really something to stop and see."

Her 14-year-old daughter Hayley agreed. "It's more organized now. It's a piece of history."

The museum has been closed since 2009, and renovations began in the summer of 2011. The goal of the $525,000 project was to restore the building to how it looked when it opened in 1873.

Exhibits include photos of the depot over the years, historical artifacts from the 1800s, such as a telegraph key and ticket booklets, and items about Itasca's history, including village founder Elijah Smith's belongings. A model train depicts the intersection of Walnut Street and Irving Park Road in the 1800s.

Young visitors got lots of freebies, including blue-and-white conductors' hats, red bandannas, popcorn, cotton candy and more.

The three Power sisters -- Emilia, 6, Tilly, 5, and Clara, 1 -- got face paint and temporary tattoos, all with the theme of trains and railroads.

"We had a blast. The kids loved (sounding) the train horn," said their mother, Noreen Power of Mount Prospect.

Pam and John Jacobs of Elk Grove Village came with Noah, their 3-year-old grandchild.

"They have great things for the kids. It was very enjoyable," Pam Jacobs said.

As for Noah, the most exciting part of the day was, well, seeing the Metra train across the street.

"I saw the big silver train," he said. "It's kind of like Spencer (from Thomas The Tank Engine & Friends)."

The museum will offer a wide variety of programs appealing to not just train buffs, but also people interested in local and regional history, museum curator Angela Houghton said.

Some upcoming programs include "Train Time" for kids on Oct. 22 and Dec. 10, and "Movie at the Museum" on Nov. 8 and Dec. 14.

The museum will be open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. the first and second Saturdays of the month from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., and by appointment. For more information, visit itasca.com or call the Itasca Park District at (630) 773-2257.

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