Engineers say Blaine’s train depot fit for relocation

Published on Thu, Jan 10, 2008 by Jack Kintner

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Engineers say Blaine’s train depot fit for relocation

By Jack Kintner

Drayton Harbor Maritime (DHM) had the century old Blaine railroad depot surveyed by an architect and a structural engineer last week to see if it can be safely moved to make way for a third track that Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) plans to add alongside the mainline through Blaine. The railroad has said that it will donate the structure or sell it but that it must be moved or it will be demolished sometime this year.

The verdict, from architect Sean Hegstad of Lynden’s JWR Design and engineer Damon Van Den Top of DVDT Engineering, is that it’s solid and a move is feasible. DHM wants to move it to the meadow west of Milhollin Drive where it would become the Blaine Station Waterfront Center. Developer Ken Imus has also expressed interest in the building but has backed away to give DHM the time to raise money for the move.

Rick Vanderveen of Vanderveen House Movers said that “a rough, very rough guess for the move would be somewhere in the neighborhood of two weeks and $15,000 to $20,000.”

DHM’s director Richard Sturgill said that in meeting recently with city of Blaine officials “they’ve said they want to connect Semiahmoo with the downtown more effectively, and that means more runs for the Plover. To support that we’re going to use the depot as commercial space as well as house a number of other programs. But first the solid old structure that once served as a city jail had to be inspected to see if it could make the move.”

“It’s in great shape for that,” said engineer Damon Von Den Top, “though we may have to leave some of the support beams behind.” Sturgill brought in Blaine realtor Chuck Green to estimate the building’s value.

The figure Green came up with, $475,000, takes into account the building’s historical value, according to Green’s letter to Sturgill.
It was built in 1908 when railroad magnate James J. Hill’s Great Northern relocated its mainline to run along the Blaine waterfront instead of through what is now Blaine high school and north into Canada along Eighth Street.

The first locomotive reached the station from the north on March 15, 1909, 12 years before Hill’s son-in-law Sam would build the Peace Arch a few hundred yards to the north.

“This is a preliminary look at what we as a community have to do to accomplish this move, and tells us that the building is sound and well worth saving.

Commodore Ozzie Osgood of the Semiahmoo Yacht Club has promised to work with us in developing some commercial potential in the building to help defray the expense of running the ferry. And it will be a neat addition,” he said.