Dozens of friends, volunteers and officials recently came out to help us celebrate the new switching tower we added to the Hopewell Depot park in Hopewell Junction.
The building houses the only real restrooms on the adjacent William R. Steinhaus Dutchess Rail Trail. The second floor will eventually feature exhibits explaining how the tower controlled traffic on the nearby train lines.
Four years ago, our all-volunteer group, the non-profit Hopewell Depot Restoration Corp., restored and reopened the Hopewell Depot across the trail from the tower.
The replica 25-foot-tall tower sits almost exactly where the original structure stood from 1892 until 1938. The original building contained control signals and switches to direct train traffic in the nearby rail yard and on the intersecting tracks passing by the tower. The tower was removed as train traffic started to decline.
The restrooms will be open during normal rail trail hours. When the new tower's second floor is completed, visitors will find displays and information about the switching gear.
The basic building and restrooms with flushable compost toilets cost about $75,000 and have been 100 percent funded. Additional donations are needed to complete the historical displays and a few other features, according to Joe Sullivan, president of the Hopewell Depot Restoration Corp.
The Depot is open for tours on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.