Family gives $100K to assist Webster City museum projects

-Messenger photo by Anne Blankenship
Floyd Poole, left, presented a $100,000 gift to the Wilson Brewer Historic Park Committee Tuesday on behalf of his aunt, Mabel Raska, seated, and the late Vern Raska. Accepting the donation was Gary Groves, chairman of the historic park committee.

WEBSTER CITY — The Wilson Brewer Historic Park Committee received a significant donation Tuesday that officials say will help with upgrades and renovations planned for the Depot Museum.

A $100,000 gift was given by Floyd Poole on behalf of his aunt, Mabel Raska, and late uncle, Verner Raska. The Raskas, longtime Webster City residents and business people, lived just across the street from the park for many years.

“When they brought the depot down there, they said I hope they don’t let it just go to pieces, that they do something with it,” Poole said. “And they’ve done very well with it over the years.”

Poole said that committee Chairman Gary Groves had told him that renovations were planned for the depot.

“So, on behalf of Vern and Mabel Raska, I’d like to present this gift of $100,000 to get the project underway,” he said. “I know it isn’t much, but it’s a start.”

Groves said the funds will go toward bringing in a rail car for display as well as improvements to the railroad office inside the depot. Any funds remaining would go towards general renovations, he added.

Members of the committee thanked Poole and Mabel Raska, who attended the presentation.

Bob Oliver, an amateur railroad historian, outlined the plan to locate an Illinois Central caboose that would be placed at the depot as an additional attraction.

He said Webster City originally had three depots at one time, but now have just the one that has served as a museum for a number of years.

“The last passenger train passed through Webster City on the first of April in 1971,” he said. “So we don’t have the train anymore, but we have the depot. And that is an important anchor in the park,” he said.

Oliver said the plan for some time has been to build a small stretch of track to display an Illinois Central caboose.

Oliver said he had been in contact with three different railroad museums. All three have cabooses that would fit the bill, but none are willing to part with cars. He said he had also contacted a commercial source in Fairfield for IC caboose that would have traveled through Webster City.

“They have sold cabooses of the kind that we want to individuals and, most recently, the Walt Disney Co. for use in a film,” he said. “They are currently looking for a caboose for our display.”

The cost of moving the caboose to Webster City could prove to be expensive, Oliver said. The cars can’t be moved via rail but would rather have to be trucked to the site.

“These cabooses can no longer be moved by rail even when they have the appropriate wheels and undergear. They are not suited to today’s railroad movement,” he explained.

Once the caboose is on site, Oliver said a call for volunteers would be put out to help restore the car.

He said the caboose will need to be stripped and repainted.

“It is a very feasible project and I believe it can be brought to completion here in Webster City,” he said.