“The Depot’s new hours offer visitors additional opportunities to take advantage of the exhibits inside the museum during the spring, summer and fall months,” Parks and Recreation Director Rachel Conger said. “The only thing is we swapped was Monday and Wednesday.”
New Depot Hours:
- Monday: 1-5 p.m.
- Tuesday and Wednesday: closed
- Thursday and Friday: 1-5 p.m.
- Saturday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
- Sunday, 1-5 p.m.
Previously, the depot museum was closed on Monday and open on Wednesday. But during attendance discussions with the Heritage Alliance, Conger said she learned the Chester Museum saw a significant number of visitors on Monday, so the town decided to switch the two days so visitors to the state’s oldest town can take full advantage of things to see.
Attendance from month to month varied, but on average the depot had close to 500 visitors each month.
The depot museum opened in October 2017 after the de-constructed building — originally built in 1906 after the first one burned — had sat in storage for a couple of years before being re-constructed at its current site at 110 S. Second Ave. The railroad stopped using the Chuckey Depot in the mid-1970s and the building fell into disrepair until plans were developed to move it.
The museum, which sits beside the railroad tracks alongside a bright-red, 46-year-old Southern X450 caboose, used to rest alongside the railway in Chuckey and was owned for years by the Babb family. When the depot was threatened with demolition, the Babb family worked with the town to secure a new spot, and more help came from the Heritage Alliance and the Watauga Valley Railroad Historical Society to begin the transformation from old depot to museum.
Inside, visitors can get a glimpse of the ticket windows, the station agent’s desk — fully equipped with the equipment the agent needed for his job — as well as various train artifacts and informational displays.
The red caboose outside the building is also on display for visitors to walk through and can be rented for parties.
“We’ve had really great attendance, and one of the things that has helped us is when we have events in downtown, the depot is participating in it,” Conger said.
The Depot will host a new event in December — Breakfast with Santa — and take part in other town holiday events and happenings throughout the year.
"We see how important it is to bring attention to the depot through offering things for all ages,” Conger said.