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Depot accessibility project complete

By Staff | May 13, 2016

A federally-funded accessibility project at the Rugby Amtrak station is finally completed.

The Rugby project, which began in May 2015, puts the station in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The estimated cost of the project is over $500,000.

Many Amtrak stations around the nation have been sites of such projects to make stations more accessible to passengers with disabilities. The work at the Rugby station was one of the first to be done in North Dakota.

Both restrooms were completed gutted to the bare walls and floors to accommodate the necessary changes. The rooms now have new toilets, sinks, changing tables and mirrors. The walls and ceilings of the rooms were re-done in ceramic tile to match the original tiles that were removed. The heating pipes in these rooms are now covered with metal housing to give a finished appearance. The wood work and doors are custom-made birch to match the original material.

New water fountains were installed at two different levels to accommodate a wheelchair or standing positions, however the original porcelain fountain remains as a static display. A large clock was installed at a lower height, as well as a telephone at wheelchair level. Many signs in both Braille and English letters were installed around the building indicating various necessary locations. Other modifications were made to accommodate various handicapped needs.

On the exterior of the building, the original tile brick platform was nearly all removed, replaced and leveled. Two large ramps were constructed, and railings to both of the doors on the north side of the building were installed. Other ramps were made along the south edge of the parking lot and on the east end of the building to accommodate wheelchair mobility. The handicapped parking spaces were also renewed with paint and necessary ramp work. In addition, several station signs were stalled along the north edge of the platform to be viewed at all levels of the passengers on the train cars.

The waiting room features the original oak benches that have served since construction. A rack holds travel and tourist information for both the railroad and the region of North Dakota. Another rack holds books provided by the Heart of America Library for travelers to read while waiting or to take with them on the train. The original wooden telephone booth still provides a telephone for local calls. The room is decorated with modern Amtrak posters of the long distance routes of the system and historical photographs of the station. In the past years, the Rugby Lions Club has painted the interior walls and other necessary work in the station, in addition to decorating at Christmastime. Also in the waiting room are two show cases with historical railroad items provided by Dale Niewoehner and the estate of former agent Myron Shelton.

Restoring and painting the building’s soffits is still on the list to be done this year. The lights under the soffits have already been replaced.

Beginning June 1, the station will no longer be staffed with a ticket agent. Duane Veach, who has served in this capacity for nearly 20 years, will be joining the staff at the Minot Amtrak station. The Rugby station will be opened and closed by a caretaker about an hour before the scheduled arrival of the Amtrak Empire Builder, both in the morning and evening.

On May 27, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Niewoehner and Veach will host a Customer Appreciation Open House at the Rugby station. Area residents will have opportunities to see all the changes at the station; visit with and thank Veach for his service; and win a drawing for a trip voucher at the conclusion of the event. There will be free hot dogs and drinks served during this time.

The Rugby station was built in 1907 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. All changes for the building were approved by the North Dakota Historical Society, who oversees listed places.

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