The West Virginia Railroad Museum is moving full steam ahead with plans to restore an old rail car, despite the Randolph County Development Authority's recent decision to withdraw support for the project.
RCDA members voted not to accept grant funding for the rail car restoration initiative from the Federal Highways Administration at its meeting last week, despite previously agreeing to act as the governmental conduit through which federal funds could be funneled to the museum.
The $68,000 rail car grant comes with a $17,000 match and would be used to acquire, transport and develop a plan for the restoration of the car, which is currently located in Pennsylvania.
Concerns over the pace at which two other grant-funded projects are moving prompted the RCDA members to change their minds about the rail car grant. The RCDA has already accepted funds on behalf of two other Railroad Museum initiatives - a $300,000 grant to restore a steam engine and another grant for a turntable.
RCDA member Mark Doak said he had reviewed the progress of those two projects and recommended the RCDA not be on board as a pass-through this time around.
"The work on the turntable has not been completed," Doak said. "And a report from an outside consultant on the steam locomotive project indicates that there's still a lot of work to be completed yet on that one."
"The status of those two project raises concerns by the Development Authority as to the timely completion of the third (grant-funded) opportunity for a passenger car," Doak added. "We're not comfortable going forward. They may have another alternative for the third grant."
RCDA executive director Robbie Morris explained to members that "not a dime of the (rail car) grant" has been spent. Morris said that despite the decision, the RCDA has been - and will continue to be - a backer of the museum.
"We have always supported the museum," he said.
Julie Elbon, president of the West Virginia Railroad Museum, said the RCDA's decision doesn't mean the rail car acquisition project will come to a halt. She is actively searching for another agency to act as a conduit for the grant.
"There are other governmental agencies that can do this," she told The InterMountain in a recent interview. "We're just going to have to find another one." Elbon said the car is a "very fancy" rail car that ran on the Royal Blue Line on the East Coast.
"It's been donated to the museum and we have to go and get it from Pennsylvania," she said.
When asked about the RCDA's concerns regarding the pace at which the museum is moving on the turntable and steam locomotive restoration projects, Elbon said, "Any time you work with grant money, things are slow moving. We're working on them."
Elbon said work on the steam locomotive project is in Phase 2 of three phases; the museum is attempting to raise $30,000 - or 10 percent -in match money for the $300,000 grant via a raffle slated for Oct. 31.
Visit www.wvrailmuseum.com for additional information.
Elbon said that no matter what ultimately happens with the rail car, the museum - a nonprofit organization that has yet to establish a physical site - is dedicated to three missions: collecting railroad memorabilia, educating the public about local railroad history and fostering economic development in the area.