September 5, 2012
The destruction of the Sparta Train Station during the early morning hours of Labor Day 2012 is a tragic loss for the Dermody family and the entire community. Built in 1881, this structure survived more than 130 years and is now lost to history.
The Sparta Train Station was a witness to arrivals and departures of people and activities through the years. During the past 25 years, the Station had seen some tough times: the abandoned offices of a defunct chemical company, a forgotten piece of a cleanup project by the Environmental Protection Agency, the graffiti and litter of modern times. It was also the hopeful relic of many local history buffs and a favorite subject of artists who captured its charm in photographs, oil paintings and watercolors.
In November of 2008, when our family purchased the site from the EPA, the Station became the centerpiece of an optimistic idea. It inspired our team to transform the property into a recreation facility adjacent to Station Park. Never again will this site be an eyesore to our country landscape, or a scar on Sparta Township as it had been for the second half of this past century. Our Sparta-based company set a goal to revitalize the entire area. We invested time, money and effort for the last four years to achieve that goal.
Before the Station suddenly burned down, the bigger “Station Rehabilitation Phase” was yet to be developed. Throughout our work, we set out to complete a perfect restoration of the station from its early days in the late 1800's.
Our team formed a non-profit company this past year. The station and the water tower were the original assets of the newly formed non-profit. We were preparing other documentation to accept donations to the project.
The first generous gift was an original 1910 Baldwin 0-4-0 steam train from the Hudson Guild Farm. With the help of Wayne McCabe, The Wilson Family, and the Nicholson Family this first donation is in the early stages of restoration. The work engine was used in the construction of the Lackawanna cut-off and we planned to bring it to the Sparta Train Station as a permanent display.
Our family and co-workers have worked considerably to stabilize the building to stabilize it for a future train museum. We installed a new roof and protected the exterior wood with a primer system. We rebuilt the rotting substructure and began to develop the plans for the interior.
We constructed handicap access, drainage and a parking lot. We installed light fixtures, fencing, and underground utilities to preserve the 1800’s character of the building. Finally we have commissioned windows that match the original windows; they are scheduled for delivery in the next few weeks.
Upon its completion, we intended to dedicate the Sparta Train Station to our father and grandfather, William E. Dermody, Jr., who brought his family to Sparta in 1954. As mayor and as a resident, he was also dedicated to this community. "Pop" was pivotal in improvements and projects like the Sparta Public Library, the Sparta Ambulance Squad building, Knoll Heights Village and the Reverend Brown School.
Discussions had never really formalized on how the museum would run day to day. Who would maintain it? Would the historical Society be able to help operate it, what role would the local railroad organizations have? Other thoughts included mixing the museum operations with a cafe or similar function to create better sustainability.
Organizations and people were eager to help; the enthusiasm and excitement poured out. Many people were eager to donate railroad items to the station such as a set of RR lamps from the Cowley family in memory of WW2 veteran, William Cowley and a large-scale live steam train from the Lockwood Family. In hindsight, it is fortunate that none of these precious items were displayed yet in the Station.
The tragic fire, which consumed the station, is unbelievable; we are truly stunned and saddened. The future was very bright for this building and things were really coming together. My father and I would like to thank all of the people who came out to offer help and condolences. Your kindness has re-affirmed our dedication to this community.
William E. Dermody III
William E. Dermody IV