The Lake Hopatcong Foundation’s annual meeting on May 3 had a new component. President Jessica Murphy said she knew that everyone coming to the meeting would want to see the nearly completed Lake Hopatcong Train Station, so she scheduled a two-hour open house.
At first, visitors drifted in a few at a time, but soon the old station was as busy as one would expect to find on a workday morning. Some of the visitors had watched the renovation closely since the Foundation’s annual meeting in 2015, from which Murphy had created a collage of photos. The background showed peeling plaster and shabby wood. Now the walls have been re-plastered, the waiting room benches re-created, and the floor nearly re-tiled.
The first order of business discussed at the meeting was demolition. Volunteer project manager Ron Kraus reported that about 75 people showed up and filled three or four 40-yard dumpsters. “It was great to see the enthusiasm,” he said.
Foundation board chair Marty Kane showed visitors the intricate tile design on the perimeter of the waiting room floor. He had expected the possibility of a problem matching the green accent color, but not the white. “Who knew how many whites there are?” he asked rhetorically. Workers were able to take some green tiles from the ladies’ room to replace broken ones on the waiting room floor, but are still awaiting matching white tiles.
A former baggage door is now a large, sunny window overlooking the tracks, making the office area bright. Most of the windows are replacements, said Murphy, except the originals on the upper back wall of the former waiting room. The double front doors are replacements as well. The kitchenette is small, but efficient for meetings and events. The bathrooms are brand new, although several gentlemen remarked that the motion sensor lights in the men’s room leave visitors (literally) in the dark.
Kraus became the project manager almost by accident. He knew Kane and had worked with Lee Moreau, captain of Miss Lotta, at Picatinny Arsenal. When they were in need of a project manager, he volunteered.
Pointing out the replacement benches, Kraus said that contractor Bob O’Donnell went to intact stations with similar benches and took measurements to ensure that the new ones would be as authentic as possible. He did the same with the trim on the windows. The ceilings had been covered with drop ceilings, but are now the quarter sawn white oak they were meant to be, with period-looking heating grates. The heating was upgraded and lights added commensurate with the new uses.
“The stone is pretty solid,” Kraus noted. “Not much stone needed re-pointing.” The stonework in the former baggage room, now the Foundation’s office, is far less sophisticated than that in the former public areas of the station.
On Murphy’s desk is a Lego replica of the station, a Christmas present from her husband, Chris, and two older children, Arden, 8, and Nate, 6. Chris had to order Legos online to recreate aspects of the station. “Lego has replacement parts for their kits,” Murphy said. “The arch is from the Hogwarts set.” Since they could not find green roof tiles, Chris and the children painted over some white ones.
Roof tiles on the real station are reproductions made by the company that produced the originals, said Kraus. Supporters assisted by “buying” tiles for $25 each and writing something on the underside. Although most people were content to write their names, Ken Heaton wrote: “If you can read this, the building has collapsed.”
The station is not totally complete. In addition to the awaited white floor tiles, the center room – once a breezeway and soon to be a welcome center – has doors on only one end. Kraus said that another grant is needed to install doors that match the front.
Volunteers are using native plants to landscape around the building. The Foundation holds a native plant sale every year to help raise money for the station project.