October 22, 2021

Barn, caboose get needed makeovers

For being 125 years old, it still doesn’t look like it.

Improvements made to the barn is just one of the projects at the Union County Historical Village at McKinley Park in Creston.

This summer, roof and siding work on the barn was complete.

“The barn had a bad roof in 2018,” said historical village board member Steve Francis, who also donates his own time to needs at the village.

After assessing the needs for the barn, the board applied for a Iowa Barn Foundation grant and received $10,000. That was applied to the total cost of the renovation at about $16,000. Founded in 1997, the Iowa Barn Foundation preserves the state’s rural buildings which show Iowa’s agricultural heritage. The Iowa Barn Foundation is an Iowa non-profit corporation with tax-exempt status.

Francis said the barn’s roof was bad in spots. According to its information, The Iowa Barn Foundation has awarded more than 119 matching grants, with a total of over $1 million to barn owners. The grants may prevent a barn from being destroyed.

A roof was needed.

“That way, the squirrels and birds would get in. We knew we had to do something,” he said.

What makes the barn unique is its exterior siding is horizontal, not vertical. Francis said after some looking around and phone calls, a garage with a comparable exterior was acquired. The boards from that garage were transferred to the barn. Additional lumber was purchased for the barn restoration.

The barn goes back to 1896 from a farm northeast of Afton.

The barn is not the only feature at the village that is getting restored. Work continues on the train caboose. The train car has been at the site since 1970. Francis said the work on the caboose is a bit more complex than what was done to the barn. The goal is to restore the caboose to something close to its original appearance in 1914.

“Over the years, the inside has been refurbished,” Francis said since the caboose arrived.

Work on the caboose started in 2019 with the assistance of man in Washington state who has experience with restoring such items. Francis said the pandemic in 2020 slowed down the progress of the work, but efforts have recently increased.

Francis hopes the exterior work on the sides of the car will be completed before winter. That will only leave the ends of the caboose and the cupola to be restored. If the exterior is finished this fall, depending upon winter weather, Francis said interior work could develop during the winter. His goal is to finish the interior in a way it shows what the caboose would have originally looked like with a blend of historical accessories. like tools, and information.

To make the exterior last longer, Francis said research suggested using cypress wood. Cypress does better with water and rotting than other varieties of lumber. The cypress for the caboose is from Louisiana.

Francis said the board received a grant of $5,000 from the BNSF Foundation to help pay for the work.

John Van Nostrand


An Iowa native, John's newspaper career has mostly been in small-town weeklies from the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi River. He first stint in Creston was from 2002 to 2005.