Cochran family gives mini depot to Geneseo Historical Museum

Lisa Depies
The family of the late Carl Cochran recently donated a scale model replica of the Geneseo train depot, along with other train memorabilia, to the 
Geneseo Historical museum. The miniature depot was crafted by Cochran in 2013.

In 2013, Carl Cochran spent hours researching and meticulously re-creating a miniature version of the Geneseo train depot.

Carl died in 2015, but his family members decided to share his work with the public by donating the handmade train depot to the Geneseo Historical Museum.

On Friday, Sept. 30, Carl’s wife, Arlene, and members of the Cochran family gathered to formally present the depot and other railroad artifacts to the museum.

Museum curator Angie Snook called the gift, “such a nice surprise.”

A builder by trade, Cochran fell in love with trains in 1980.

“He didn’t have too many toys when he was a child, but in 1980, my daughter and I went to Germany and I brought him back a train for Christmas,” said Arlene. “From there, he went all out.”

The Cochrans’ basement became a train lover’s dream, with an entire miniature world spread out across the room.

One of the focal points of the display was Carl’s recreation of the Geneseo train depot.

The depot, located on First Street, was built in 1899. After passenger trains ceased service to Geneseo, the depot was converted into office and business space.

Carl decided to build his depot to reflect the heyday of passenger train travel.

“I purchased the doors and windows (for the model), but the rest I cut myself,” said Carl in a 2013 Geneseo Republic interview.

The model depots roof shingles have been wood burnt by Carl to look like individual shingles.

Built to G-scale size, the depot features electric lights and a removeable roof.

Carl purchased miniature furniture – including a desk and three pot-bellied stoves — to help complete the depot tableau.

During the depot’s heyday, the building would have included separate waiting rooms for men and women as well as an office and a freight storage area.

“The hardest part of building the model was trying to figure out what color to paint it,” said Carl in 2013. “I was told depots were always white, but I lived near the depot in the late 1940s and I can only remember it being red.”

Ultimately, Carl opted to paint the depot red — the same color scheme currently featured on the building.

“He put a lot of research into the project. He wanted to get things just right,” said Arlene. “It means a lot to me to see what he was able to accomplish.”

The scale-model depot will be the centerpiece of the museum’s train exhibit. The exhibit will be displayed in the museum’s Carriage House and will include depot blueprints, photos and Rock Island Railroad memorabilia.

In addition to the miniature depot, the Cochran family also donated an old Geneseo railroad sign to the museum.

Snook said the level of detail included in the depot will appeal to visitors.

“Miniatures just make people curious. There’s something about seeing the little people and furniture that brings out the child in all of us,” she said.

By peering through the windows of Carl’s depot, visitors can catch a glimpse of railroad history.

“When you look inside, it’s just like seeing the depot when it was first built,” said Snook. “The work is beautifully done.”

The entire piece can be electrically lighted, and Carl often would use a train transformer to “turn on the lights” of his depot.

“I hope people enjoy seeing the work he put into the depot,” said Arlene.