Developers transforming train ‘junkyard’ into ‘railroad suites’
By John Hales
Oct. 6, 2017
MT. PLEASANT—People traveling through the south end of Mt. Pleasant will notice a collection of train cars just off Main Street west of the city park.
The rusty, graffiti-covered boxcars admittedly look out of place and, many would say, unsightly.
“What are you doing putting a junkyard down there?” people are asking, says former Mt. Pleasant City Councilman Monte Bona, who still works with development-related activities as the executive director of the Mt. Pleasant Community Development and Renewal Agency.
“The complaint is we’re bringing in a bunch of junk cars,” Bona says. But “they’re judging it too quickly.”
Wait a year, Bona would say. By then, the boxcars will be transformed and will be in use as motel suites.
The plan began to take more shape last weekend as several of the 37-ton boxcars were lifted into place by a crane along a segment of railroad track that had been installed earlier as their new home.
With the cars in place, work will begin to spruce them up. In order to avoid concerns over putting toxic lead-paint particles in the air, sandblasting will not be used to clean the exteriors as had been planned. Instead, they will be power-washed, rust spots will be repaired and the cars will be finished with primer and paint, Bona said.
Developer George Jones purchased the cars for about $6,000 apiece from Union Pacific Railroad. Jones’ business partner, David Grow, says it will take another $30,000 each to remodel them for use as “railroad suites,” rooms accommodating up to six people.
Right now, “they look cruddy,” Jones says, “but when we get done with them, they look good. You won’t even recognize ‘em.”
As proof, Jones and Grow point to a similar project they’ve worked on for several years. They also developed Track 89, a railcar motel near Big Rock Candy Mountain in Marysvale Canyon south of Richfield.
The Mt. Pleasant site will be called Track 89 North.
The project is a public-private partnership, Bona said.
Its location makes sense: adjacent to what is known as the old railroad depot, which features a historic caboose and historic station that has been repurposed as an information center and merchant shop.
The city contributed several thousands of dollars to the recent renovation of the depot station, which opened last June as Heartfelt Hobby and Craft. The store will be the registration and check-in facility for Track 89 North during the day. After-hours registration, as well as housecleaning service, will be provided through an arrangement with Horseshoe Mountain Lodge across the street.
After the railroad suites open, the depot will continue to house the information center, along with selling crafting and scrapbook wares, fabrics, quilts and quilting supplies
Bona says the city is getting a lot in return for its help with the development.
Developers Jones and Grow, Bona said, are going to convert the unused tennis courts at the city park into a pickleball court. They are going to install a frisbee-golf course, and the park’s horseshoe pits will get a free upgrade, courtesy of the business partners.
Fencing will separate the boxcars from the city park baseball field.
Jones is longtime railroad man. His grandfather worked for Rio Grande for 42 years; his father, for 43. He himself was associated with railroading for 44 years, and two of his sons now work for the railroad.
Jones said he got the idea for the railroad suites after seeing something similar in California. He said such “motels” are found all across the country.
“We’re shooting to get these done by springtime,” Jones said. “The ones that do good are the ones where you take the time to do them nice.”