Effort to move 1914 train tower before demolition

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KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — A historic part of Michigan’s railroad history could soon be torn down.

The BO Rail Tower near Porter Street in Kalamazoo was originally built in 1888. It was reconstructed after a fire in 1914.

“There’s 44 interlocking levers within the tower,” train conductor Nate Hatton explained how it worked. “Each lever controlled a switch that directed train traffic throughout town.”

Hatton said it’s one of two similar towers in the state. A similar system is still used to control some of the tracks in Detroit.

The Michigan Department of Transportation, which owns the tower, says it is no longer needed to control the rail system — the tracks are now run remotely from Chicago.

MDOT also says the tower sits too close to the track, but officials are open to allowing a group to move it.

“Something like this is a vital piece of our history,” Hatton said. “Not just to Kalamazoo and southwest Michigan, (but also) probably to the Midwest and our country.”

Hatton would like to see the tower restored, moved to another section of track in the Kalamazoo area and turned into a park where people can come to watch the trains.

“A lot of these towers around the country have been repurposed as museums and campuses, places where the community can come together,” Hatton said.

He is working to get the community and local businesses involved in an effort to save the tower but time is running out. MDOT will schedule the tower for demolition early next year if a plan is not established to save it.

If you would like to learn how to get involved, you can visit the BO Tower Facebook page.

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