Every once in awhile, we detectorists gain permission to metal detect at some pretty awesome places.
That happened to me last Friday.
I’d been reading the local paper and saw a news item that piqued my interest: a city nearby, Galion, was going to have a ceremonial ground-breaking at their abandoned rail station, the Big 4 Depot, for a new enclosed pavilion.
The wheels started turning.
Taking a chance, I emailed Galion’s Communications Director, Matt Echelberry, about the possibility of scanning the grounds at the depot; after all, once excavation would start, there’d be no telling what buried history would be lost.
Mr. Echelberry responded later that morning by calling me while I was at breakfast with some fellow retired cop pals, saying that, yes, I could metal detect the station’s historic grounds. The Big 4 Depot, so named because it serviced the old Cleveland, Chicago, Cincinnati and St. Louis route, was district headquarters for the line, housing their engineering department, trainmasters, clerks and stenographers. At the height of the depot’s activity just after World War I, thirty-two trains made daily stops at the facility; the depot also saw Presidential campaign ‘whistle-stops’ by Al Smith in 1928, Franklin Roosevelt in 1932 and both Richard Nixon and Dwight Eisenhower in 1952, drawing large crowds each time. I told Mr. Echelberry that I would notify him of any significant finds, which I would happily turn over to the city for historical display.
I couldn’t wait!
As soon as I got home after breakfast I changed into some old clothes and a heavy pullover ‘job shirt’ left over from my police days and took off for Galion. Although only a forty-minute drive, it seemed to take hours. I arrived, geared up and took a look at the place; it’s a grand, old, towering structure seemed to fill the skyline, looming large and empty. I could just imagine the bustle of activity in its heyday, with steam engines ‘chuffing’ as they patiently dropped off/picked up passengers and freight. Families probably gathered on the lawn area for lunch before seeing off a relative or friend, horse-drawn carriages and the newly-intoduced horseless vehicles waiting nearby. I love old buildings and thinking about what life was like when they were first constructed.
After the nostalgic moment passed I set to work, shouldering my Garrett AT Pro after donning gloves,my multiple-pouched vest and waist bag on which I keep my hand trowel and pin pointer. I carried my Sampson serrated-edged shovel in my left hand.
I started out in a large grassy area northeast of the main entrance, between the parking area and the street, a spot that would take the most time. Not unexpectedly, I found that the ground was packed with iron and other metallic trash, items discarded at various times through the decades. I found a fair number of modern coins close to the gravel/asphalt lot, whose numbers thinned out the further I went towards the street.
Then I made the first significant discovery.
By the intensity of the signal, which read out at between 74-78 on my machine’s digital display, I knew it was a good-sized target. I started digging and about 5 inched down I unearthed a semi-crushed bell-shaped item which had a slot in the top of it. I turned it over and noticed it had several metal vanes, spikey-looking things arranged in a circular pattern around the center of the item. Although I wasn’t sure what it was, I now think it may be the head of an old desk lamp; the vanes were for keeping the bulb housing cool.
I spent the rest of that afternoon and two more sessions at the train depot, recovering some pretty cool targets…including silver that wasn’t coinage or jewelry. To see what else I found, be sure to watch the video on YouTube!