The Lutz Depot, by design

Those wishing to escape the oppressive heat during the Fourth of July festivities in Lutz may have decided to check out a train show inside the Lutz Branch Library.

If I they did, they could have seen an exhibit presented by the Suncoast American Flyer Enthusiasts.

Eugene Vrooman, left, explains differences in the type of gauge size trains running on the tracks at the Lutz Public Library. (Fred Bellet)

And, perhaps they would have had a chance to chat with Eugene Vrooman, one of the club’s members.

If they did, Vrooman may have pointed out a wall display, showing the plans that were used to build the Lutz Depot building, across the street from the library.

Vrooman is quite familiar with the plans. He’s the one who drew them.

“We’ve done this (train) show for 17 years in a row,” Vrooman said, noting the Lutz Depot building was dedicated to the community’s residents in 2000.

He recounted how he got involved with the depot project.

“My brother-in-law came down from Lake Park, at Dale Mabry and Van Dyke, and he said that he went to that craft show, and there were some people who were planning to reestablish a train building,” Vrooman said.

So, the Lutz man, who is a draftsman, volunteered to draw up the plans.

He used a photo from “Citrus, Sawmills, Critters & Crackers,” by Elizabeth Riegler MacManus and Susan A. MacManus, to provide the building’s dimensions.

“I got the book and Xeroxed the pictures,” Vrooman said.

“I worked on it for about three months,” he added. It was a fun, but time-consuming project.

He isn’t an architect, so he needed one to review and sign off on the plans. That’s where Randy Stribling came in.

“He had to be happy with how the building was, appearance and structural,” Vrooman said.

The draftsman said he knew that the building had to be built to withstand hurricane winds, but he didn’t want it to be ugly.

Eugene Vrooman, a draftsman by trade, drew the drawings for this building, which was erected in 2000. He based the dimensions on a photo that was published in ‘Citrus, Sawmills, Critters & Crackers,’ by Elizabeth Riegler MacManus and Susan A. MacManus. (B.C. Manion)

“The intent was to make it look like the original building,” he said.

He found a creative way to fortify the structure.

“I came up with this idea of taking steel plates and putting them in the wood columns and beams, hiding them and putting the bolts through that would hold them all together,” he said.

He is completely confident it will withstand high winds.

“It’s going to be there. It has the strength of eternity,” Vrooman said.

And, despite nearly two decades since the project’s completion, Vrooman still feels a surge of satisfaction when he passes by the Lutz Depot.

The project is a testimony to community involvement, he noted.

“All of this material was paid for by donations, or donated by material suppliers,” he said, and volunteers completed the actual construction.

“The intention was to dedicate the building to the citizens of Lutz on July 4, 2000.

“So, July 3, 2000, it hadn’t received its certificate of occupancy.

“The reason it hadn’t received its certificate of occupancy was because the building inspector rejected the certificate, based on this little handrail.

“The inspector said the handrail wasn’t the right height,” he said.

That correction was made and the certificate of occupancy was issued on the afternoon of July 3, he said.

That allowed the dignitaries to come to the building and stand on the deck during the Fourth of July, and to dedicate the depot to the citizens of Lutz.

“It was nip and tuck,” Vrooman recalled.

For Vrooman, the depot building is not only a community fixture, but a reminder of the role he played in helping it to become a reality.

“It’s part of who I am,” the draftsman said. “I have a plaque on the side of the building with my name on it.”

Published July 26, 2017

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