SPRINGFIELD – They are artifacts of rail travel from the past that now have a new use.
Congressman Richard Neal unveiled two restored terminal benches on July 16 at Union Station that are on long-term loan from Grand Central Station in New York City.
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The oak benches are similar to the ones that had been at the Springfield station, but were stolen during the renovation process.
The benches measure 15-1/2 feet long by 5 feet wide and underwent an intense restoration process according to Peter Fiordalice of John Carlo Woodworking of Westfield, costing $25,000.
Neal had approached the management of Grand Central whether or not they had any vintage benches they were not using about a year and a half ago. The two benches were in storage and had not been used for years.
For Neal the restored benches symbolize the on-going effort to return to more passenger rail service. He noted here in Western Massachusetts there is now expanded north/south rail and the Commonwealth is now undertaking a study for east/west commuter rail service.
“Across the country, people are excited about rail travel again,” Neal said.
Armando Feliciano, the chair of the Springfield Redevelopment Authority said the benches are “ a symbol of what it means to have a great place like this.”
He added, “I still have hope we’ll find out own benches.”
Fiordalice said, “It was truly an honor to work on these benches.” He explained the solid oak benches were quite dirty from their stay in storage and had to be thoroughly cleansed before additional restoration work could be undertaken. The benches were stripped of their finish down to the bare wood so they could be repaired. New rosettes were made to match the originals and new bases were constructed.
“It took a lot of time,” he said. “I love history. I’m glad these old things are back where they should be.”
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