John Trippy wants to bring people back in time with his latest business venture: a 19th-century saloon at the old Bryan railroad depot.
He and Jon Wheeler, his managing partner, have been putting in a lot of work at the depot lately, with the help of others including Mike Kaufman and Randy Bible.
Trippy has owned the 1867-built depot for at least five years, now.
“When I bought it, there was a hole in the roof, the floor was rotten with big holes in it,” he said. “Rain had been in it. It had been really neglected for a long, long time.”
Simply driving by the depot, located by the underpass on North Main Street, one can see some of the fruits of the labor, with a new coat of blue paint adorning the outer walls.
One section of the depot, though, will remain unpainted in what Trippy called a “postcard.”
“This is the way we found it, the paint job we had on it, it’ll be more like a postcard” he explained. “The rest of it ... We’re making it more or less what it was.”
Ultimately, Trippy and Wheeler intend to open a 19th century-style saloon called “Third Rail Saloon.”
Trippy said they want to make it seem as much like a saloon from 1867 as possible.
“It’s to take you back into time, basically,” Wheeler said. “We want you to feel like you’re walking back in time.”
Trippy said there will be no computers, either.
He recalled a bar he visited in Spain, supposedly one of the oldest in that country.
“I went in and they had a bar and there were little chalk marks — well, you order something, they write it down and rub it off and write in a new total,” Trippy said. “We want something unique like that.”
The bar is installed with old wooden kegs stored in one corner. Leading back behind the bar is a pair of swinging doors made from the old doors to the bathroom.
On the other side is a counter with a mirror installed and the keg taps have also arrived and been installed.
Taxidermic buffalo heads from Trippy’s bison preserve are hanging up, adding to the ambience.
Wheeler said in addition to alcohol there will be food “of some sort.”
“We’re still trying to figure it out,” he said. “It’ll be more casual style, obviously there will some sort of buffalo burgers because of the preserve. We have a smoker that we’ll be using outside and smoking the meats...
“We want to keep it to where it is still similar to back in the day,” Wheeler continued. “We want it to be casual enough to where it’s not stuffy. You can come in here, relax and, again, feel like you’re back in time.”
Expectations are to be open in the first part of 2021.
Inside was “packed full” of different items like three carts, one of which is on display outside.
Wheeler said they were likely original.
“All three of these carts ... have probably been here as long as the building; They’ve probably been used since the beginning,” he added. “You can see it in some of the pictures.”
The goal was to keep it as authentically 19th century as possible, restoring it but also keeping the character, Trippy said.
That has led to parts of the inside being untouched.
“I get tired of the sterile kind of restored buildings that you see,” Trippy said. “They’re all painted perfectly. You don’t feel the oil of the worn — a person has been touching a rocking chair forever, for example.”
Glass coverings over the windows outside allowed them to keep the old glass in the windows while also helping with insulation.
Inside, the old stoves that were in the building at purchase were restored with new chimneys. They will be functional and supplement a more modern air conditioning system.
“(The stoves) will be more (for) supplement,” Wheeler said. “We want to be able to put a couple logs in as opposed to have it blazing hot ... for atmosphere.”
While some people are concerned with noise due to the proximity of trains, Trippy doesn’t think it’ll be a problem.
“It’s pretty cool because you’re in here, you’re talking and the place will shake a little bit and the train will go by,” he said. “There are a lot of train enthusiasts that are really excited.”
“There’ll also be a lot of times where you can barely tell they’re out there,” he said. “Once it’s rolling by, they’re not blowing, you can have a conversation like this and you can barely tell the train is rolling by.”
There is a section in the depot that is set up as something of a museum dedicated to John Marquis, who helped preserve the building.
A desk was recently painted and old typewriters and other antiques will be on display.
Just beyond that area is a larger room that may include a pool table and that will also likely be available for meetings and small gatherings.
Wheeler said work was about 80% complete.
The rest of work could be done with relative speed, though he is waiting to see what regulations will come through with the new presidential administration and the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’d like to be open as soon as possible,” Wheeler said.