Students restored a WWII Railway Boxcar for Museum Exhibit

Students in the construction technologies program at Immokalee Technical College have renovated a 97-year old railway boxcar used during WWII.

FLORIDA, USA – Students in the construction technologies program at iTech Immokalee Technical College have renovated a 97-year old railway boxcar believed to be used during WWII. The project involved replacing badly deteriorating wood components and strengthening its structural integrity. The boxcar is used as a traveling educational exhibit by the Holocaust Museum & Education Centre of Southwest Florida.

Under direction of construction technologies instructor, Dan Kroeker the students’ main task was securing the structure from the damage of humidity and water. The framing, wheels and roof are all metal, original components and remain intact. However, the students stripped down the car and worked to replace all the wood elements with specially treated timber, namely the planks in the walls, doors and floor.

The students comments highlight how their restoration efforts have produced intimate encounters with the artifact.

Working on it, looking at the exact dimensions and being in here makes you realize: Wow, this was really harsh. It’s life changing to be a part of this, to be able to remodel this, and be up close to a part of history. – Cesar Hernandez-Isidro

The project is part of a partnership between Immokalee Technical Center and the Holocaust Museum and Education Center of Southwest Florida, which commissioned the college to refurbish the significant artefact.

Owned by Jack and F.E. Nortman and the Nortman Family, the WWII-era boxcar has been on loan to the museum. Over the last 8 years it has travelled to more than 90 locations across the six counties of Southwest Florida. Those years of touring different schools has taken a toll on its condition.

Being not much bigger than a small car garage with no windows, the boxcar was manufactured in Germany in 1919. Although the museum does not know with certainty in what capacity it was used during WWII, it is known, that this type of boxcar transported millions of people from countries all across Europe to the Nazi-controlled concentration camps.

The Holocaust Museum & Education Center of Southwest Florida originated from a middle school classroom exhibit on the Holocaust, consequently the museum maintains close ties with local schools, from grades K-12 through college and university level. As an iconic artefact of the era, the boxcar has become an important avenue to help students gain a much deeper understanding of these historic events and their continuing impact on our world.

As part of their project, Mr. Kroeker and his students made a field trip to the Holocaust Museum and Education Center of Southwest Florida in Naples and met with a Holocaust survivor. Thanks to their work, the boxcar can continue its important travels, ensuring the history of the Holocaust will not be forgotten in Southwest Florida and elsewhere.

Image: Jose Reza, a senior at Immokalee High School, sands wood that will go on a boxcar belonging to the Holocaust Museum and Education Center of Southwest Florida. Photo from Naples Daily News 2016

More Information:

Dan Kroeker at Immokalee Technical College

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