Making a huge difference in a small town

September 24, 2018

Editor's Note

This is the first installment of a series on the volunteers at the Hinckley Fire Museum. Watch next week's issue for the next profile.


What does it take to be a volunteer at the Hinckley Fire Museum? All you need is some free time, a love of the town of Hinckley and its history and a willingness to share that love with visitors to the museum. The museum is always looking for more volunteers to be "Depot Agents." Depot Agents show people around the museum, answer questions and tell stories.


Diane Ausmus has been volunteering as a Fire Museum Depot Agent for four years now. She grew up just outside of Sandstone and is married to former City Administrator Jim Ausmus, who also volunteers at the museum. Diane worked as an office manager for the Sandstone Dental Office for many years. She is now retired and keeps busy by volunteering at the museum but also is active in her church and other various community activities.


Diane began volunteering with the encouragement of Colleen Volden, a long time museum board member and volunteer. Now, she spends at least one day a week near the front door of the museum where she meets and greets people from all over the world who come to the museum to learn about the Hinckley Fire. 


Diane encourages others to come and explore the volunteer opportunities the museum has to offer. "Everyone who lives in a small town has a responsibility to help out. A few hours a week at the Fire Museum is a great way to fulfill that obligation."


One of Diane's favorite pieces of trivia surrounding the Hinckley Fire involves the Train Bridge in Sandstone. On September 1, 1894 the bridge was on fire as two trains, linked together and carrying over 600 survivors, crossed over. Just after the train crossed, the bridge collapsed. James J. Hill, owner of the railroad at the time, ordered the bridge to be rebuilt as soon as possible. Three hundred men worked 24 hours a day to rebuild it. Fifteen days after the fire destroyed the area, the first train crossed the new bridge. The bridge is the highest over the Kettle river, over 800 feet above the water.


Diane told us visitors are surprised at how well put together the museum is. "That's because of the people who have come before us," she said. "They put a lot of work into it to make it what it is today."


If looking for a way to fill some free time, consider volunteering at the Hinckley Fire Museum. "It takes a village to keep something as amazing as this open in a small town," said one visitor. A gentleman visiting from Missouri exclaimed, "This is something Hinckley should be proud of; a lot of work has gone into this building. Kudos on a job well done."


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