HUNTINGTON, WV (WOWK) — “It’s the beginning of the end today,” says Dennis Nibert, who worked at American Car and Foundry Company (ACF) for 47 years, and was a plant manager.

Retirees and former workers of ACF Industries—a railroad car manufacturer—gathered Tuesday as demolition begins on the 40+ acre property.

For Nibert, it’s a bittersweet moment.

“It’s a sad day for me. It’s a sad day for the city of Huntington, the state of West Virginia. We had 2,000 men working here and today we have none,” Nibert says.

However, there is an effort underway to preserve the past.

The city is teaming up with Marshall University to preserve this important piece of Huntington’s history by saving mementos like photographs, signage, and much more.

Retirees say the plan to display these artifacts for future generations is important to them.

“We need to remember that, for educational purposes. This was a railroad town,” Nibert says.

Now, the goal is to make the site’s future just as special as its past.

“We are here to honor the past but also to look forward toward the future. It’s really gonna change the landscape. It’s gonna be new jobs, it’s gonna be new commercial development, research, light manufacturing; all of those things are opportunities,” says Cathy Burns, executive director of the Huntington Municipal Development Authority.

“Taking full advantage of the highway, and the river, and the university, this is the opportunity that we’ve been waiting on, and frankly, it can’t come soon enough,” says Mayor Steve Williams of Huntington, West Virginia.

This is a prospect many are excited about.

“It’s better to make something productive about it. If they’re not going to do anything with it, it’s just an eyesore,” says Gary Adkins, who worked for ACF for around 30 years.

Burns says demolitions started a week ago, and that it’s estimated to be done by March or April of next year.