Christina Oxley, executive director of the Craig Chamber of Commerce, said her organization is in a unique position.
“It’s not often that a Chamber of Commerce owns a historical asset,” Oxley said. “Maintaining that historical asset is kind of difficult.”
The asset is the 103-year-old Marcia Car, a train car that once belonged to David Moffat, whom Moffat County is named after.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it now sits on a short segment of rails across the street from the Chamber of Commerce, near Craig City Park.
The car, however, is in need of maintenance, Oxley said.
“It’s in really bad need of a paint job,” she said. “It’s to the point where we’re concerned about the integrity of the car, because it’s an all-wood exterior. And, with the paint peeling the way it is, it’s leaving a lot of the wood exposed.”
A renovation project for the Marcia Car, which includes painting the exterior and installing UV filters on the windows, is estimated to cost $15,950, Oxley said.
“There’s so many details,” she said. “We’ll need to repaint the lettering on the side of the car … and there’s some gold detailing on the brass outside.”
However, the Colorado Historical Society is footing most of the bill.
“We were awarded a grant for a total of $11,484,” Oxley said.
The grant was competitive.
Lyle Miller, a project consultant for the Colorado Historical Society in Denver, said the Craig Chamber’s grant application appealed to the review board for three reasons.
The first is preservation, he said.
“It’s a good preservation project,” Miller said. “It retains the historic materials of the car, the historic look, that sort of thing.”
The second is public benefit.
“It’s a very visible resource,” Miller said. “It’s right there at the park, and right there on the highway, so it’s well known by locals and travelers.”
And the third is historical importance.
“It’s a survivor,” Miller said of the car. “Plus, it’s linked to the history of the county through David Moffat.”
Like the car, Oxley said Moffat’s life story is also compelling.
He was born in 1839 in Washington, N.Y. He ran away to New York City when he was 12, got a job as a messenger boy in the banking industry, and worked his way up to become a bank president, Oxley said.
From there, Moffat moved West, entered the railroad industry, and in 1902 established the Denver, Northwestern and Pacific Railway.
Moffat’s goal was to create a rail line from Denver to Salt Lake City.
But, bankruptcy thwarted Moffat’s vision.
In his lifetime, the rail line stretched from Denver to Steamboat Springs. Two years after Moffat’s death in 1911, the line was extended to Craig, but no farther.
Oxley said Moffat’s personal train car came to Craig decades later.
“In the early 1950s, Union Pacific had the car and was looking to get rid of it,” Oxley said. “They were basically going to donate it to a community that made the best case for wanting it.”
Craig made the best case.
“We were awarded the car in 1953, we paid $1 for it,” Oxley said. “The Chamber accepted the responsibility of maintaining it, with the commitment that it be open to the community.”
The car, which is named for Moffat’s daughter, Marcia, is lavish, Oxley said.
“It’s the height of luxury,” she said. “It cost $24,568 to build a hundred years ago.”
Oxley said the Chamber of Commerce provides free tours of the Marcia Car throughout the summer.
“It amazes people,” she said. “There are so many neat features to it. The main interior is African mahogany, which is a very heavy, pricey wood.
“It also has very ornate oak inlays that took one man a year to do. It’s just so amazing.”
Oxley said the Yampa Valley Community Foundation is contributing a $500 grant toward the cause. And, she hopes the remaining $3,966 will come from private donations.
Ben McCanna can be reached at 875-1793 or firstname.lastname@example.org.