Craig The whistle of the first passenger train echoed across Craig’s little river valley on the snowy morning of Friday, Nov. 21, 1913. Excitement must have been contagious as the entire population spilled out of doors to meet that first train. A multitude of events was planned for the celebration, and school was canceled that day, and not just in Craig. Hayden also closed its school doors so that the teachers and children could ride the first train to their neighboring community.
Craig was the terminus for the long-planned Moffat Road and the Denver & Salt Lake Railway. Although there was bitter disappointment for investors who had hoped to see the line continue on to Salt Lake, the day was momentous for the small town of Craig that previously had been so isolated. The D&SL Railway and the Adams Freight Co., which served passengers and freight for the rail line, established their first offices in three boxcars, refitted to serve the community.
The boxcar depot was the center for the bustling railroad commerce in town for four years until the citizens finally prevailed upon the railroad to build a permanent structure. Construction on the $8,000 two-story brick depot began in fall 1916, and the completed building was dedicated the following March.
The Craig Depot, situated at the end of Yampa Avenue, gave passengers a sunny waiting room on the building’s east side and a large freight and receiving area at the west end. The upstairs was designed to house the stationmaster and his family and included a kitchen, living room and three other rooms. Laundry frequently was seen drying from a clothesline strung across the upper station front.
For more than 50 years, the brick depot served the community as the entry point for incoming passengers, giving visitors their first look at the end-of-the-rails, small frontier town. When passenger service was discontinued in 1968, the building lost its prestige as the front door to the community and only was used as a freight office. In 1985, Denver & Rio Grande Western closed the depot for good, and the depot sign, which hung outside on the station front, was removed and taken to Oak Creek by a D&RG employee. In October of this year, the Museum of Northwest Colorado acquired the sign, which now is displayed in the museum along with other memorabilia from the depot. The depot building still stands, though in sad disrepair, and hopes for its restoration are fading quickly, as it soon will disintegrate past the point of repair.
Thursday is the 100th anniversary of the first passenger train into Craig. While the wildly ebullient celebrations of that snowy day 100 years ago will not be re-created, the Museum of Northwest Colorado is planning a celebration and open house for the public that day. The final diorama for the railroad exhibit, depicting the Craig Depot on June 1, 1966, will be installed and ready for viewing. This will be the only chance to see areas of the museum building that usually are not open to public viewing. Come enjoy a visit to the museum and see what rooms lie behind the stage area and beyond. The museum staff will look forward to seeing you between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Thursday for the public reception. Everyone also is welcome to stay for the Chamber Mixer, which will be held from 5 to 7 p.m.
Mary Pat Dunn is the registrar of the Museum of Northwest Colorado.