Historical Craig and its contemporary counterpart are quite distinct. Most historical structures in town have been torn down and replaced with newer infrastructure.
Only a few old buildings still stand, including the armory, the Museum of Northwest Colorado and the School Administration building, museum director Dan Davidson said. One building under threat of decrepitude is the Craig train depot, a structure that has been standing since 1917 but might not have any funds to keep it alive.
The depot was a proud addition to Craig four years after the railroad arrived into town. It cost $8,000 to put up, according to an article in a 1917 edition of the Craig Daily Press.
“From the time the railroad got here in (1913), they had just used boxcars. The town didn’t think it was appropriate that there wasn’t a depot,” Davidson said.
The opening of the building where people could buy tickets, load freight and greet their incoming loved ones was cause for celebration.
“The depot was crowded to the doors and part of the ceilings with happy dancers and one of the most delightful times of the winter-spring season was had,” the article stated.
The depot closed in 1985 with much less fanfare. Since then, it has been boarded up, locked tight and vandalized. The building is crumbling around the edges. One of the front pillars is reduced to a heap of bricks, and a corner is falling apart in chunks, leaving a large hole open to the elements.
It still remains structurally sound, but not for long, Davidson said.
“Those are major issues to overcome,” Davidson said. “The (Union Pacific) guys told me all it would take is a phone call (and Union Pacific would tear it down.) It’s nothing but a liability for the railroad.”
So far, Union Pacific has been patient with those who want to find a way to preserve the historical building, Davidson said.
“They could have gotten rid of it years ago,” he said.
The group now advocating for the building’s preservation is the Rocky Mountain Railroad Heritage Society, headed up by President Jim Jordan.
Jordan was inspired to start the organization in June 2013 when the train depot in his own town of Englewood was torn down. The demolition was devastating to Jordan, so he became determined to find a way to save other depots in threat of demolition. Craig Depot is the top on his list.
“It’s listed as one of the 10 most endangered buildings in Colorado,” he said.
Jordan, along with a group of historical experts, started working with Craig City Manager Jim Ferree and Davidson to find a way to preserve the depot. They either would have to move the tracks around the building, or move the building itself. Union Pacific is unlikely to consent to move its tracks, but moving it is an expensive endeavor, Jordan said.
With help from a company that focuses on moving historical buildings, Mammoth Moving and Rigging, transporting the depot would cost at least $250,000 and possibly as much as $450,000. That cost doesn’t include the restoration or maintenance and operation.
“We gave a base price of $250,000, but that basically wouldn’t even cover our cost at this point,” Mammoth Moving and Rigging owner Bill Davis said.
Even so, Davis wants to provide an affordable option to the Rocky Mountain Railroad Heritage Society because the depot is a valuable artifact and is worth keeping around, he said.
Davidson admitted he wasn’t optimistic about the prospects. While he wanted to help keep the depot, it would be hard to find funding.
His hope “is tempered with not seeing where the pocket is to find" funding, he said.
Ferree shared the enthusiasm. But the city just doesn’t have the budget to help with money.
“We would like to see it saved but we don’t have the resources to dedicate to it at this time,” he said. “We could apply to the Department of Transportation (for a grant), possibly the Department of Local Affairs, although our grants with DOLA are pretty much spoken for, for the next several years with Shadow Mountain. We don’t have any money for a project of that magnitude.”
Jordan remains positive. If he finds initial funding for the move, it would be easier to find grant monies to get the depot back into good shape, he said.
To inspire public interest, Jordan is making Craig the focus of the first Rocky Mountain Railroad Heritage Society Symposium on April 12 and 13 in Englewood. The grand prize for symposium participants will be a two-day trip to Craig.
The depot is worth saving, not just for its historical relevance to Colorado, but to Craig, Jordan said.
Craig “is probably one of the best cities in the Western Slope,” he said. “It’s Colorado’s forgotten county. We need to bring people’s attention that Moffat County and Craig are great communities with great people.”
Contact Erin Fenner at 970-875-1794 or efenner@CraigDailyPress.com.