Craig Depot preservation project hoping to pick up steam | CraigDailyPress.com

Craig Depot preservation project hoping to pick up steam

Organizers aim to relocate 98-year-old building within 12 to 18 months

As it comes closer and closer to celebrating its centennial, one historic building in Craig hasn't yet come to its final stop.

The preservation efforts for the Craig Train Depot continue to chug along little by little, and while renovating the building at its current location is unlikely, another solution may be possible — pick it up and move it elsewhere.

Jim Jordan, president of Rocky Mountain Railroad Heritage Society, sees this as a viable way to keep the depot alive, though it certainly won't be an easy one if the initial preparation has been any indication.

For months, Jordan, of Englewood, has been working toward the possibility of relocating the building, one of 13 projects RMRHS has going in the region. Ideally, the depot could be fixed up and remain in the spot where it first opened in 1917, south of Yampa Avenue, but those operating the train tracks that are still in use there see the crumbling edifice as a tax burden and a lawsuit waiting to happen.

Recent correspondence from Union Pacific — which owns the site where the depot sits — indicated the railroad company would hold off on demolition for at least another 12 to 18 months, Jordan said.

"In my opinion, they could sell it to us for a dollar, and we could assume liability," he said.

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In that time, arranging for the transport of the structure will depend on funding from any number of sources, and Jordan has sought out numerous grants for the project. Professionals estimate the move would be possible without further damaging the building, but the costs involved could reach about $450,000, which is still negotiable, Jordan said.

However, that's only half the effort.

A new site would be needed with a reliable foundation before the building could be moved. The goal is to keep the building as close in proximity to its home, hopefully moving only a couple blocks north on Yampa.

"I get into the argument all the time whether the land or the building is more important," Jordan said. "It's like Appomattox Courthouse. Which is more important: where Lee surrendered to Grant in the building or the land where it sat?"

From there, the work of refurbishing the building would begin, free of a deadline but equally dependent on funding. The additional amount needed by Jordan's ballpark figure of as much as $500,000 could put the total cost at just under $1 million.

The other question — what should the depot become?

Since it will no longer be of any use to train passengers, the answer seems obvious to Jordan that it should be refitted as a museum or a similar construct paying tribute to the historical significance.

"We'd like to see it become a rail heritage center," he said. "You could put together a train model of how the line from Craig to Hayden used to be or something like that. You could charge admission and have a gift shop and tell the story of railroading in Craig."

One thing he would prefer it didn't become is a restaurant, which is something that other towns have done with their old depots, often shifting the interior drastically.

"By turning them into other things, they really hurt the building (with remodeling)," he said.

Jordan's alternate idea is to find a well-preserved train car that could sit adjacent to the property and serve as a place for patrons to eat, possibly starting a park on the lot.

On that train of thought, another idea that's come up has been to move the depot near Craig City Park to be situated by the Marcia Car, a possibility that would cost still more money when the funding is nowhere near finalized.

Jim Ferree, Craig's city manager, said he supports the idea of relocation, though the roadblock continues to be one of cash.

"That's always the issue, is where's the money coming from," Ferree said. "It'll be a difficult move and a very expensive move. Everybody's in support of it, but nobody knows how to do it because of the money."

A meeting to save the downtown railroad station in Grand Junction is scheduled to take place Thursday in Grand Junction. Jordan said he invites people from around the state to attend in order to get ideas on their individual projects.

Though it might take some momentum to get it started, Jordan believes the final goal could turn something that hasn't been financially beneficial for decades into something treasured. He pointed to the success of the Greeley Freight Station Museum, begun in 2009, as an example of how the public's interest in trains is far from gone and how a labor of love can become a self-sustaining tourist attraction, in the case of the Craig Depot, possibly just in time for its 100th birthday.

The mission of RMRHS is to help communities preserve something of the past and hold onto it but also keep it entirely part of the local culture, Jordan said.

"Our purpose isn't to make money, it's just to save these structures," he said.

Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com.

If you go

Rocky Mountain Railroad Heritage Society meeting

1 to 4 p.m., Thursday

Whitman School, Fourth Street and Ute Avenue, Grand Junction

— The meeting is open to people from around the state hoping to come up with ideas on preserving historic train buildings. For more information on how to aid in the preservation of Craig Train Depot, call 970-826-2023 or 303-269-9768.

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