GRANBY — The Moffat Road Railroad group is looking to add another artifact from Colorado’s colorful rail history this summer, which will also house a long-coveted rail museum.
The historic Great Western Depot in Loveland seemed doomed for demolition until Pam Sheeler, an avid railroad history buff in Loveland, connected with Dave Naples, president of the Moffat Road Railroad Museum board in Granby. The local railroad group has undertaken an ambitious effort to partially dismantle the old depot, truck it west and reassemble it in Granby to house a railroad museum. They’re now looking for donations to help pull together the remaining funds to get the museum’s doors open.
“The building was slated to be demolished, which is why we got involved,” Naples said. “We didn’t want to see a historic railroad building just go away, and I need a railroad building.”
Constructed in 1901 during Loveland’s sugar beet boom, the depot had fallen into disuse by 2005. With the Front Range’s new fracking boom, the structure railroad officials sent word the structure would be razed to make room for oil tankers. Its only hope was relocation.
Sheeler had tried for many years to both save the building and keep it in Loveland.
“We realized we had no money to do that, and the city didn’t want to give us land (to move it),” she said.
Sheeler began looking for historical societies, museums and other rail organizations that might want to front the money to move and preserve the depot. Through the rail buff grapevine, she learned Naples was looking for a building to house a museum.
“The town (of Granby) like the idea, Dave liked the building, and now that’s where we are,” Sheeler said. ““It’s not the perfect answer, but it’s an answer to keep it from being totally destroyed.”
To keep costs down, Naples plans on partially dismantling the building then reconstructing it on a permanent foundation in Granby. Through a $5,000 grant from the town of Granby, around $6,000 of donated in-kind services and plenty of volunteer labor, Naples said he’s just about covered the cost of relocating the structure. The real financial hit will come when the Moffat Road Railroad group works to establish the depot at its new home.
“When it gets here, then we have monetary issues with the cost of the cement slab, utilities, rebuilding, a new roof and getting it open for the public,” Naples said.
Naples expects those costs to be in the range of $120,000, but said it’s still a good deal for the community.
“I can’t build that building for $120,000,” he said. “It has all the correct architectural structure of a 1900 depot, and you can’t do that cheaply anymore.”
According to Sheeler, the depot will retain its Loveland heritage even after it makes its 150-mile journey west. She hopes residents from her city will make the trip to visit the museum and enjoy a sliver of Loveland’s past.
“I think in 10 years, the city will regret letting it go,” she said. “It’s such an important part of our founding.”
Once Naples gets an official certificate of occupancy, the depot will be used as a visitors’ center, a gift shop and space for a few small displays as well as an office and administrative headquarters. He also wants to build a two-story structure to house historical train artifacts and a model railroad. He wants to use the old Loveland freight house, which will come along with the depot, as an interpretive center with rail tools and equipment. He’d also like to make the depot available for as rental space for community events.
“We want it to be a very open, friendly room for people to use for other things besides the museum,” he said.
Naples said he’s looking for volunteer hours, cash donations or in-kind donations, like labor and equipment, to get the museum up and running once the depot is finally moved by late July or August. Those interested in helping can contact Naples at 70-281-9094 or through the Moffat Road Railroad Museum website at http://www.moffatroadrailroadmuseum.org/.
Leia Larsen can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603.