Come greet Amtrak passengers for National Train Day

People gather at the Grand Junction depot, circa 1910.

Come on down to the beautiful 1906 train depot Saturday and join the Friends of the Grand Junction Depot in welcoming Amtrak passengers to Grand Junction in celebration of National Train Day.

The Friends of the Grand Junction Depot will be greeting California Zephyr passengers arriving on the eastbound train, estimated arrival 10:30 a.m., and the westbound train, estimated arrival 3:30 p.m. The grand old depot will be open so the public can get a glimpse inside while waiting for the train to arrive.

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have proclaimed May 8 as National Train Day across America. The third-annual event celebrates the driving of the “golden spike” on May 10, 1869. It was driven into the final tie at Promontory Summit, Utah, to join the Central Pacific and the Union Pacific railroads, ceremonially completing the first transcontinental railroad connecting the East and West coasts of the United States.

In November 1881, George Crawford and his Grand Junction Town Co. platted the original town site of the city. Soon after, Crawford began negotiations with the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad to sell land that would bring the railroad to Grand Junction.

On Nov. 22, 1882, the first Rio Grande locomotive steamed to a stop on the railroad property located in the southwest corner of the town plat, making the railroad one of the most important factors in the development of the town.

The Grand Junction Depot, designed by Chicago architect Henry J. Schlack, was the third railroad station built in the area. At one time it was the pride of Grand Junction, but it is starting to deteriorate from neglect.

Since the Friends of the Grand Junction Depot organization was formed two years ago, many things have been accomplished. A successful open house was held in May 2009, with more than 400 people in attendance. The Grand Junction Depot was listed in Colorado’s 2010 Most Endangered Places List, receiving statewide attention.

The group, with the assistance of the city of Grand Junction Neighborhood Services Department and the Downtown Development Authority, successfully applied for and was granted a historic structural assessment grant. The structural assessment was completed earlier this year, and it was found that the structure was basically sound, but needed significant additional rehabilitation. The “Friends” have applied for a third grant, which would help pay for a portion of the major rehabilitation.

The depot can be connected to Main Street and downtown through an improved set of street configurations, crosswalks, parking lots and streetscape improvements. Landscape architectural drawings showing how this could be accomplished have been prepared by a student at the University of Colorado.

The restoration of the Grand Junction Depot fits into a larger strategy of supporting rail as a viable means of transportation. The United States has made a considerable financial commitment to expanding the nation’s high-speed and intercity passenger trains.

Amtrak claims that developing this pipeline of national high-speed and intercity passenger rail projects will revitalize the domestic manufacturing industry and create additional jobs for Americans.

From 2000 through 2008, ridership on Amtrak has continued to increase — a trend expected to increase in 2010. Amtrak annually provides intercity passenger rail travel to more than 25 million Americans in 46 states. For many rural Americans, Amtrak is the only major intercity transportation link to the rest of the country.

Traveling and shipping by train is the best form of “green” transportation, according to Amtrak. Passenger railroads emit only 0.2 percent of the travel industry’s total greenhouse gases, and one freight train can move a ton of freight 457 miles on a gallon of fuel.

At one time our railroad station was a source of civic pride, a gateway to the Grand Junction community and a tool for economic growth that created transportation-oriented development and livable communities. It is the vision of Friends of the Grand Junction Depot to make the station the jewel it once was.

The public is encouraged to join in Saturday’s greetings. Purchase a Friends of the Grand Junction Depot membership and receive a free art print of the depot. These prints are a reproduction of Colorado artist Jim Hutton’s painting “Junction’s Jewel,” a beautifully executed watercolor painting.

Kathy Jordan is retired from The Daily Sentinel and involved in many preservation efforts, including the railroad depot and the North Seventh Street Historic Residential District.


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