History of the Great Western Depots
Remember the small white, wooden buildings sitting vacant on Monroe Avenue and 10th Street? Many people are aware that Loveland’s Great Western depots are in danger of being lost. Some non-concerted efforts have been made to save the depots over the years since they were closed up in the mid-1980s. The Loveland Historical Society got serious about the buildings’ plight five years ago.
The Great Western passenger depot was built by the Great Western Railway in 1902, the year after the sugar factory opened. The factory was the first Great Western Co. sugar plant in Northern Colorado, although three other sugar processing plants had previously been built in the state. The sugar factory drove our economy for eight decades and grew
Loveland’s population by 300% the first decade of operation! It was a major contributor to the area’s economic success and remains a very important piece of our history and heritage. All the next generations in Loveland deserve a chance to know and appreciate the Great Western legacy.
The Great Western Railway’s main purpose was to transport beets from outlying farmers’ beet dumps, as well as refined sugar, molasses, coal and lime rock, but it also operated passenger service from 1917 - 1926. Before and after passenger service years, it was used as the railroad agent’s central office. In the 1980s GWRy offered popular rail excursions, and school classes rode cabooses for years, but the railroad never got back on its feet. The passenger depot was closed in the mid-1980s. The little freight depot to the east was built in 1942.
OmniTRAX, Inc. owns the railway system now. In 2012 LHS was negotiating a lease, which would have left the depots on railroad land, and was planning to fundraise and seek grants for restoration as probably a Great Western museum. At that point, OmniTRAX decided the buildings had to go due to their new plan to bring oil tanker trucks onto the property from Monroe Ave. The buildings were in the way, and the railroad gave LHS 30 days to move ‘em or lose ‘em. Our volunteer who was working to save the depots hustled to find someone to take them, thinking that saved but gone is better than demolished. LHS reluctantly agreed, and the depots were happily claimed by the Moffat Railroad Museum in Granby, who also planned to fundraise and take the buildings apart to move them over the mountain.
But after four years of expecting them to be frisked away every day, LHS has formed a
committee that has redoubled efforts to save the depots in Loveland where they belong. OmniTRAX will give the buildings to anyone who will get them off railroad property. The contract between OmniTRAX and the Moffat Railroad Museum still has not been signed, making them fair game. We don’t want to lose that part of our history. We need Loveland’s help!
The Loveland Historic Preservation Commission and a new county-wide preservation non-profit, Historic Larimer County, are supportive of the efforts to save the depots, offering invaluable knowledge and expertise. The depots were a finalist to the 2018 Colorado’s Most Endangered Places list, run by Colorado Preservation, Inc. in Denver. We will need to fundraise approximately $86,000 to cover assessments, abatement of hazardous materials, the cost of moving the buildings, and a new foundation. Then we will seek various restoration grants. The buildings are eligible for listing on the State and Local Historic Registers, but only if they are kept in their historic context near the sugar factory. Without a historic registration, grants would not be available.
We have approached the City about moving the buildings just south to leased City land. Once saved, restoration will have to be accomplished in phases, as with the Milner-Schwarz House. Plans for reuse could include a GW museum, model railroad, coffee shop or some other income-producing retail enterprise, or all the above! We have begun taking donations and in-kind support. Look for “Save Loveland’s Great Western Depots!” on Facebook. To donate online, click HERE. To donate by mail, send to: Save the GW Depots! PO Box 7311, Loveland, CO 80537.
You can help by contacting your City Council person and asking he or she to please save Loveland’s Great Western Depots!
Call Today: 970-290-0169.