Club on track to build Granby railroad museum
April 16, 2010
GRANBY – The fundraising effort to develop a regional railroad museum in Granby has left the station.
Backers of the 8,000-square-foot Moffat Road Railroad Museum have established a five-phase plan for bringing the project to fruition. At build-out, they envision a two-story museum just west of the Kaibab Park ball fields and south of the railroad tracks downtown.
Modeled after a 1920s two-stall engine house, the museum would feature interpretive displays about the Moffat Road, the name of the rail line that ran from Denver to Craig in the early 20th century, with a locomotive, caboose and other railroad cars outside. The second floor would house a 4,000-square-foot HO scale model of the Moffat Road.
“It will be one of the five largest (model railroads) in Colorado,” said Dave Naples, president of the Grand County Model Railroad Club, which is the driving force behind the museum.
The .74-acre museum site is owned by the Town of Granby, which has agreed to lease it to the club for $10 per year for 30 years, Naples said.
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“We’ve already paid our lease,” he said with a smile.
The town has agreed to pave the lot at the site as well, said Town Manager Wally Baird, but only if and when the road on the south side of the tracks through town is paved. That project is not in any current capital improvement plans and could be a long way off, he said.
The town’s commitment to the lease, however, is an indication that town officials see “quite a bit of value” in the project, he said.
“We see it as something that has the potential to really become a tourist attraction,” Baird said.
Baird said the town is in the planning stages of trying to develop a pedestrian overpass from Agate Avenue into that area, which is home to the ball fields, the park, a rest area, a foot bridge over the Fraser River and public fishing access.
“This development (the museum) is another step toward improving that whole area,” Baird said.
He said he also expects the Kaibab area to be one of the focal points in a new parks master plan the town is developing.
Fundraising for the first phase of the project has just begun, Naples said. This phase entails moving a 1905 rail car from Rhode Island to Granby.
The car was originally built for a railroad on the Chesapeake Bay owned by Otto Mears, who was instrumental in building Colorado railways and roads, and was later sold to Charles Moffat and pressed into service on the Central Vermont Railway.
The rare all-wood car, including the original wooden trucks, is identical to the rail cars used on the Moffat Road except for the markings, Naples said.
“This is the last one of its kind,” he said, and it can be transformed into a Moffat Road railcar “with very little effort.”
An anonymous donor has agreed to give the car to the railroad club if the club pays to transport it to Granby and completes its restoration. Just transporting it will cost between $30,000 and $40,000, Naples said.
Additional costs will be incurred renovating the exterior and building a 90-foot railroad bed for it to sit on, plus adding electrical service to the site. The interior is mostly refurbished, Naples said, and the car will become the initial attraction at the museum site.
All told, the club has budgeted $60,000 for this first phase of the project, which backers hope to complete quickly.
“I’d like to have the car in place by the first of July,” Naples said.
A sliding scale of premiums is being offered during fundraising for this phase, Naples said.
One donor at the $30,000 level will get naming rights to the car with the name prominently displayed on the side, he said. A $10,000 donation (or two separate $5,000 donations) will be rewarded with nameplates in the vestibules on the ends of the car, and $1,000 will earn donors brass plaques on the seats.
Smaller donations will be rewarded with premiums such as hats, mugs and the like, Naples said. All donations to the organization are tax deductible.
Once the rail car is in place and attracting visitors, work will begin on raising about $1 million to build the initial structure, Naples said. The club already has commitments for in-kind contributions of more than $150,000, he said, and is seeking volunteers and others willing to help.
Phases three through five entail finishing the interior of the building, developing an interpretive park and landscaping it, and acquiring and restoring a locomotive, caboose and other cars.
“It could be as much as $2 million,” Naples said.
In the end, what backers hope to have will not only be a tourist destination, but a model of green efficiency with solar and wind power and green building materials. It will also be an educational institution, Naples said, featuring historical artifacts in an environment tailor made to preserve them for posterity, he said.