About The Denver & Rio Grande Railroad Passenger Depot
Grand Junction, Colorado, USA
Grand Junction was established in 1881 and just one year later the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad Company rolled the first steam locomotive into town. Pulling up to a modest wooden station, the region's largest railroad company now connected this bustling town of 3,500 residents to it's network of 1,800 miles of narrow gauge track. The D & RG bought much of the town stock and was the town's largest employer. The region's tourism and commerce exploded and doubled the population rapidly. A new station was commissioned by the railroad to meet the needs of the growing valley.
This union station was designed by famed architect Henry J. Schlack and officially opened on September 18th, 1906. Built for a cost of $60,000 by the William Simpson Construction Company, it was considered the finest railroad building west of the Rockies. Tragically, its grand opening day coincided with the devastating San Francisco earthquake and the station's first arrivals were refugees fleeing that area. The depot's massive waiting room served as temporary housing and makeshift aid station for the injured.
As was commonplace in the railroad business, either a bankruptcy or merger was always looming. In 1921 the D & RG survived a bankruptcy and emerged as the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad Company. After another bankruptcy in the 1930's and a merger in the 1940's, the D & RGW launched the California Zephyr in 1949 as a long distance tourist route. This route connected Chicago to Oakland and was actually a partnership of 3 railroad companies. In the beginning, this route was operated by the Chicago Burlington & Quincy Railroad from Chicago to Denver, the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad from Denver to Salt Lake City and the Western Pacific from Salt Lake to Oakland. The stretch of track between Denver and Grand Junction has since become known as the most scenic line in the United States. By 1956, the last steam engine was retired and the world famous fleet of glass domed passenger cars was exclusively diesel powered. After another bankruptcy and and another merger, the D & RGW was now the Rio Grande Railroad. In 1970, the California Zephyr lost its operating partners and the Rio Grande ran the shortened line as the Rio Grande Zephyr from Denver to Salt Lake City. In 1983, the Rio Grande passenger line joined the Amtrak network and the California Zephyr again connected Chicago to the Bay Area. Ultimately, the Rio Grande Railroad Company was acquired and folded into the Union Pacific brand we know today.
After 85 years of continuous service as a passenger and freight depot, the Grand Junction Union Depot had fallen into disrepair. In 1991, Amtrak vacated the grand depot and moved next door to a nondescript building where Amtrak continues operating the California Zephyr Line, with 2 train arrivals daily, 365 days/year. GJ Union Depot was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1992, https://catalog.archives.gov/id/84127162 and was recognized as one of Colorado's Most Endangered Places in 2010 by Colorado Preservation, Inc. In 2016, the station was purchased by real estate developer and Grand Junction native, Veronica Sanchez and her husband Dustin Anzures. An adaptive re-use project is currently in design and seeking tenants.