Green River Looks For Alternatives To Taking Wrecking Ball To Historic 113-Year-Old Train Depot

Green River city officials are asking for ideas on what to do with the 113-year-old historic Union Pacific train depot that doesn’t include a wrecking ball.

John Thompson

July 13, 20234 min read

Green River Depot main 7 13 23
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

GREEN RIVER — Green River, Wyoming, grew up with the Union Pacific Railroad, and its historic train station, completed in 1910, once bustled with passengers from San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Chicago and many other major cities, now sits vacant.

The city holds a lease on the old depot and is trying to figure out a path forward for the 113-year-old, 20,325-square-foot red brick structure that doesn't involve a wrecking ball.

The depot was the transportation hub for southwest Wyoming for many years. In 1983, passenger trains quit running through Green River when UP opted for a more scenic route through Colorado.

‘A Railroad Town’

"We used to get on the train in Evanston, ride to Denver, switch trains there and go to Kansas to visit my grandparents," said Stan Blake, a former Wyoming legislator and retired Union Pacific switchman.

Blake said the Green River Depot had high ceilings and long rows of benches like church pews. He spent 20 years of his career working in the depot and nearby railyard, and he believes the building should be refurbished and used for weddings and other community events.

Many other Green River residents feel the same way.

Ryan Rust, Green River city government affairs and grants manager, said a feasibility study conducted in 2012 estimated then it would cost $7.8 million for repairs and improvements, including new windows, doors, masonry repair, roof repairs, electrical, water and sewer upgrades.

In 2014, the city received $200,00 through a Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality Brownsfield Project grant that was used to remediate the building of lead paint and asbestos.

Last year, the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality concluded through an assessment that about $2 million is still needed to make the building structurally sound and keep it from degrading further, Rust said.

"Green River has long been a railroad town, and I think the very fact that it exists today is largely based on the fact that the railroad came right through town," Rust said. "The depot is a cornerstone of the community and we all recognize it as an important building but due to the cost, size and various restrictions it's been difficult to get a lot work accomplished."

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(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

In The Station

Green River started working with the Environmental Protection Agency early this year and expects to have a new technical assistance report in the near future, Rust said. That report will include community input, conceptual design and other guidance about the future of the building.

"Ultimately, we can use that report to guide the direction we choose to take," he said.

The building has wings on each end and a center section that is three stories tall and has a crow's nest that looks out over the railyard.

Blake said a good compromise may be to eliminate the wing on the building's west end, adding that the remediation work would have had to be done even if the ultimate decision is to tear the old depot down.

Blake reminisced about the nostalgia of UP passenger service across Wyoming.

"When I was a legislator, some of the older legislators told me they used to get on the train at Green River and ride across to Cheyenne," he said. "They never had to worry about I-80 being closed."

UP historical data shows the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus used to draw crowds when it stopped at Green River to water its elephants. John Wesley Powell dropped three boats in Green River in 1869 prior to his historic exploration of the Green River, Colorado River and the Grand Canyon.

Green River City will hold a meeting at the Depot at 3 p.m. July 18 to hear public comment about what to do with the historic depot.

Green River depot 7 13 23
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)
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John Thompson

Features Reporter