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Former train depot owner reflects upon iconic building’s history

December 31, 2013 by

It was sturdily built more than 100 years ago.  It’s a local historic icon. It’s the only structure of its kind for 50 miles in any direction.  It has watched seven generations come and go.

This one-of-a-kind, bricked faced, two-story architectural edifice is a classic example of railroading in its heyday, and every volunteer who operates on the Colorado Model Railroad Museum’s Oregon, California, and Eastern Railway is at least aware of it, even though they have most probably never set eyes on it.

Yes, Virginia, the Lakeview depot is, indeed, for sale.  And you can snap it up for the asking price of $189,000.

The depot originally marked the northern end of the Nevada, California and Oregon narrow gauge railway that ran all the way from Reno, Nev.(somewhere) to Lakeview (nowhere), making it, at one point in railroading history, the longest narrow gauge railroad in America.

Built more than 100 years ago, this depot was just about the top of its line in its day.

Two full stories of solid brick the exterior featured a sweeping sign on the trackside that spelled out ‘Lakeview’ in thousands of one-inch tiles.

On the opposite site facing the town to the east was an equal rendering that spelled out ‘NC&O Railway.’

When the Southern Pacific took over the line in 1927, the railroad performed two acts that brought down the wrath of locals and set the tone of railroad/community relations for years to come: SP officials shut down the last of the passenger service on the line and then added insult to injury by chipping out the beautiful tile inlaid ‘NC&O Railway’ sign on the town side of the depot.

The main floor was divided almost equally into thirds on the main floor with the baggage and express room on the north end, the station main entrance, ticket and agent’s office located in the middle third, resplendent with the ubiquitous operator’s bay window in the middle of the western wall.

On the south third was a miniature version of a big city waiting room complete with a domed ceiling.

The only place Lakeview passengers could go was to the south to places like Fairport, Willow Ranch and Alturas over the California border, and eventually, at the end of the day, Reno.

The original rooms and ornate woodwork are still present in the depot today, although they have been subsequently utilized as an office for a used car business, then as an art shop, and, finally, a private residence.

The upper floor held the two-bedroom apartment of the station agent.

Much of the layout of the entire structure remains today in roughly the same arrangement it was when the last passenger train ran more than 80 years ago.

However, a sleazy suspended ceiling (easily removable, incidentally) now hides the waiting room dome.

The physical property that comes with the depot is roughly over an acre.

And what about the trains?  Currently, Lake County owns the railroad and has gone through a series of leases, including the outfit that owned Colorado’s Great Western Railway at one time.

Usually a train a week leaves Lakeview for Alturas, 56 miles away and returns the same day.

If the wide open spaces are your thing, you like the idea of having no stoplights for a hundred miles in any direction, and if you enjoy living in a county larger than the state of Massachusetts, then you should definitely be looking into purchasing this rail fan dream home.

Yes, I once owned the Lakeview depot.  Yes, I once bought it from the Southern Pacific Railroad for a dollar.

Yes, I did sell it at an amazing profit half dozen years later.  And, yes, I regret I didn’t hang onto it even though I moved away at the time back in ’78.

So give it some serious thought.  You can own a retirement home, a piece of railroad history and get away from the in-laws in one fell swoop.

David Trussell owned and operated the Lake County Examiner between 1967 and 1976, and at one time owned the depot building described in this article.  This article originally appeared in the “Inside the OC&E” newsletter, published by The Greeley Freight Station Museum of Greeley, Colo.

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