Historic Fruita rail car finds new home | PostIndependent.com

Historic Fruita rail car finds new home

Caitlin Row
crow@gjfreepress.com
Fruita's historic train car, which was recently donated to Steve Vigil, is thought to be part of the Fruit Belt Route (which carried produce across the state).
Caitlin Row / crow@gjfreepress.com | Free Press

A LIL’ HISTORY

A well-preserved relic of western Colorado’s railroad days, Fruita’s rail car (thought to be from 1910) is also steeped in Fruita’s history as a major point of contention dating back to the late 1990s between the city and a faction of displeased residents.

In 1997, the train car was donated to the City of Fruita by Grand Junction residents Stephen and Bobette McCallum, and soon after, it was placed downtown — “in a parking lot downtown, catty corner from the civic center,” Clint Kinney, Fruita’s former city manager, said.

Back then, it was the city’s thought that the rail car could be used as a site for the Fruita Chamber of Commerce. But, some residents took umbrage at its appearance, saying the rail car was an eyesore and took away parking spots; so they rallied together for its removal.

The historic nature of the rail car was questioned as well. Was it truly from the Fruit Belt Route, or did it simply land in the Grand Valley at random? Plus, there were many improvements already made to it, so it was hard to determine its original use.

After numerous public meetings, newspaper columns, articles, and even a vote of the people, the rail car was relegated to its spot by the Dinosaur Journey Museum, around 1999.

Still, others appreciated its historic relevance and still do, wanting the rail car to have a more visible spot within the quickly growing, farm-based community that was once dependent on Colorado’s railway to transport its produce a century earlier.

Fruita, in fact, got its name because founder William Pabor envisioned the area to be an “agricultural paradise.”

“For the first few decades, Fruita was about apple orchards and it won awards all over the world,” Fruita historian Denise Hight told the Free Press in May 2013.

SOURCE: Caitlin Row, Free Press, Aug. 14, 2013

When the City of Fruita put out a call for business proposals regarding Fruita’s historic rail car in 2013, Steve Vigil made a play for it — and recently won.

Formerly located in the parking lot of Fruita’s Dinosaur Journey Museum, Vigil transported the rail car to his property (987 Highway 340) for refurbishment. It was moved in three sections as it’s a 20,000-pound car, and it was moved in only 30 minutes.

“It’s just right down the road from the museum,” he said. “The move was extensive. It’s going to stay there.”

Vigil, a Fruita resident for the last three decades, is known for completing successful remodels of structures around the Grand Valley.

“I like to do creative remodeling using recycled materials,” he noted. “I try to incorporate artwork into my remodeling, and I build things that are out of the ordinary.”

According to Vigil, he plans to turn the rail car into a working art studio on his property, which he annexed into the city for the project.

Dahna Raugh, City of Fruita’s community development director, confirmed that Vigil was given the rail car at no charge.

“Because the cost to move it was in the neighborhood of $10,000-plus, the city didn’t think it could be sold, just moved at someone else’s expense,” she said.

Previously used as a satellite location by Colorado Discover Ability, an adaptive-sports nonprofit based in the Grand Valley, Fruita officials hoped the historic rail car could be used as an area attraction or business.

“It’s going to be my art studio,” Vigil said. “I always wanted to pursue my art. Now that I’m pushing retirement, I want to do something that keeps me busy in art. I chose the trolley car because it’s out of the ordinary.”

Fruita’s rail car has been renovated extensively over the years, so Vigil is sure he won’t be able to return it to its original grandeur. He will, however, make it look new again — and special.

“It’s going to change drastically within the next year,” he said.


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