GREENVILLE JUNCTION, Maine — A glimpse into railroad history will be offered during a railroad workers reunion on Aug. 20 that also will feature historical tours of the unique Greenville Junction Depot, which a local group is trying to save.
The Friends of the Greenville Junction Depot, which includes James Crandall, 82, the depot’s last station master, hopes to raise about $500,000 to move the depot with its witch’s hat across Route 15 onto state-owned land, where it would be rehabilitated and turned into a community center.
“It’s just very unusual architecture — it’s Victorian, it’s just beautiful,” Moosehead Lake summer resident Jane Hall said Monday of the depot. Hall, who is spearheading the project, said the Maine Historic Preservation Society in 2008 listed the depot as one of the most endangered historical buildings in the state.
Much of the depot, built in 1889 by the Canadian Pacific Railroad, the same year of the first passenger train in Greenville, is in its original condition, Hall said. The unusual witch’s cap was added to the building between 1900 and 1910, according to the railroad’s archives.
Hall said she contacted current owners of the depot, Maine, Montreal & Atlantic Railroad, more than a year ago to see what could be done to save the neglected building. Rail officials told her that other people over the years had inquired about saving the depot but nothing resulted from those inquiries.
From that conversation, Hall recruited the help of Candy Russell of the Moosehead Historical Society and a meeting was held to gauge support. The meeting generated enough support to move the project forward. The group recently organized as a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization and plans to seek grants to help fund the project.
Vagrants had been living inside the building, so the group held a work day and cleaned the interior, stabilized it and patched the roof. To ensure the integrity of the building for the move, firms from Camden and Rockport conducted professional structural engineering and architectural surveys of the depot for the organization. This represented about $9,000 worth of in-kind services, Hall said.
Since the building must be moved from the railroad property, Hall said the group has been working with the state Bureau of Parks and Lands to see if the depot can be moved onto state-owned land across the road. Consideration is being given for a 99-year lease, she said.
“We are not restoring the building. We are rehabilitating it so it will become a community resource building which can be rented for birthdays or other events,” Hall said. The community use will help to make the depot self-supporting. She said railroad memorabilia will be displayed in the depot once it’s completed and during the reunion and tours.
The tours will feature stories that have been gathered from those who rode the trains in those early years and from railroad workers, Hall said. Crandall, of Greenville, plans to attend the 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. reunion and share his memories.
Hall said one former resident recalled that Canadian soldiers would toss out coins on their return home through Greenville. The former resident still has the coins, she said.
Another person, who rode the train as a child, recalled the train running over a couple of cows that had wandered onto the tracks. She remembered that the train stopped after the incident and the engineer walked up to the farmer and reimbursed him for his losses.
Hall said those who have memories of the train are encouraged to attend and share their stories.
The group plans to meet from 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday, July 16, at DKB’s Catering on Pleasant Street in Greenville to further plan the reunion and tours. Hall said anyone interested in the project is invited to attend, and refreshments will be served. A work day at the depot is tentatively set for July 24.