A part of Park City’s railroad history chugs through Old Town
It did not take a locomotive and engineer to move a piece of Park City’s railroad history Sunday morning.
Just a flatbed truck, a driver and various others involved in the operation along Park Avenue in Old Town.
A developer on a quiet morning moved the building that a century ago housed the baggage station of the train depot that served the Denver & Rio Grande Western. The structure, known to many as the Rio Grande building, had been abandoned for years. It dates to 1899 and was part of a much larger building, according to a historic plaque attached to the structure. The railroad service to the site ended in the 1940s, the plaque says.
The structure had already been lifted a little bit off the ground when the flatbed truck backed up, positioning the bed underneath the building. The 435-horsepower engine truck removed the building using beams and dollies that were put down two days beforehand. The driver navigated a tight northbound turn on Park Avenue from the site with the 1,588-square-foot building — 26 feet tall and estimated to weigh between 40 and 60 tons — on the bed.
The Park City Police Department was at the scene to provide an escort, blocking intersections along the route. The Park City Fire District was also there to ensure a quick response to any problems. A stretch of Park Avenue was closed to traffic as the building was moved as the structure was wider than one traffic lane. Traffic was rerouted onto Woodside Avenue or onto Main Street.
The developers hired a West Jordan company called Robert E. Wells House Movers for the work. The truck headed down Park Avenue at approximately 5 mph. Some people involved with the development or the building move either walked ahead of the truck were following as it slowly moved down the street.
The procession reached 1064 Park Ave., a piece of ground where the building will sit for five or six months as work continues at the development site. The truck driver carefully put the vehicle in reverse and guided the flatbed onto the parcel where the building will be stored. There was a scattering of onlookers as the flatbed passed.
"It couldn’t have gone smoother. Very nervous throughout," Rory Murphy, the lead developer of the project, said once the building arrived. "This is the type of thing where things can go really wrong. I’m glad that it went well."
Just before the truck left the original site, Murphy said the move was "probably our highest exposure" anticipated during the construction. He walked the route as the building was moved.
Anya Grahn, the historic preservation planner at City Hall, watched as the building was moved on Sunday. She said she has confidence in the plans to redo the historic building once it is returned to the site, saying the project is "a really good example to show people in Park City." Grahn noted that the developer moved the entire building as part of its preservation plan instead of dismantling and rebuilding it in a process known as panelization or opting to reconstruct it entirely. The day was "nerve-wracking," though, she said.
With the building off the land, construction on the project is expected to commence shortly with the excavation. The Rio Grande development, situated at 820 Park Ave., involves a 10-unit condominium building.
The Rio Grande building itself will be converted into one of the four commercial spaces that will be in the project. Murphy said the construction crew will build a new foundation for the building. It will be brought back to the site, put onto a crane and lowered onto the foundation, he said. The return is anticipated to occur in October.
It will be positioned at the northwest corner of the property when it is returned. The building will sit approximately 11 feet to the west and 32 feet to the north from where it was. The developer won an approval from City Hall’s Old Town panel to move the building within the boundaries of the property as part of the project.
The project will continue the extraordinary private sector investment on or just off Main Street as Park City continues to enjoy a strong rebound from the recession. The developers tout the project as being well situated steps from Main Street and a short distance from the Town Lift.
"Maintaining the historic fabric of Park City is enormously important to us," Murphy said. "This building ensures that an authenticity is maintained in the project and the historic tapestry of Old Town is maintained."
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