Who has rights to the historic Greenville Western Pacific Depot?

Alicia Knadler
Indian Valley Editor

Ever since 1990, when it was first moved from beside the railroad tracks next to Greenville Wolf Creek Road, the historic Western Pacific Freight Depot was thought to be sitting on part of the Greenville Community Park property.

This assumption was compounded in a professionally engineered feasibility study funded by the Forest Service via Plumas Corporation.

Synthesis Design Group, Preservation Architects of Placerville were the ones contracted for the November 1999 study.

But after an offhand remark resulted in some recent research, it appears the depot might sit on a 50-foot wide county road right of way on property now owned by Ken Tucker of Greenville.

Indian Valley Community Services District staff member Jesse Lawson was the one who first mentioned the depot's disposition.

"It doesn't look like the depot is even on CSD property," he told directors during their Aug. 8 meeting.

And the reason it came up was that he was helping find alternative office space, since the management and expenses of the civic center were becoming a burden to the district.

When questioned later, he referenced county assessor maps and showed where he thought it sat, partially on property belonging to Ken Tucker, which was never actually part of the park property, and partially on the railroad right of way.

Over at Plumas County Public Works, Assistant Engineer John Kolb quickly got out a map and an aerial photo, matched up the scales and did an overlay to pinpoint the location of the depot in the county right of way.

And at the assessor's office, Cindie Froggat pulled out older and older parcel maps to see if the right of way was ever part of the park property, and it was not.

For verification purposes, Plumas County Cadastral Drafting Specialist Gregory Withrow said a road department engineer really needed to go out there with surveying equipment to pinpoint the right of way line where it meets the railroad right of way.

Recent history

In the mid-1980s, when Louisiana Pacific donated the park property, the road easement it granted the county was not part of it. Instead, it was a strip along the park's southern property line that connected the two remaining portions of what used to be one large parcel.

Betty Henley, a community services director in 1990, at the time of the depot move, was shocked it was not on park property.

She said everyone thought it was at the time.

Anthea Smith, who worked for the district at the time, was surprised as well.

"Betty did all the work to get the grant to get it moved," Smith said, "and John Schramel helped her."

Schramel, District 2 supervisor at the time, said he used his discretionary funds to help move the depot onto what he thought was park property as well.

"Betty also collected a lot of donations for it," Smith added. "She was hoping to turn it into a museum and that special passenger trains would stop there."

Smith ended up quitting her job a short time later

"It was so aggravating," she said about the way things were done back then, with the men taking charge and doing things the way they wanted. "It's a shame that it's just sitting there; you could never get a yes or no - couldn't get anything accomplished."

Crescent Tow owner Dave Humphrey, who donated his time and trucks to move the building, recalls the district hired a professional to accomplish the move.

"All I did was pull it and follow directions," he said.

To convolute matters even more, the property the depot is apparently sitting on was part of a January 2002 real estate deal conducted during an improperly closed session, according to a Grand Jury investigation initiated by the late Floyd Austin, who was the one to donate the depot to the community.

Directors were lambasted at their next meeting in February 2002 by resident Warren Gorbet, who approached them several times, he said, with an interest in purchasing the old LP property.

Directors had loaned property owner and developer Terry Hamilton money when foreclosure loomed on the old LP property he purchased, which spanned across both sides of the railroad tracks.

He promised to pay it back with 7 percent interest in a year.

He did not and directors were about to take the property when a deal was finally arranged through Centella Tucker.    Hamilton signed over the property to the district, and the district sold it to Tucker, who loaned the district $15,000 to buy out Hamilton's original investment in exchange for exclusive right to purchase it from the district, minus five acres between Highway 89 and the railroad tracks.

The Tuckers stepped in to help the community at the time, Tucker said, so that plans to build a fire station and animal shelter on the highway side of the tracks could be realized, though they haven't, yet.

The animal shelter was located in Quincy while all this was happening.

Even now, after told of the situation, the Tuckers are not worried about the depot building sitting on their property.

All they want is access to their property, Ken Tucker said, and that he was promised access through the park, though there is a ball outfield and a basketball court to navigate around.

At the county level, Public Works Director Bob Perreault said the district could be asked to move the building, if it is in the county right of way.

Or the county could agree to leave it alone, if the right of way is not needed right now.

There also seems to be a missing depot fund in an unknown amount.

During their November 1997 meeting, directors decided to move the fund over to county coffers, where it would earn a higher interest rate, or so it was noted in the minute book.

When asked about it two years later, during the time of the feasibility study for reuse of the depot, directors and office staff knew nothing about it.

Future train tours?

One of the ideas both the district directors had back in the 1980s and the depot committee had in the late 1990s was to have the depot be a special stop for special passenger trains.

That idea is still a long way off, according to Chris Skow, a retired Union Pacific engineer.

Skow used to operate locomotives on the route through Greenville, and is one of the founding fathers of the Feather River Rail Society and the Western Pacific Railroad Museum in Portola.

He now works to organize special passenger trains, like the recent one up the Feather River Canyon.

He has tried before and will continue trying to get approval from Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway for a train up the Inside Gateway, as he calls the line from Keddie through Indian Valley to Lake Almanor and points beyond.

Meanwhile, the depot building that several thousands of county tax dollars were spent on, for its moving and roofing, are still going to waste.

The building sits who knows where now, and it in a deteriorating condition, worse than 11 years ago when engineers found rot and other damage from dampness in 1999.

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