The Greenville Junction Depot Friends have been restoring this 133-year-old train station for the past decade. Credit: courtesy Greenville Junction Depot Friends

Hard Telling Not Knowing each week tries to answer your burning questions about why things are the way they are in Maine — specifically about Maine culture and history, both long ago and recent, large and small, important and silly. Send your questions to eburnham@bangordailynews.com.

A hundred years ago, trains passed through the town of Greenville on a nearly hourly basis, shuttling both passengers and Maine-made cargo like lumber, shoes, furniture and slate quarried in nearby Monson to and from destinations north to south.

Those trains left decades ago, however, and though the rail lines in large part remain and freight service continues, the train stations that dotted the landscape between Maine and Montreal have almost all either been demolished or left to decay.

The Greenville Depot hasn’t met the same fate, though, thanks to the efforts of local community members who have raised money and worked to restore the 133-year-old train station — one of the most distinct buildings of its kind in New England.

The depot overlooks Moosehead Lake, and is located just off Route 15 in Greenville. It’s unique for several reasons, but most visibly, the Greenville Depot has an eye-catching roof that’s shaped like a witch’s hat — tall and pointy, and covered in black shingles to add to the witchy effect. The witch’s hat roof was added in 1904, about 15 years after the depot was first built in 1889.

According to Jane Hall, chair of the Greenville Junction Depot Friends, the roof was part of an effort to make the station look like other Canadian Pacific stations in Canada. There aren’t any others like it remaining in Maine.

“It was in keeping with the Canadian Pacific architecture style of many of its stations in Canada,” she said. “I’ve seen some of the other ones in Canada and they’re just like ours. In that era, in the early 1900s, Greenville was quite a vacation destination, so this was definitely an upgrade to the facility.”

The Greenville Junction Depot Friends have been restoring this 133-year-old train station for the past decade. Up until the 1960s, it was a busy stop for both freight and passenger trains. Credit: Courtesy Greenville Junction Depot Friends

After its heyday in the first half of the 20th century, train service slowed and eventually stopped in the 1960s. By the 2000s, the depot building was crumbling and in need of major restoration. People were sleeping inside the building, and it became a popular spot for clandestine parties. In 2008, the Maine Historic Preservation Society named the building the most endangered historic structure in the state.

“We’re just lucky it never burned down,” Hall said. “It’s amazing how far it’s come, all these years later.”

Community members sprang into action and founded the Greenville Junction Depot Friends, a nonprofit that since 2010 has raised tens of thousands of dollars to restore the building for use as a community and events center and historic train museum. The building itself is owned by Canadian Pacific Railway, which took ownership of it in 2019 after it bought former owner Central Maine and Quebec Railway. Canadian Pacific was the original owner of the depot when it was built, so ownership has come full circle.

The Friends group signed a long-term lease in 2015 to maintain and operate the building, and over the course of the past decade has overseen major improvements and renovations, including leveling the building and the lot and restoring both the interior and exterior. The group is presently trying to replace all the windows, and has several annual fundraisers to help with the restoration efforts.

There are a few other remaining historic train stations around Maine, including museums in the towns of Oakfield and Boothbay, though the vast majority of the stations that once were found in nearly every major town in the state are now gone. That’s why those old stations are special — they link the modern world to an age when railroads were the main form of transportation around the country.

By spring 2023, Hall said the freight shed that’s adjacent to the old station will be rentable as an events venue, and eventually, the actual station building will be available for events as well, alongside the small rail museum that’s already there.

“We want this to be a place that the community can use, and we also want to showcase the history of the area and the railroads in general,” Hall said.

For more information, visit greenvilledepot.org.

Avatar photo

Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is a Maine native and proud Bangorian, covering business, the arts, restaurants and the culture and history of the Bangor region.