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Do You Know the McGill Depot?

by Natasha Bettis, Buildings and Grounds Manager

The mere mention of Nevada Northern Railway’s McGill Depot often generates a confused expression, even from lifetime residents of the area. This lack of public visibility is possibly due to the Nevada Northern having ceased passenger operations in 1941. Or it could be attributed to the small physical size of the depot, in comparison to the immensity of the nearby mill and smelter complex. Whatever the reasons may be, the community is fortunate that the depot has survived for so long a time at the top of Avenue K in McGill, NV.

This is the second depot at the McGill site. The current depot was built in 1910 by the NNRy to serve the then-burgeoning community of McGill. At the time, thousands of men worked in the mill and smelter and the depot was the site of comings and goings of countless passengers and freight shipments. The depot could have been considered a mini-Ellis Island because of the large number of immigrants who passed through the building.

Later, the Steptoe Valley Credit Union occupied the building until it closed in the early 1980s. Not long after that, ownership of the building was transferred to the NNRy Museum. In the ensuing years, the depot was not well maintained, seemingly due to the distance-twelve miles-from the museum’s main East Ely yard complex, causing it to be “out of sight, out of mind.”

The most significant loss during this time of neglect was the roof. Originally consisting of painted tarpaper, green roll roofing was later installed. This most recent layer combated the wind with wooden battens nailed down every foot or so and then painted over with aluminum roof paint. Despite these efforts, the roofing could not conquer the elements without periodic maintenance and it eventually blew away, allowing water to leak into the building. This water infiltration is causing the plaster ceilings to collapse while also damaging the wooden floors and interior walls. At the same time, the exterior concrete block walls sustain damage from the freeze-thaw cycle. This freeze damage was particularly evident on the southeast corner of the depot, which was weakened to the point it began falling away from the rest of the structure.

This was a pretty bleak picture, but the depot is now receiving desperately needed attention. The southeast corner of the building was dismantled and rebuilt and the collapsing wooden freight platform was shored up to allow work on the exterior walls. A Nevada Division of Forestry crew cleaned out the building piling broken plaster, discarded tires, old appliances, and other trash outside ready for the landfill. Old, flaking paint was removed from the exterior and replacement of the severely deteriorated concrete header beam around the perimeter of the building is approaching completion.

Once the beam replacement is complete, new roofing will be installed. While the use of roofing materials similar to the old ones would be more historically accurate, it is a more cost-effective option to install a more durable insulated metal roof, which will provide lower maintenance and energy costs. To that end, dark green, standing-seam, metal roofing has been purchased to replace the old roof.

Once the roof is on, attention can be turned to the interior. Upon completion of the interior and rebuilding of the track, the depot is slated to return to its original function as a railroad station. Trains will run from East Ely with a layover at McGill depot where museum exhibits will tell of McGill and what took place during milling and smelting operations. Completion of this restoration will no doubt bring forth a new generation that can say, “I know the McGill depot.”

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Sunday | 8AM - 4PM

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1100 Ave A, Ely, NV 89301

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