Everyone in Fort Collins knew Annie, the "railroad dog." In 1934 several Colorado & Southern Railway crew members discovered a sick, pregnant, mixed-breed mutt in a blacksmith shop in the town of Timnath. The crewmen took the dog back to the C&S freight depot in Fort Collins, where they nursed her back to health. After Annie recovered and delivered her puppies, she remained with her rescuers.
Annie greeted trains at the freight depot and the adjacent passenger depot for the next fourteen years. When she died in 1948, the railroaders laid her to rest just a few yards from her home. Brakeman Christopher Demuth, one of the men who brought her to Fort Collins, fashioned a cement headstone to mark the grave. The epitaph reads: "From C&S men to Annie, our dog, 1934-1948."
During Annie's lifetime-a period later recognized as the railroad era's sunset years-the C&S depot was still a busy shipping center. Completed in 1911, it served the region's livestock, sugar beet, and lumber industries. A Fort Collins newspaper called it "the largest, most completely equipped and modern freight house in Colorado outside of Denver." Further distinguished as one of the most efficient freight depots in the country, the building boasted a 150-foot-long wooden dock that accommodated up to twelve cars at once (the building it replaced could only handle six). After Annie's death, the railroad industry's decline continued. Still, the C&S depot remained in operation until 1986, making it the longest continuously used rail facility in the region.
In 1995 the City of Fort Collins purchased the C&S depot and Annie's Grave, designating both as local landmarks. A year later, the State Historical Fund awarded Fort Collins a grant to rehabilitate both the structure and the gravesite. Workers restored the wooden dock, the gull-wing dock canopy, the front entry, interior fire doors, freight doors, the freight master's office, and interior brickwork. Annie's gravesite was fenced and repainted. Originally, the city planned to house its Stormwater Utility Division in the depot. However, city officials recently settled on a better use for the rehabilitated site.
In August 2001 the C&S freight depot will reopen as the Fort Collins Downtown Transit Center. Federal historic preservation standards suggest using rehabilitated buildings as they were used historically. Since the depot's new use will reflect its past role as a transportation hub, modern travelers will gain a better understanding of its historical function. The transit center will serve city buses as well as Greyhound, Powder River, and other charter bus lines. Located near the new Larimer County Justice Center, the rehabilitated depot is also an integral component of the city's efforts to revitalize the northern edge of its downtown district.
Looking at the depot today, with its restored freight dock extending 150 feet from the building's north end, it is easy to imagine Annie, the railroad dog, racing along the wooden planks, barking excitedly as another train pulls into town.