Pullman car's commemorative plaque is back in place

By: Nancy Hagman, Special to the Colfax Record
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Befitting the Railroad Days 2011 event in Colfax this weekend, this is a tale about a large piece of metal that lost, and then found, its plaque. Built in 1923 by the American Car and Foundry Company, the big green railcar sitting along Railroad Street – next to the Colfax Hotel – is a part of the downtown depot complex. According to Jim Wood, president of the Placer Sierra Railroad Heritage Society, the car served the Missouri-Kansas-Texas line for most of its career as a passenger car. It then went to the White Mountain Scenic Railroad in Arizona from 1965 to 1976. Through the efforts of Wendell T. Robie, then-president of Heart Federal Savings, the car came to Colfax in 1978 and was converted for use as the Heart Federal branch for this town. It was located on Main Street at the corner of Grass Valley Street. An unconfirmed story says that Southern Pacific would not bring the car by rail beyond Stockton because of mechanical insufficiencies for the mountain line. Robie purportedly used influence with high company officials at SP to get the deed done anyway. After the savings and loan crash in 1992, US Bank took over the branch for their business and felt the car would not be secure enough for a bank operation. A plaque, first mounted on the car, reads, “U.S. Bank of California donates this railroad car to the community of Colfax in memory of Wendell Robie, president of Heart Federal Savings & Loan from 1944 – 1980, for his lifelong commitment and support of the Sierra foothill communities.” Moved to today’s location in 2000 during the depot renovation project, the car became the home of the Colfax Area Chamber of Commerce and Visitor’s Center until that operation moved into the restored historic passenger depot in 2007. Longtime volunteer Charlie Gray said the plaque resided in the window next to the entry during that period. It disappeared during the service organization’s relocation. Last year, the city entered an agreement with the Rainbow Music Company to lease the facility for their music business. Rob and Christine Bonner gave the car a much-needed sprucing up and say they are quite happy with their new location. Last week, this reporter asked if they had any idea about the plaque. Rob Bonner checked around and found it tucked away in a closet. The plaque is now placed prominently on a beautiful antique sideboard inside the Pullman, and Bonner said he hopes the plaque can be remounted outside where everyone can see it. Mystery solved.