July 2016 Project Update

Due to the generosity of supporters like you, the depot was saved by moving it off of the railroad property (our first priority). With great fanfare — complete with 50 to 75 observers, TV and newspaper reporters, a brass band, and costumed characters — it was moved across the street to the new site in January. Soon afterward, the railroad removed the unsightly roofless building that was next to the depot on its new site.

We have now moved on to our remaining project goals: rehabilitation and reuse. To begin the renovation, a construction firm volunteered their time to convert the two trackside window openings to doors as originally designed, reversing some of the 1944 remodeling. The existing double door on the trackside added in 1944 will be removed when the station master’s bay is reconstructed this fall.

The firm also converted the large window on the north side into an opening for the future double door that will serve as the handicapped accessible entrance. This entrance will be level with the pavilion floor.

To serve the two trackside doors, concrete steps have been added using a design similar to the original steps, but meeting current safety code. The design retains the visibility of the existing limestone as much as possible.

Volunteer crews removed the wall plaster and lowered ceiling, both added in the 1944 remodeling. The removed 1944 rafters will be reused in the project.


depot's original walls

Removal of the plaster revealed some secrets about the original interior (see above photo):

  • the original wooden walls under the 1944 plaster, similar to other depots of this era
  • the vertical shadow (unpainted wood) of the wall that originally divided the depot in half separating the men’s and women’s waiting rooms
  • horizontal shadows that revealed the width of the removed base boards, wainscoting trim and ceiling crown moulding
  • the original ceiling rafters two feet above the 1944 lowered ceiling
  • pieces of the original wainscoting trim that had been used in the suspension of the lowered ceiling
  • an inscription, “Alan Kump, July 17, 1945, Northfield, MN” (We have learned he lives in Florida and are trying to talk to him about the signature.)

Recently, those involved in the depot project gained a new understanding of the U.S. Geodetic Survey (USGS) and the importance of geodetic disks. After we posted an image of a metallic disk (see photo below) on the depot’s side on Facebook, we alerted the USGS that the depot had been moved since the disk is used as a survey marker. A USGS official recently visited the site and completed the necessary report to indicate it was no longer a valid marker.

Geodetic disk elevation marker
Geodetic disk elevation marker

Additional Donations of Time and Materials

Early in the depot project, a family donated a Nick Swearer sculpture, a tree made of railroad spikes. Recently, a private owner offered an additional Swearer sculpture that was previously located downtown along the river before the riverside walk was built.

Next summer, the sculptures and other elements will be incorporated into the sculpture garden on the south (3rd Street) side of the depot. The garden is being designed by a local landscape planner who is donating his time.

A local business owner donated reclaimed double doors for the north entrance and some light fixtures.

The recent progress would not have been possible without the community members’ generosity of money, time, and materials. Volunteers are being sought for the future work identified below and are encouraged to notify Rob Martin at 507-645-7579 or robnorthfielddepot@gmail.com.

Projected summer repairs

  • Interior: Volunteers will finish removing plaster, replace the ceiling, add missing mouldings (wainscoting trim, baseboard, ceiling crown), and install windows and doors. Professionals will be hired for the installation of electricity, insulation, plumbing, and the furnace.
  • Exterior: Volunteers will remove paint from the overhang and roof brackets, and will assist professionals replacing the brick and foundation limestone.

Planned next stages

  • Later in summer/fall: Add station master’s bay, install driveway on east side, and fence and path on trackside.
  • Winter: Construct bathroom and stairway; craft missing brackets and paint interior.
  • Next spring: Pour pavilion floor and complete sculpture garden.


Having reached the first fundraising milestone of $228,000 to move the building and to complete initial repairs, the current fundraising effort is focused on the second milestone of $215,500 to renovate the interior and complete the exterior of the building. Subsequent milestones will be set for the building of the pavilion (the pavilion floor with ramp will be necessary for occupancy) and the construction of the sculpture garden.

In March, updates on the rehabilitation progress and the need for funding needed repairs and construction were provided in various venues.

To celebrate June History Month, a board member donated a $10,000 challenge match to finance the rehabilitation of the depot. Letters have been sent to potential donors.

Grants received this spring:

  • Small Legacy Grant. We received a $3,000 Legacy Grant for a qualified consultant to evaluate the depot’s eligibility for National Registration as a Historic Site. The evaluation will be conducted later this year after some of the rehabilitation has been completed.
  • National Railway Historical Society (NRHS) Grant. We were one of 12 national recipients of a NRHS Heritage Grants in 2016. The $2,000 award was granted to purchase white pine stock for the replacement of 11 of the original 24 roof brackets that were removed in 1944. The wood was purchased wholesale from Wisconsin and is drying in a Northfield storage facility this summer. A volunteer craftsman will duplicate the original brackets next fall.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: