Repair work on the exterior of the depot began in spring 2016 after the depot was moved to its new home on the Q-block. In the spring and summer of 2020, sidewalks, lighting, and the driveway were installed.
A distinctive exterior feature of the depot is the design of the large, attractive brackets supporting the eight-foot-wide eaves. While they are structural, they are also decorative. Ten new brackets were needed to replace those removed in 1944 when the south end of the depot was opened up to the freight house addition.
The Milwaukee Road Museum had been contacted several years earlier to inquire if its archives included the plans or a template for the original 1888 depot brackets. The plans no longer existed, but the museum stated that the originals would have been built by local craftsmen — much as the replacements were.
Crafting the new brackets was a long process requiring a high level of skill. Timbers were purchased wholesale in Wisconsin and dried for a year in a local warehouse. Volunteers, retired engineers, then planed the timbers in a local commercial workshop in preparation for the time-intensive detailed work. Using a template based on the existing brackets to craft the new brackets, three separate bracket pieces were crafted off-site in the volunteers’ basements and assembled in open space of the depot’s basement. The brackets were then painted and installed by volunteers.
Volunteers removed paint from the original brackets before they were painted. No evidence of any paint color other than the gray-blue over the thin white primer appeared on the slotted/grooved detail or the chamfers (beveled edges). The new brackets were painted in the depot’s basement.
The new brackets were installed once they were painted.
Chimney and Roof
Bricks were sawed to obtain three different thicknesses to achieve the 1888 pattern with a total of 350 recycled bricks used.
Once the chimney was completed, spots on the roof were repaired and then the entire roof reshingled using shingles donated by SageGlass/Saint-Gobain.
The original 1888 drawings were used as the basis for the custom-made doors with transoms that were installed.
Limestone and Brickwork
The limestone used in the original foundation was salvaged to use on the face of the new foundation. Volunteers used a stone saw to cut it to the thickness specified by the stonemasons to retain the original appearance. K&C Construction laid the limestone facing on the foundation.
Bricks were also salvaged from the 1944 freight addition as well as from the old Washington School. The school’s bricks had been in City storage and were donated to the project. The old mortar on the salvaged bricks was very thick and removed by volunteers with an air chisel.
This key exterior work was completed in late January 2017, just over a year after the depot was moved to its new location.
Sidewalk, stairs, pavers, platform, and driveway
The driveway along with permanent lighting, sidewalks, stairs, and platform were installed by the City of Northfield. The City also installed three temporary steps that lead to a temporary ramp; both will be removed when a permanent ramp and transit hub are built. A concrete sidewalk was laid along the west property line. Donated, recycled, late 1880s pavers were installed directly in front of the west side of the depot. The remaining sidewalks to the south property line and the sculpture garden were then poured with sod laid shortly afterward.
The soffit wood was generally in very good condition. The eight-foot wide eaves provided protection, but only large chips of paint remained. Volunteers scraped and sanded the soffits, and the missing soffit on the south wall (removed in 1944) was replaced with matching V-groove boards. The original color of the soffits (a light gray-blue) was found under the light fixtures.
Station Master’s Bay
In 1944, the trackside station master’s bay was removed. To restore the bay, carpenters used the original 1888 plans. Bricks, cottage style windows, and two brackets on each side of the larger window were added as on the 1888 plans and visible in old photos. (See photos above under Brackets and Soffits.)
Steps and Stairs
Concrete steps were added on the trackside using a design similar to the original steps while still meeting current safety code. The design retains the visibility of the existing limestone as much as possible. The last photo shows concrete poured for the stairs to the basement on the south side of the depot.
Windows were purchased and installed in 2016 and painted by volunteers in 2018.
Donated Order Board
Gary Holzinger from the Milwaukee Road Historical Association (MRHA) donated a rare antique Milwaukee Road order board signal assembly, consisting of a mounting box, signal paddle, and lantern complete with the original red and green glass lenses. The order board signal served as a means of communication between the stationmaster and approaching trains. A volunteer refurbished the order board, which will be mounted under the roof directly outside the station master’s bay as indicated in our earliest photo in 1896.