Old Depot Museum -
Annandale History Club Trip
October 6, 2008
Tour Guide: Howard Page
Fifteen members of the Annandale History Club visited the
Note: Howard Page closed the Old Depot Museum in September 2010, and the railroad collection was sold at a four-day auction.
In 1862 the St. Paul & Pacific Railroad Company built a
Paul & Pacific Railroad, which reached
James J. Hill and associates gained control of the St. Paul & Pacific
Railroad and renamed it St. Paul, Minneapolis & Manitoba Railway Company.
In 1890 the lines were leased to the Great
Northern Railway, which had been organized in 1889.
In 1970 after a merger of several lines, the name became Burlington
Northern. Burlington Northern and
The "William Crooks," the #1 engine for the St. Paul
& Pacific, was named for William J. Crooks, a
The earliest steam engines burned wood and could travel
only a short distance before refueling and adding water.
In the late 1880s steam engines could go about 50 miles before needing
coal and water. The earliest trains
didn't have cinder catchers. Passengers
were advised to bring an umbrella so that their hair didn't catch on fire and
to wear dark clothing because when the windows were open to catch a breeze,
smoke also came through the cars. By
1960 diesels had replaced all steam locomotives in service in the
A new Dassel depot was built in 1911 to replace the first
depot. When the Dassel Depot closed,
it was cut in half and moved somewhere near
There were two other buildings which served as the Cokato depot before a new depot with separate men's and ladies' waiting rooms and bathrooms was built in 1913. This building was in use until the Cokato railway depot was closed on July 5, 1974. There had been no scheduled stop at the Cokato depot since May 1960. Dassel businessman Howard Page purchased the depot in 1985 and moved it in July that year to a site on U.S. Highway 12 in Dassel. The depot had to be cut in half to facilitate the move. Howard Page started buying railroad memorabilia and eventually filled the depot including the freight room, a basement under the entire building, and two boxcars, with railroad treasures. Visitors can also climb aboard and explore a 1920s caboose.
Waiting room benches - The long wooden benches had dividers, presumably to give each passenger his own space, but also to prevent passengers from stretching out for a snooze. Other items in the waiting room were a scale, community telephone, and a potbelly stove.
Depot office - There was a display of seals, sealing wax and stamps. The Railway Express Agency was the safest way to send packages. Interesting items in the depot office were the telegraph, a switchboard, a ticket window that locked, old Oliver typewriter, and a flyswatter made out of animal skins.
Photos of James Jerome Hill (1838-1916)
and old images of Hill hang in the depot agent's office.
Hill was a short man. It is
said that he could lay track with the best of his men and he also took a turn
shoveling snow from the path of trains on which he traveled.
James J. Hill earned the name "Empire Builder" for his work in
developing the area of the
transcontinental rail line was completed across the
Conductor's punches - Every punch was different. Each conductor developed his own shape so he could recognize his punch and not be cheated. Other railway employees could identify which conductor punched a ticket. The conductor was the "boss of the train."
Rocky the Goat - Rocky's image appeared on
signs, advertising, playing cards, etc., as the symbol of the Great Northern
Railway. Another frequently used
image on calendars and playing cards was that of Blackfeet Indians, especially
for advertising the lodges and hotels in
Lanterns - There are hundreds of lanterns at the
Train artwork - Currier and Ives, Norman Rockwell, framed railroad ads, depot paintings, hobo pictures, and technical drawings of engines and railroad cars, are just a few of the types of artwork represented at the Old Depot Museum.
Date nails - These were two or three inch long nails with the year stamped on the head. They were installed in new railroad ties. If the tie rotted or broke, the crew could tell how long the tie had been in use.
Link and pin coupler - This was a very dangerous device for connecting cars. People lost their limbs and lives using them. In 1893 Congress passed the Railroad Safety Appliance Act, which required railroads to install automatic couplers and air brakes on all trains.
Spittoons - There was a brass spittoon in the men's waiting room and a porcelain spittoon with dainty floral design in the women's waiting room. The following sign was posted: "Spitting on stations platform and approaches, being a misdemeanor, is punishable by $500 fine, a year in prison, or both. Sanitary Code Sec. 194, Penal Code Sec. 15 -- by order of the Board of Health." Sanitation was especially important because of tuberculosis and cholera.
These are just a few more of the items on display: Hand pump car, section car, ore cart, union badges, railroad china, bells, steam whistles, wigwag signal, conductors' uniforms, locks, trunks, headlights, buttons, patches, station signs for many towns (some original and some reproductions), railroad history books, baggage carts, dining car menus, adding machines, model train, railroad tools, jacks, oil cans, and much more.
Note: Other web
searches to try are Great Northern Railway,
Great Northern Railroad
October 23, 1885, Litchfield
- Take the
afternoon train Our people going to the cities should by all means go on
the afternoon train if they can do so. At
present, the morning train, which is the through train from
June 24, 1908, Cokato
Enterprise - This month it is 40 years ago since the railroad tracks
were laid through the village and on the 4th of July, 1868, the first
passenger train passed over the same from
September 10, 1908, Cokato Enterprise - Fully 100 less tickets to the Twin Cities were sold at the Cokato station this year during state fair week than a year ago. It can be accounted for in only one way, that the populace is altogether too busy just now to look to pleasure.
Train orders on the Great Northern
September 17, 1908, Cokato Enterprise - Rasmus Christenson, section foreman at this place with the Great Northern, was tendered an invitation by his superiors to attend a surprise birthday anniversary on James J. Hill, which took place at St. Paul Wednesday this week. Mr. Christenson has been with the company continuously for 35 years, and hence his invitation to attend as only "old timers" were considered.
September 24, 1908, Dassel
Anchor - New Train: News has been
received here at the G.N. office that a fast through mail train is to be put on
some time next month between Chicago and Seattle, the train to run through here
from St. Paul. We understand that it
has not yet been definitely decided upon, but if it comes at all, it will be the
fastest and finest equipped train running between
November 19, 1908, Dassel Anchor
- A lucky road:
The annual report to the Railroad and Warehouse Commission has just been
made by the Great Northern. The road
did not kill a passenger during the year ending June 30, but 46 were injured.
The number of employees killed was 52.
This company operates over 6,000 miles of road in the
November 19, 1908, Dassel Anchor - 44 carloads: Up to Friday afternoon last at four o'clock, 44 carloads of farm produce were shipped from this station. The cars were loaded with hogs, corn, sugar beets, hay, etc. There is not a station along the line that can beat Dassel on out-going freight in carload lots. Last spring, nearly 45 carloads of potatoes were shipped from here.
November 26, 1908 Dassel Anchor - The test train was recently run over this division of the G.N. to determine whether or not they will run their fast coast train over this route. The record was 25 miles in 22 minutes.
Wrecked: Passenger train No. 4, which passes Dassel about 4:30 a.m. ran into the rear end of a freight train near Clontarf yesterday morning. The engineer and fireman of the passenger train were so badly scalded that they are not expected to live, and a mail clerk and baggage man were killed. Their bodies had not been recovered up to a late hour yesterday.
About five carloads of seed corn were shipped from this
station this week to Albert Dickenson & Co., the
September 13, 1924, Litchfield Saturday Review - Old engine to be here Great Northern engine No. 1, the "William Crooks" and the old sleeper car No. 9, the first to be used on the Great Northern, will be in Litchfield on Friday of next week between 9 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.
The engine was originally a wood burner, the tender holding only two cords of wood which often gave out before another wood lot was reached, forcing the crew to often replenish the wood supply from fences along the rail route. The appearance of the William Crooks, which last was operative in 1908, should prove of interest to young and old.
October 22, 1933, Litchfield - New trains to make first run Two new passenger trains to be
installed by the Great Northern will make their first runs Sunday afternoon.
Going west, the train will leave
May 22, 1958, Cokato Enterprise - The use of steam locomotives on the Great Northern Railway has come to an end. Not since last August has a steamer been seen on a Great Northern line.
January 1, 2008 - Enterprise Dispatch - When passenger trains came through Dassel three times a night - Doug Olson, Dassel, submitted the photo of the Empire Builder to the Enterprise Dispatch thinking readers might be interested in the way it used to be in the Dassel and Cokato area.
Doug's father Fred Olson was the station agent in Dassel from 1920-1960. He had worked for Great Northern Railroad for approximately 50 years. Doug worked for the railroad for about a year in 1939 and 1940 when he was in high school. Three trains came through Dassel each night, and Doug sold tickets to passengers and put the mail on the train three times each night. He would go to the post office, pick up the mail to go on the train, and then deliver the mail that came on the train to the post office. Doug remembers he was paid $25 a month.