The New Great Northern Passenger Depot opened its doors June 7, 1907, to the general traveling public. In the evening quite a number of our citizens assembled at the depot to inspect this handsome and brilliantly lighted structure. Messrs. Evenson and Earle of Osakis, T.R. Aiton of Alexandria and the Great Northern Railway Company built the new depot. The new station, together with the foundation, heating plant, and the filling around the depot cost about $33,000.
The Great Northern Railway Company had recently purchased the track and land south and north of the depot for future parks. This depot was questionably one of the finest railway stations in Minnesota and in the Midwest, described as the “equal of any station between Milwaukee and Montana.” It was built of fire red brick with some stone trimmings and was practically fireproof. The foundation of the building was made by driving 200 thirty-five foot pilings into the ground nearly full length and filling around with crushed rock and cement. This gave the building an absolute solidity and no vibrations could be felt when trains passed by.
In 1957 the station was remodeled by Burlington Northern Railroad. During remodeling, they constructed new ceilings and floors and put in new windows. At that time they removed the ticket windows facing the tracks, since the “new” way was to sell tickets inside the depot.
The depot stopped all passenger service to Alexandria in 1967, only staying open to freight delivery. By 1976 the depot closed its doors to all services. It stayed closed until 1984, when Bill Seykora and Ken Neumann purchased the building from Burlington Northern Railroad. At that time they removed all interior fixtures from the depot and hired the Henry & Frank Tvrdik Brothers and their sons to remodel the building into a restaurant and lounge. They sandblasted the ceilings and floors in the lounge to its original finish. Over the loading dock they added on a dance floor area. Old time ceiling panels were placed in the restaurant area, and four foot high wainscot was placed on the walls like the original depot had.
The inside was designed to look like the original Great Northern Railroad Depot with a touch of new. The outside has a new fire red walkway in front and a large covered outside dining and garden area in back, right next to what used to be the train tracks. There are always flowers growing alongside of the depot.
On May 6th, 1985, Depot Express Restaurant and Lounge opened its doors to the public, serving fine meals and drinks. That same year the Depot was designated as a National Historical Site, listed in the National Register. The Depot today still looks like it did in 1907 with some updates and modernization, but still retaining its old charm. Many antiques and old railroad memorabilia can be found inside along with various wildlife paintings.
When you come to Depot Express for lunch, dinner or just cocktails, you may be sitting on our patio dining area overlooking lake Agnes and see ducks and geese fly by. Just maybe for a moment, close your eyes and think back to the mid 30’s. What would it be like waiting for the train… Can you hear it?