Featured Great Northern Railway depots this month are those in Minnesota, Montana, and North Dakota:
Askov, MN – The Askov depot was built circa 1894 by the Great Northern Railroad. The combination depot was the typical design in small communities along the line. The depot has been retired and is now part of the Pine County Historical Society Museum. The tracks behind the depot remain active for the BNSF Railroad.
Breckenridge, MN – Built in 1901 by the Great Northern Railroad, the depot currently serves as a division office for the short line Red River Valley and Western Railroad.
Libby, MT – The Libby depot built by the Great Northern Railway opened May 3, 1892. It resembles a Swiss chalet with its romantic architecture. Amtrak currently serves the depot. In addition to a waiting room, a portion of the building is also used by BNSF Railway as a storage/staging area.
Fargo, ND – Fargo Station was originally built by the Great Northern Railway in 1920. At the time of the station’s construction, Fargo was served by both the Great Northern Railway and the Northern Pacific. The station was served by Great Northern trains, while Northern Pacific operated its own station along Fargo’s Main Avenue. In 1970, the two railway companies merged to form the Burlington Northern. Freight trains used the Northern Pacific tracks, while passenger trains used the Great Northern tracks. All passenger service in Fargo began using the Great Northern depot. From 1971, passenger service was operated by Amtrak. Amtrak currently uses the former BNSF freight house as the station building, as the main building became unused in 1986. The former main station building is now used for retail. Various businesses have operated in the building, since 1995.
Williston, ND – Williston is a train station in Williston, North Dakota, served by Amtrak‘s Empire Builder line. The brick station was built in 1910 by the Great Northern Railway and is located at the southern end of Williston’s downtown. An interior and exterior restoration, begun in 2010 and costing almost $2 million, has returned the station to its original look. With the recent opening of new oil fields in North Dakota in the 21st century, many oil production workers now also board and detrain in Williston, adding additional passengers to the route. Ridership at the station had a particular spike in Amtrak’s 2012 fiscal year, when ridership grew by almost 82 percent to 54,324 from 29,920 the year before (though 2011 ridership had been partly degraded due to flooding along the route). Patronage tapered off in 2013 and 2014, however, partly due to worsening on-time reliability of the train during that period. Until the end of fiscal 2016, Williston had been North Dakota’s busiest Amtrak station, and it had held that position since 2011 or earlier. It is still the state’s second-busiest station, behind Minot.
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