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DL transit hub connects to region and rest of the country

The refurbished BNSF train depot serves Amtrak as well as county, tribal and city-to-city bus systems. Photo by Brian Basham

It’s full-steam ahead for The Depot, as the refurbished BNSF train depot located along Highway 10 in Detroit Lakes continues to grow in services and popularity.

Whether you need a connection to county or tribal bus systems, Amtrak or the Shooting Star Casino, The Depot is the place to stop.

Built in 1908, the Northern Pacific depot was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1988. Over the years it has been used for a variety of businesses and headquarters, but none have upgraded the building like the White Earth Tribe and its Shooting Star Casino.

The White Earth Tribal Council leases the depot building from the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad, and the Shooting Star Casino operates the coffee shop that now is housed in the completely refurbished White Earth Transit Station.

They offer baked goods from a local bakery, ice cream, coffee and now sandwiches. There is seating inside and patio seating for the warmer months.

There are also kiosks with native products and arts handmade from the White Earth Reservation including jewelry, custom beadwork, baskets, wild rice and birch bark items. Some are just for display, and some items are for sale. There is free Inter-net access as well.

What really makes The Depot a hot spot is being the transportation hub for Detroit Lakes.

White Earth Transit has daily service from The Depot to Mahnomen. On Mondays and Wednesdays, there is a $4 roundtrip shuttle to the Shooting Star Casino, that includes coupons for the casino.

Visitors are asked to sign up in advance so that their gaming packages can be ready upon arrival.

A shuttle also runs the day of major events at the Shooting Star, bringing people to the event and back to The Depot following the performance. 

Jefferson Bus Lines — a long-distance carrier — makes two stops a day at the transit station and has formed a partnership with White Earth Transit to “match schedules.” You can buy a bus ticket in Minneapolis and ride to Mahnomen, changing buses in Detroit Lakes at the depot.

Another package is for those in Fargo. For $25, people can ride from Fargo to Detroit Lakes, change buses and head on up to the casino. Those people will also receive coupons for the casino.

The Detroit Lakes taxi company is also committed to serving bus and train passengers, even in the early morning hours.

The renovated depot building itself is a joy to behold.

The western portion of the depot building, which was once the freight holding area, has been turned into a meeting space.

The walls show scenes from 1909, and how the depot first looked. The original doors still hang in the doorways, but have now been switched to the inside of the building and glass panels have been installed in the doorway.

The room is able to accommodate about 18 people with tables, and about 30 with just chair space.

The Depot offers up some unique food items to its visitors, including wild rice pizza and a variety of soups and sandwiches.

There is no liquor license though, so no alcohol allowed.

The depot is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays.

For those wishing to host gatherings at the transit station building though, the staff is definitely willing to make exceptions.

Outside the building, the railroad has built a handicap lift system to load those in wheelchairs onto Amtrak. The easterly portion of the building remains the waiting room for Amtrak.


In 1864, Congress chartered the Northern Pacific Railway Company to connect the Great Lakes region with Puget Sound in the Washington Territory. When the Soo Line railroad was built north, through the White Earth Reservation, towns started popping up along the railroad — Ogema, Waubun, Mahnomen and Bejou.

The Detroit Lakes depot was built in 1908, with the typical floor plan including a ladies waiting room (which is now the Amtrak portion of the depot) and the men’s smoking room.

The depot was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988. In 2008, through the partnership of White Earth Department of Transportation, the Minnesota Department of Transportation and the Minnesota Historical Society, the depot was restored for $575,000.

The exterior brickwork was cleaned, wood trim around the windows and doors were re-painted, and the dark polished wood inside the windows, and doors was restored, among other items restored.

Much of the original glass is still intact, and some of the original white birch benches remain in place in the Amtrak waiting area.