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RR depot in DL to get improvements

Amtrak is partnering with communities to help revitalize passenger train stations.

Many depots are becoming older and older, and in return falling more and more into disrepair. Detroit Lakes' is no exception.

It's the first thing people see when stepping off the train and into the city, and the welcoming station maybe isn't leaving the best impression.

Amtrak public relations director Marc Magliari said, "I think there is certainly a need for stuff to be done in Detroit Lakes."

The current train depot was built in 1908, but a couple buildings came before it. There is no longer ticketing or baggage services at the depot, but travelers can use the facility for waiting when riding Amtrak.

Amtrak only uses a third of the space in the depot, Magliari said. Since the restrooms are American Disabilities Act compliant, they will be the first things to be repaired and upgraded.

Another immediate issue will be upgrading the platform. He said he's not certain of the specs on the platform, but once they are in place, a new platform will be put in place.

Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway owns the building, platform and track. Amtrak owns only a small number of stations around the country.

The remaining portion of the depot building is rented out to individuals. The wedding rental business Wings of Silver was housed in the depot a number of years ago, but there have not been any businesses recently.

Amtrak has established the Web site to show all stations and their status. It also has schedules and destination information on the site.

According to records and photographs, the Northern Pacific Station was once located on the north side of the railroad tracks at Washington Avenue.

In the Aug. 2, 1907, issue of the Record, workers were preparing the ground for the new Northern Pacific depot, which the company planned to build the following spring. It said, "the sight of the workmen engaged around the grounds at this time is very encouraging to every resident of the city and especially so to those who were beginning to lose faith in the promise of the Northern Pacific officials."

The current depot was built with a waiting room, ladies' waiting room, ticket and telegraph office, gentleman's smoking room and baggage room. The platform was made of brick.

According to records at the Becker County Historical Society and Museum, Detroit Lakes was originally visited by representatives of the Northern Pacific Railway in 1869, and they dubbed the area "Park Region" because of the park-like beauty.

In November of 1871, the railroad was completed through then Detroit. A need for service to Detroit Lakes was realized in the mid-1880s because of the popularity among hunters, fishermen and outdoor recreationalists.

The railroad track began in 1870 at Thompson Junction, 30 miles from Duluth. By Sept. 18, 1973, there was 530 miles of track laid, which ended in Bismarck, N.D. By 1964, there was 6,900 miles of track.

In 1894, Northern Pacific offered reduced fares between Fargo and Detroit Lakes to increase local business.

The first two depots were located on the north side of the railroad tracks, according to an interview with Otto Zeck in the BCHS's records.

Northern Pacific eventually became Burlington Northern. Burlington Northern would paint the wood windows and doors of their depot green as a symbol of Burlington Northern. The Detroit Lakes depot was never painted green, for some reason.

In a letter dated May 22, 1989, Detroit Lakes received a letter from the State Historic Preservation office congratulating the city on the depot being entered on the National Register of Historical Places.