Recent photos of the completed depot interior!

Depot Interior Renovation - Finally underway! ! !  Was completed June 2011 ! ! !  Stop by and take a look

HGN would like to thank the following businesses and individuals for their generous cash, building materials, labor donation in an effort to get this project completed!  THANKS

Bob Coulter
Myrle L. Dabill - Memory of Don Dabill
Chuck & Tina Pelzl
Steve & Katy Botz
Russell & Glenda Edgeton
Steven A Curry
Robert B. Peterson
Hanneken Insurance Services
Paul & Patricia Schroeder
Brookside Comfort Care, Bob & Dawn Cadwell
Mary Ella Galbraith
Spike Wales
Ecker House & Building Movers
Douglas R & Carol A Skanse
Jim & Julie Pittenger Charitable Fund
Jim & Barbara Curry

Paul L Gardiner

Trussworthy Components, Inc.
Backus Lumber & Supply

Pro-Build - Pequot Lakes
Christensen Forest Products
K&K Building Supply
Barn Light Electric Company
Mattson Lumber
Carlson Hardware of Nisswa -
Simonson Lumber - Brainerd

Pine River's Historic Railway Depot

Minnesota Archaeologist/Historian Douglas Birk, of Heritage Group North (HGN), has traced
the construction of the Depot through five phases beginning with its erection in 1895 as a
"temporary" building with a single room. By 1898, the Depot was a 40 by 18 foot frame building
consisting of waiting room, an office with a bay window, and a small freight room. The M&I
made further modifications after 1901. In 1914 the Depot reached its maximum size of 84 by 18
feet with a 15-foot canopy addition on the south end and a 250-foot platform of brick pavers at
trackside.   State Historic Architect Charles Nelson made an onsite evaluation of the Depot in 2001 and found that it was a 'relatively easy restoration.' The Minnesota firm of MacDonald & Mack Ltd., which specializes historic restoration, also determined that the Depot is restorable, and, under contract with MnDOT, completed plans and specifications for the relocation and exterior restoration. 

Native Americans and fur traders long used the waterways in the Pine River area for canoe travel and as winter roads. The great American explorer, Zebulon Pike, passed through the Pine River area on snowshoes in 1806. When the Ojibwe signed a treaty in 1855 relinquishing much of northern Minnesota to the United States, lumbermen and other non-Indians entered the ceded lands. In 1855 the government opened the Leech Lake Trail, the first formal road to Leech Lake.  The trail was routed north from Crow Wing (now Crow Wing State Park) right through what is now the City of Pine River. That winter some Leech Lake traders ascended the trail with horses and dog teams. The new trail served as a government mail and freight route and as a military road that gave U. S. Army troops at Fort Ripley unprecedented access to the heart of the Mississippi Headwaters Region.
In 1873, George Angus Barclay, a veteran of the American Civil War, settled on the Leech Lake
Trail at a bridge on the south fork of the Pine River, where he opened a trading post. In 1875 he moved his operation a mile north and established "Barclay's Ranch." The ranch, with an
expanded farming and retail operation, became a halfway house on the Leech Lake trail. The trail was adapted as a stage line, and horse-drawn Concord coaches began running on the road.  Barclay then entered the logging business, cutting pine logs and driving them on the Pine River to sawmills downstream.   The B&NM railroad passed through Barclay's Ranch in 1894, leading to the construction of the Pine River Depot in 1895. At the time, the standard-gauge B&NM was already considered to be "the greatest logging railroad in the world." With the coming of the railroad, Barclay built a large hotel just across the Leech Lake Trail from the Depot.
The 1890s were turbulent times on Minnesota's northern frontier. Ih 1898, Government troops
confronted the Ojibwe at Leech Lake in what has since been called "the last Indian war in the
United States." On their way to and from the battle, American soldiers passed through Pine
River, right by the Pine River Depot, on the B&NM rail line. The railway telegraph was used for
military communications between Walker and St. Paul.  Barclay was murdered in the lobby of his hotel one night in October 1898, and several men in the Depot at the time heard the shot. Following Barclay's death his wife remarried. Her second husband laid out the town of Pine River, using the Depot and the hotel as cornerstones of the new city grid.  The canoe routes, Indian trails, log drives, Leech Lake Trail, snow shoes, dog sleds, Concord coaches, freight wagons, the railroad, and more recently the automobile are all related to transportation. In addition, steamboats plied some local lakes pulling log booms or hauling tourists and even mail was distributed by boat to some resorts and lake cabins until the late 1950's. The area has an endless supply of transportation and frontier settlement stories to tell and we think the Pine River Railway Depot will provide an ideal setting in which to tell them.
The Pine River Depot is a landmark and icon that predates the development and incorporation of the city of which it is a part. As a tangible link to the past, it gives local residents of all ages
(including senior citizens who 'lived' some of the early history) a physical connection to the
processes that formed and 'grew' the community they live in. Visitors to the area will gain insight into what it took to open and settle the frontier of northern Minnesota and an appreciation for the forces and events that helped to establish the faster, and considerably safer and more comfortable transportation systems of today.  The local area should obtain economic benefit from the Depot as a tourist attraction and catalyst for similar historical renovation and development. The Depot is on the renowned Paul Bunyan Trail and is situated at the end of the new, Federally designated, Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway, making it a tourist destination that will draw visitors to the 'end of the loop'.

Photo taken June 5th (evening of the fire engine display structure dedication)

The reasons to restore and preserve the Historic Pine River Depot are numerous. First and foremost is that it has been, and can continue to be, a highly visible, recognizable and historic Pine River landmark. The original depot building was built in 1895, with various additions and alterations thereafter until about 1913. Since 1913 it has remained essentially unchanged--except for the removal of the canopy over the open-air waiting area that extended off the south end of the building.


A recently completed, $362,000 dollar restoration project has completely restored the depot to it's 1913 appearance, including the reconstruction of the canopy. This restoration project has preserved an historic 115-year-old building, and helped preserve a significant piece of local history. The railroad, when built in 1894, opened much of north central Minnesota to logging, provided access to and settlement of the area, and accounted for the development of many area communities such as Nisswa, Pequot Lakes, Jenkins, Pine River, Backus, and Hackensack. Minnesota’s State Historic Preservation Office validated the depot’s historical significance, when it determined in 2001, that the Pine River Depot was eligible for listing on the prestigious National Register of Historic Places. This is the only property in Pine River to ever receive this designation. Restoration of a building with so much historical significance for this area will provide Pine River with a permanent, recognizable landmark and preservation of the depot can become a source of civic pride for Pine River area residents, and when shared with others traveling to, and through, the area it can help stimulate heritage tourism; that is, give people a reason to stop--it will help make Pine River a destination. Further, it can aid with economic development by demonstrating to prospective businesses and residents an example of community pride.


What better building than the historic Pine River Depot to tell the story of the greater Pine River area--the history of the depot, the railway, logging, Pine River's main-street, area resorting and the people that made Pine River what it is today--from Indian trail through current multi-use recreational Paul Bunyan Trail! 


Heritage Group North, Inc. will, in the future, convert the freight room into a display area and interpretive center. The interpretive center will be used to tell the story related to the history of the former railway, the depot and how they related to the history of the greater Pine River area. Collections and storage of local artifacts will begin once the building has adequate environmental controls installed within the building.


The old signal arm was installed last spring, Paul's Large Garage Body & Painting had repainted it.  Thanks for their generous donation.  Take a look at it above the platform right outside the depot agent's bay windows (you can't miss it).