The Depot Express Story
The new Great Northern Passenger Depot opened its doors June 7, 1907 to the traveling public. That evening Alexandria citizens assembled at the depot to inspect the 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 and heating plant, cost about $25,000.00. The cost of the filling around the new depot was approximately $8,000.00, making a grand total of $33,000.00. This depot was designed to be one of the finest railway stations in Minnesota, and in the Midwest. Its beauty and convenience is equal to any station of its day between Milwaukee and Montana. The structure is built of fire red brick with some stone trim, so it’s practically fire proof. The foundation of the building was made by driving 200 thirty-five-foot pilings into the ground and then backfilling them with crushed rock and cement. The building was so well planted that no vibrations could be felt when from passing trains.
In 1957 Burlington Northern Railroad (BNR) remodeled the station. They new ceilings and windows were installed and the floor was replaced. BNR removed the outside ticket windows facing the tracks and passengers were redirected to ticket agents inside. The railroad ended passenger service to Alexandria in 1967, and the depot would only handle freight deliveries. By 1976 the BNR closed the depot to all services.
The landmark stayed closed until 1984, when Bill Seykora and Ken Neumann purchased the building from Burlington Northern Railroad. They demolished the interior and hired the Henry & Frank Tvrdik Brothers, and their sons, to remodel the building into a restaurant and lounge. The ceilings and floors in the lounge were sandblasted back to their original finish and a dance floor was added over the old loading dock. Pressed tin ceiling panels were installed, along with four foot high wainscoting on the walls, just like the original depot. The decision was made to return the interior to its Great Northern Railroad Depot days …with a touch of new. A new fire red brick walkway was installed in front. A large covered dining patio was built over looking Lake Agnes (trackside).
On May 6th, 1985, the Depot Express Restaurant & Saloon opened its doors to the public, serving fine meals and drinks. That same year the depot building was designated as a National Historical Site, and listed in the National Register. The Depot today still looks as it did in 1907… with little modernization. Many antiques and railroad memorabilia decorate the interior.
Come to the Depot Express for lunch, dinner or just to have drinks with friends. In the warm months ask to sit on the outside patio overlooking Lake Agnes. It a beautiful view where you can watch the ducks and geese, and the cyclists on the Central Lakes Trail fly by. When you do, just close your eyes for a minute and think back to the 1930s. What would it be like waiting for the train? Can you hear it? All Aboard!