Wakefield Train Depot
The Wakefield Train Depot was in operation for almost a century, beginning in 1881. It has been reopened as a museum and is open Saturdays from Memorial Day to Labor Day at 10am until 2pm. Private tours are also available year-round.
Train service played a major part in the birth of towns across the country and that was also true in Wakefield's history. The train track ran through the town and was completed from Sioux City, Iowa, to Wakefield in 1881.
The first depot building was built that same year and was finished on January 1, 1882. It was built out of clapboard, but that didn't hold up very well. Around 1925, a second depot building was rebuilt on the same location as the first one.
The railroad was an important part of Wakefield's growth. Soon after it was built through town, there was a need for more hotels to accomodate passengers who were waiting for connections. J. F. Slinger's hotel had a restaurant in it to help take care of hungry travelers and Mrs. C. Porter had a restaurant at the depot.
Two dozen trains a day
Harold Tell remembers being at the depot when he was about five or six years old and hiding under the ticket booth with his friends. They would listen to the telegraph and Tell would dream of what it would be like to run one. Eventually he would; he worked for Northwestern Railroad for 40 years. For part of that time he worked as a telegrapher and then 35 years as a corporate officer. Tell moved away from Wakefield in 1949.
Tell noted there were 22 to 28 trains a day that came through Wakefield in the late 1920s and early 1930s; six to eight of those were passenger trains and the rest were for freight. Sometimes whole oil trains from oil fields in Wyoming came through, as well as cattle trains from cattle yards in Long Pine, Nebraska. The route for the trains was from Omaha to Emerson, then to Wakefield, where there was a split. A track went to Bloomfield or to Wayne; from Wayne the track continued to Winter, South Dakota.
Around 1940, trains in and out of the town no longer carried passengers. Instead, they only carried freight until March 15, 1977, when the last Chicago Northwestern Transportation Company train came through. The depot was purchased by M. G. Waldbaum Co. (now Michael Foods, Inc.) who used it for storage and offices after that time.
Reopened to the public
Michael Foods donated the depot and $5,000 for its renovation to the Wakefield Heritage Organization to be used as a museum. Lefty Olson's Wakefield Memorabilia, as well as old railroad items from Harold Tell, are on display at the museum.