Rutland Depot Jumps the Tracks

Adapted from an article originally written in 2008

For 100 years the Great Northern, later the Burlington Northern, depot had occupied the same location, north of the tracks and east of First Street, in Rutland. On June 1, 1987, a moving crew, commanded by Nick Schmidt, Wyndmere, picked the building up and moved it to new location one block south on the corner of First and Arthur Street, in Rutland. The depot now faces east. Once the center for commerce and information in the community, the 28′ X 60′ structure is now used as a Heritage Center for the Rutland community, “The Depot Museum.”

In 1886 the Great Northern Railroad laid track as far west as Rutland. The following year the Railroad was extended southwest to Aberdeen, and west, to Ellendale. During this year the Great Northern had a complex of buildings, including the depot, a water tower, coal dock, roundhouse and section house, constructed in Rutland to service its equipment and serve its customers. The business of the railroad was to move freight and the east half of the depot was a freight warehouse. The west half was a passenger waiting room. The office was located between the freight house and waiting room. Telegraph operators were on duty round the clock to send and receive messages and to relay messages to stations on the Aberdeen and Ellendale lines. Two freight trains and two passenger trains stopped in Rutland each day on the Aberdeen line. Another train originated in Rutland and made a round trip to Ellendale each day. The Ellendale line was extended to Forbes, N. D. in 1905 and was known as the Forbes line thereafter.

Mr. Bagley was the Great Northern’s first agent in Rutland. He gave his name to one of Rutland’s streets and is said to have contributed the name of his home town, Rutland, Vermont, to the new village on the prairie. At that time the agent’s pay was partly based on the volume of business transacted at his station. Because Rutland was a junction point and the station was open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, the business volume was greater than at other stations and the pay was correspondingly higher. Although this system was changed in later years it made the agent’s job a desirable one in the early days.

Two agents occupied the Rutland depot for more than half its history. Lewis Schuster took over in 1922 and remained until he retired in 1947. Earl W. Anderson became agent in 1947 and held the job until he retired in 1976. During Anderson’s tenure the depot also became the unofficial city office and the local tax preparation and accounting center. By 1976 the Rutland agent was also handling the business of every station on the Aberdeen and Forbes lines. Ralph Glaser was the last agent to serve Rutland on a personal basis. Since 1980 all railroad business has been conducted by phone with people who don’t know beans from barley and neither know nor care about the communities they are supposed to serve.

The Great Northern had remodeled and renovated the depot in 1958 enlarging the office, improving the waiting room facilities and adding indoor plumbing. The old vertical siding was replaced with horizontal shiplap and the battleship grey color of the early days was replaced by glistening white. During the remodeling, evidence of some old time shenanigans was uncovered. Stellan Ahrlin, and others who had been around before the turn of the century, had told stories of an ingenious method which had been used to get around North Dakota’s prohibition laws. Beer and whiskey, which was shipped in wooden kegs, was ordered from another state, usually Minnesota, which did not have prohibition. The goods would be shipped to a fictitious Ole Oleson, address Rutland. When the shipment arrived, it would be placed in the office until Mr. Oleson came to claim it. The young men would check the depot office every day and when the illicit booze arrived they would determine exactly where it was located on the office floor. The depot stood on wooden pilings and it was open underneath. During the night, with tubs, buckets and a brace and bit the thirsty boozers would crawl under the station, position their tubs and buckets according to the measurements obtained the day before, drill through the floor and the keg above, draining the brew into the waiting containers. They would then crawl out with their ill-gotten booty and party until it was gone. Because Stellan was known to be a teller of tall tales this story was often greeted with skepticism. However, when the top floorboards were taken up, revealing the well-worn original flooring there were the holes, right where he said they would be.

The depot was used by the Aberdeen line section crew as office and warehouse from 1980 until 1896. The Burlington Northern discontinued the section and decided to dispose of the structure in that year. The City purchased the structure from the BN for $100, one dollar for each year. A condition of the sale was that the building be removed from the railroad right of way. The location for the depot was provided by the Rutland Community Development Corporation.

The Rutland Depot Museum is open to the public during the city’s annual Uffda Day event the first Sunday in October. The Museum is also open for family reunions and special events upon request to the Rutland City Office.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.