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The Historic Canadian Northern Railway Depot – Built in 1900

The Great Canadian Northern Railway Depot - History Remembered

Canadian National Railway Depot

A timeline of railroad history at the Warroad Depot

  • On Feb 16, 1900 the Canadian Northern Railway train stopped in Warroad for the first time. 
  • March 3, 1900, CN built the first, original wooden depot.  In 1901 pilings were driven for the railroad bridge. January 2, 1902 the first Port Arthur to Winnipeg train passes through Warroad.  The 50 mile section between Warroad and Baudette is the only trans-continental line to run through the US. 
  • July 15, 1914 embers from a coal burning engine ignited the original depot and it was destroyed by fire.  Canadian architect John Scofield was hired. By September, work begins on a new, brick depot. The depot is the first one in built in the U.S. by a foreign corporation.  It was negotiated by a special treaty between Canada and the United States.  The cost for the depot was $30,000.
  • In 1918 the Canadian Northern Railway is sold to, and becomes, the Canadian National Railway.  Until the 1930’s, immigration offices were housed in the corner of the depot’s waiting room.

The Canadian Northern Depot is listed in the National Register of Historic Places

Canadian National Depot
Canadian National Depot
  • In 1977, due to declining demand, CN ended its passenger service.  The last passenger train passed through Warroad July 30 from Winnipeg to Thunder Bay, Ontario.  September 13, 1978 by signed orders from the Minnesota Dept of Transportation, the depot was closed.  CN made it known it wished to sell the depot and have it moved.  The people of Warroad wanted to work to keep the depot as a symbol of Warroad’s past.  In 1980, Governor Quie signed a bill making the depot a state historical site.  The next year, the Marvin family donated $25,000 to purchase and renovate the depot in memory of George and Almina Marvin.  In 1982 the depot was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • In November of 198, restoration of the Canadian Northern Railway Depot began  Many original oak doors, window casings, countertops and woodwork were restored.
  • In 1985 the depot reopened as a facility for the City offices.  The baggage room became the public library, the upstairs living quarters became the museum, and the waiting room was remodeled into the City Council Chambers.  On July 4, 1985 is was dedicated in the memory of George and Almina Marvin and opened to the public. Their son , William Marvin dedicated his life to the Marvin Window Company and serving his hometown of Warroad. This seemed a fitting memory and tribute to his parents.
  • In 1990, a new Public Library and Heritage Center was built across the street.  The Warroad Police department occupied part of the building from 1990 to 2005 when they relocated the new Public Safety Building.  The depot still houses the city offices and the building inspector. The oak doors, window casings, and woodwork are restored from the original building, as is the counter at the office window. The public washroom doors are from the original building. It is open to the public for viewing. Be sure to have you photo taken and pause to imagine what the station was like in the 1900s.
Canadian Northern Railway Depot
A tribute to the trains - looking back as a boy

One of the things I remember from visiting my father’s hometown of Warroad, along the Minnesota-Canada border, was watching the trains go by from the front window of my grandparents’ home on Lake Street. I could see the CN logo on the trains and learned that this stood for Canadian National. My grandma sometimes watched with me and told me a few stories about riding trains when she was a girl in the 1910s. Her father was a station agent for the Soo Line,.

The Canadian Northern

You can still hear the sound of the trains whistle and the rumble of the tracks when you are in Warroad. The train darts through town caring its cargo with no place to stop these days. Its presence is still a big part of this borderland community.

Approximately 20-24 non-passenger trains per day still pass through Warroad

Like Roseau, Warroad is a borderland community 20 minutes east of town. It offers unique dining, a craft brewery, event center (coming 2024) and many small shops and attraction. It is a gateway to Lake of the Woods and legendary fishing.