Northern Pacific Railroad

Starbuck, Minnesota

When the Little Falls and Dakota line of the Northern Pacific Railroad came through Pope County in 1882, the town of Starbuck was born. The train depot marked the beginning of the town and proved to be an important town landmark even after the rail line was discontinued in 1983. The depot has since been converted into a museum and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A plaque outside the depot explains

The beginning of train service in Starbuck was heralded by a shrill steam whistle on Nov. 10, 1882. The last train left without fanfare on July 15, 1983. 

This 90 mile line from Morris to Little Falls was built using horses and dirt scrapers. It provided passenger and mail service as well as freight hauling of building materials, machinery, fuel, fertilizer, livestock, grain, cream and eggs.
The local dray line picked up merchandise at the depot and delivered it to the merchants.

The depot building was closed after the passenger service was discontinued in 1954. After a merger in 1960, the railway became known as the Burlington Northern. In June, 1986, the Starbuck Depot Society was organized to restore and maintain the depot building and grounds and a grand opening was held on May 16, 1992.

The Depot Society was responsible for four major annual events held at the depot: Lefse Dagen, Heritage Days, Eple Tiden, and Juletre Lysning.
It is believed that the City of Starbuck was named after Mr. William H. Starbuck of New York, who financed the construction of this railway. He was a friend of Henry Villard who was the president of the N.P.R.R. 1881-1884.

A century ago, the train depot in little Starbuck, MN would have been bustling with action. The town’s hub would have been filled with the trains whistling, cargo coming, and people going. The depot served as the center of this small town in Pope County for many years. When the Northern Pacific began to break ground on its new Little Falls and Dakota branch in 1883, the town of Starbuck was born. The railroad came through and the town followed in its tracks. For one hundred years, the train ran from Morris to Little Falls and back everyday carrying freight and passengers. As a central piece of the town’s character, the train station in Starbuck brought energy to the community. The train carried people to and from Starbuck, but more than anything, it brought them together. When the railway was discontinued in 1983, the depot stood empty. It had lost its steam and was left to rot. Refusing to lose the depot, members of the community formed a restoration group to preserve such a important piece of the town’s history. The group, called the Starbuck Depot Society, employed the support of local volunteers to fix the depot’s roof, flooring, and siding. These town members invested large amounts of time and money in the project. The museum expanded from one building to many throughout the years and became the community’s center once again. Though the train stopped coming, its energy was not lost. The Starbuck Depot compelled committed and hard-working town members to restore the life that the depot once provided.

The museum now provides a gathering place and a history for the people of Starbuck. The depot contains a record of the town’s past, achievements, and memories. On occasions of celebration, the community comes together in the place that their town began.

The Starbuck Depot Museum is home to three on-site museum buildings, including the depot, a schoolhouse, and a Starbuck commerce building.  A sheltered train car with interior access and viewing is also on the property. Another building contains historic window displays. There are modern public restroom facilities and a picnic area on the grounds.

Starbuck’s Norwegian heritage also is celebrated at the museum’s three annual festivals. In May, the community celebrates Lefse Dagen. Norwegian food and cooking is enjoyed at this event. Another celebration occurs in July. There are summer games, food, and history. In the fall, Eple Tiden (Norwegian for Apple Time) is full of festivities. The museum buildings are open. There are vendors, music, food, and pumpkin decorating activities. History and heritage are displayed at the Depot. The schoolhouse is full of Starbuck High School memorabilia, along with class photos and trophies. The Starbuck hospital and movie theatre also are displayed. Visitors can climb in the train car and step back in time. The gift shop offers a variety of Starbuck and Norwegian goodies. The museum is open during festivals and by appointment.

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