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Redfield’s Fascinating Witness To History: The C&NW Railroad Depot

Monday, November 15, 2021

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When Redfield’s Chicago and Northwestern Railroad Depot was entered into the National Register of Historic Places, It garnered a lot of interest, because it was the only place in the area, where you could take a walk down memory lane, and look up close at the equipment and preserved structures. Over the years the depot has emerged as a fascinating piece of history, teaching us about one of America's oldest industries, the railroad, its functions, and the importance it carries even today in the country's economy.

The Railroad Metropolis Of Spink County: A Witness To Myriad Times

The Depot resonates with a vibrant history. It was from here that many servicemen marched off to the World Wars. It was formally dedicated on October 23, 1914, built in the likeness of the original C&NW Depot in Chicago. Passenger trains serviced this depot until the early 1950s. The Redfield Depot is significant for its contribution to the development of Redfield and Spink County. The depot was known as the railroad metropolis of Spink County, maintaining excellent passenger service until 1961. The present depot features art-carved marble floors and virgin golden oak woodwork. Hosting separate waiting rooms for men and women, a walking tour through the depot takes you through a vestibule,  retiring room, ticket office,  lunchroom, kitchen, baggage room, basement, and a railroad express room. If you are wondering what a “railroad express room” is,  it was the place for freight brought in and out of the area, that could include anything - from chicken and cows to cattle and deer. 

Today, the Depot features several photographs and historical information about the city of Redfield. Family heirlooms and pictures are welcome and added to the historic collection. A gift shop inside the Depot includes memorabilia and model trains, apart from puzzles and pheasant-themed products.

Restoring A Piece Of History To Its Original Grandeur

Railroad Depot in RedfieldIn 2002, the city of Redfield received a matching federal grant and began restoring the Depot to its original grandeur. Today, the Depot is an immersive experience for the visitor, who can enjoy watching varied railroad items, model trains, engines, and artifacts depicting the early days of the railroad.

After serving as the depot for the CNW, the depot filled a few other critical needs:  first, as storage for a local dairy  - Dakota Hatchery, and then as a hardware store.  

Kathy Maddox:  A Visionary For The Depot

As a member of the Tourism Board, Kathy Maddox was one of the many enthusiasts intent on saving this integral part of Redfield’s history.  Kathy had great visions for the future of the Depot.  She put a definite plan into place and set to work on a multiplicity of tasks that go into restoring a historic milestone. Expanding on another member, Kari, whose vision of the facility aimed to help it belong to the community, Kathy worked closely with the City  to hire high schoolers to work part-time at the Depot.  What emerged was a keen interest in local history and a six-year stint for several of these students., What flowed out from Kathy’s creative pursuit were holiday activities, meals for the community, quilt shows, art shows, box lunches, craft fairs, and a great place for showers, receptions, civic meetings, live music, and humanity programs, to name a few. Kathy’s last project was securing a model train layout—14’ x  40’ (from a donor), and she, along with two volunteers spent the last few weeks of her life dismantling, packing, and bringing the layout to the Depot.

Since 2014,  11,581 visitors have dropped in at the Depot.  For the Depot’s devoted staff, like Mary Lou Schwartz, everything that is being done here carries Kathy’s imprint; for Mary Lou and the other volunteers, the principal vision is to share Redfield’s historical story and the important part that the Railroad Depot has played in the lives of so many here.

The City of Redfield and the Tourism Committee are looking for volunteers to help at the Depot during regular hours from 10 am - 4 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. Call the Depot at 472-4566 during regular hours for more information about how you can get involved.  Visit http://tourism.redfield-sd.com/candnw-rr-depot for more information.

Category: News

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