Children tour the Wells Depot Museum

Published 11:00 am Friday, May 28, 2010

Thursday was Kids Day at the Wells Depot. Students from United South Central Elementary School and St. Casimir School were able to take a sneak peek at the renovated train stop.

The depot was open to the students to give them a glimpse of the renovations that were completed last year. The United South Central marching band also performed.

“We’d like to have a grand opening later this summer for the public,” Ila Teskey said.

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Teskey is the president of the Wells Historical Society. There are about 100 members who have been working toward this goal since 2005. Jim Ramaker formed a committee in 2005 to try to save the depot after the railroad that owned it — the Iowa, Chicago & Eastern, which is part of the Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern and Canadian Pacific line — planned to demolish it. He said having the kids at the depot was fun.

“It was pretty exciting for me because it was kind of my idea,” Ramaker said.

Instead of demolishing the depot IC&E sold it to the historical society for $1. They built a maintenance shop on a site near the old depot. The historical society did fundraising and applied for grants to renovate the building.

They got a large grant from the Minnesota Department of Transportation that had a provision that said the building must be completed with the grant. Teskey said it was great to have that provision so they didn’t have to wait a long time to do the renovations. While they were waiting for the grant the society had to do some fundraising.

“We applied for the grant in 2005 and the work was completed in 2009,” Teskey said.

It was a long process of fundraising and applying for grants, but the work was finally completed in December of 2009. It cost about $400,000 for all the renovations.

The depot was built in 1903 and now will be the called the Wells Depot Museum. It will be a museum of the railroad as well as house Wells history and artifacts the society has been collecting. Ken Stensrud was at the depot showing students what he used to do when he worked there in 1966.

“I did the telegraph work and train orders,” Stensrud said.

He would send messages to a dispatcher’s office in Austin, and that office communicated with many cities in the United States. Stensrud thinks the renovations make the depot look a lot like it used to.

“I think they did an excellent job,” Stensrud said. “It looks really nice.”