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Knife River residents continue effort to restore train depot

Two Harbors artist Dave Gilsvik paints the Knife River on Depot Monday, July 30. Knife River residents are looking to restore the depot, moved to Knife River around 1900, and work to make it a stop on the North Shore Scenic Railroad. (Photo by Paul von Goertz)

A group of Knife River residents have come together in an attempt to restore the old Knife River Depot buildings and work with the St. Louis and Lake County Regional Rail Authority (SLLCRRA) to create a stop on the North Shore Scenic Railroad (NSRR) in the historic fishing community.

The buildings, first used in the 1890s in Duluth, were moved to Knife River sometime after 1900.

The SLLCRRA, which owns the property, originally intended to demolish the buildings, which are owned by Knife River resident Randy Ellestad.

The buildings are in rough shape, with a large hole in the roof of the main structure, and will need extensive work and investment to bring them up to the standard the Rail Authority requires.

Knife River residents are in the process of forming the nonprofit Knife River Heritage and Cultural Center (KRHCC). Ellestad agreed to sell the buildings to the organization for $1.

The SLLCRRA will extend the lease on the land for one year and suspend rent payments until the end of the year. The group expects visible progress in the next few months.

Paul Von Goertz, president of KRHCC, claimed the nonprofit already has $50,000 in donations and plans to complete the restoration of the buildings entirely with volunteer labor.

The first phase of restoration began in July with asbestos abatement and external and structural repairs to stabilize the buildings.

The second phase includes restoring the interior of the buildings so visitors can walk inside and see an authentic train depot from the turn of the 20th century.

Jamey Malcomb

Jamey Malcomb has been a reporter for the Pine Journal since October 2018. He previously worked as a reporter for the Lake County News-Chronicle from 2015-2018. Malcomb is a native of North Carolina and holds a bachelor's degree in English and history from the George Washington University and a master's degree in education from George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. Malcomb moved to Minnesota in July 2012 and worked as a sports clerk and news assistant at the Duluth News Tribune. 

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