A group of volunteers responsible for the renovation-mounted replicas of the original 1900s Knife River Depot and Railway Express Agency installed signs on the building's freshly painted blue siding, under the new red steel roof, officially commissioning the depot Friday, Nov. 22.

When plans for the renovation of Knife River's historic depot were presented to the public in March, the goal was to have the depot complete enough for the annual Julebyen holiday festival in December. Organizer Paul Von Goertz's goal of selling tickets for the Troll Train — a storytelling train ride to visit a troll under a "canyon" — from the old ticket booth will be realized Saturday, Dec. 7.

Significant progress has been made the future site of the Knife River Heritage and Cultural Center. Since May, a half-dozen volunteers have worked five to six hours a day Mondays through Wednesdays to restore the building, which was moved to Knife River in the early 1900s.

The Knife River train depot buildings before renovation. (file / News-Chronicle)
The Knife River train depot buildings before renovation. (file / News-Chronicle)

Exterior work made up the majority of the first phase of reconstruction work, including reinforcing the depot's chimney; patching and replacing the roof with seam steel siding; installing concrete footings to raise the building's foundation; and work on the siding. The depot's windows are yet to be replaced, but have been covered to help the building make it through the winter.

The crew also constructed a bump-out in the front of the building where there used to be an agent’s window — a large bay window used to observe the trains. The bump-out was included in the original plans, but was removed at some point.

If you go

Troll Train

What: Half-hour storytelling train ride to Troll Canyon in partnership with North Shore Scenic Railroad.

Where: Knife River train depot.

When: Saturday, Dec. 7; starting at 11 a.m., train departs every hour.

Tickets: $10 adults, $4 ages 4-12, free for ages 2 and under; purchase at train depot.

Julebyen Express

What: Julebyen Express train ride.

Where: Duluth Depot to Knife River train depot.

When: Saturday, Dec. 7 — departs Duluth at 9:30 a.m., boarding begins in Knife River at 2 p.m. for 3 p.m. return; Sunday, Dec. 8 — departs Duluth at 9:30 a.m., boarding begins in Knife River at 1 p.m. for 2 p.m. return.

Tickets: $20 adults, $8 for ages 3-13, free for ages 2 and under; free Troll Canyon ride included with each adult ticket.

Knife River's Julebyen begins Dec. 6

Jo Thompson adds string ornaments to a piece of driftwood to make a holiday decoration while other members of the Julebyen Crafty Club work on similar handcrafted objects to sell at the outdoor marketplace in 2018. (file / News-Chronicle)
Jo Thompson adds string ornaments to a piece of driftwood to make a holiday decoration while other members of the Julebyen Crafty Club work on similar handcrafted objects to sell at the outdoor marketplace in 2018. (file / News-Chronicle)

It’s that time of year again when Knife River transforms into a Christmas village for Julebyen Dec. 6-8.

Events kick-off 4:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 6, with Julefest, a music and food event featuring a menu of Swedish meatballs and gravy, potatoes, peas, rye bread, lingon berries, warm gingerbread, hot apple cider and juice boxes.

There will be a cash bar, a silent auction and music by the Two Harbors Ukulele Group.

Tickets are $15 for adults and free for ages 12 and under; there's a $5 cover charge for adults who don't want dinner. Proceeds will support the recreational programs of the Knife River Recreation Council.

Julebyen continues through the weekend. The marketplace will officially open at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 7, and remain open until 5 p.m.

Kaden Dixon (left) pulls Lillie Kozelka in a wagon in a "Dress Like a Troll Race" during the Julebyen festival in 2017. (file / News-Chronicle)
Kaden Dixon (left) pulls Lillie Kozelka in a wagon in a "Dress Like a Troll Race" during the Julebyen festival in 2017. (file / News-Chronicle)

The festival includes multiple indoor and outdoor marketplaces around the grounds of the Knife River Recreation Center and Knife River Campground, including the Gnome Dome, outdoor and indoor markets, Troll Village and the Knife River Lutheran Church.

Handmade items and Scandinavian foods will be available for purchase around the markets. Music, food and cultural demonstrations will be held at various times throughout the festival. Kids activities include sliding, skating rink (weather permitting), Tomten's Treasure Hunt, Felton the Troll and the children's herring run.

For a full listing of events, activities, locations and more, visit julebyen.us or pick up a brochure at the Julebyen information booth starting Friday afternoon.

Zane and Cadence Bardolph decorate their Dala horses in the kids' craft area in the Gnome Dome tent at Julebyen in 2018. (file / News-Chronicle)
Zane and Cadence Bardolph decorate their Dala horses in the kids' craft area in the Gnome Dome tent at Julebyen in 2018. (file / News-Chronicle)