Sunday, August 15, 2010

Depot in Decline

Iconic sign still on depot roof...
Photo by Bill Reynolds

While up home for the Gamble Reunion, I stopped at Dad's old place of work, the Noyes, MN depot. There were several customs agents milling about outside as well as railway workers, waiting. I knew why1...

I went into the 'waiting room', and the door to the work area was open. Two men were in there, leaning on the front desk area - the area where the telegraphs used to sit, and later the dispatch phones were. Many a time I saw my Dad with a pad, writing out train orders there. Not far in front was a table with a typewriter back then, one I typed more than one of my first stories on. Yes, even a writer then, although using the hunt-and-peck method (as did my father...)

I greeted the railroad worker, introduced myself explaining my Dad used to work here. I asked his name, and he said it was Zimmerman (but not related to the Darryl Zimmerman my Dad worked with) This guy was surprised he didn't recognize Dad's name since he started in 1979, before Dad retired, but he didn't.  However, he did recognize Steve Skjold's name, who worked with Dad for part of his career. I said it looks pretty bare in here - there was no sign people regularly worked here. He explained it's still used, for Conductors to stop in at and place calls or take calls, use the computer in the old computer room (the one that used to hold all the mainframe terminals and old punch card and ticker tape computer machines that Dad cut his teeth on when they brought in computers in the 1970's).  Everything is automated now, he said, so no need for full-time depot there anymore. "It's centralized out of Fort Worth and Kansas City," he explained. And so it goes...time marches on. The old, iconic NOYES sign is still there though.  One consistent standard that hasn't changed on the depot for many years.  It's comforting and disturbing at the same time to see it still there.  I think I'm gonna contact BNSF and see if I can get that sign if they ever demolish the building.  What would I do with it?  I'd put it on one of our out-buildings, maybe put up some old metal Great Northern signs on the outside siding to go with it.  It'll be part memorial to my father, part acknowledgment of the important role that railways have played in this region (and in my family in general2)
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1 - A Canadian National Railways bigwig was about to come through on a private train. Bill and I had been following it ever since the Hill mansion in Northcote - we were just finishing up our exploration there when we heard the trains whistles as it came through various unguarded crossings. We jumped in the car and off we ran to catch it up, after initially watching it pass. I called out to Bill, that's gotta be a private coach, a special train of sorts. As we got on the highway and caught up, we slowed a bit to match the train speed to take a closer look. We could see a man in a suit in the rear of the passenger car, but weren't sure we saw anyone else in it.

2 - Before my father, two maternal uncles (my great uncles - Uncle Dick and Uncle Charlie - brothers to my grandfather) worked for the Great Northern...