Railroad Museum of Minot revitalizing

Eloise Ogden/MDN The Railroad Museum of Minot in downtown Minot has many new projects under way to provide more activities for visitors.

Tim Gebhart says many different projects are under way at the Railroad Museum of Minot. He said if someone visited the museum about a year ago, it would be new to them now.

Gebhart, a railroad museum board member, said a model railroad display is being added in a room that will be one of the largest such displays in the Midwest.

He went on to say, “We are building a theater room for parties.”

“All displays are being redone,” he added.

The Escape Room located in a caboose alongside the museum building first opened in October. It is a fundraiser for the museum, Gebhart said. He said it is one of two Escape Rooms in the country located in a caboose.

He said another Escape Room is being built in the museum that will be in the 1930s-era Prohibition time.

The museum is located at 19 1st Street NE in downtown Minot. It is next to the Canadian Pacific Railway tracks and not far from the BNSF tracks.

Minot’s beginning goes back to the early years of the railroad moving west.

Minot began as a tent city when the railroad was pushing west in the late 1880s. When a townsite for Minot was chosen the tent city was moved almost instantly. Minot sprang up so fast that it was called “The Magic City,” according to historical accounts.

The city was named for Henry Davis Minot, who was associated with James J. Hill, builder of the Great Northern Railway, known as the St. Paul, Minneapolis and Manitoba when it reached Minot in 1887.

Years later, railroad enthusiasts felt Minot should have a railroad museum and in 1984 at a public discussion on the idea the backers cited the city’s railroad history, the wealth or memorabilia among employee families, the need for such a tourist attraction and Minot’s central location on the northern line of the then Burlington Northern (now BNSF). The discussion was held during Downtown Railroad Days, a feature of the annual Minot Arts Festival.

“It would be a natural for Minot,” said Dr. Kenneth M. Amstutz, an early advocate of a museum in Minot, according to a June 25, 1984, story in the Minot Daily News.

“The museum would soon become a big attraction,” said Hank Brown, a major collector of railroad items.

Minot’s historical role as a key switchyard center and locomotive repair site were also mentioned by James B. Sullivan of Minot, at the public meeting.

The museum became a reality. First the museum was located in the Town and Country Center and later moved to a former lumberyard building where it is located today.

The facility is dedicated to the railroad history and culture that established many cities in North Dakota. The displays and artifacts trace the impact and way of life railroads provided for many people.

The museum also operates the Magic City Express during the summer season in Roosevelt Park in Minot.

The Railroad Museum of Minot is open Saturdays from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. or by appointment by calling 852-7091. For appointments for the Escape Room call Tim Gebhart at 240-8345. Those who participate in the Escape Room during museum hours will get free admission to the museum.