Wayzata Depot

Open April thru December on Wednesday, Weekend & Holiday afternoons
Noon until 4:00 pm

Located at 402 East Lake Street in Downtown Wayzata

The Wayzata Historical Society museum resides in the waiting room and depot office areas of the Wayzata Depot, located along Lake Minnetonka in downtown Wayzata.  The depot was constructed by James J. Hill's Great Northern Railroad in 1906, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

"This museum is not a "look but don't touch" museum,
but rather a living, interactive monument to Wayzata. 
Please come and experience some of Wayzata's history ."
Terry Middlekauff

What will I experience if I visit the Wayzata Depot?


  • The waiting room benches rest on the original terrazzo tile floor.  Pictures along the walls above the enameled brick wainscoting depict the Wayzata area throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries.  Often, a slide show or movie will also be running in this room during the weekend.
  • Installed in 2004, the seven panel Wayzata Timeline dramatically illustrates the major events in the history of Wayzata.
  • The freight agentís desk (complete with an operating candlestick telephone) and freight scales await passenger's checked luggage.
  • Railroad and Lake Minnetonka memorabilia can be found in the display case donated by the Wayzata High School class of 1925.
  • The ticket window appears as it always has, manned by a friendly agent where you can request a souvenir ticket to one of the many stops on the Empire Builder.
  • Two rare hand-built train models are displayed along the east wall. One is a rare 1930ís era model of the Great Northern Empire Builder. The other is an equally-rare model of a Union Pacific "Big Boy" from the 1940's.
  • A 1950's era Coke machine is available for use - go here for details.
  • You can weigh yourself (or the kids) on a 1920's era "penny lollipop scale" - go here for details.
  • If itís quiet, which it seldom is, you can hear the ticking of the eight day, railroad regulator clock!
  • The train bulletin Board lists the expected passenger train arrival times.  Sadly the board is empty these days.  Notices, however, are kept current indicating the estimated arrival times of coal, grain, and manifest (freight) trains on the active BNSF tracks.  Approximately eight trains rumble through downtown Wayzata daily.


  • The "heart" of the Depot houses the ticket window, the stationmaster's desk, and the operator's desk along with additional pictures, exhibits, and memorabilia.
  • One can view the original Stationmaster's cylinder top desk,  which was sent to the station by James J. Hill.  When Burlington Northern closed the Depot in 1971, the desk was given to the then stationmaster, Bill O'Loughlin.  The desk returned home to the Depot in 2002, thanks to the generosity of Wayzata resident, Stanley Gregory.
  • Restored in 2005, the ticket counter features an original advertisement ink blotter under the embedded glass at the ticket window. (Note the telephone number!) The ticket counter had been covered with Masonite for the last 50 to 70 years!
  • The operator's desk showcases the communications equipment including a telegraph and telephone which were utilized by the railroad.  The vast majority of the equipment is original and still is operational!  Experienced volunteers display how the equipment was used and share stories of its usage.
  • The telegraph hardware includes: four main line sounders and a local sounder (receivers), a jack box, a relay, and a telegraph key.  Kids, of any age, can try their hand at sending a Morse code message.
  • One can talk with others using the operator's telephone and an antique candlestick telephone (complete with ringer box) located in the waiting room.  The selective telephone ringer also works, if the correct number combination is entered using the vintage telephone dial!  Further, an Underwood manual typewriter is available for those who thought typing always took place on a computer keyboard!
  • The three Edison wet cells (ca 1911-1915) were used to power signal lights.
  • A "one of a kind"  treasure is the telegram working file made by Depot operator Carl Goodmunson and donated to the Depot by his son Gary in 2002.
  • Before 2-way radios, communications with the train crews was accomplished by written messages (train orders).  The operator's office includes train order signal levers, train order hoops, the train order stand, and train order forms (Form 19 flimsies.)
  • For those interested in modern day railroading the tracks that pass the depot carry about a dozen trains per day. The office is well-equipped with a train monitoring display showing the current locations of near-by trains - click here to see a sample display.

Interested in other historic U.S. depots?
There are over 8,500 surviving depots in the U.S.,
and photos are available for about half of them.
Their locations are plotted on Google Maps,
along with photos, at www.depotmaps.com.


The City of Wayzata is the proud owner of a rare calliope on wheels! This vehicle was owned by MGM Studio's in the 1920's, and the Henry Ford Museum in the 1970's. It uses music rolls like those used in player piano's to play music popular a half century ago.

During the summer months, and as weather permits, the calliope is on display outside the Depot on weekend afternoons. It is operated for about ten minutes each hour - on the hour - for your listening pleasure.  For more information on this gem click here.


Work on a garden railroad east of the depot was begun in the summer of 2009. An initial layout was constructed in time for the annual J.J. Hill Days celebration, and a more permanent version was construct during the summer of 2010.  The new layout allows multiple trains to run concurrently.  A village has been created, along with a 'service area' for the train engines. And, the area has been landscaped by the Lake Minnetonka Garden Club. Stop by to check out our progress, or go to this link for a slide show of the project.



On summer weekends the Depot serves as a terminus for the steam boat Minnehaha. The Minnehaha leaves Excelsior on weekend mornings with a round trip to the depot docks. You can take an hour-long trip around Wayzata Bay, leaving the Depot at Noon and returning to the Depot at 1:00 PM. For more information, visit www.steamboatminnehaha.org.

The Minnehaha was one of six boats built by the Twin City Rapid Transit Company in 1906. Streetcars ran from Minneapolis to Excelsior, and the streetcar boats were used to ferry people to the various towns and residences around Lake Minnetonka.  As autos replaced the streetcars, the boats were retired and eventually scuttled in the lake. In 1992 the Minnehaha was rediscovered, raised from the bottom of the lake, and restored to operating condition in 1996.

Be sure to visit the Depot and join with us in reminiscing about historic Wayzata.

Copyright  ©  2012 Wayzata Historical Society