Today, the Depot is the only remaining railroad structure of the Great Northern Railroad that once extended from Great Falls to Monarch, Barker, and Neihart, Montana.
Because of holes in the roof and rotted walls, the Monarch-Neihart Historical Group (MNHG) determined the depot could not be preserved in its dilapidated condition, and so consulted with Davidson Kuhr Architects, who completed a condition assessment of the depot in 2012. Since then, we have completed the removal of much dirt that was pushed up against the depot when the MDOT (Montana Department of Transportation) was using it for storage, etc. The removal of the dirt shows the need for a foundation, replacement of the sills and floor joists, and several feet of deterioration as a result of the dirt and moisture.
It is our intent to restore the depot back to its 1902 architectural integrity.
Scroll down to see what the depot conditions were like before we began restoration, and the improvements we have made in the past three years.
The lamp holder next to the front door is a replica of one seen in many of the early photos of the depot.
2017-2018 restoration updates
Boarding Platform. The boarding platform was constructed on three sides of the Depot. The contractor, Dick Olson Constructors, built the foundation of the platform while two board members, Bob & Hugh, secured the deck boards to save on the cost. A total of 120 feet of platform was rebuilt matching the 1899 original plan.
Construction of the second freight door. One of the two freight doors was constructed in July of 2016. The location of these doors became apparent when the corrugated metal siding was removed in 2016. The west freight door was convenient for travelers and small shipments of freight. A second east freight door where the ‘home track’ was laid allowed boxcars to park for off-loading into the depot or directly onto wagons, most likely used for large shipments of mining or agriculture supplies. This door was constructed with Allith•Prouty barn door trollies which were the original trollies in the 1905 Carter Great Northern depot. The east trollies were donated by an Armington family who lives in the Armington Great Northern Depot and others were purchased from Ebay and donated for the west freight door. A donation of the old Armington freight doors was also received. Cost of boarding platform and freight door construction: $20,000.
The framing the ticket office walls. The Montana Department of Transportation removed the wall that separated the ticket office from the freight area when the Depot was used as a highway maintenance site. Overfelt Construction volunteered to frame the wall with materials MNHG purchased at discounted price from Johnson Madison Lumber. Cost of materials: $179.06.
Electrical work. The electrical service was removed from the Depot roughly thirty-six years ago. After requesting bids from various electrical contractors, Liberty Electric was selected. Motion lights have been placed on the east exterior corners for security purposes in this isolated location. Ceiling fixtures and track lighting have been mounted inside to direct light to exhibits. Two original light fixtures were rewired and mounted in the ticket office. Another original electrical fixture was mounted in the station master’s living quarters. An electrical circuit has been run to the Drover Car caboose and to the railway crossing signal that was a recent gift from a Monarch/Neihart resident. The signal has flashing red lights in four directions which operated during the Monarch Rocks! Festival in August. Cost of electrical work: $6,700.
The second MONARCH sign for the south exterior Depot wall based on the original sign plans from the Great Northern Railway Historical Society has been made and donated by the contractor, Dick Olson Constructors, and sign company, Kelly’s Sign.
Shiplap. Bob and Hugh are currently insulating the walls and covering them with shiplap which MNHG believes to be the original wall covering. The old shiplap was removed where necessary for the framing repairs in 2015 and more removed in 2017 for the electrical work. The shiplap came from a mill near Seely Lake which Johnson Madison Lumber ordered. A generous donor offered to split the cost of new shiplap with MNHG. Cost to MNHG: $1,831.84
Who Was Harold Dibb?
Last spring when Bob and Hugh were scraping several layers of paint from the exterior siding, Bob uncovered a name, Harold Dibb (or Dill) carved into the wood with the date July 1908. It was difficult to determine if the surname was ‘Dill’ or ‘Dibb’. After research, Janet and Hugh discovered no one living in Great Falls with the surname ‘Dill’ however, a young man named Harold Dibb was employed by the Tribune and lived with his parents. Young Harold enlisted in the Marines in February 1918 serving with the 6th USMC Regiment. He was wounded-in-action July 18, 1918, and discharged. He returned in Great Falls to marry his sweetheart, Mary Thomson, in 1919. Harold died in 1963 and is buried in the Saint Francis Xavier Cemetery in Lewis County, Washington. Harold’s carved name will be preserved with a biography nearby.
2017 restoration work
Freight Room Restoration
In November, Bob and Hugh spent two weeks working on the freight room, which included finishing out the windows. After closely examining their work, Bob's faithful 5 1/2 year old Boxer, Harlee, gave the room her final approval. Good job, guys!
Exterior and platform improvements
It took two of us working 14 days to scrape the old paint and fill in the nail/woodpecker holes. We very much thank the Great Falls Railroad Museum for donating all four switch signals! The platform is coming along, and we are most grateful for the donated stove and hand cart, which we rebuilt and refurbished. Power is now installed too.
Depot conditions before we began restoration and excavation
2015 Summer Excavation Work
2015-2016 Depot Restoration Work Continues
Monarch-Neihart Historical Group, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Contributions are tax-deductible under the provisions of Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Monarch-Neihart Historical Group, Inc. conducts its affairs so as to maintain this status. Tax I.D. #: 46-1853767.