WIMBLEDON, N.D. - Cold weather, rain and a five-year wait were not enough to deter the crowds that gathered in Wimbledon for the grand opening of the Midland Continental Railroad Depot Transportation Museum on Saturday.
A sizable portion of the museum is also dedicated to former Wimbledon resident Norma Delores Egstrom, more popularly known as famous singer Peggy Lee. Lee, who passed away in 2002, would have been 92 on the day of the opening. Tribute performances were held in Fargo and Jamestown last week to commemorate her birthday and the museum’s opening, while a program was held on the morning to honor Lee and the museum’s opening.
It has been nearly five years since a kickoff ceremony of the restoration of the depot was held on July 6, 2007.
“I don’t know that it is so much the end of anything as it is the beginning,” said Wes Anderson, the curator of the Barnes County Museum in Valley City and member of the Midland Deport Restoration Committee, who said more materials for exhibit were received that very morning.
“Once this place gets known among the Midland Continental collectors and the Peggy Lee fans, we’re going to have to take over a whole part of town to make room for it. It’s a wonderful project, something that’s long overdue but better late than never.”
Exhibits in the first room on the first floor lay the informational foundation for the railroad, including what was happening nationwide as the railroad was being established. The Wimbledon stop is the last remaining depot on the rail line that lasted over 70 years which began in Galveston, Texas.
The second room offers more information on the key players in the railroad’s formation and history, many of whom were honored by having small towns along the line named after them.
A section of the second room is also dedicated to Lee, who spent four years at the depot when her father worked there as a depot agent from 1934 through 1937. Lee’s granddaughter, Holly Foster-Wells, will attend the museum’s opening on May 26.
The Depot Agent’s room offers information on the depot itself, including the history of the depot designs along the railroad. On the east end, the Freight Room will display equipment and tools the early railroad workers used, and the troubles they had starting up with secondhand equipment and intense snowfalls.
Upstairs lies the full Peggy Lee room, which will be complete with listening stations, the singer’s dresses and other clothes, as well as album covers and other information.
Also upstairs are the living quarters and a room that features everyday items and tools from the past that people today would not recognize, including cistern pumps, chamber pots and antique stoves.
As efforts were ramping up for the opening, project manager Bobby Koepplin told the Times-Record a few weeks ago, “I think it’s going to be a home run for the community. Otherwise the building would have been burned down someday.”