The Wadena & District Museum
Amber Mayer, Museum Curator
Wadena's Canadian Northern Railway Station House (later Canadian National Railway, CNR) was a Class 3 depot built by John Skoglund and C.A.Nelson in 1904. It was constructed as soon as the steel was laid in 1904. The CNR realized that the CPR was going to beat them to Wadena, so the crew jumped ahead and built tracks across the CPR right of way. The station was originally built where Highway 35 crosses the tracks. Passenger service in Wadena began on April 2nd, 1905.
In 1909 the station building was relocated 75 yards to the east of its original site. The site of the crossing is the reason the town of Wadena is situated where it is.
In 1912, the station platform was extended and the ladies' waiting room was built. As the community grew, so did the amount of freight which was passing through the railway station. This prompted the need for the addition to the freight shed which took place a few years later. The station became the hub of the community, becoming the place to gather each evening when the train came in with supplies, mail and the faces of loved ones or new settlers looking for a better place to live.
On June 4, 1916, the 214th Battalion "Wildcats" left from the Wadena CNR Station for training at Camp Hughes During the war years, people gathered to wave goodbye to the soldiers and welcome home those who returned.
The passenger service on the CNR through Wadena came to an end on May 18th, 1963. However, this did not signal the beginning of the end for the Station. On October 7th, 1985 the Wadena Town Council made a motion that the station be purchased for a museum. It was relocated adjacent to the "Brice" farmyard in September 1990 and it was opened to the public on June 6, 1991. On April 27, 2010, the Wadena CNR Station along with other historic buildings at the Wadena & District Museum received Municipal Heritage status.
As you can see from this historical account, Wadena's CNR Station has a proud heritage in our community. Today it continues to serve Wadena and the surrounding communities in its capacity as a Visitor's Center and a museum where the artifacts and histories of early settlers are collected and preserved for future generations. Visitors from near and far have stopped in to learn about our community.
Thanks to the hard work and dedication of many volunteers, Wadena's original CN Train station continues to welcome visitors since it was built in 1904. Now receiving visitors by car, the station is home to Wadena's Visitor Information Center and the Wadena Museum and Nature Center, highlighting the areas of cultural and natural heritage. A number of buildings and exhibits portray pioneer life and guided tours are available of the station agent's living quarters situated in the back of the CNR station, a one -room Schoolhouse, a teacherage, a blacksmith shop, general store, church, a NWMP barracks replica containing the old jail cell, a Doukhabour Banya (bathhouse), the Brice House built in 1914 and vintage farm machinery. All giving visitors a unique glimpse into our prairie history.