Noted for its dazzling half-timbered walls and large dormers, the Whitefish depot was restored in the 1990s to house a waiting room, railroad offices and the Stumptown Historical Society.
500 Depot Street Whitefish, MT 59937
- Annual Station Revenue (2015)
- Annual Station Ridership (2015)
|Facility Ownership||Stumptown Historical Society|
|Parking Lot Ownership||BNSF Railway, City of Whitefish|
|Platform Ownership||BNSF Railway|
|Track Ownership||BNSF Railway|
|20 Short Term Parking Spaces||40 Long Term Parking Spaces||ATM|
|Accessible Payphones||Accessible Platform||Accessible Restrooms|
|Accessible Ticket Office||Accessible Waiting Room||Accessible Water Fountain|
|Baggage Storage||Bike Boxes||Checked Baggage|
|Dedicated Parking||Enclosed Waiting Area||Help With Luggage|
|Restrooms||Shipping Boxes||Ski Bags|
- Empire Builder
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The Great Northern Railway (GN) built the present Whitefish depot in 1928. It was designed in an Alpine style reminiscent of the resort hotels built by the railroad in nearby Glacier National Park during that same era. The building's first floor is clad in horizontal wood siding while the upper floors exhibit half-timbering. Heavy carved brackets support the roof’s wide overhang. Track side, the cedar-shingled roof features three prominent dormers--the two on the far ends are wide and have clipped gable roofs, while the central one displays delicate stickwork.
In the 1980s, after sixty years of continuous use, the Burlington Northern Railroad decided to vacate the deteriorating structure. The Stumptown Historical Society, established to preserve the history of the town and the Flathead Valley, approached the railroad for a transfer of ownership that was completed in 1990. The railroad also donated money it had allocated for a new building to help fund the depot's full rehabilitation.
The historical society renovated the upper stories of the depot and then leased that space back to the BNSF Railway (successor to the Burlington Northern). Additional funding provided the means to renovate the remaining areas. The first floor is shared by Amtrak, local vendors and the Stumptown Historical Society; the latter maintains a museum adjacent to the waiting room with exhibits tracing local history. The lower level has largely been kept to the GN's original design with some of the original partitions rearranged. In recognition of its historic significance to Whitefish and the region's railroading past, the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.
Recent additions include a baggage facility located on the side of the station to better serve the large number of visitors during ski season. In 2011, Amtrak designed and constructed a new 1,200 foot long concrete platform, which includes an electric snow-melting system; lighting was installed along the platform edge.
The GN is considered to have been America’s premier northern trans-continental railroad, running from St. Paul, Minn. to Seattle. It was formed in 1889 by James J. Hill, who orchestrated the merger of the St. Paul and Pacific Railroad with the St. Paul, Minneapolis, and Manitoba Railway. Hill holds a special place in railroad history and lore, and is known as the “Empire Builder.” Whereas most transcontinental lines were built with federal assistance in the form of federal land grants, the GN did not utilize this method.
Hill’s business acumen guided the planning and construction of the GN. Much of the upper Midwest and West was sparsely settled, so instead of racing across the continent, the GN developed the regions through which it traveled as it steadily moved toward the Pacific. This action helped settle the land and created a customer base. Hill the businessman actively sought to establish trade links with Asia, and the railroad is credited with putting sleepy Seattle on the map and transforming it into an important and powerful Pacific Ocean port after the railroad reached the West Coast in 1893.
Amtrak provides ticketing and baggage services at this station, which is served by two daily trains.