Saturday, October 24, 2015

Building Preservation in St. Paul

Usually this blog concentrates on the preservation of railroad equipment, because that's what we do best.  Preservation of railroad buildings is perhaps equally important.  But since most historic buildings are immovable, adaptive reuse is often the only feasible option.  On a recent visit to friends in the Twin Cities, we had an opportunity to visit two good examples of preserved railroad structures, close to each other in St. Paul. 

"Bandanna Square" is an adaptive reuse of many parts of Northern Pacific's huge Como Shop complex.  Walking around the property is the only way to really appreciate the size of this operation.   While the buildings have been rebuilt to house offices for a medical facility, doctors, lawyers, PR people, and so on, they still provide a dramatic lesson in the scale of the facilities for a major railroad.

There must have been at least a thousand men working at this facility, and it's an interesting exercise to imagine the constant noise, smoke, and movement everywhere when this place was in full operation.  If only I had a time machine.

Out in front is a GTW 0-8-0, which IRM acquired from Sterling and then sold to Bandanna Square in 1982. 

The transfer table between two parallel shop buildings is still mostly there, with the remains of an old car sitting on it.

One part of one building houses the Twin City model railroad club, which has an impressive O scale layout, including TCRT traction.   This is the only remaining non-office use in the complex, but just last week they announced that they're looking for a new home.

And not far away, near Lake Como, is this trolley station built by TCRT in 1905.  In those days, they could afford the best money could buy.

 It is available to rent for birthday parties and so on.

The footbridge over the tracks at left is the one that appears in the photo from about 1910 at lower right.


Anonymous said...

1905 sketch of the Como Shops complex


Randall Hicks said...

Thanks, that's quite interesting. If you rotate the plan CCW so you can read the writing, north is up. The Paint Shop and the Car Shop are still complete, and are at the front of the complex. The transfer table extended much farther north than I would have thought. The engine is displayed on what would be one of the runaround tracks to the south. The blacksmith shop is still in existence (my picture #3) and picture #2 shows what's left of the Erecting Shop; the boiler shop was removed but the machine shop is still there. The coaling tower doesn't appear on the plan. Things farther out, such as the freight repair shed and the kiln, I think are gone. That's really neat.

Unknown said...

Do we have any more of the GTW engines from Serling that might be in restorable condition? They look to be about the right size for our operation. I seem to recall that they were converted to burn gas?
c kronenwetter
IRM member

Anonymous said...

The "coaling tower" is a ash tower for the removed powerhouse.


Randall Hicks said...

Oh. That's interesting, I suppose it speeds up the removal of all that unwanted ash. I don't remember hearing of such a thing before. Thanks!