Almost unnoticed at the top of a hill just past the Oak Street Bridge in Waupaca's Third Ward sits one of Waupaca's historical landmarks -- the former Soo Line railroad depot. For much of the city's existence, the depot was an important part of the community. In 1907, after a fire destroyed the old building, the Wisconsin Central spared no expense to build the current structure for this important tourist and shipping location. The depot was the first thing travelers saw when arriving in Waupaca. It was a place for families to say goodbye or be reunited. Visitors could take a train to Waupaca or ride a trolley to the Wisconsin Veterans Home, Grand View Hotel, or boat dock where they could board a boat for their lake destination. Soldiers leaving for duty in both World Wars were sent off by their loved ones. Eventually times changed and, in January of 1965, Soo Line passenger service ended in Waupaca. The station continued to be used as an agent's office and section crew quarters until the new Wisconsin Central Railway purchased the railroad in 1987. Following the purchase, the once important building stood empty and deteriorating.
In 2004, after four years of careful negotiations with, first, the Wisconsin Central, and then the Canadian National Railroad, the Waupaca Historical Society was able to purchase the building without moving it off its current site. Many volunteer hours have been spent cleaning up the grounds and restoring the building.More work remains to be done, but with a group of dedicated workers, the beautiful stone Depot with its three fireplaces and Spanish tile roof is returning to its former grandeur.
In 2015, volunteers dug out a basement below the Depot. This area now houses a G-scale model train display, featuring artwork of historic sites around the Waupaca and Chain O'Lakes area, a train table for little train enthusiasts.
The Depot grounds also houses a car barn, which holds the baggage car from Waupaca's early trolley line. A caboose and Soo Line potato car also sit on the grounds for visitors to tour and view. The River Ridge Trail passes by the Depot along Oak St. and the granite quarry in Shambeau Park is just west of the depot grounds. A small trail connecting the Depot to the quarry has been built. Part of the connecting trail follows the old railroad siding that once served the quarry. In 2009, a car barn was built to house the baggage car from Waupaca's early 1900s trolley line. It is located at the bottom of the hill on the Depot grounds.
If you wish to contribute toward restoration of the Depot, either financially or as a volunteer, please contact the Waupaca Historical Society. We would also love to hear from you if you have Depot memories to share.
Memorial Day-Labor Day: Open the second and third weekends of the month (June, July, August)--Saturday and Sunday from 12-5 p.m.
Sat., June 18 (for Strawberry Fest/Waupaca Model Railroaders Train Show): OPEN 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Sun., June 19 (for Strawberry Fest/Waupaca Model Railroaders Train Show): OPEN 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The Depot is located at 525 Oak Street. Tours of the Depot are available by appointment at other times by calling 715-256-9980 at least two weeks in advance.
To see a Flickr collection of photos of the Depot and its restoration, along with additional photos of the caboose, Soo Line potato car and Waupaca, click here. (Photos courtesy of Mike Kirk)
Virtual Railfan has installed two cameras at the historic Waupaca Depot for 24-hour viewing of the trains and tracks. Thanks to a grant from the Waupaca Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, we installed higher speed Internet for the cameras so they can be viewed around the world. Waupaca is the first location in Wisconsin and the Midwest to be featured on Virtual Railfan! You can check the video feeds out for free at YouTube:
https://youtu.be/SFW_BONFaFU (west camera)
https://youtu.be/7og_TH5JzCo (east camera)
Thank you for donating to the Waupaca Historical Society and helping us preserve Waupaca and Chain O'Lakes history!
What's Happening at the Waupaca Historical Society!
(all programs are at the Holly History and Genealogy Center unless otherwise noted)
- Wed., March 15: Lost Arts Folk School-Garden Basket (FULL)
- Thurs., March 16: Lost Arts Folk School--Garden Basket (FULL)
- Thurs., March 30, 6 p.m.: "A Creative Place: The History of Wisconsin Art" with Annemarie Sawkins (sponsored by Dennis W. Rocheleau)
- Mon., April 17, 6:30 p.m.: Program with Winchester Academy at the Waupaca Area Public Library--"Ancient Canoes Discovered in Lake Mendota" with James Skibo, PhD
- Thurs., April 20, 6:30 p.m.: "A Tale of Two Companies: The Building of Seagrave and Four Wheel Drive in Clintonville" with Barbara Koster
- Sat., May 20, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.: Family Fun Day at the Depot with the Waupaca Area Public Library (DEPOT)
WHS COVID POLICY
Masks are not required in our buildings at this time. We encourage visitors to wear masks if they feel more comfortable. We also encourage all visitors to remain at home if exposed to COVID-19 or feeling unwell.
Appointments outside of open hours at any WHS buildings can be made at least two weeks in advance by calling the Holly History and Genealogy Center at (715) 256-9980 or emailing
Tracy Behrendt at