Trident depot

Three Forks museum volunteer Larry Wilcox secures a center line used to guide the Trident depot into its new location in Three Forks on July 28, 2011.

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When Trident was still a bustling company town, trains rumbled through it every day, moving along the railroad track with a noisy clickety-clack that residents still remember.

"We went to sleep with it," said Gene Townsend, the Three Forks mayor and a Trident native. "It was just a part of life."

As a boy, Townsend said he used to look forward to the train coming in the summer because it carried the newspaper - where he could read the baseball scores and see if his favorite team had won its game.

But the town, formed around the Ideal Cement plant, has long been abandoned. The town's train depot, built in 1911, has remained as one of only two buildings left to hint at Trident's once-vibrant past.

Now, the depot will tell that history in a new place: Three Forks.

The 100-year-old building was hauled to Three Forks on Wednesday morning, where it will be preserved and used as a museum for Trident and trains. The move has been the fruition of dedicated efforts to keep the historic building from demolition.

Pat O'Brien-Townsend, Gene's wife and president of the Three Forks Area Historical Society, said the group has been working to save the depot since it heard it was going to be destroyed.

"The depot was really a major part of that town when people were still living there," she said. "We're very excited about the project, just to be able to preserve that building."

Larry Wilcox, a volunteer who's helping refurbish the depot, said it won't be ready to use for years. For starters, the building needs a foundation, a floor and insulation.

But even in its current condition, the depot is impressive. Turret-like features make it look something like an old castle, and its blue doors and windows add brightness to its concrete stucco finish. There is no other depot like it, Wilcox said.

Inside, 30-foot-long trusses near the roof stretch from one side of the building to the other. In that section of the building, Northern Pacific trains would come and drop off goods they were carrying. In another portion, a window is still in place where tickets were sold for the passenger trains.

Jim Satake, a former railroad employee, stood watching Wednesday as the depot was placed in Three Forks.

"It's a big move, all right," he said, adding that he'd worked on trains that used to go through the Trident depot.

Joan Burwell, the first curator of the Headwaters Heritage Museum, said seeing the depot in Three Forks was like "a dream coming into being." She said it'll be great for the museum to have extra space for displays.

In a decade or two, Townsend said there will be very few people left to tell stories about Trident - about the concrete dust that would sometimes coat the town, about going to meet the train to get mail, or about the families and people who called that place home.

But when all is said and done, one place will still tell of Trident - this old depot that a community has fought to save.

Carly Flandro can be reached at 582-2638 or


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