Norge Train Depot
Built by the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad Company between 1906 and 1908, this station served the bustling town of Norge until 1969. The depot offers an example of the standardized architecture used in railroad structures, and it is also the only remaining building of this type in this area of James City County. During its sixty years of operation, trains passing through this depot carried passengers, freight, and mail. The structure originally stood on the southeast corner of Peach Street and the railroad tracks, before being moved about a mile north to its current location in 2006. After undergoing renovation in 2012, the train depot is now a museum.
Backstory and Context
After the Civil War, railroad companies sought to standardize the architecture of their stations, with possible modifications that would suit different regional needs. The depot was built from stock blueprints, with interchangeable lumber parts. The Norge station has a five-sided bay window, low roof, and decorative exterior details. The interior consisted of five rooms: a freight room, an express freight room, two segregated waiting rooms, and a station agent's office. Initially the two waiting rooms existed to allow for a women-only waiting room, but then evolved with culture of the Jim Crow South to separate white and black passengers.
Norge was a fairly new town at the time of the depot's construction, settled by Norwegian immigrants who were dissatisfied with life in the Midwest and encouraged to purchase farmland in the South. The new train station facilitated the arrival of new people to the community. Before the construction of the depot, there was only a freight station, and for passenger service people had to travel to Toano.
Once the station began operating, passenger trains stopped their twice per day, with mail arriving four times per day. During both world wars, service members traveling to nearby military installations passed through the station. The trains passing through Norge stopped carrying mail in the 1950s, and ceased passenger service around that time, though freight still traveled through the depot. The station ceased operation in October 1969, and was used as a storage building for its new owner, the CSX Railroad when it purchased the Chesapeake and Ohio in 1980.
By the late 1980s, the building had been vandalized and was deteriorating, leading to the founding of the Norge Railroad Depot Preservation Association. The CSX Railroad planned to demolish the building in 1997, but in 2003 the association negotiated the donation and relocation of the building to its current location at the James City County Library which took place in 2006. Surveys of the structure around this time found boarded-over windows and rotting floors. At its new location, the building was placed on a new concrete and masonry foundation.
The National Register of Historic Places recognized the depot in 2009, and after an extensive restoration in 2012 it is now a museum. The museum now has a caboose in its lot as well.
Malvasi, Meg Greene. Norge Train Depot, National Register of Historic Places Registration Form. February 1st 2007. Accessed April 11th 2020. https://www.dhr.virginia.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/047-5301_Norge_Train_Depot_2007_NRHP_nomination_Final.pdf.