Our railroad station has been the focus of local attention for almost a hundred years.
Built in 1918 to replace an earlier structure that burned, it was once the center point for transportation out of the city by both freight and passengers. Agricultural products from our abundant crops as well as families traveling to see relatives up and down our state, used the railway as the principal carrier.
Back in the1930’s, the passenger train gave a personal service unknown today. It was not uncommon for the train to stop where it was convenient for passengers to depart their carriage at locations as near as possible to their homes. Those were the days when the majority of residences were close enough to the tracks that a short walk home was expected.
At the beginning of World War 11, our station was the scene of a special heartbreak for local families of Japanese descent. It was from this station that they were transported to relocation camps in the inland western states. Many never returned.
As trucking and private transportation in the family car made train travel less popular, the station gradually lost customers until the condition of the building became critical. In the mid 1990s, the Oregon Department of Transportation took possession of the property. A $2.6 million renovation project was paid for by federal and state grants. The station received modern wiring, plumbing and heating. The 24-foot lobby ceiling was retained as well as the marble wainscot. A ticket counter of black marble was added and two 30-inch globe lights were recreated from drawings of the originals.
Amtrak leases use of the railway station for $1 a year. As a condition of the lease, Amtrak keeps the station clean and maintains the grounds.
Of particular interest at the present time is the 1880s Freight Depot adjacent to the station, a 1,600 square foot building in serious need of repair. It is the oldest freight depot in the state, predating the original station. The Marion-Polk Building Industry Association has received permission from the Oregon Department of Transportation, to put on a critically needed new roof at a cost to to the Association of $11,000 in manpower and materials. ODOT has offered the Freight Depot to the City of Salem and, if the city accepts, it may be leased to a tenant who would complete the building's repair in exchange for a $1. annual rental fee.
When You Are Here:
The station is in daily use. You may park in the adjacent lot and visit the lobby.