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Salem Railroad Baggage Depot Project

Teamwork creates historic preservation opportunity

The Oregon Department of Transportation is pleased to partner with several organizations, agencies and individuals to restore the historic Baggage Depot at the Salem Railroad Station.

To keep up-to-date on the latest, click on the "Sign Up" button below and you'll receive automatic email alerts when we have updated information. 

The current project will upgrade the existing depot, provide a ticketing office and bus operations area for Greyhound, and create space for other bus services as to use.  We also plan to make environmental improvements for the depot and its surroundings as well as improve bike and pedestrian access for daytime or nighttime use. 

Thank you for your interest in Oregon's transportation system!

What's new

April 2017:
Progress continues on the restoration of the historic Salem Railroad Baggage Depot. We've uploaded new photos showing work on the interior, aerial views of the site and more. Pictured left is ODOT Historic Resources Program Coordinator Chris Bell holding one of the architectural elements being refurbished for re-use in the restored depot. 

State Rail Planner Bob Melbo has been researching and documenting information about the station, the depot and the late 1800's controversy around it; he compiled a historical timeline​ (PDF) giving just a glimpse of the complex issues the Capitol City faced. Read an explanation of what he found (PDF), along with verbatim news articles (PDFs) (1888-1889 and 1916-1918) and take a look at the 1895 Sanborn Insurance map​ (PDF) that he references.

January 2017: The historic Salem Railroad Baggage Depot is coming alive! Later this year, we’ll have a restored, rehabilitated facility. For project team members and several dedicated community members, it’s been a long-time coming – and a 2017 ribbon-cutting will be a welcomed event. Here's an overview of our situation:

Mix of funding is unique, valuable – and challenging

This project is using funds from six different sources, and each of those sources has unique requirements around its use. Coordinating the details and having to make adjustments has pushed back the project milestones several times. 

Historical aspect brings a new set of expectations

ODOT has worked with historical facilities before – bridges and highways in particular, not necessarily buildings. There were several unexpected processes required by the historical nature of the project that set the timelines back.

A new concept: a historic, multimodal center – a first for Salem and for Oregon

All of the unusual aspects of this project combined to result in a project that will ultimately cost a little over $2 million: far above the original $1 million estimate and far below what a typical multimodal center in Oregon costs ($10 million+). When it is finished, the building and grounds will offer passenger rail service, intracity and intercity bus service, bicycle storage, electric vehicle charging stations and improved pedestrian access to the area. The stormwater is being managed to reduce impact to nearby Sheldon Ditch, and a refurbished depot will offer an historical experience for the traveler.

Next up: Dixie's Depot!

The plaque is ready! A donation from the Kenney family is helping this historic multimodal dream come true. Sign up below to receive future emails about this project, including the grand opening.

December 2016: Site workers uncovered remnants of something... and we had to call in ODOT Archaeologist Kurt Roedel to investigate. See the full report (PDF) and photos (PDF)​.


October 2016: Site work is wrapping up as the historic Salem Railroad Baggage Depot project continues its progress toward rehabilitation. But it's much more than that! The restored building and the entire grounds of the Salem Railroad Station will gain a new lease on life as a multimodal center, set to open later this winter.

As it turns out, this project is just the next step in the site's lively past. Learn more about the early years in an old article​ (PDF) about the fire and a compilation of articles (PDF) about the struggle to get the post-fire facility to the standard Capitol-city living residents wanted. This information is the result of work State Rail Planner Bob Melbo and his partners completed recently.

Melbo said, "This has been a very interesting endeavor. We are rewriting a small bit of Salem’s history because our research is debunking what is said about the history of the Salem’s railroad depots online and most printed resources. Examples: The first train station actually burned in 1888 rather than commonly used year 1885. Its successor, the 1889 depot that allegedly was lost to another fire in 1917, instead was moved a couple hundred feet to the north in December of 1917 so the present-day station could be constructed on the same site. After the new station opened without celebration or fanfare on or about September 25, 1918, the 1889 depot was torn down except for its southern express wing which was moved to its current location about 100 feet south of today’s station. Up until now, the story was the baggage/express wing somehow escaped the alleged 1917 conflagration.

"It is abundantly clear that folks in Salem believed the state’s capital deserved a more classy railroad depot than the one they had. And why shouldn’t they?," Melbo asked. "After all, between 1908 and 1914 Southern Pacific had built new masonry depots in Eugene, Albany, Corvallis, McMinnville and Forest Grove. It was Salem’s turn!"

We hope you enjoy the articles!

June 2016: General Contractor Andy Medcalf Construction of Salem has been hired to lead the final phase of this project: construction, paving, landscape and more - all leading to a rehabilitated historic Salem Railroad Baggage Depot. Construction timelines can vary, and our current goal is to have a ribbon-cutting ceremony this winter. Pictured left is one of "barn doors" that will be rehabilitated and put back on display inside the facility. Other pieces of the original building will also be reused, such as most of the exterior siding and almost all of the redwood brackets.

PHOTOS: See our collection of photos​ on this project on FlickR.

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The historic Salem Railroad Baggage Depot was added in the mid-1890s to handle the growing passenger, baggage and express traffic passing through. It was Salem's heyday, and at the time, rail travel was predominant and Southern Pacific was Salem's only railroad, as the Oregon Electric line didn't begin service to Salem from Portland until 1908.

The baggage building is one of the last 19th century railroad facilities in Oregon. Salvaged from a fire in 1917 that burned Salem’s second railroad station, it became a stand-alone freight handling facility in 1918, and served its purpose well until roughly the last 20 years when it became obsolete and has sat vacant. The building sits next to the 1918 Beaux Arts Station, listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

By rehabilitating the facility, ODOT and its partners hope to create a regional multimodal transportation hub, providing transportation alternatives for Salem area residents and visitors.


Let us know your thoughts about restoring the historic baggage depot! Contact Jean Palmateer in ODOT Public Transit:
(503) 986-3472
For media inquiries, contact: Shelley M. Snow, ODOT Public Affairs
(503) 986-3438
cell: (503) 881-5362

Links and resources

Learn more about passenger rail in Oregon. 

Find out about Amtrak Cascades routes, schedules, fares and reservations.

Keep up on what's happening in public transit around the state.

The Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation is a resource for rail history and preservation.

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