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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.

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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

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 (see below).

April 2016: Salem Salvage​ rescued the wood pieces that will not be repurposed in the rehabilitated historic Baggage Depot. ODOT Historian Chris Bell, pictured below on right, worked with the company to safely remove the old wood from the building. Cons truction on the building itself will begin in early May, with substantial completion on the project in late fall.

ODOT and Amtrak Cascades continue to partner on discounts and promotions aimed at increasing ridership on trains in the Willamette Valley. Recently, we teamed up to allow small pets on the train​ (restrictions apply). Check the website for the latest, and hop aboard the Amtrak Cascades!

September 2015: Plans are meeting milestones! We are moving forward in the restoration of the historic Salem Railroad Baggage Depot. In fact, plans are meeting milestones and we'll be sharing more out in the community soon. Below is a view of the west elevation, and it provides just a glimpse of the detail our team is going into to make sure we carefully remove, restore and potentially re-use as much as possible from this old building.

New life, new connections. When the historic baggage depot is restored, Salem will have a place where people can catch the bus or the train, park their bicycles and enjoy 'alternatives' to vehicle travel. This has required looking at far more than just rehabilitating the building; it has required configuring bus lanes and parking, adding a canopy and adjusting bicycle and pedestrian access for safety. In the preliminary drawing at below, you see what the restored building is going to look like. What you don't see is the amazing work that is going on behind the scenes coordinating all the requirements, including geo-hydro and archaeological reviews, permits, funding documentation and much more! Fortunately, we have partners who want to see this project succeed as much as we do.

December 2014: Crews placed plywood on the exterior after removing the paint to protect the historic baggage depot while engineering activities and research continue. What began as a simple restoration of an historic facility has blossomed into plans for a multimodal area, where people can walk, ride bikes, take the train or ride the bus. It’s a connected future that will benefit the community, but it does lengthen the time it will take to see a finished product.

In the meantime, we've uploaded a few new photos to our Flickr site, www.flickr.com/Protected_Nov14_sm.jpgoregondot. The photo at right shows the depot with its new protective exterior.

September 2014: We have a contractor on-board (Paint Removal Pro), carefully removing the interior wood and exterior siding to preserve as much of the original material as possible. Crews are working in mid-September to October, pulling down and saving the pieces, carefully extracting nails, removing lead-based paint and storing the salvageable ones for re-use when re-construction begins.

We've also begun discussions with the Oregon Arts Commission, as Oregon was one of the first states in the nation to pass the "Percent for Art" law. This requires a minimum amount be spent on publicly-accessible artwork if a project's cost goes over a certain amount. 

Sometimes it may appear we're not making progress... but we truly are! We want to make the most out of this opportunity to preserve a historic treasure yet look to our multimodal future, where the Salem community can walk, ride, take the local or long-distance bus or hop on the train - all from one convenient location. These are the kinds of things that contribute to a very enjoyable quality of life.

In August, our donor received a well-deserved award. Salem Mayor Anna Peterson presented Steve Kenney with the Virginia Green award, an award from the Salem Historic Landmark Commission, recognizing exemplary service on behalf of historic preservation within the community. Mayor Peterson said, "Since 2011, you have donated over $116,000 to both the Historic Residential Toolbox Fund and the restoration of the baggage depot, which has leveraged more than twice that amount of funding for restoration of Salem's historic resources. Salem is very lucky to have you within our community."
The Salem Railroad Baggage Depot restoration team is pleased to learn of this well-deserved recognition. We're happy to report that the plaque that will be located at the restored depot, honoring his wife, will read: "Dixie's Depot - Restored in memory of Dixie Kenney who believed in public transportation all her life." Thank you, Kenney family!

May 2014: Visit our Flickr site to see the latest photos from this project.

April 2014: Ramping up for nice weather. Work continues on the rehabilitation of the historic Salem Railroad Baggage Depot, though much of it is behind the scenes. For example, our team is finalizing paperwork that is required by the Federal Transit Administration in order to retain their continued support. Contractors are also working on refining design options. More visible are the efforts to restore materials taken from the facility. These efforts can be painstakingly slow as contractors try to preserve as much of the original woodwork, glass and other materials as possible. More updates as they become available!

March 2014: Project funding is key to our success. The rehabilitation of the historic Salem Railroad Baggage Depot is a detailed step-by-step project. Vital to its success is the funding that has been committed to the program, which comes from a variety of sources and demonstrates a true public-private partnership success.

In order to make the most of the funds committed, we must pay attention to details. For example, in working with the Salem Historic Land Commission, we did preliminary work that cost $145,000 (design, engineering and architectural evaluations and research). We presented our findings and received resounding support from the commission in December!

We’ve also held the first pre-construction meeting with the city and put together the draft National Environmental Protection Act package submittal to Federal Transit Administration (a required process).

We also spent $35,000 for removal of asbestos tile, bird waste and other materials inside the building so contractors could safely work in and around the facility as we move forward. And one contractor has removed the brackets and is the middle of restoring them. All but one will be re-used; one will be included in a display (see detail in photo, right).

We are well underway! This summer our project team will work to meet the requirements of a private donor, the State Historic Preservation Office, Greyhound and other stakeholders. Your continued support is greatly appreciated!

Jan. 2014: The Salem Historic Landmark Commission approved the plans! After thorough review and discussion, the Salem Historic Landmark Commission (HLC), on Dec. 19, unanimously approved our proposal to renovate the Salem Railroad Baggage Depot.

“The commissioners praised the efforts on the project,” said ODOT Project Manager Tony Snyder. “They were pleased that the building is being renovated and upgraded to give it a functional use that ensures it will be available for years to come.”

At the meeting, Kimberli Fitzgerald of the city of Salem and Jay Raskin of Nathan Good Architects presented the particulars of the plan. The city recommended that the commission approve the plans, which include the building exterior, repair strategy, bus operations and parking layout, window/door plan, and 3 new canopies for the bus parking. The commission did approve the plans, and now, according to Snyder, the more visible work begins.

“I anticipate the design process will accelerate now that we have an approved plan for the site,” Snyder said. “We now have a framework on which to develop the plans for construction.”

Rendering (preliminary)

Brackets are redwood! When our restorer, Amy McCauley of Oculus Fine Carpentry, Inc., removed the first six brackets on the historic building and began cleaning them, she discovered the brackets were made of redwood.

"Spectacular!" she said, and she's seen a lot of fine craftsmanship in her time, having recently completed restorations at the Cape Blanco Lighthouse

Not everyone was surprised, though. According to rail historian Ed Austin, Southern Pacific often sourced material from California... thus, redwood was fairly common in rail facilities on the West Coast (see before/after photo below).



Next steps: 1) Produce plans and specifications that meet city development and building codes so that we can obtain a building permit;  2) Determine the environmental impacts associated with the project’s “impervious areas” – parking lots, sidewalks, etc.  This will allow us to complete our NEPA submittal documentation that we are preparing for the Federal Transit Administration; 3) Investigate advantages and disadvantages of the two options for Cherriots bus stop  locations; 4) Ensure contracts are in place for continued success.

Nov., 2013: See a review of the baggage depot's "change over time" in this document. Topics of discussion go beyond the building and include on-site pedestrian movement, entrance/exit locations, parking space design alternatives and more. The overriding theme is "multimodal connections" (after historical rehabilitation, of course!).


Oct., 2013: Our volunteer Technical Advisory Committee members have been working hard! They've been reviewing preliminary plans from the architect and learning more about the history of the depot. Cleanup work is finished and even resulted in a special find: a 1920's baggage receipt book. ODOT Historian Chris Bell and others are making sure the weathered booklet is being well cared for, and it may even be on display when the rehabilitated depot is opened.

Sept., 2013: Cleanup work is beginning this month, with an eye toward preserving as much of the historical material as possible. Contractor Phil-Am Enterprises will be on site, preparing the building and grounds for the next steps in the renovation process.

August, 2013: ODOT has contracted with David Evans & Associates and architect Nathan Good for the initial work (concept plans and permitting); this is where the contractor researches what processes will be required before the next steps can take place. Budgets are being finalized through this process, and plans are being set to gather public input on design and other details.


July, 2013: Our volunteer group of citizens met at the historic facility in July for a tour and to learn about initial concept plans.

June, 2013: We're making progress! In July, our volunteer group of advisors from around the community will meet and tour the site; our consultants will be on the job, providing overall guidance so we can know more about our options. Stay tuned!

April, 2013: We're organizing public involvement. For more information, contact Jean Palmateer, jean.m.palmateer@odot.state.or.us or (503) 986-3472.

March, 2013: We now have this project programmed into the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (KN16212). It is set for $176,000 for preliminary engineering work and $5,000 for right of way acquisition.

Feb. 21, 2013: Our Public Transit staff has identified funds we can use for the critical planning portion of rehabilitating the historic Salem Railroad Baggage Depot. These funds will cover the Architecture and Engineering requirements, including traffic analysis, landscape planning and more.

Preserving and restoring the baggage depot is a multi-partner undertaking. A multimodal project such as this, by its nature, is only possible because of monies from different fund types, each with its own requirements and limits for use.

For example, Federal Highway Administration funds for the building renovation and Federal Transit Administration funds for the bus access and operating area will each pay for a part of the overall project but must be tracked separately.  ODOT gas tax funds cannot be used for transit activities as they are constitutionally earmarked for highway and highway-related projects.

This project is fortunate to have private donations and grant funds to support it. The funding scenario is clearly looking up, but it remains complex, and the entire project funding picture is still under development as ODOT moves forward, with our vital partners, to create a multimodal facility that will benefit future users.

Feb. 1, 2013: ODOT is in the process of applying for funds from the Federal Transit Administration to cover the costs of activities that are not eligible expenditures under the other funding already committed. We'll be hosting open houses and collecting input from nearby residents, stakeholders and others interested in this project in the near future.


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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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