|Salem's historic Passenger Rail
Station is a restored jewel in the crown of the nation's passenger
rail system. Originally built by the Southern Pacific Railroad
in 1918, the station is the third rail station in Salem's history.
The first, built in 1871, was destroyed by fire in 1885. The
second built in 1889, also fell victim to a fire in 1917.
The neo-classical architecture was a standard design used
by the Southern Pacific Railroad in passenger station construction
during the heyday of passenger rail service in the United
States in the early part of the 20th Century. When new, the
building also served as the Railway Express Agency office
and Salem's Western Union telegraph office. Southern Pacific
"modernized" the building in the late 1950s, installing
a new heating and air conditioning system. Unfortunately,
the project also included installation of a false ceiling
that dropped the ceiling level from 24 to approximately nine
feet. The new ceiling blocked the view of the high arched
windows. Two magnificent 30-inch diameter glass globe chandeliers
also were removed during the remodel.
A Renewed Interest
A nationwide decline of passenger rail service during
the last three decades of the 20th Century led to a decline
in the condition of the Salem station. The 1990s however,
brought a renewed interest in the passenger rail services
and the realization that passenger rail, especially high speed
passenger service, could again become a vital part of the
nation's transportation system.
In 1991, Congress passed the Intermodal Surface Transportation
Efficiency Act (ISTEA) which, among other things, set aside
funds for improving passenger rail service. Using that funding
source, the Oregon Department of Transportation purchased
the station from the Southern Pacific Railroad for about $600,000
in 1995. The department spent another $1 million in federal
ISTEA funds to restore the station.
Researched and written by Paul Porter and Susan Gibby.