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Salem's Passenger Rail Station:
A Restored Jewel
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.

Neo-Classical Design
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.


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