Southern Pacific Railroad Depot

Carlton Historical Tour

Southern Pacific Railroad Depot

Carlton, Oregon 97111, United States

Created By: Visit Carlton


Built 1923

The town of Carlton is located on the Oregon & California Railroad—later Southern Pacific Railroad—that was constructed in the early 1870s between Portland and St. Joseph. Carlton had a small depot building, constructed around 1887, which served the small farming community as a “Baggage and Ticket Office" for nearly thirty years before it was replaced with the current depot building in 1923.

Wilson Carl, on behalf of local farmers, petitioned the Oregon Central to establish a railroad station in the vicinity. In 1875, a location was chosen and named Carlton. This first depot was located on the east side of the tracks. It was a small green building with a pot-belly stove inside. By 1904 there was a good train service with 2 or 3 passenger trains each way every day.

In 1913 it was reported that three passenger trains and one freight train passed through Canton daily, and soon citizens were appealing to Southern Pacific for a new depot building. The 1914 mill fire led to a delay, as the SP waited for better business conditions.

An exciting new form of travel appeared in 1914, the Red Electric interurban railroad. Bright red, electric powered train cars replaced dirty, noisy steam locomotives. Passengers could travel to nearby communities, such as Yamhill, or Newberg and McMinnville. They could also travel farther away, with Corvallis to the south, and Downtown Portland to the northeast. Their unique round windows at the ends lent them the nickname “Hoot Owl”. In a time when most rural roads were still dirt and mud, the Red Electrics provided comfortable, efficient transportation.

Expenses increased throughout the 1920s, as better roads and affordable automobiles reduced ridership, and as population growth in the rural Willamette Valley lagged behind expectations. The last Red Electric passenger train passed through in 1928.

In 1923, Southern Pacific promised the town a new depot with modern design and accommodations. While the old depot was sited on the east side of the tracks, the new building is located on the west side, on the former site of agricultural warehouse buildings (hay, hops, and general warehouse buildings). Considered by some to be "the finest depot on the west side" and "a model for the purposes it will serve," the building was only in use as a passenger depot for a few years before Southern Pacific stopped passenger service to Carlton.

By 1955, the depot was abandoned by the Southern Pacific and used as storage for the Madsen Grain Company. Truck scales were installed in 1976. Due to declining freight traffic, tracks were removed from Gaston to just north of Carlton in 1985. Tracks from Carlton to St. Joseph were removed in the 1990s. In 1991, The Country Depot store opened in the renovated depot. In 2003, it became the tasting room for Ken Wright Cellars.

This point of interest is part of the tour: Carlton Historical Tour


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