Transportation is always a hot topic in communities, both in the past and currently; everyone has an opinion to share. Our guest today is Mark Kavanaugh of the Oregon Electrical Railway Historical Society whose museum is located in Powerland Heritage Park in Brooks, north of Salem. Mark, who grew up riding the streetcars in Brooklyn, New York, indicated their organization began in 1957 with the goal of preserving the history of streetcars which were beginning to disappear all over the state. Their first museum was located in the town of Glenwood, west of Portland on Highway 26. In 1995, the museum was relocated to its current location in order to provide a more appropriate preservation environment for their growing collection.
Mark's passion is the streetcar history of Salem, and he was very knowledgeable and eager to share this with us. He advised that such service began in 1889 with horse-drawn cars that transported folks from the downtown area (probably close to the ferry landing) out to the Southern Pacific railroad station on Twelfth Street, a distance of about one mile. Soon a line could take you to the Capitol Building, out State Street to the Oregon Penitentiary, and even to the Oregon Insane Asylum (now known as Oregon State Hospital) along Asylum Street (now Center Street)--all were located on the far outskirts of town at the time.
Dr. Luke A. Port, the original owner of what we now know as Deepwood House & Gardens, purposely chose the location to build his home on Mission Street near the Rail Station due to its proximity to the electric rail line. This house was one of the first houses in Salem to be fully electrified.
The Oregon Electric Railway Historical Society's trolley museum, the largest in the Pacific Northwest, includes a carbarn, maintenance facilities, and an interpretive center where you can view their large collection and learn more about our early train systems. Mark operates one of their collection--typically the two-story double-decker car from Blackpole, England--on the weekends as part of their living history ride-alongs. During the Great Oregon Steam-Up, which occurs annually on the last weekend of July and the first weekend of August out at PHP, they will have their cars all decked out and offering rides on the operational units.
If you've not yet visited the 52-acre complex of industrial museums that is Powerland Heritage Park, the Great Steam-up is the perfect opportunity to experience this amazing tribute to the great variety of steam-powered workhorses that shaped our western culture.
For more information, check out these websites: Powerland Heritage Park
Oregon Electric Railway Historical Society: oregontrolley.com