|Last Update: November 11, 2005
|Update about the depot!
The Sweethome depot is hopefully going to be saved. Don Kirk and the Oregon Railroad & Transportation Museum are working right now to
save it and use it as the new home for the museum. Plans are to move and eventually restore the depot. But help is needed, including
donations. Information about Don's museum, including plans for the depot and contact information can be found on his website for the
Oregon Railroad & Transportation Museum
We wish Don and the museum well in the endeavor!
Additional information and pictures will be posted as time allows. Be sure to check the above website for the latest information.
|This USGS maps shows the
location of the depot and the
wye as it appeared in 1988.
Today, only one arm of the wye
of exists. The other arm and the
remaining track that extends
south is now gone.
|More detailed USGS maps of the line. On these maps, dated 1988, the line is now only a railroad grade and some of the
grade has even disappeared from the maps.
|I found the Sweet Home Railroad Depot, quite by mistake. I was in the area, exploring the abandoned
Oregon-Electric Holley Branch (Sweet Home to Dollar, see below) and noticed that a depot existed on my
USGS maps of Sweet Home. After stopping at a local McDonalds on our way to search for the depot, we
realized the GPS indicated we were right on top of the depot. But no depot could be seen. I just assumed it
was razed years ago and replaced by the McDonalds. Then I turned around and looked north into an a open
field. At first I didn't see anything except a field with a pile of weeds and sticker bushes in the middle of it.
Then I noticed that a building poked out of the top of those sticker bushes. And then finally, I recognized
the design and color of the building to be consistent of an old railroad depot. Maybe it wasn't destroyed
When I walked over to it, I still wasn't absolutely sure if this was the depot. But a section of old railroad
track, half buried in overgrown weeds next to the yellow building, confirmed once and for all, that this was
the Oregon-Electric Sweet Home depot. The tracks that now end here at the depot, used to continue south,
right through where the McDonalds is now built and eventually went to a site called Dollar, 15 miles away.
Today, that line has been gone for many decades. The tracks that end at the depot are actually part of a wye,
located just off of the Albany and Eastern (formerly Oregon-Electric and later BNSF) mainline in Sweet
Home. Only half of the wye remains next to the depot and appears to be used for car storage for a large mill
located nearby. The Depot used to be visible from the main city street, but the McDonalds, built sometime
after 1994, completely conceals the depot from view. The complete wye and about one remaining mile of
track of the Sweet Home - Dollar branch appears to have survived until about the mid 1980s according to
The building appeared to be in poor shape. Most of the doors and windows were boarded up. What
amazed me the most was how it was completely surrounded on all sides by sticker bushes that almost
reached the roof. No one has entered this building in a while. The depot is surrounded by an open field,
but located right next to a busy business district in Sweet Home. I just can’t believe that no one has tried to
maintain this very historical structure. In an age where most historical depots from the early 20th century
have long been torn down, this structure is particularly rare. It is also probably one of the few remaining
original Oregon-Electric depots in existence. On the plus side, the sticker bushes probably do keep vandals
at bay, and may allow this structure to someday be restored.
The Oregon-Electric Railroad built it's new line to Sweet Home from Albany in 1931. That same year they
continued on to the site of Dollar in the mountains southeast of Sweet Home, which was a logging
interchange point for the Dollar Portland Lumber company. The depot, which was built in 1931, saw it's first
train on April 1, 1932. The Oregon-Electric up to this point used mostly electric trains powered by overhead
wires. But since this branch was isolated from the rest of the O-E lines via a section of Southern Pacific
track, the O-E used steam and later diesel power throughout the history of this branch. (In 1945, all of the O-
E converted to diesel power, except for the Dollar Branch) The Oregon-Electric was allowed to run on
Southern Pacific rails betweenLebanon and it's mainline at Albany with trackage rights. The O-E discontinued
most passenger service onit's lines by 1932, so the Sweet Home depot saw little use a passenger depot. It
served mostly as a daily trainorder station from the 1930s through at least the mid 1960s after the Holley
Branch closed down.
Update: Its post railroad history is not clear, but a reader was kind enough to mention that the depot was
used as an antique shop for a short period around 1990. The depot was also moved from its original
location, sometime after the Holley branch track was removed and the prime location next to Highway 20 was
used as the site for a new McDonalds restaurant. The depot was moved back several feet to its current
location. It appears to have been essentially abandoned since 1990.
The Oregon-Electric was owned by the Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railroad. By 1970, The SP&S was
merged into a new company called Burlington Northern. The O-E ceased to exist with all active trackage
being operated by the BN (today, called the BNSF). The BNSF operated trains to Sweet Home and a few
miles beyond to Foster to service mills in the area until May, 1998. The line was then sold to the small family
owned shortline company, the Albany and Eastern Railroad. Today the Albany and Eastern runs trains to and
from Sweet Home and Foster. But the depot has not been in use for many years and appears to be totally
abandoned. At this point, I'm not clear who owns it. Whether it be the Albany and Eastern or the local city or
county or privately owned. Any further information or pictures would be greatly appreciated. All credit will
be given. Please Email Me.
|The only historic picture of the depot I have.
Taken in 1962. Ben Maxwell collection,
courtesy of the Salem Public Library.
|These two front views are the closest angle to the picture
on the left for comparision. Notice how the windows are all
boarded up and building completely engulfed in sticker
bushes. A far cry from it's heyday.
|Looking straight east, you
can see the depot is a long
|Looking southwest, you
can see the loading doors,
still intact, but almost
buried in weeds.
|This was the first close
look I got of the depot. It
wasn't until I noticed the
overgrown tracks that It
was confirmed this was
indeed the old O-E depot.
|Looking to the northeast
from the open field. Where
I'm standing taking the
picture, the other half of the
wye used to be, but no
|Still looking south, but
closer to the depot. The old
O-E Holley branch now
ends right here, but used to
continue 15 miles right
through where the
McDonalds stands now. In
fact the depot originally
stood near where the
McDonalds now is.
|I walked north past the
depot down the tracks
towards the mill. Here the
tracks branch off into
several different spurs,
used by the mill store cars.
|Looking north past the
depot at the still operating
mill. Where I stand is the
last remaining track of the
O-E Holley branch.
Abandoned in 1966.
|Looking south, back
towards the Depot.
|The Oregon-Electric Dollar Branch (Sweet Home to Dollar, 1931-1966)
|This maps gives a general
idea of the location of the
O-E Holley branch. The
line ended a point called
Dollar, but was known as
the Holley Branch, the
name of one of the
communities on the line.
|As mentioned, the Oregon-Electric built a line from Sweet Home, south to a site called Dollar, in 1931. The
line began at a wye located at the Sweet Home Depot. The line basically follows what is now Hwy 228 south
for a few miles, before heading southeast next to what is now county road, Upper Calapooia Drive, passing
through several very small towns, before reaching the site of Dollar, deep in the woods. The line is
reported to have been abandoned in 1960 and torn up in 1966. USGS maps from 1988 show the line as an
abandoned railroad grade from Dollar to about one mile south of the Sweet Home wye. The branch is known
as either the Dollar Branch or the Holley Branch.
The line was built to service the Portland Dollar Lumber company and several small towns in the Calapooia
River valley. Construction took place during hard economic times and the railroad was in no hurry to finish
the line. By 1931, the line was completed 15 miles past Sweet Home to a site that would be known as Dollar.
From there, the Lumber company would interchange with it’s own small logging railroad that continued
further east into the woods. In 1932, there was little business for the logs and no logs were shipped. Over
the next few years, business slowly increased, but it was no boom. It would take three days to ship the logs
from Dollar to Portland over the O-E line. By World War Two, business increased dramatically as war
production built several huge mills in Sweet Home.
Several of the stations along the line, which was known as the Holley Branch (a stop early on the route)
or the Dollar Branch (end of the line), were abandoned over the years, but Dollar remained the destination
of the railroad. A water tower was located there for the steam engines. By 1951 two RS-3 diesels were
assigned to the Branch branch and steam locomotives were dropped. Logs continued to be shipped at a
high rate into the 1950s for mills in Sweet Home and Albany, but by 1961, all log shipment and railroad
service on the line ended. The Army Corp of Engineers was planning on building a dam up stream on the
Calapooia River, so the line was left in place in hopes that the O-E would be called upon to supply
construction equipment for the new dam and be paid off when its railroad became submerged. However,
the dam project never materialized and by 1966, the O-E applied to abandoned the line. By that time, no
trains had run on the line for more than 5 years. In the winter of 1964, storms had severely damaged major
sections of the track, washing some sections out. In 1967, the O-E removed the track and used it elsewhere.
We explored the line from Sweet Home all the way to Dollar. Much of the grade is gone. Some small
sections appear to now be part of the current county road system, but a few sections of grade are visible.
The railroad would cross what is now, Upper Calapooia Drive, several times, generally following the
Calapooia River. When the line was abandoned, this was still a dirt road, but is paved today. The grade is
heavily overgrown and few remains could be found. One large bridge site used to exist over the Calapooia
River, next to where the present highway bridge exists. At the site, only one concrete abutment could be
seen. The other side may exist, but was out of view from my vantage point. Unfortunately, the view was not
worth taking any pictures. There were no signs of any bridge remains. The abandoned grade ends well
before Dollar on the 1988 USGS maps. But at Dollar, we found what appeared to be the old grade. The USGS
maps indicate a large building being present, but we saw no buildings or even any signs of a building, such
as a concrete pad. I don’t believe Dollar was ever a town site, so few buildings probably ever existed here.
The grade was clearly present and we did see signs of logging activity that may have taken place during or
before the 1960s, such as the cab of an old truck, some thick logging cable and what appeared to be part of a
frame of a tractor or log truck trailer, all buried deep in the trees. Some USGS maps indicate the line ends at
Dollar, others indicate that it continued beyond a ways. This is probably indicative of the old logging railroad
that was originally operated by the Dollar Portland Lumber Company.
If anyone has any further information, or pictures, of this branch line, please EMAIL me.
|Unfortunately, due to the grade being so overgrown, there was little of interest to
photograph. However, near the site of Dollar, I found these two interesting abandoned
pieces of equipment. Both were laying along side the old railroad grade. On the right is
obviously the cab of an old truck. The equipment on the left is a bit of mystery. Part of a
frame of an old cat maybe or possible a log truck trailer remains? There was also lots of
thick cable and numerous rusty cans laying about in the area, but not much else.
|If anyone has any further information or pictures about the Sweet Home Railroad Depot or the
Oregon-Electric Holley branch, please let me know. You can Email me anytime. Thanks.
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Abandoned OE Dollar Branch