Chapter 3 - The Decline and Near Demise of a Woodland Landmark
By September 1951 the Southern Pacific passenger depot in Woodland was 40 years old and showing its age. That year significant repairs were made and the depot received a new roof. A few years later, in January 1956, the depot was painted “sea foam green” replacing its original colonial yellow paint scheme which was no longer popular with local residents. The next year, in April 1957, as a cost cutting measure, freight operations were moved from the old freight depot to the baggage room of the passenger depot. A door was installed between the agent’s office and the baggage room, and the trunk platform was removed from the west wall of the baggage room. The sliding door above the trunk platform was raised to accommodate a truck loading dock that was installed in the western two thirds of the baggage room and extended through the doorway. The screen partitions were also removed from the counter in the office, and the sink in the office was moved to the men’s restroom. In November 1959, additional repairs and alterations were made to the depot by Southern Pacific, and by January 1960, the Greyhound Bus Company had moved from its Main Street location to the two leased waiting rooms in the depot. The alterations included installing a ticket counter by the south main waiting room wall, removing the wall between the main waiting room and the women’s waiting room, and installing double doors on the north and west walls. A Greyhound Bus sign was put on the north end of the depot roof. Also around this time, and possibly as part of this same project, the depot office was remodeled. The alterations to the office included installing sheets of dark brown wood paneling on the walls above the wainscoting and installing fluorescent ceiling light fixtures. Gold and brown vinyl flooring was installed on the wood floor, and a gas heater was suspended from the ceiling in the office with a vent running through the wall to the waiting room. Later, a restroom for train crews was constructed in the southeast corner of the baggage room accessed through a new exterior door in the south wall. During this time of change and decline in railroad passenger operations, several SP employees worked at the Woodland passenger depot, including Edward D. Queen who worked as the chief passenger and freight agent from 1947 until he retired in 1957. He was followed as agent by Richard Henry Vermilion who worked there at least until 1965. Vermilion was also listed in the phone directory as the agent for the Pacific Motor Trucking Company. A 1969 photo shows a Southern Pacific trailer parked on the south side of the depot. A number of telegraphers also worked at the depot during this time period. In the 1950’s, Ruth “Bunny” Russell, operated the telegraph and typed train orders. The typewriter she used for the train orders was donated by her daughter, and today is prominently displayed on a desk in the depot office. After she left the Woodland depot, Russell became the operator of the “I” Street bridge in Sacramento. Don Tallman and Woodland resident Walt Stabler worked as telegraphers in the depot in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. As told by Stabler, sometime after Greyhound opened for business in the depot, a man entered through the west doors of the waiting room and robbed the woman working behind the bus company’s counter. After the robber left, she ran to the depot office and frantically told him about the robbery. Stabler had been working in the office but had not been aware of the robbery. In the 1950’s and the beginning of the 1960’s the number of daily passenger trains stopping at the Woodland depot declined and eventually dropped to four, the north and south runs of the Cascade and the Shasta Daylight. Then, as passenger ridership continued to sharply decline, Southern Pacific greatly reduced services and amenities on its passenger trains, and by 1966, Southern Pacific passenger trains no longer stopped in Woodland, although they still passed by. Photos from the 1970’s show cars and pick-up trucks parking under the arcade where passengers once waited for trains. Finally, the last regularly scheduled passenger train on the West Valley Line, Amtrak’s #11 Coast Starlight, rolled past the depot on April 24, 1982.
In 1988, Southern Pacific, which had just installed a new computer system, decided to transfer the only remaining employee, station agent Joe Saylor of Woodland, to Sacramento, where he could do all of the Woodland work by telephone and computer. They then announced that they would demolish the depot. On February 27, 1991, the Southern Pacific signal maintainer dismantled the signal lines in the depot and the depot was no longer in service.