So much to celebrate with 10-year milestone for Orange Depot Museum

Published 12:20 am Thursday, February 8, 2024

Back in August of 2015, the volunteers of the Friends of the Orange Depot organization were busy raising funds to restore the 1910 historic train station, at the “gateway” to downtown Orange on Green Avenue. On that date the Orange Leader published an op-ed that I wrote to the citizens of Orange about the importance of saving the depot.

Here, ten years later, we are celebrating the accomplishments of the first decade, primarily the restoration of the historic building. But we could not be celebrating unless Orange County residents hadn’t realized the importance of saving the last remaining train depot in Orange.

In the 2015 article, I spoke about the history of the depot and its role in moving passengers and freight across the country. It is good to have a reminder of that wonderful era when the train depot was a “bustling hubbub of activity prior to the arrival of each passenger train.” You could take the train to Houston, New Orleans, Chicago or California, or points in between, spend the night in the Pullman cars sleeping accommodations and dine-in cars, which served sit-down meals on special china embossed with the Southern Pacific logo.

Carrie Woliver

During the World Wars, soldiers traveled on the trains to their training posts, or to the ports where they joined the ships bound for battlefronts across the ocean. During WWII, Orange was the site of a large U.S. Naval base, so the trains played a vital role in transporting sailors and products for the war effort. Our ship-building industry boomed during that time, as well as the petrochemical industry, depending on railroad transportation for the distribution of their products.

Since the late 1970s, passenger train travel ended in Orange, but the trains never stopped carrying cargo across the U.S. Present owner Union Pacific services our industries, as freight trains run by our depot numerous times per day. (Hold your special event in the depot and conversation stops when the trains go roaring past!)

Our work as caretakers of this precious jewel in Orange continues with gusto. On the horizon is a brand-new education/storage building to be constructed next to the depot, where our exhibits will be on display for visitors, which will also have restrooms. Following the completion of the new building, to fulfill our mission, we plan to open the depot for tours frequently. At that time, a gift shop will offer a variety of mementos, t-shirts and special toys.

We will continue with our annual Depot Day family festival in May, our new Halloween “Spooktacular” in October and, because so many in Orange love bingo, we will continue with our new bingo games every other month.

I must brag on our Friends of the Orange Depot volunteers who love welcoming Orange residents to our events, because this historic building was restored so everyone could enjoy it.

Ninety percent of our board and volunteers have been members since we began our restoration project. But to grow, we need more helpers to jump on board with us.

Our meetings are held at the depot on the second Thursday, bi-monthly, and all are welcome. Find details on our website, www.orangetxdepot.org, or on our Facebook page. Meetings are posted in the Leader.

Again, thank you Orange for helping us save this beautiful depot!

Carrie Woliver is founder and past president of the Friends of the Orange Depot, and author of the book, The Train Stopped in Orange.