Fossil Basin Institute is a nonprofit organization 501(3)(c)
The historic Train Depot was first constructed in 1881 using the standard Union Pacific 24ft x64ft rectangular plan. The train depot was then moved a few miles west in 1902 to its current location. Due to the steep downgrade, westbound trains couldn't slow down in time and overshot the depot. At this time, the depot’s freight room was expanded by 16 feet to handle the increased freight as population grew in Fossil. As technology improved and train engines no longer needed frequent stops to refuel, the town of Fossil began to dwindle and eventually became a ghost town sometime after the 1950's. Little has been done to maintain the depot building since that time, and yet it still stands and endures harsh winters keeping it's 141 years of history locked inside. The National Park officially listed the Fossil Oregon Short Line Depot on the National Register of Historic Places on May 7th, 2018. The 1.75 acres of land that the Depot sits upon was then donated to Fossil Basin Institute by Roland B. Lewis, which will serve as our office and classrooms once restored.
Phase 1 of restoration will focus on reinforcing the old foundation and install new roofing to stabilize the building. Phase 1 of restoration will begin this summer as funds are made available. The current foundation will be reinforced and new flooring added in the Freight Room to allow for storage of shingles with a planned roof installation in April of 2023. This will allow sufficient time for the shingles to acclimate before installing. The project will be conducted by Institute Members and local volunteers under the supervision of the Maintenance Team from Fossil Butte National Monument.
The Institute is working to preserve and rehabilitate the depot for educational use by student groups, researchers, and other citizen groups interested in learning about the history of the Oregon Short Line Railroad (OSL) and its impact on the local history.
The American West contains an alluring mixture of complicated history where lessons of perseverance, grit, and survivability were tested beyond any perceivable extent. Those breadcrumbs left behind that was once one of the greatest industrial movements in America's history needs to be kept in the forefront and be preserved for many generations to come.
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