Built in 1903 by the Southern Pacific Railroad, the Santa Susana Depot served passengers and farmers in the Simi Valley for more than 60 years. With a classic passenger waiting room featuring a pot-belly stove, the depot was also headquarters for local freight shipments. It was also the home of the station agent.
Originally located just east of Tapo Street on Los Angeles Avenue, the Santa Susana Railroad Depot was constructed by the Southern Pacific railroad and completed in March 1903. The second story of the Depot located over the office and waiting room provided living quarters for the station agent and his family. The Depot brought quite a change to Santa Susana. Telegraph and long distance transportation facilities became immediately available to the community. Passengers could travel in relative comfort and citrus and walnut growers could now transport huge shipments without depending on the horse and unpredictable weather.
Following the Depot’s closure in 1974, as a community preservation effort, the Rancho Simi Recreation and Parks District purchased it from the Southern Pacific for $1.00 plus 6 cents tax. It was moved to its present location in May 1975, adjacent to the Southern Pacific’s main line between Los Angeles and San Francisco.
In 2000, after extensive restoration by the Rancho Simi Foundation’s volunteers, the Santa Susana Depot and Museum doors were opened to the public. Today visitors will find displays of artifacts that had been in storage alongside many items donated by the local community and railroaders. The waiting room holds a pot-bellied stove, railroad artifacts dating from the 1930’s and photographs of past and present. The agent’s office has been faithfully reproduced to represent his work area as it existed in mid-1930’s. The local station agent was usually as well known as the town’s sheriff, doctor or mayor; he had a leading role in the day-to-day activities of the community. The agent used Morse code in his business; he normally became the first and best-informed individual in town. The agent would also send and receive commercial Western Union messages, as well as conducting the normal everyday business. If the need arose for the public to communicate with someone outside of town, the station would be the first place to go.
The Depot property has a number of historically accurate displays, many of them interactive for both the young and old. These include a working railroad cross buck with bells, train order board, dual and single semaphores, a searchlight signal and a block indicator. Mounted on the Depot’s exterior walls are tools that were used by train crews to replace or repair track rails and ties. Alongside the station, making a delivery, is a 1929 Chevrolet 1-ton truck with a Southern Pacific “Daylight” baggage cart circa 1940. Also on display is a freight scale, various trunks and a luggage cart that is original to the Depot.
Today the Depot is the home of the Rancho Simi Foundation and the Santa Susana Pacific Model Railroad Club where Amtrak, Metrolink and Union Pacific trains pass by every day. Come and travel back to the past in this wonderful museum and train layout. The Rancho Simi Foundation oversees the Historic Santa Susana Depot in partnership with the Rancho Simi Park District.