Saluda Historic Depot and Museum announces new displays, fundraiser details

Published 11:41 am Thursday, February 1, 2024

SALUDA—The Saluda Historic Depot and Museum, which first opened its doors in 2015, has announced two additions to its collection of railroad history, along with details on an upcoming fundraiser to be held at the Orchard Inn in April.

The museum says that the growth of its collection is mainly due to the contributions of Saluda area residents, rail enthusiasts and avid supporters. A Vibroplex telegraph was recently donated by John Wilkerson of Saluda, who volunteers at the museum, and a packet of information shared with school children in the late ‘50s was donated by volunteer Ralph Mayer.

“These gifts include artifacts that bear strong family ties and represent great sentimental and monetary value,” says Nita High, who works at the museum. “We at the depot realize the importance of all artifact donations and loans and we greatly appreciate those donors allowing us to preserve and care for those donations. We try to gather as much information about the artifact as possible.”

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Wilkinson shared more information on his donation and his family’s ties to railroad history.

“My father, John G. Wilkinson, Jr., grew up in Ulmer, SC, and began work with the Seaboard Railroad as a telegrapher and freight agent shortly after he completed high school in 1939,” he said. “His father was also a railroad man who worked in Ulmer and taught my father telegraphy. Telegraphy was the way railroad men in offices communicated in those days.”    

A Vibroplex telegraph was recently donated by John Wilkerson of Saluda.

 Patented in 1904, the Vibroplex “bug” earned its nickname because the telegraph frequently sounded like an insect on a circuit. As a boy growing up in Fairfax, SC, Wilkinson would sit in his father’s office after school and watch him work.  

“When my father died in 1982, he left me his ‘bug.’ The telegraph had a significant impact on the railroads and I am happy to donate it to the Saluda Historic Depot and Museum,” he says.

There are hundreds of other stories surrounding the Saluda Historic Depot and Museum collection. All come with family ties and personal histories that bolster the importance of each museum display. 

The donation made by Ralph Mayer, a set of Southern Railroad Educational handouts, was given to all 4th-graders at his school when he was a boy. 

“A man from Southern Railroad came to our class and talked to us little kids about railroading, around 1959. Of course, at that time, passenger train travel was still a very viable way to travel,” Mayer said. “I found my original packet when we were cleaning out my mom and dad’s house after they passed away. The kit has a letter from the president of Southern Railroad, along with a nice Q&A booklet compiled from many questions that kids asked about the railroad. The overall packet is full of things about railroading that an inquisitive kid might be interested in. The packet of information and pictures is so cool that I wanted the depot museum to have it.”

A packet of railroad information shared with school children in the late ‘50s was donated by volunteer Ralph Mayer of Saluda.

All items displayed at the Saluda Historic Depot and Museum are archived and cataloged by its team of dedicated volunteers who know and appreciate the value of each artifact.  

“We consider John’s father’s telegraph and Ralph’s schoolboy collection two of many precious displayed items and we will do our best to preserve and protect their donation for years to come, while sharing it with all of our visitors,” says High.    

On April 25, the Depot and Museum will host a fundraiser dinner in conjunction with the Orchard Inn and Newman’s Restaurant in Saluda. The evening’s menu will be developed from a 98-year-old 1926 Southern Railroad dining car menu. Rail expert and enthusiast Bo Brown will be the guest speaker for the evening and Saluda artist Jim Carson has donated an original painting that will be given as a door prize. 

The cost of this fundraising event is $150 per person and only 65 tickets will be sold. 

“Unlike many of the old inns of its time, the Orchard Inn was not originally open to the public,” says High. “Built by the Brotherhood of Clerks for Southern Railway in 1926, the simple farmhouse-style lodging was created as a summer getaway for railroad employees and their families. Today, the Orchard Inn is a premier 5-star restaurant and inn.”

Located at 32 W. Main St., the Saluda Historic Depot and Museum is an all-volunteer organization that is open to the public Thursday through Sunday from April through December. Volunteers can work weekly or monthly and can choose to volunteer two or four-hour shifts. Anyone wishing to volunteer can contact High at nitahigh@rsnet.org. The Orchard Inn is located at 100 Orchard Inn Lane. 

For more information and to make reservations for the dinner, visit saludahistoricdepot.com and select the events tab. If you have questions, contact Helene Pasternak at hpast@bellsouth.net.