RETURN OF THE RIO LINDA DEPOT
The small town of Rio Linda, a few miles north of Sacramento, was once a busy location on the Northern Electric and the later Sacramento Northern. A housing boom in the 1920s made Rio Linda an important stop for the "Elverta Scoots", suburban trains to and from Sacramento. The area was once a major poultry and egg producer, and the Rio Linda Cooperative Poultry Association generated substantial freight traffic.
It was natural that Rio Linda would rate a depot, something more than the flag stops at most upper valley towns. Such a depot was built in 1914 on Front Street, near the center of the town.
The passenger shelter was 16 x 22 feet, 352 square feet. This was considerably larger than the standard 12 x 18 foot (216 square feet) size typical of Northern Electric shelters, but smaller than the combination stations at East Nicolaus and several other locations. Unlike other NE shelters, Rio Linda's was enclosed with real windows and a proper door. The walls below the windows were covered with a cobblestone veneer, following General Manager A.D. Schindler's standard style.
A modest freight room was attached to the south end of the station. The freight section was a boxy building sheathed in wood siding. Its lack of style clashed with the classy design used on the passenger section, and suggests that the freight room might have been an afterthought or a separate building that was joined to the shelter. However, the 1915 PUC valuation papers date the entire building to 1914, so both parts were probably built at the same time. A 10 x 100 foot platform of heavy wood construction completed the station. The 1915 valuation notes that there was a "shipping receipt" box. However, on July 15, 1932, the California Railroad Commission authorized the SN to abandon its agency at Rio Linda, provided it was continued as a non-agency station. This suggests that the depot was initially unmanned, but later acquired an agent until business fell off in the 1930s.
Rio Linda declined as a passenger stop as automobiles became popular. "Elverta Scoot" service ended in 1933, and all regular passenger service was dropped in 1940. Near the end passenger operation, the station's passenger section was sawed off and moved to nearby 6th Avenue for use as a dwelling. The freight station was torn down at an unknown date. By the late 1970s the poultry traffic was long gone, and all track to Rio Linda was out of service and the rails were later lifted.
The vacant SN right-of-way was too valuable to waste. The roadbed was paved as a bike and jogging trail, and reopened as a linear park extending from Sacramento to Rio Linda. As early as 1992, a plan was offered by the Rio Linda/Elverta Lions Club to rebuild the depot as a visitors' center. Ground was finally broken at a ceremony on September 15, 2003. Total cost for the recreated building was $870,417, paid by donations from the Lions Club, federal grants, and the Rio Linda & Elverta Park and Recreation District. Many hours of volunteer labor helped keep the cost down. An open house and celebration with mandatory ribbon-cutting ceremony marked the building's opening on June 18, 2004.
The new building features a museum area in the passenger section where artifacts and interpretive displays about the SN will be mounted. The freight section has been finished as a community events space. Rest rooms and drinking fountains will be available to users of the bike trail.
Information for this story came from "Sacramento Northern Depot/Visitors Center Ribbon Cutting Ceremony & Open House, Friday, June 18th" in the RIO LINDA ELVERTA NEWS, June 17, 2004; from "Ode to an Old Depot" by Dirk Werkman in the SACRAMENTO BEE, June 19, 2004; and from "Depot Project Rolling" by Dirk Werkman in the SACRAMENTO BEE of September 25, 2003.