The museum in Toledo promises to provide visitors with a thorough history of the rails in Lincoln County over the past century. (Photo by Yaquina Pacific Railroad Historical Society via Facebook)

On all of my trips on Highway 20 west to the coast and east back toward Philomath, I’ve never gotten off the main path to check out Toledo. Sure, we stopped at the Dairy Queen a couple of times over the years, but just never ventured any further south despite a particular fondness for exploring small Oregon towns — from cool-looking antique shops to museums that chronicle a town’s history.

In a press release I received last week, the Oregon Heritage Commission announced a dozen grants that had been awarded, including an award going to the Yaquina Pacific Railroad Historical Society, which operates a museum in Toledo (summer hours are Thursday through Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.).

For those who have a love for the old engines, it sounds like a must-stop on the museum tour. This museum in Toledo reports on its website that it has “the first and last engines bought by the various C. D. Johnson companies that owned Toledo’s lumber mill from the 1920s to the 1950s.”

Another attraction is the Baldwin steam engine — known there as “One Spot” — was used in Lincoln County logging from 1922 to 1959. There’s also a 45-ton switcher engine, called “Lokey” by mill workers, that dates back to 1951. Georgia-Pacific donated that piece of history to the historical society. Other items on exhibit include a 1907 Southern Pacific wood-sided caboose that sat abandoned in Toledo for years and a 1923 Southern Pacific Railway Post Office car. 

That’s just the rolling stock — the museum also features interpretive exhibits, various artifacts and a research library.

The state grant will be used “to repair and construct shelters for historic velocipedes.” (Photo by Yaquina Pacific Railroad Historical Society via Facebook)

 The Toledo-based historical society will use its grant to repair and construct shelters for historic velocipedes. If the term’s not familiar to you, a velocipede is a lightweight wheeled vehicle propelled by the rider — and that includes the old railroad handcars. The historical society has a three-wheeled velocipede that was used to get a worker up and down the tracks for maintenance projects.

The Oregon Heritage Commission grants added up to more than $75,000 to 12 museums throughout the state. Each award ranged from $2,148 to $8,000. The grant program is funded through lottery dollars.

Another railroad association received a grant in this latest cycle of grants. The Pacific Railroad Preservation Association in Portland is receiving funds to repair the exterior of an old passenger car.

Other grants went to:

• The Cape Blanco Heritage Society in Port Orford to digitize historic newspapers.

• City of Woodburn to develop additional exhibits and reinstall exhibits at the Woodburn Museum and Bungalow Theatre. 

• Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria to develop a Spanish language audio tour.

• Coos County Historical Society to rehouse and digitize a map collection.

• Dufur Historical Society and Living History Museum to reroof the Schreiber log cabin.

• Eugene Debbs Potts Society in Josephine County to repair the roof on the main entrance building. 

• High Desert Museum in Deschutes County to develop and install the Living Stories exhibition of work created by artists of the Indigenous Plateau.

• Rainier Oregon Historical Museum in Columbia County to re-house collections in archivally safe storage.

• Springfield Museum to catalog and digitize a portion of the historic photo collection. 

• The Museum at Warm Springs in Jefferson County to develop and install a multi-faceted, multi-media exhibit that features firsthand accounts and personal stories about the culturally significant places and experiences of Indigenous people from the Columbia River system.

Well, all of this means I need to pay a visit to the museum in Toledo. After all, it’s only 38 miles from my house here in Philomath.

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.