Salem (Depot)

Let’s go find a time machine and set the clock to Summer 1996, sometime right after the Atlanta games ended. I know everyone wants to go ride plug-doored Boeing LRV’s and 01800’s with their original red sets, but this story begins at the Days Inn in Danvers. My mom and I were visiting Boston but wanted to not deal with finding a parking space and we researched Salem (Depot) on the Commuter Rail’s then-Ipswich/Rockport (pre-Newburyport!) line. We drive down Route 114 in her base model ’95 Geo Metro with no AC and turn into the parking lot, the huge carcass of the former Parker Brothers factory looking over it, thinking about all the board games made there through the years.

Mom took one look at the old fashioned coin/bill slot board, was bewildered by the concept, openly wondered why they couldn’t have someone manning the lot, turned back on 114, and decided that 128 and 93 in rush hour, the old Central Artery and the Big Dig mess was simpler than wadding $2 or eight quarters in a slot.

Back to the present. I finally got to use Salem for its intended purpose. Since 1996, Salem has gained a mini-high platform at its north/east end which has been the main modification to the current 1980s vintage station. Walking down the ramp which runs behind the mini-high, there is a busway with routes connecting to Lynn, Beverly, the Peabody/Danvers mall corridor, Wonderland, and during the week Haymarket and Downtown Crossing while to the left is the low-level majority of the platform. The platform and busway area eventually merge before they ascend a staircase with a very 80s headhouse to Bridge Street with the historic downtown core of Salem not far away. Looking over the station in place of the former Parker Brothers factory are

After taking care of some business in Salem, I walked back and felt the main downside of the station: The North River runs adjacent to the parking lot and when I visited the winds were fierce and felt a lot colder than the mid-40s which the thermometer claimed it was. luckily, a train came quickly however in the future putting up some heat lamps might be a good investment especially as the station is going to be renovated.

The real pluses of Salem as a station are the historical knick-knacks around the station, especially its system map which not only is unchanged from its 1987 opening but is anachronistic (Gardner and Ruggles together!?). The tunnel south of the station has the former Salem station at its other end with platforms still intact a quarter century after its demise. Given its spot in a highly walled open cut, the move was for the best.

Station: Salem (Depot)
Rating (1-10): 8

Ridership: For a weekday midday, people heading up from Boston who value time (30 minutes versus an express bus to Boston or a local bus to Wonderland) over money ($3/$5 depending on the point of origin). There also are a decent amount of people whom got on at Lynn, the 20 minute savings for $1.50 makes this a popular alternative to the 450, 455, and 459 buses. Otherwise commuters, tourists, and during the second half of October scads of fun seekers who fill bilevels the south side has lessened their vice grip on.

Pros: This station is steps away from one of New England’s most historic downtowns and the history oozing from Salem alone is worth the trip. The $13 round-trip price tag from North Station may be a bit steep so I recommend busing it one-way if money is a concern.

Cons: This place is not pleasant when it’s windy and it could use a little TLC though the renovation will take care of this. Also, the 80s architecture clashes with the downtown brick of Salem.

Nearby and Noteworthy: I don’t need to explain why you should go there, but a trip to the Salem Witch Museum is a must especially to put the event which put Salem on the map for all the wrong reasons.  From personal experience having done this as a tourist, don’t do it during tourist season if you can.
If you’re in town earlier in the day and need a bite to eat, the breakfast/lunch-only Lynde Street Cafe has good food and generous portions for cheap. Just order when you get in even if they say not to, if not you might have a long wait. I recommend the meat omelette or the Buffalo wings.

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