Vanished Railroad Depot Town on the Deschutes River

By Steve Lent, Museum Historian

Vanora was a former railroad station that was located seven miles northwest of Madras along the east bank of the Deschutes River and near the Oregon Trunk Railroad.  The station was established on August 6, 1911 by the Oregon Trunk Railroad.  It was named for Ora Van Tassell transposing the Van and Ora.  Mr. Van Tassel was a farmer and real estate developer that owned the property where the station was established.  He was born in Michigan about 1878.  He and his wife Bertha settled along the Deschutes River and anticipated the arrival of the railroad.

He installed an elaborate water system along the river that was used to deliver irrigation water to the flats above the river near his farm.  The Van Tassell family later moved into Madras.  A post office was established at Vanora on March 22, 1911 with John T. Dizney the first postmaster.  A small community developed and there were two stores, a grade school, a non-alcoholic saloon, a baseball field and a grain warehouse at the site.

The school was located near Vanora station along the Oregon Trunk railroad.  It had earlier been known as the Dizney School and was established in 1903 before the railroad arrived.  The school was renamed Vanora School when the railroad station was established.    The railroad built a tunnel just north of Vanora near the Deschutes River and it was known as the Vanora Tunnel.  Also a large cut bank was built near Vanora that became known as the Vanora Cut, Both the tunnel and cut are still visible landmarks.

Travel along the Oregon Trunk began to decline in the early 1920's and the post office was closed on December 15, 1920.  The school continued to operate until the railroad line was abandoned in 1923 and rail traffic shifted to the Deschutes Railroad line that went to Gateway and then on to Madras.  Today there is very little left of the site that was once a prosperous little village.