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Great Railroad Stations - Boise, ID

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Great Railroad Stations 

by John C. Dahl

Boise, Idaho 

Photo by the author

In 1881, the Oregon Short Line Railroad was incorporated as a subsidiary of the Union Pacific Railroad. Construction in the following years roughly followed the old Oregon Trail wagon road. It was not until 1887 that Boise was connected to the rest of the railroad when a branch line was constructed from Nampa. Through train service to Boise on the Union Pacific did not start until 1925 when the present passenger line was constructed and the new depot opened.

UP chose New York architects Carrere, Hastings, Shreve and Landro to prepare plans for a large Spanish style station to be built on a spectacular site on a hillside in Boise. A grand radial boulevard was extended to the station from downtown. The roadway is anchored at one end by the Idaho State Capitol building and at the other by the Union Pacific station. The new depot would feature a clock and bell tower, a heavy timbered roof over a magnificent two story waiting room, fancy iron grille work and tile mosaic floors.

On April 16, 1925 the first transcontinental train arrived at the station. Thousands of Boise citizens turned out to witness this historic event, accompanied by the customary speeches by dignitaries and notables. A parade wound through the city in celebration of the opening. Two years later, bells were added to the tower in memory of UP's great turn of the century leader, E. H. Harriman.

Union Pacific, Boise, Idaho, October 10, 1995

In 1925, the station gardens overlooking Capitol Boulevard were also dedicated. The "city beautiful" was, and is, a Boise tradition. For many years, the station was the hub of Idaho rail passenger traffic. Union Pacific travel advertisements of the streamliner era often pictured the Boise depot. The hillside neighborhood near the station was gradually developed and is today one of Boise's most fashionable districts with many quaint bungalow and Spanish style homes, tree shaded streets and meticulously maintained gardens.

By 1968, UP had but one passenger train left in Boise, the Portland Rose. UP offices in the depot remained however, and the station was not allowed to fall into decay. With the coming of Amtrak service, the depot stirred back to life. Morrison Knudsen purchased the depot in 1990 and in 1992 began a restoration project turning the station and its magnificent waiting room and other spaces into a museum featuring railroad & MK history. Amtrak utilizes the former freight offices on the south end of the building. If you visit Boise, make it a point to stop and see the station. Stroll about its lovely grounds and enjoy the unparalleled view from the bell tower. Amtrak serves Boise with the Pioneer.  [ Note: In 1995 when this was written, Amtrak’s Pioneer served Boise, Idaho. Unfortunately the train was cut and today the service is on a connecting bus from the Greyhound station.]

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This page was last updated Thursday, December 06, 2001

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