Boise Junction to Centerville

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  • States: Idaho   
  • Railroads: IR, OSL, UP   
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(Forwarded from the Intermountain Railway)

Looking east along the Boise River to the east of Boise, the former ROW has been converted into a paved trail for some distance towards Lucky Peak Lake. The UP operated the line for a time out to approximately this point. Part of the Oregon Trail can still be seen on the other side of the Boise River at this point. The bridge in the background is Idaho Highway 21 which goes to Idaho City and Lowman in the mountains.

Part or all of this line was built by the Intermountain Railway to serve the mining areas in the mountains above Boise. For a time, the U.S. Government operated a spur from Arrowrock Junction on the Intermountain to Arrowrock Dam, apparently during construction of the dam.

The section from Barber to Centerville was apparently abandoned between 1928 and 1936. Union Pacific subsidiary Oregon Short Line operated the section from Boise Jct to Barber for a period of time, and at some point this was brought under the Union Pacific name. This section was apparently abandoned between 1936 and 1944. A good job has been done converting the old right-of-way into the trail, and it appears to be well-used.

The line extended from Boise Junction, west of Boise, across Boise Valley Traction/Boise & Western Railway, past the old Penitentiary, through Vernon, Barber, Gooseneck, Calls, Richardson, Anderson, Daggett, Moore's Creek, Steimans, Holcomb, Rye Flat, Big Bend, and into Centerville.

The section from East Barber Drive to Eckert Road has been "traded" to Brighton Corporation by Ada County. This was done about 5 years ago to placate the developer. NOW you will have to use the "scenic route" along the river but most bicyclist use the roadway and have to compete with the motorists since there are no shoulders that can accommodate bicyclists. Another classic example of how government is concerned with the 'public good'!

Oh yeah, the section in the photo is scheduled for a $1.5 million re-construction to fill in the canal (sorry Ducks, you will have to find someplace else to rear your ducklings) and put up a rail fence to keep you from "falling off" the bike path. Can anyone say 'developer'?

Bob
Boise, ID
8/9/2012

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So where is the information about the Barber to Centerville branch, location, time, equipment. Your map shows not towns or rr sidings that you have listed.

John Hiler
Mountain Home, ID
12/14/2014

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The entire line has quite a history.

When UP's subsidiary, the Oregon Short Line ("OSL") built across the Idaho Territory in the 1880's it bypassed Boise fro reasons clear to a railroad builder, but opaque to the good citizens of Boise at the time. Boise was 200 feet below the OSL's grade, and the line was already short of money. The OSL followed Indian Creek into Caldwell, and then on toward the Snake River, headed full speed to head off the Oregon-Washington RR Co. Boise was left bereft of RR service when the OSL was completed in 1885. To say they were PO'd is putting it mildly.

By 1887, a new line, the Idaho Central, was built from Nampa to Boise, ending in wooden depot near the current UP Depot location.

In 1903, The Boise Terminal RR Co., built a line down into the Boise River Valley, reaching a location on Front Street. A fine brick depot was built, as well as a 4-stall roundhouse & turntable, and a freight station.This line was extended (1907?) to Vernon (Formerly the old Gates City Steel Plant near Warm Springs Mesa). Finally, as the New Boise Payette Lumber Company mill was built in Barber, the line was extended to that point about 1911 or so.

The line above Barber was originally built for the construction of Arrowrock Dam, about 1912, but was sold to the Boise Payette Lumber Co in 1916 after the Dam was completed. During this time, the RR was named the Boise & Arrowrock, and was owned by the US Reclamation Service, the forerunner of the present Bureau of Reclamation. After 1916, when the line was sold to the BP Lumber Co. the portion following the Boise River was abandoned, and the line followed Mores Creek up to Grimes Creek.

The line's course can be followed along some of the back roads below Diversion Dam. Right above Diversion Dam, the narrow riverbank was heavily mined for gravel (1900-1930) then rebuilt for state highways, so all traces of the line are lost, except for the entry road into Lucky Peak State Park. I believe this follows the original RR grade.

Much of the grade is below the water of Lucky Peak Reservoir now,and so is not visible most of the year. During low water times, you might be able to make out some of the embankment along the bottom of the reservoir from the new higher grade of Idaho SH 21. The Grade does not reappear above the high-water level of the reservoir until just above the Robie Creek park. Here, it can be followed briefly along the south side of Mores Creek. From the highway grade above, you can see how unusually straight the grade is, with gradual curves, a dead giveaway for an ex-RR alignment.

About 1.5 miles above Robie Creek, the newer higher Highway 21 grade returns to running right alongside Mores Creek. This was originally the entire course of Highway 21, until the construction of Lucky Peak Dam in the 1950s caused the new high level alignment.

From the junction of Grimes Creek and Mores Creek, the line followed Grimes Creek all the way up through Grimes Pass, the over the hill to "New" Centreville. This was the main line of the Intermou tain Railway, built in 1916, and abandoned in the 1930s. A large number of short, windy, steep logging spurs were built off of this mainline to reach different stands of Boise Basin Timber.

Above the Grimes Creek Junction, you can follow the dirt forest roads that replaced the Intermountain Ry. This line was well-built, as it was intended to be an invasion route for James J. Hill to build a railroad into central Idaho. The Intermountain was intended to Connect with the Gilmore and Pittsburg RR, then building over the Bitterroots via Bannock Pass over the continental divide. The two RRs were built, but they never were joined. James J. Hill died first, and with him, his dream of invading E.H. Harriman's Railroad monopoly over Central Idaho. A gap of over a hundred miles (and millions of dollars) separates the two ends of track, and Idaho's greatest Railroad mightofbeen.

Back to the Intermountain. A long branchline was built from near the Mores Creek/Grimes Creek Junction (Named "Steirman") up to Idaho City. More temporary logging spurs branched out to individual creek valleys, to get to the timber.

By the 1930s, the depression was killing the logging business, and the RR was abandoned back all the way to Barber.

Ironically, with the passing of the logging RR, the lumber companies got a second wind with the evolution of motor trucks that were big enough, powerful enough, and above all, TOUGH enough to survive the Boise Basin.

So the RR was cut back to Barber, the sire of the Boise-Payette Lumber mill that was also closed in the 1930s. A later mill was built about a mile downriver from the origin Barber mill site, bought by Boise cascade (the direct descendant of Boise Payette) and renamed the Barber Mill. This mill closed in the 1980s, I believe, after I left Boise. The UP Boise branch was pulled up in the 1980s (1984?) to use the old RR right of way for the downtown interstate connector. The line was cut back to the fairgrounds spur on the former Boise branch, where it remains today..

Good Sources: Smoke Down the Canyons; Ehernberger & Gschwind, and The Logging Railroads of Southern Idaho, by Jim Witherell, which has lots of info on equipment, trains, people, etc. the maps a hard to use, however. I may just try to redraw these some day just to clarify a fast-fading picture.

Tim C
Boise (originally) Now Middleton WI, WI
4/11/2015

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