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By Thornton Waite
The San Francisco, Idaho and Montana Railway Company was a company with grandiose ideas when it was incorporated in 1904. As indicated by its name, the railroad company intended to build a rail line from Montana through Idaho to San Francisco. Despite extensive promotion efforts the railroad ran out of money after it graded approximately 16 miles of roadbed in Idaho, going from Caldwell through Wilder down towards the Snake River. The right-of-way was taken over by the Oregon Short Line Railroad, which laid the rails and completed the line to Wilder in 1911. The branch was leased to the Caldwell Traction Company from 1916 through 1920, when it was returned to the Oregon Short Line, which operated it as its Wilder Branch. Today the branch line is the Wilder Industrial Lead of the Union Pacific Railroad and is leased to the Boise Valley Railroad, which services the businesses along the line.
When the Oregon Short Line Railway Company bypassed Boise City as it laid tracks across southern Idaho in 1883, the city felt overlooked and isolated despite being the capital city of Idaho Territory. Although the Idaho Central Railway, which was completed in 1887 between Boise City and the Oregon Short Line at Nampa , was an improvement over stagecoach travel, the city wanted to be on the main line of a major railroad. The residents of southern Idaho also wanted to be served by another railroad besides the Oregon Short Line so that there would be competition and lower rates for both passengers and freight. At that time the Oregon Short Line was the only rail line, coming from Wyoming on the east through Pocatello and going across southern Idaho west to Portland and Seattle. Many felt that a rail line to the California market, especially San Francisco, would be beneficial and was both desirable and necessary for Boise to grow and prosper. It would also help Boise become better known. There were also hopes that a line running north and east from Boise to Butte would help the mines along the route in Central Idaho.
Over the years there were numerous proposals for a second major rail line to Boise, in addition to many other short lines that were proposed for specific purposes and areas. One of the first serious proposals for another rail line through southwestern Idaho was for the construction of a line connecting the north and south sections of the state. Known as the Idaho North and South Railway Company, the railroad was incorporated in 1890. The line was to run from Silver City in Owyhee County in the southwest part of the state through what is now Wilder to Boise and then north to Coeur d'Alene. One of the directors for the railroad was Joseph De Lamar, a mining magnate in Silver City, who wanted a rail outlet for his mine products. Nothing resulted from this proposal, however, and when the Boise, Nampa & Owyhee Railway was built to Murphy at the turn of the century, making access to the mines in Owyhee County easier, the talk of a line through what is now Wilder from Silver City died off.
In 1899 the Idaho Midland Railway Company was incorporated to run from the mouth of the Boise River through Caldwell and Boise and then across Central Idaho to Salmon City and to the Montana state line at Gibbonsville . Later reports indicated the line would continue on to Butte. Nothing came from any of these and other proposals due to lack of funding and the small Idaho population, which couldn't support the construction of a rail line.
There were no further serious proposals for another railroad through Boise until the San Francisco, Idaho & Montana Railway was incorporated in 1904. One of the principal reasons for the interest in this line was that the land to the south and west of Boise was being opened up for development by large irrigation projects. In 1902 the U.S. Congress established the United States Reclamation Service (USRS) to build dams and canals and to turn them over to irrigation districts to develop land in the arid west. Previous to this date the development had been attempted by private companies, with little success. The USRS proposed building Lake Lowell, which would be filled by water from the New York Canal and the Ridenbaugh Canal, which was part of the Boise Project, intended to irrigate up to 400,000 acres. In 1904 a water users' association was formed in response to the Reclamation Act of 1902 and preliminary surveys were made for the Deer Flat Reservoir. Homesteaders began moving into the area in 1904 and on March 27, 1905 work started on the Boise Project. Construction of the three dams for Lake Lowell began in 1906, and the fertile land was quickly placed into production, with the farmers raising cattle, horses, fruit, and other crops. Over $15 million was spent on the United States Government and private firms to develop the area for farming. The farmers needed a railroad so that they could transport their agricultural products to the markets.
The San Francisco, Idaho & Montana Railway was incorporated in Idaho on December 1, 1904, as a result to these land reclamation projects. As stated in the articles of incorporation, the purpose of this new railroad was to build a rail line approximately 1000 miles long from San Francisco, California in a northeasterly direction through California, Nevada, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana to Butte. The new railroad was to pass through Boise and have a branch line from Mason in Paradise Valley, Nevada to Winnemucca. Additional branch lines would be built as necessary. William Peyton Mason of Minneapolis was president, C.H. Fleming of Minneapolis was vice president, G.T. Propper of Boise was secretary, W.E. Foran of Boise was treasurer, and Judge J.A. McGinty of Boise was a director. The capital stock was authorized $50,000,000 at $100 per share, with 200,000 shares being Preferred Stock and the remaining 300,000 shares being Common Stock. At the time of incorporation $1,100,000 in stock had been subscribed.
Over the next few months the backers of the San Francisco, Idaho & Montana Railway were busy issuing optimistic press releases in the hope of raising money and obtaining financial backing. Railroad trade journals such as Railroad Gazette would simply print the releases, making no attempts to verify their accuracy. In November 1905 the railroad announced that they had made the necessary financial arrangements for the first division of the line, the 210 miles from the Snake River Valley to the Oregon-Nevada state line and to Winnemucca, where it would connect with the Southern Pacific. The section of the line from the Oregon-Nevada state line would be a branch line from the projected main line. The construction work was to be performed by the San Francisco, Idaho & Montana Railroad Construction Company, which had been formed for this purpose. Tracklaying was to begin in early 1906. By December 1905 the railroad was announcing that some grading contracts had been let. The maximum grade on the line in the Owyhee Range was 1.6%, while it was 0.6% on the rest of the line. Plans included a steel bridge over the Snake River, and it was hoped the line would be completed to Winnemucca by January 1907.
Apparently the business plans with the San Francisco, Idaho & Montana Construction Company did not work out and in January 1906 it was reported that the San Francisco, Idaho & Montana Railway had let a contract with the Pacific Development Company to build the line from Caldwell to Winnemucca. This company was formed by "persons interested in the road" and incorporated in Idaho on January 2, 1906. Headquarters for the company, which was capitalized at $200,000, was in Boise. President and Director was Stanley Larson of Kansas City, Missouri; Vice-President and Director was John McGinty of Boise; Secretary and Director was Ernest W. Cuff of Boise; Treasurer and Director was George Propper of Boise; and the other Directors were Jas. Stephenson, Jr., and W.E. Foran of Boise and E.M. Paulson of Minneapolis. Other subscribers were Geo. H. Dodson of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, I.W. Parker of Portland, Oregon, and M.F. Kepner of New Rockford, North Dakota.
The articles of incorporation for the Pacific Development Company authorized it to perform a wide variety of activities, most of them focused on irrigation and townsite development. They did not specifically call out the construction of railroads. It is interesting, however, to note that Propper, McGinty, and Foran were also associated with the San Francisco, Idaho & Montana Railway. The capitalization for the Pacific Development Company was increased from the original $200,000 to $500,000 on July 7, 1906 by an amendment to the articles of incorporation since the company apparently needed more funds. The magazine also reported that the railroad and the city of Boise had negotiated an agreement in which the railroad would secure the right-of-way and receive a bonus of $125,000 when the line from Boise to the Snake River, about 50 miles, had been completed, and another $125,000 when the line to San Francisco, about 625 miles, had been finished, either directly or via a connection at Winnemucca. The Pacific Development Company apparently performed little or no work and the articles were forfeited on December 1, 1912 for failure to pay the annual fees.
In an interesting twist to the story of the contracting for the railroad construction, in February 1906 Railroad Gazette reported that the Pacific Construction Company was going to build the San Francisco, Idaho & Montana Railway. The report stated that 40 miles of ties had been laid and that the Pacific Construction Company had 3,000 tons of rails. However, this company was not incorporated in Utah until March 30, 1906, and in Idaho on October 23, 1906. The stated purpose of the company was "To carry on and conduct a general contracting and construction business within the State of Utah and elsewhere ... to build, erect, construct and equip railroads, street railways ..." The capitalization of the company was not specified, and Thomas Owens of Salt Lake City was president and treasurer; James B. Hinchman of Denver was vice president; and H.V. Meloy of Salt Lake City was secretary. Directors were the officers and Margaret Owens and James Owens of Salt Lake City. The association with the San Francisco, Idaho & Montana Railway was not obvious. Little or no construction was performed by this company, and the articles of incorporation were withdrawn in Idaho on June 26, 1909.
There was a reorganization of the San Francisco, Idaho & Montana Railway in June 1906 when the election of new officers was announced. Donald Grant of Fairbault, Minnesota was elected president; V.C. Price of Elkader, Iowa was elected vice-president; E.E. Springer of Sheldon, Iowa was elected secretary; and Henry Myer of Chicago was elected treasurer. In the same month the railroad announced it would begin construction of the western section of the line. A September article in Railroad Gazette stated that grading was to begin shortly and that offices had been opened in Caldwell, which had granted the company a $40,000 bonus as an incentive to make its headquarters in that city. The railroad hoped to have the line completed to Winnemucca by the end of 1907. The magazine also stated that the line was rumored to be a Hill project since Northern Pacific surveyors were working on the line. In October there were rumors that James J. Hill had bought control of the road, while E.H. Harriman was reported to be negotiating for the line. By this time surveys had reportedly been completed from Butte through Boise to San Francisco.
In November 1906 Railroad Gazette was reporting that surveys for the line from Caldwell to Homedale, about 16 miles, had been completed and that the surveys from Homedale to Winnemucca, 180 miles, were underway. Construction was to begin in the early spring of 1907. In August 1907 the railroad stated they had purchased all of the right-of-way for the line from Caldwell to Winnemucca, with the exception of a 12 mile section near Winnemucca. Only the contract for the 16 mile section from Caldwell to Homedale had been let. Bids for the 750' bridge across the Snake River were requested in September 1907 by Chief Engineer F.H. Richardson of Caldwell.
Despite all of this self-promotion, no construction work was being performed, presumably due to the lack of funds. The railroad continued to promote the route and even published a booklet titled "Golden Gate Route". It contained information discussing the potential for agriculture in the area and showed a map of the proposed route between Caldwell and Winnemucca. The line was to go southwest from Caldwell to Homedale, where it would cross the Snake River, and then go south along the Oregon-Idaho state line. This section of railroad went through the Boise-Payette Reclamation Project and through private reclamation project land. At Sheaville, to the east of Jordan Valley, the line would go west and then south through a "Great Stock and Grazing Section" to reach Winnemucca. There was to be a branch to the Silver City Mining District from Jordan Valley.
The promotional booklet contained letters of support from Idaho Governor F.R. Gooding, Nampa Mayor Partridge, and others. At this time "Colonel" Edward R. Place was the General Manager of the San Francisco, Idaho & Montana Railway and I.S. Binford was the secretary. The "Colonel" (honorary only) had been talking of a railroad between Boise and San Francisco as early as 1900, and had recently moved to Caldwell to promote the San Francisco, Idaho & Montana line between Caldwell and Winnemucca. He apparently began the honorary title of "Colonel" when he arrived at Caldwell.
The Canyon Construction Company was the company which actually performed the grading for the San Francisco, Idaho & Montana Railway. The articles of incorporation for this company were filed with the State of Idaho on February 6, 1907. The company was organized to grade a build railroads and telegraph lines, own land to plat townsites, and perform other general contract business. The company headquarters were in Caldwell. W.H. Place was president, F.H. Richardson was vice-president, Henry Olsen was secretary, E.R. Place was treasurer, and L.H. Place (uncle of "Colonel" Place) was director. All of the men were listed as being from Caldwell. The capital stock was authorized at $200,000 in shares of $10 each. E.R. Place and Company subscribed to 2000 of the shares.
On February 8, 1907 a contract was awarded to the Canyon Construction Company for the construction of 105 miles of line, with the San Francisco, Idaho & Montana Railway to reimburse the Canyon Construction Company for all costs incurred. In the event the San Francisco, Idaho & Montana failed to pay the Canyon Construction Company for the materials, the railroad would become the property of the Canyon Construction Company.
In September 1907 grading was started from Caldwell. The line ran west from Caldwell to Greenleaf and jogged to the north a short distance before heading west again. The line was graded beyond what is now Wilder from present-day Route 95 through areas known as Garman, Tarr and Aldrich, for a total distance of approximately 16.2 miles. The route went through an area known locally as the "Golden Gate". Some of the land for the right-of-way had been donated by local residents, who were anxious to have a railroad to provide cheaper and more convenient transportation, and they also provided some of the labor for grading the right-of-way for the San Francisco, Idaho & Montana Railway.
In the spring of 1908 E.R. Place, assistant general manager, reported that 196.4 miles of line, from Caldwell south to Winnemucca, had been surveyed. However, after grading the line west from Caldwell and down to the Snake River, the San Francisco, Idaho & Montana defaulted and on June 1, 1909 the San Francisco, Idaho & Montana property was transferred to the Canyon Construction Company. On the same date the Canyon Construction Company transferred the property to the Oregon Short Line. According to the Union Pacific Railroad, the San Francisco, Idaho & Montana Railway had spent $79,026.52 grading the line.
Interestingly enough, the San Francisco, Idaho & Montana continued to issue press releases even after the line had been taken over by the Oregon Short Line. In October 1909 the San Francisco, Idaho & Montana reported that the line, which had been organized to build an electric line from Caldwell south to Jordan Valley, Oregon, and then southwest via Duncan and south to Winnemucca to a connection with the Southern Pacific, had been taken over by the Oregon Short Line. They stated the grading had been completed for 20 miles and that track-laying was anticipated to be completed that year. It was hoped that the railroad would cross the Snake River and make a connection with the new Oregon Short Line branch being built west from Buhl to Nyssa and that the new managers would soon build a line 66 miles south to the Jordan Valley section. Another report in 1910 talked about a survey being made north from Winnemucca to a connection with the San Francisco, Idaho & Montana Railway. The last report in the trade journals discussed the connection of the San Francisco, Idaho & Montana with the Oregon Short Line at Caldwell in 1911.
Although the Oregon Short Line took over the property of the San Francisco, Idaho & Montana Railway in 1909 it was not until 1911 that the railroad actually laid the rails. The OSL started laying track from Caldwell west on June 16, 1911 and finished the work on July 27, 1911, when the line was completed. The work did not take long since the grading had been done and much of the bridging across the canals and laterals had already been completed by the Canyon Construction Company. Interestingly enough, the railroad released a statement at this time that it was starting preliminary work for a short branch line west 11 miles from Caldwell.
The estimated cost to complete the line was $114,645.30. This did not include a majority of the grading costs, which had been incurred by the San Francisco, Idaho & Montana. Other costs, however, included telegraph lines, fencing and buildings. Secondhand 70# rail was used, originally manufactured in 1898, along with fir ties. Cinder ballast was hauled from Huntington, Oregon until gravel ballast could be obtained from a borrow pit at milepost 7.0. The railroad only had to build 2 wooden trestles, with a total length of 235 feet, and 54 culverts. The Oregon Short Line estimated the necessary facilities and their costs at Wilder would be a new combination depot ($2500), a coaling platform ($1200), and a water supply ($20). There was to be a wye , a stock yard ($1200), a tool house ($75), a section house ($1500), and a "Jap" house ($500). Not all of these facilities were built, and it was several years before a depot was built at Wilder.
The Wilder Branch started at an elevation of 2369 feet at Caldwell, dropped down to 2321 feet at Hop, milepost 4.36, and then rose slightly to 2430 feet at Wilder. If the line had continued west to Homedale, it would have had to drop down to 2238 feet above sea level to cross the Snake River.
The line was never completed beyond Wilder. To reach the land south of the Snake River the Oregon Short Line completed a branch line from Nyssa, Oregon to Homedale in 1913, extending it beyond to Erb (present-day Marsing) in 1922. It was originally projected to be extended east to connect with the railroad's line to Buhl, but a projected irrigation project in the Bruneau Valley never materialized, so the plans were shelved.
There was no town of Wilder when the railroad was built west from Caldwell. In 1909 there was a store along the new rail line called the Golden Gate Store, but it was not on the townsite of Wilder, which was one mile to the west. The deed for the land for Wilder was sold to John C. Rice of Caldwell in 1909, and two years later it was sold to Mr. and Mrs. I.S. Binford, who platted the townsite. Binford was also the secretary for the San Francisco, Idaho & Montana Railway. The townsite company was formed after a deed was filed on June 16, 1911. Telephone service to the area arrived in the same year as the railroad.
The original investors in the area wanted the new town called "Golden Gate", probably due to the proposed rail line to California, but it was named "Wilder" for Marshall P. Wilder, the editor of a women's magazine . Apparently Wilder said he would write favorable reports about the town if it was named after him. However, the Golden Gate name was preferred by many and it was used for a local church, one of the canals, and even the local highway district. Wilder was officially incorporated on May 15, 1919 and got a post office in the same year.
The demise of the San Francisco, Idaho & Montana Railway did not end the interest in a line through Boise and to Montana and California. There were reports in early 1910 that a line was being surveyed north from Winnemucca to Caldwell, where connections would be made with the San Francisco, Idaho & Montana. In July 1910 the Butte, Boise & San Francisco Railroad Company was incorporated in Idaho and Montana to build a line from Butte through Boise to San Francisco. W.H. Haviland, a former Montana senator, was president. By the next year it was reported that construction was to start, but in November the company went under due to problems associated with its financing. Other railroads were proposed through southern Idaho to Nevada and California in ensuing years, including the Butte, Boise and Winnemucca Railway Company, incorporated in 1913.
After the failure of the San Francisco, Idaho & Montana Railway "Colonel" Place had moved south to Winnemucca, still believing in the need for a railroad from Winnemucca north into Idaho. The Winnemucca Northern Railroad Company was incorporated in Arizona in 1912 to connect Winnemucca with southwestern Idaho, and one of the major promoters of the line was "Colonel" Place. This line was never incorporated in Idaho and was not built due to lack of capital.
According to the ICC Valuation Report, made in accordance with the ICC Valuation of 1913, the railroad built a stockyard at Wilder in 1911, and there were station signs at Greenleaf and Wilder. Caldwell had a one story section house 22' x 57', a bunkhouse made from a used carbody, and a 10' x 14' tool house, all built in 1911. A small stockyard with a single pen and loading chute was later constructed at Greenleaf.
The original depot at Wilder, the end of the tracks, was an old boxcar, 9' x 36', with a cinder platform, but it is reported that the Caldwell depot, which had been replaced by the 1904 stone depot building, was cut into sections and moved to Wilder in 1922. This building was eventually dismantled and cut into pieces and used for sheds and cattle feed racks in the surrounding farms after the agency was closed.
When the line was completed the Oregon Short Line initially designated the line as its Caldwell Branch, but by 1916 it was being known as the Wilder Branch. The line was never very busy, and the timetable printed in December, 1914 showed one mixed train every Saturday, leaving Caldwell at 8:30 A.M. and arriving at Wilder at 9:15 A.M., with a scheduled stop at Greenleaf, milepost 7.0. The train left Wilder at 9:30 A.M. and arrived in Caldwell at 10:15 A.M., for an average speed of 15.1 mph. It can be assumed there were additional freight trains when necessary. In 1914 the railroad reported a loss of $502.07 on the passenger train operations.
The Union Pacific Railroad was concerned about the construction of any competing railroad into southern Idaho even before the completion of the line to Wilder. On March 6, 1910 Carl Stradley, Chief Engineer for the Union Pacific, prepared a report title "Report on Various Routes Boise to San Francisco together with estimated data of line from Wilder to Winnemucca." The report expressed concern about the potential for the newly constructed Gilmore & Pittsburgh to build a line south from Gilmore to a point on the Mackay Branch. From there the line could go in any direction. Stradley noted "The so-called Boise-Winnemucca line concerns us more probably on account of the possibilities afforded a competitor by way of this route than account of its value as an outlet to our territory to markets now accessible only by a round about way or development of country along this route." He then mentioned that E.R. Place of Boise had had surveys made from the Snake River to Winnemucca, and that he presumably had the right-of-way filings. The report went on to state "... unless we acquired the rights applying thereto, we might find construction costs increased in avoiding conflicts with this rights." However, despite these concerns, no new rail line was built in southwestern Idaho by either the Union Pacific or any other railroad company.
The Caldwell Traction Company was incorporated on May 2, 1910 to transport materials from Caldwell for the dams at Lake Lowell (also known as the Deerflat Reservoir) and after the dam was completed the line was improved and extended in the hope that the area would become a resort destination. One of the directors of the company was F.H. Richardson, who had been a director of the Canyon Construction Company. A pavilion and a park were laid out next to the line at the reservoir, but there was not enough business to make the line profitable. They earned some freight revenue taking out produce from the Deerflat countryside.
On July 1, 1916 the line to Wilder was leased to the Caldwell Traction Company by the Oregon Short Line for 50 years. In the same year, however, the Golden Gate Highway District was organized and better roads and cars and trucks began to take away much of the business along the line from the Caldwell Traction Company. In October, 1918 the Caldwell Traction Company petitioned the Public Utilities Commission of Idaho for permission to abandon the line from Lake Lowell from the McNeil Branch, a line approximately 1-1/2 miles long, alleging there was insufficient business to the park and resort area. The company planned to use the overhead wires to help electrify the line to Wilder, which was being operated as a steam road. This was allowed by the Commission and the line to Wilder was subsequently electrified.
The Caldwell Traction Company continued to have financial difficulties. One shipper complained about the lack of on-line facilities to the Idaho Public Utilities Commission of Idaho in 1918, and the IPUC inspected the line and ordered the company to provide stations and platforms for loading freight and for the convenience of passengers. In 1919 the company also had trouble paying its electric bill, and Idaho Power Company shut off the power for one day from 7 A.M. to 1 P.M. Walter Sebree, who owned the Caldwell Traction Company, had apparently had had an agreement with the former vice president of Idaho Power that the company did not have to pay the electric bill until business improved and the Wilder Branch provided more revenue. The new vice president of Idaho Power apparently wanted the bill paid, and as soon as it was power and service were restored.
In 1919 the company petitioned for, and received approval, to raise fares on their line, but the higher fares were not able to keep the company solvent. The operating costs had increased greatly due to the inflation resulting from World War I while the traffic had dropped due to the improved highway system, and the company needed the money from higher fares to be able to keep operating. At the time the company had two lines - the McNeil Branch from Caldwell to McNeil, 10.7 miles, and the Wilder Branch from Caldwell to Wilder, 11.3 miles. The company also had a street railway system in Caldwell with four stations - Caldwell; Motlow, on the Wilder Branch 1 mile northwest of the Caldwell; Gipson, 3.3 miles southwest of Caldwell on the McNeil Branch; and Phyllis, 3.5 miles southwest of the Caldwell station on the McNeil Branch. There was a good network of wagon roads in the area, and the competition from the automobile was expected to increase as the roads were improved.
The lease with the Oregon Short Line was cancelled and the line returned to the Oregon Short Line on May 17, 1920 , apparently due to the financial difficulties of the Caldwell Traction Company, and a receiver for Caldwell Traction Company was appointed on July 13, 1920. The Caldwell Traction Company petitioned the Public Utilities Commission of Idaho to abandon the line to McNeil shortly before a receiver was appointed but kept operating until all train service ceased on July 9, 1924. The utilities commission authorized abandonment of the company on September 30, 1924.
After the Oregon Short Line cancelled the lease with the Caldwell Traction Company it designated the line as its Wilder Branch. The Oregon Short Line increased the scheduled train operations from a mixed train on Saturdays only to a daily-except-Sunday mixed train. In 1921 the mixed train left Caldwell at 1:10 P.M., stopping at Shelp (milepost 3.3), Greenleaf (milepost 7.3), and Allendale (milepost 10.5) before arriving at Wilder at 3:00 P.M. The three intermediate stations were flag stops, so that the train would stop only a signal to the conductor. The employee timetable warned the employees to watch out for the overhead wire , indicating the overhead wires were still in place at that time. In early 1922 the Oregon Short Line signal crews removed the overhead wires which had been put up by the Caldwell Traction Company.
At least one local resident was not happy with the passenger service. In early 1921 he filed an application with the Public Utilities Commission of Idaho to require the OSL to run 2 trains a day (except Sunday) between Caldwell and Wilder. At this time the existing mixed train had a mail/baggage car, a coach, and an average of 3-4 freight cars. The railroad had just started handling express. Noting that the automobile was taking away traffic and the short distance of the line, the PUC of Idaho dismissed the case on May 11, 1921.
The train service varied only slightly over the years, but in 1930 the train was still only a daily-except-Sunday mixed train. It left Caldwell at 9:00 A.M. and arrived at Wilder at 10:00 A.M. Returning the train left Wilder at 10:10 A.M. and arrived at Caldwell at 11:10 A.M. By 1935 the train was operated as a tri-weekly mixed train, running Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Additional freight trains were run as required. By 1947 the mixed train was discontinued and passengers could ride the caboose, carrying their own baggage. In the mid-1950s only irregular mixed train service was being offered to Wilder, and a traveler had to consult the ticket agent for the schedule. By 1960 the Union Pacific offered only freight service on the line.
On August 7, 1957, the IPUC authorized seasonal operation of the agency, so that it could be closed from January 1 through July1 of each year. On July 7, 1961 the Wilder station was closed with the approval of the Idaho Public Utilities Commission.
The rail line continued to serve an important purpose to the farming region, taking out the produce which had been raised for shipment across the nation. This was principally in the late summer and fall months. In 1936 Wilder shipped out 1735 carloads of produce. At that time Wilder had two lettuce-packing plants, two grain elevators, a corn cannery, two seed-cleaning houses, and five potato-packing houses. The line was maintained only as necessary and little work was performed to upgrade the line. This is indicated by the 1935 assessed value of $2,890.55 a mile for the branch line, compared to an assessed value of $67,484.13 a mile for the main line across southern Idaho and $9,726.40 for the Idaho Northern line to McCall. Due to the lightweight rail and minimal maintenance the Union Pacific restricted the locomotives which could travel the line. In 1941, for example, only certain Ten-Wheelers (with a 4-6-0 wheel arrangement) and some Consolidations (with a 2-8-0 wheel arrangement) were authorized to go on the Wilder Branch. The other locomotives were too heavy and would have damaged the tracks.
In 1952 the line was relaid using secondhand 90# rail, and new ties and surfacing and lining was performed in 1963 along the entire line. In 2005 the branch was operated with a maximum speed of 20 mph, with some sections having a 10 mph speed limit.
Today the Union Pacific Railroad designates the 11.3 mile Wilder Branch as the Wilder Industrial Lead. The Idaho Northern & Pacific Railroad, a short line which operated several former Union Pacific branch lines in southwestern Idaho, leased the line in 1999. On November 23, 2009 the line operations were taken over by the Boise Valley Railroad, a WATCO subsidiary. The Boise Valley, which took over the lease of the line from the Union Pacific Railroad, also leases the line from Nampa to Boise. The railroad also has trackage rights over the Union Pacific line between Nampa and Caldwell. It operates the trains as needed, running out of the former PFE yard in Nampa. There are business tracks at South Caldwell, Simplot, Hop, Doles, Greenleaf, Allendale, and Wilder. Sugar beets are no longer shipped by rail to the sugar factory at Fischer, near Nampa. For many years the right-of-way which had been graded beyond Wilder was a popular gathering area for local parties, and only recently have the bridge abutments and right-of-way been removed.
Although the San Francisco, Idaho & Montana Railway was never completed and its proposal for a line between Butte and San Francisco never became a reality, the branch line from Caldwell to Wilder has served an important purpose to the farmers in the area ever since it was built in 1911. The initial proposal for the line was typical of other grandiose proposals for railroads throughout the country this time period, as towns not having rail service desired it, and those which did have rail service wanted competition. The history of the line is typical of the history of many of the rail lines which were proposed and never built or which never reached their intended destinations. Its unique feature is that the construction of the line was actually started before the company ran out of money and it was then absorbed so that the first segment of the line could be completed. In most cases a railroad company would either fail before construction could start or else the company would fail after construction had been completed and while the railroad was operating.
Although Boise never got rail service to Butte or San Francisco and never had a second railroad to provide competition, it did get on the main line of the Oregon Short Line in 1925 when the Boise Loop was completed. By this time, however, improved roads and automobiles and trucks were beginning to syphon off traffic and the importance of the railroad was declining. The railroad was no longer as important as it once was to the Southern Idaho region.
Special thanks to John Aguirre for allowing me the use of his pamphlet on the San Francisco, Idaho & Montana Railway and to Don Dopf, for providing me information on the current operations of the Wilder Branch.
Boone, Lalia, Idaho Place Names. Moscow: University of Idaho Press, 1988.
Cade, Bonnie, Wilder, Idaho - Looking Back. Privately published: 1989.
Christian, Paul, "Colonel Place and His Phantom Railroad", Nevada, Fall, 1978
Corporate History of the Oregon Short Line Railroad Company as of June 30th, 1916. Prepared in accordance with Valuation Order No. 20 of the Interstate Commerce Commission.
Ehernberger, Jim, and Francis Gschwind, Union Pacific Steam - Northwestern District. Callaway: EG Publications, 1977.
French, Hiram T., History of Idaho. New York: Lewis Publishing Company, 1914.
Golden Gate Route. Pamphlet published by the San Francisco, Idaho & Montana Railway, ca. 1907.
The Idaho Digest and Blue Book. Caldwell - Caxton Printers, 1935.
The Idaho Encyclopedia. Federal Writers' Project. Caldwell: Caxton Printers, 1938.
Leppert, Elaine, and L.B. Thurston. Caldwell Through Photographs, Caldwell: Caxton Printers, 1990.
Randall, Art, A Short History and Postal Record of Idaho Towns. 1994.
Robertson, Donald B. Encyclopedia of Western Railroad History, Volume II, The Mountain States, Dallas: Taylor Publishing, 1991.
The State of Idaho. Boise: The Bureau of Immigration, Labor and Statistics, 1905.
"Union Pacific Railroad - Idaho Division & 4th and 5th Subdivisions of Utah Division - Locomotive and Equipment Restrictions - Main Lines and Branches", March 24, 1941.
Union Pacific Railroad Western Region Condensed Profile, Office of the Chief engineer, dated January 14, 1987.
Railroad Age Gazette
The Railway Age
ICC Valuation Reports
 The Oregon Short Line Railway Company was incorporated in 1881 in Wyoming to build a line from Granger, Wyoming through Idaho. It became part of the Oregon Short Line and Utah Northern Railway Company in1889. In 1897 the OSL&UN was sold to the Oregon Short Line Railroad Company. The OSL was controlled by the Union Pacific and was leased to the Union Pacific on December 31, 1935 and legally dissolved on December 30, 1987.
 Idaho became a state in 1890.
 Donald B. Robertson, Encyclopedia of Western Railroad History, Volume II, The Mountain States, Dallas: Taylor Publishing, 1991, p. 210, and Corporate History of the Oregon Short Line Railroad Company as of June 30th, 1916.
 Articles of incorporation for the Idaho North and South Railway Company on file with the Idaho Secretary of State.
 Articles of incorporation for the Idaho Midland Railway Company on file with the Idaho Secretary of State.
 Railroad Gazette, June 1, 1889.
 Railroad Gazette, January 26, 1900.
 The State of Idaho. Boise: The Bureau of Immigration, Labor and Statistics, 1905, p. 211.
 Railroad Gazette, November 24, 1905.
 The Railway Age, June 13, 1905.
 Articles of incorporation for the San Francisco, Idaho & Montana Railway, on file with the Idaho Secretary of State.
 Railroad Gazette, January 13, 1905. Subscribed meant that persons had pledged, but not necessarily paid for, stock.
 Railroad Gazette, November 24, 1905.
 Railroad Gazette, December 15, 1905.
 Railroad Gazette, December 15, 1905.
 The San Francisco, Idaho & Montana Construction Company was never incorporated in Idaho.
 Railroad Gazette, January 26, 1906.
 Articles of incorporation for the Pacific Development Company on file with the Idaho Secretary of State.
 Railroad Gazette, February 16, 1906. The residents in southwestern Idaho were anxious to have a shorter route to San Francisco. As noted in the August 23, 1907 issue of The Railway Age, the proposed line would reduce the distance by rail from Caldwell to San Francisco from 1249 miles to 618 miles.
 Articles of incorporation for the Pacific Construction Company on file with the Idaho Secretary of State.
 The Railway Age, June 1, 1906.
 Railroad Gazette, June 8, 1906.
 Railroad Gazette, September 14, 1906. The magazine routinely reported rumors of this nature. Hill had built the Great Northern Railway across the northern United States, and any association of Hill with a line in southern Idaho was significant since it threatened the monopoly of the Union Pacific in this region.
 The Railway Age, October 5, 1906.
 Railroad Gazette, October 1, 1906.
 Railroad Gazette, November 23, 1906.
 Railroad Gazette, August 30, 1907.
 The Railroad Gazette, September 20, 1907
 Paul Christian, "Colonel Place and His Phantom Railroad", Nevada, Fall, 1978
 It was a common practice to form a separate company to perform the actual construction work of a railroad, often by the same businessmen who had incorporated the railroad. They were able to profit from the construction of the line without incurring the financial liability.
 The article of incorporation for the Canyon Construction Company on file with the Idaho Secretary of State.
 Railroad Gazette, September 30, 1907.
 Corporate History of the Oregon Short Line Railroad Company.
 It is not clear where the name "Golden Gate" came from, but since it is the strait connecting the San Francisco Bay with the Pacific Ocean it can be assumed it was used to promote the fact that the proposed railroad was going to be built to San Francisco.
 The Railway Age, March 20, 1908
 Corporate History of the Oregon Short Line Railroad Company, p. 66. The charter of the Canyon Construction Company was forfeited on December 1, 1912 for failure to pay the annual license fee.
 Valuation Reports, Interstate Commerce Commission, 44 Val. Rep., p. 427.
 Railroad Age Gazette, October 8, 1909.
 Railway Age Gazette, March 4, 1910.
 Railway Age Gazette, April 28, 1911.
 In the January 20, 1911 issue of Railway Age Gazette there was a report by the Oregon Short Line that "Track was to be laid on grade from Caldwell to Homedale, 11.2 mile." Based on the mileage, the magazine should have said that track was being laid to Wilder, which was only then being established. The report was unusual since it specified laying track on the grade, while most other reports of construction in that time period talked about building a branch line. This indicated that the grade had already been prepared.
 Corporate History of Oregon Short Line, p. 44. This was one of several branch lines built by the Oregon Short Line in this time period.
 Railway Age Gazette, May 5, 1911. It is not clear why the report said "preliminary" since the grading had been completed.
 A wye is a track arrangement like the letter "Y" but with a track connecting the upper legs. It is used to turn trains without the use of a turntable..
 At this time Japanese men were employed by the railroad on the section crews to maintain the lines, and rudimentary housing was often provided for them by the railroad.
 The cost data was obtained from a book prepared by the Oregon Short Line titled "Detailed Estimates Covering the Construction of NEW BRANCH LINES", collection of the author.
 Union Pacific Railroad Western Region Condensed Profile, Office of the Chief engineer, dated January 14, 1987.
 Jim Ehernberger and Francis Gschwind, Union Pacific Steam - Northwestern District. Callaway: EG Publications, 1977, p. 16.
 Bonnie Cade, Wilder, Idaho - Looking Back. Privately published: 1989, p. 4.
 Cade, p. 4, and Lalia Boone, Idaho Place Names. Moscow: University of Idaho Press, 1988, p. 400.
 Randall, Art, A Short History and Postal Record of Idaho Towns. 1994, p. 14-7.
 Railway Age Gazette, March 14, 1910
 Railroad Age Gazette, July 28, 1910, and the articles of incorporation for the Butte, Boise & San Francisco Railroad Company, of file with the Idaho Secretary of State.
 The Dillon Tribune, November 11, 1910.
 Articles of incorporation for the Butte, Boise and Winnemucca Railway Company on file with the Idaho Secretary of State.
 "Colonel Place and His Phantom Railroad"..
 Undated newspaper clipping in the files of the Idaho State Historical Society, Boise, Idaho, from "Family Leisure", Homedale, Idaho, published by the Owyhee Chronicle. The stone Caldwell depot is still standing by the tracks.
 A 1914 Employee timetable references the Caldwell Branch, while it is called the Wilder Banchin a 1916 copy of the Official Railway Guide
 A mixed train carried both freight cars and passengers. The passengers either rode in a passenger car on the rear of the train or in the caboose. The mixed train switched the freight cars along the route, and the train operated on a leisurely schedule.
 Idaho Register, Jul 2, 1915
 Also spelled Deer Flat.
 Ehernberger, p. 16.
 The Public Utilities Commission of Idaho was renamed the Idaho Public Utilities Commission in 1951
 Report of the Idaho Public Utilities Commission, Case #331.
 Elaine Leppert, and L.B. Thurston. Caldwell Through Photographs, Caldwell: Caxton Printers, 1990, p. 83.
 Ehernberger, p. 16.
 Twelfth and Thirteenth Annual Reports, Public Utilities Commission of Idaho.
 Union Pacific System, Oregon Short Line Railroad Company, Idaho Division, Employes Time Table #97, July 31, 1921.
 The Union Pacific Magazine, March 1922. This was an employee magazine published monthly for the Union Pacific Railroad employees in the 1920s and 1930s.
 The Official Railway Guide of the Railways and Steam Navigation Lines of the United States, Porto Rico, Canada, Mexico and Cuba, January 1930, p. 907. This was a monthly publication listing all of the passenger train schedules in the listed countries.
 The Official Railway Guide, May, 1935, p. 800.
 UnionPacific Railroad timetable dated December 20, 1947.
 Union Pacific Railroad timetable dated April 25, 1954.
 49th Annual Report of the Idaho Public Utilities Commission.
 The Idaho Encyclopedia. Federal Writers' Project. Caldwell: Caxton Printers, 1938, p. 252.
 The Idaho Digest and Blue Book. Caldwell - Caxton Printers, 1935, p. 160.
 "Union Pacific Railroad - Idaho Division & 4th and 5th Subdivisions of Utah Division - Locomotive and Equipment Restrictions - Main Lines and Branches", March 24, 1941.
 Union Pacific Railroad Western Region Condensed Profile, Office of the Chief engineer, dated January 14, 1987.
 Union Pacific Railroad Portland Area Timetable #1, October 25, 1998.