Idaho Central Railway (1887-1889)

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This page was last updated on January 1, 2017.

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Idaho Central Railway built the 19 miles of rail line between Nampa and Boise, Idaho.

The following comes from the Oregon Short Line Railroad corporate history completed for the ICC in 1919:

Idaho Central Railway Company was incorporated under the general laws of the Territory of Wyoming. Its articles of incorporation are dated June 26th, 1886, and were filed in the office of the Secretary of the Territory of Wyoming on the same date.

The line of this company as originally proposed was from Nampa, Territory of Idaho, to Yaquina Bay, Oregon, and from Nampa, Territory of Idaho, via Boise, northwesterly by the most eligible route to a junction with the Northern Pacific railroad.

The line as constructed extended from a connection with the line of the Oregon Short Line Railway Company at Nampa, Idaho Territory, to a point near Boise, a distance of 19.0 miles ,and was entirely located within the state of Idaho.

Construction was begun in 1886 and completed in 1887.

The line was placed in operation September 5, 1887, and operated until July 27, 1889, when this company was consolidated with the Oregon Short Line Railway Company, Utah and Northern Railway Company, Utah Central Railway Company, Salt Lake and Western Railway Company, The Utah and Nevada Railway Company, The Ogden and Syracuse Railway Company and The Nevada Pacific Railway Company to form the Oregon Short Line and Utah Northern Railway Company.

During his research, George Pitchard found an entry in the U.P. Boston General Office general journal entry, dated August 1887, noting that U.P. engine no. 402 (and some other rolling stock) had been sold in that month to the new Idaho Central Railway. At that time, UPRy. no. 402 became Idaho Central no. 1. UPRy 402 was built in July 1870 as Kansas Pacific no. 61, and was renumbered to UPRy. 402 in 1885.

When Idaho Central Railway became part of OSL&UN in 1889, their no. 1 locomotive became OSL&UN no. 402, then OSL no. 100 in 1897. Further disposition is unknown after it being shown on the OSL equipment listing for January 1, 1900.

The following comes from "Smoke Down The Canyons" by James L. Ehernberger and Francis G. Gschwind, 1966, page 15:

Orchard, Idaho to Nampa, Idaho via Boise
The so-called Boise Main Line actually serves as a second track of the Third Sub-Division main line but originally began as a stub-end branch line built to connect Idaho's capital city to the main line of the O. S. L. The approximately 19 miles between Nampa, midway point on the sub-division (82.8 miles west of Glenns Ferry, 82.2 miles east of Huntington) and Boise were constructed in 1887 by the Idaho Central Railway. In 1923-24 a new line was constructed from Orchard, on the main line 49.2 miles west of Glenns Ferry, to Boise, a distance of 25 miles. This line connected with the old branch from Nampa which was relaid with heavier steel and the two lines were merged to become a second main line. All scheduled passenger trains have since operated via this line under normal conditions, although it is actually 20 miles longer than the original main line between Orchard and Nampa, often referred to as the Kuna Freight Line. Passenger helpers were often attached at Nampa during steam days and ran through on eastbounds to Orchard because of the grade east of Boise. Through freights as well as locals often operate via Boise and particularly during the fall rush when the Kuna line is extremely busy. All train movements on the Boise Main Line are governed by Centralized Traffic Control.

At Nampa, a 2-mile segment of the original Idaho Central branch to Boise is now known as the Nampa Branch. It was relegated to this status by the construction of a loop in 1924 between Main Line Junction, a short distance east of Nampa on the old main line, to Nampa Loop Junction on the Boise Main Line. This loop enables trains operating via Boise to pass directly through the Nampa station.

In 1924, the former Idaho Central line from Nampa to Boise, was extended further east of Boise, connecting with the Oregon Short Line at Orchard. This new line became known as the Boise Main Line, as well as the Boise Cutoff.

In 1999, Union Pacific leased the Boise Cutoff, Nampa to Hillcrest (24.4 miles), to Idaho Northern & Pacific Railroad (INPR).

In November 2009, the lease for the Wilder Branch and Boise Cutoff was transferred to the Boise Valley Railroad (Watco).

The portion of the former Boise Cutoff eastward from Hillcrest to Orchard is now owned by the City of Boise and is used by UP for car storage.


Late 1883
Oregon Short Line was completed to Kuna, Idaho Territory, 15 miles by stage line from Boise.

September 17, 1883
Oregon Short Line began running trains to Caldwell. (Chicago Tribune, September 18, 1883, "yesterday")

The following comes from Thornton Waite's article about Nampa in The Streamliner, published by Union Pacific Historical Society (Volume 17, Number 1):

A section house and signs were erected at the site, and by 1884 there was a water tower, a telegraph, and possibly a small building used for a railroad depot. The train servicing facilities were located at Caldwell, nine miles to the west, and travelers to and from Boise would ride the stage from Boise City to Kuna depot, ten miles east of Nampa.

June 26, 1886
Idaho Central Railway was incorporated in Wyoming.

September 9, 1886
The OSL had been completed to and through Nampa less than a week before, with Nampa simply being a station on the mainline. Nampa was not mentioned as an important point on OSL until September 1886 when it was shown in a newspaper item as being the connection for a branch to Boise. (Idaho Statesman, September 9, 1886)

November 8, 1886
The town of Nampa was first settled, to serve as the connection between the new rail line to Boise, and the OSL mainline. The settlement was first known as New Jerusalem, and was part of the land along the route of the Oregon Short Line Railway southeast of Caldwell, being developed by the Nampa Land and Improvement Company, itself organized in 1885. The Town of Nampa was incorporated on April 17, 1891.

August 22, 1887
The first rails were laid for the Idaho Central Railway, at Nampa, using light-weight rails removed from the narrow gauge Utah & Northern, which had just been converted to standard gauge in July. Grading of the line had begun on July 25, 1887.

September 4, 1887
Idaho Central Railway was completed between Nampa and Boise.

September 5, 1887
First train ran between Nampa and Boise.

July 27, 1889
Oregon Short Line & Utah Northern Railway was organized by merging the following companies: Utah & Northern Railway, the Utah Central Railway, the Utah & Nevada Railway, the Salt Lake & Western Railway, and the Ogden & Syracuse Railway (all in Utah), the Oregon Short Line Railway and Idaho Central Railway (both in Idaho), and the unbuilt Nevada Pacific Railway in Nevada. (OSL corporate history)

August 19, 1889
OSL&UN took possession of the following railroads:

August 7, 1893
OSL&UN completed a freight line organized separately as the Boise City Railroad & Terminal Company, which had been incorporated in Idaho on March 28, 1893. The new freight line, 6.2 miles long, was built from a new station called Junction two miles west of the Boise depot, at present-day Perkins (shown on some maps as "Boise Junction"), to Boise's warehouse and business district along Front Street. New freight yards and a roundhouse were built in downtown Boise on this new line, which ended at a station called Vernon.

A new passenger depot was completed in 1895 at the intersection of 10th Street and Front Street in downtown Boise, at the end of the new Boise City Railroad & Terminal line.

Boise City Railroad & Terminal line was leased to Oregon Short Line Railroad for operation.

Boise City Railroad & Terminal was extended two miles, ending at a station called Barber.

The entire 8.4 miles of Boise City Railroad & Terminal was sold to Oregon Short Line and became OSL's Boise Branch. Boise City Railroad & Terminal Company was officially dissolved on June 11, 1912.

Oregon Short Line built the Boise Main Line, also known as the Boise Cut-Off, a new 25-mile section of track to connect Boise with the OSL mainline east of Boise, at a new station called Orchard. When the new line was completed, the old Idaho Central 19-mile line from Boise west to Nampa was relaid with heavier rail, allowing the new cut-off mainline passenger trains to serve the Idaho capitol city.

July 15, 1924
The last spike was driven on the new Boise Main Line, between Orchard on the OSL mainline, 27 miles southeast of Boise, and a connection with the Boise Branch. The new line passed Boise on the bench on the south side of the Boise River, since to build the new line into downtown Boise from the east would have required heavy grades, and the use of helper locomotives for trains passing through Boise. A new modern passenger station was built on the new line, south of the river at the southern end of Capitol Boulevard.

April 24, 1925
The new Boise passenger depot was opened. A new depot was completed at Nampa at the same time.

The line from Boise to Barber was abandoned in 1984, and the line to downtown Boise was removed in the 1990s. (email from Thornton Waite, February 24, 2012)

March 1999
INPR leased the Wilder Branch and the Boise Branch from Union Pacific. The Wilder Branch runs from Caldwell to Wilder (11 miles), and the Boise Branch (the western half of the Boise Cutoff) runs from Nampa to Hillcrest (24.8 miles).

March 1999
The Boise Cut-Off, from Nampa to Hillcrest (24.8 miles), was leased for operation to Idaho Northern & Pacific Railroad, a subsidiary of Rio Grande Pacific Corporation, which also owns several other railroads. (STB Finance Docket No. 33713; service date of March 8, 1999) (Hillcrest is the site of the Boise airport and several industrial customers, including Motive Power Inc., which manufactures and rebuilds railroad locomotives and cars)

The remaining 22.3 miles of the Boise Cut-Off, between Orchard and Hillcrest, was abandoned by UP in July 1999. (STB Docket No. AB-33 (Sub-No. 137X), service date of July 8, 1999)

From about June 1993, until August 2009, three former UP passenger cars were stored on the Boise Cutoff Branch. The cars were UP 4051, UP 5613, and sleeper "Imperial Letter." In August 2009, UP 4051 and UP 5613 were sold to Orange Empire Railway Museum in Perris, California. In November 2009, when INPR sold the lease on UP's Boise Cutoff Branch, "Imperial Letter" was moved to INPR property at Emmett, Idaho.

September 16, 2009
Rio Grande Pacific Corporation sold its lease and interest in the 25-mile Boise Branch to Transportation Services, Inc., which operates the line as the Boise Valley Railroad. (Watco press release dated September 16, 2009)

In November 2009, the lease for the Wilder Branch and Boise Cutoff was transferred to the Boise Valley Railroad.

In November 2009, Boise Valley Railroad (Watco) took over the Wilder Branch the same day as the Boise Branch. They use part of Union Pacific’s Nampa yard for their base. (Bryan Loftin, email dated December 31, 2016)


Idaho Central Ry. 4-4-0 -- 1 locomotive

1885 UPRy
Date To
Builder Builder
ICRy 1 KP 61 UPRy 402 1887 Baldwin 2192 Jul 1870

General Notes:

  1. Idaho Central Railway no. 1 was built as Kansas Pacific no. 61 in 1870; to UPRy 402 in 1885; to Idaho Central no. 1; to OSL&UN 402 in 1889; to OSL 100 in 1897; shown on OSL 1900 inventory; further disposition unknown.
  2. Records differ as to what happened to UPRy. 402:
  3. Pitchard's research indicates that UPRy. 402 became Idaho Central Railway no. 1 in 1887; to OSL&UN 402 in 1889; to OSL 100 in 1897; Pitchard cites "a U. P. Boston General Office general journal entry in August of 1887, which notes that U.P. engine No. 402 (and some other rolling stock) was sold in that month to the new Idaho Central Railway."
  4. McCulloh's research, based on the 1894 inventory of UP equipment, indicates that UPRy 402 was rebuilt to UPRy 827 in 1887, then to UP 941 in 1915, and vacated in 1926.
  5. The question becomes: which "official" record is more believable, the Boston account book record, or the UP 1894 inventory record.
  6. There were at least four locomotives in the UPRy 400 series vacated in 1887. Since there is no record of the previous numbers for the 800-series 4-4-0 locomotives, an assumption is made that UPRy. 402 became Idaho Central no. 1, and a different UPRy 400-series locomotive was rebuilt in 1887 to become UPRy 827.
  7. Individual locomotive specifications:
As Built
  ICRy 1 61-16x24 69-18x26 Oct 1887

More Information

(See also: "On The Main Line At Last" by Thornton Waite, The Streamliner, Union Pacific Historical Society, Volume 11, Number 6)