City Government

Boise Depot Missed The Train

EDITOR NOTE–this person has probably has been reading the GUARDIAN far too long. The prose obviously reflect a profound institutional knowledge and GUARDIAN flair.


To make the experience as authentic as possible, UPRR 844 was 3 hours late. The Statesman is to be commended for announcing an event before it happens, rather than a day or two afterward. I got to the Boise Depot at 5pm, and immediately overheard that it was going to be “7 or 7:30”. The depot was open, so I went inside to sit on one of those benches which haven’t gotten any more comfortable after fifty years.

From GUARDIAN archive

An employee from the city was greeting people, telling them that the train was running late, and no, the depot would not be open when it finally arrives. I asked her if she knew where the train currently was, and she told me she didn’t, “because
the computer is down”.

WHAT “computer is down”? Does the fricking TELEGRAPH work, perhaps?

So I left, and came back at 7:30. Rumors were now flying that it’d be another two hours. There were several hundred people there.

About 8:00 one of Boise’s finest came to the platform and shined his light around, and told everybody that they “need to move back behind the white line”. Because steam locomotives weighing a million tons with 100 db whistles have a way of sneaking up on you, I guess. The girl doing balance beam exercises on the rail had to call it quits. Sigh. Now it’s just wait.

The officer walked along the track, picking up pennies and handing them back to their owners. A safety issue. There’s no telling what a penny on the track can do to a million ton locomotive. Might make it skid or something. Or some idiot might not want to wait for the train to stop before attempting to retrieve his souvenir.

I asked the officer if he knew where the train currently was. He said “about 20 minutes”. Turns out he was spot on.

Maybe he’d been following Twitter. I just found UPRR’s site, with the train’s schedule, and it turns out they have a Twitter page, that was being updated constantly. Finally, a sensible use for Twitter. Bridging the Age of Steam and the Age of Information.

Apparently, the city employee was referring to a different computer. Last time a historic train visited Boise in May 2007 it wasn’t allowed to park at the Depot. Despite claims to the contrary, Boise officials apparently just don’t like trains.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Rod in SE Boise
    Sep 20, 2010, 7:19 pm

    Why was one of “Boise’s finest” there?? Did they think someone was going to steal the locomotive?

    He or she should have been out enforcing the law against red light runners.

  2. I remember traveling by train when I was a small child in the late 1940’s. It took all day to go 180 miles. By all day I mean it took the better part of 12 hours. The toilet dumped directly onto the track cross ties. Yuck!

    Train travel was a joke. Rails do a good job of moving freight but passengers need to think, cars, busses, and air planes.

    I have no fond memories of train travel.

  3. Hats off to “razzbar.” Nice write-up!

    I’m curious to know… when the choo-choo finally arrived, why did they park it with the big steam locomotive (the unique attraction) about a half-mile up the tracks from the Depot? (Perhaps the blame can be laid at the feet of the squashed-penny aficionados.)

    I waited with my granddaughter up the tracks by the dog park, until it got late enough I was worried about bicycling home in the dark. (A half hour or so before the actual arrival time.)

    Did Mayor Bieter get to drive the train? If not… why the hell not?!!? We all know how he loves the choo-choos!

    One final comment… who’d a thunk we’d live to see the day when people are “tweeting” about a giant steam locomotive! Tweet! Tweet!

  4. Docdolittle
    Sep 21, 2010, 4:16 pm

    I was there also. Not only was the train 3 1/2 hours late, it didn’t even make it to the depot. It broke down about 1/2 block before reaching the depot, so everyone who wanted to see it had to hoof it to the train. By this time it was dark outside and the steam engine being black, made it very difficult to see anything.

    My 3 year old grandson was very disappointed because all he wanted was to see the train move.

    Pretty much a waste of time.

  5. The train stopped about a hundred feet or so before the depot entrance, but about 15 minutes later, it moved up so that the locomotive was directly in front of the doors.

    I remember traveling by train as a child, too. I took the Portland Rose a few times between Caldwell and Seattle. The worst thing about it, the ONLY bad memory of it was that it was never on time. Other than that, it’s the most enjoyable mode of transportation I’ve ever used, with the possible exception of a motorcycle.

    Yes, I know abut the yucky. One winter when it was very cold, I was looking at the wheels on a car, and saw all this foul-looking yellow ice.

    As far as speed goes, it’s faster to take the train from London to Paris than it is to fly, I’m told. I’m sure this is downtown to downtown, and accounts for the time getting from downtown to the airport, checking in, and all.

    This particular locomotive, UPRR 844, was designed to travel safely at up to 120 MPH. Not too bad for 1944. In “the day”, passenger trains commonly traveled 80+ MPH, and 100MPH was common at some places.

    As for the 12 hours to travel 180 miles, that was probably a milk run that stopped at every possible spot. There was a good two hour difference in travel time between Portland and Seattle, depending on whether you took the milk run or the limited.

    My memory of passenger train travel is of roomy accommodations, relaxation and great scenery. The food in the dining cars was also great, but costly. Memory can be selective, and I’m not saying that all train rides were wonderful. But it’s misleading to say that 180 miles in 12 hours was the norm.

    I don’t see much future for train travel, or bus travel, or airline travel over long distances any more. Airline service has been so degraded in recent years as to make it little more than a necessary inconvenience to be endured. Bus companies have given up. I think the era of quality public transportation in America has died of neglect and greed.

  6. According to the pictures I took, the train arrived sometime after 8:20, and stopped about 100 feet before the back doors of the depot. Then it moved forward so that the locomotive was directly in front of the station by 8:45.

    I remember train travel in the fifties and sixties, and the claim of 180 miles in 12 hours may well have been true for a “milk run”, but not for a “limited”. I took the Portland Rose between Seattle and Caldwell several times, and the North Coast Limited between Spokane and Seattle once. On every trip, accommodations were superior to any other form of public transportation, by far. Trains were relaxing and spacious. You could walk around. You could sit in special observation cars. The seats went way back. The only reason they went into decline is because airplanes are faster.

  7. Clarification on “parking spot”:

    My granddaughter and I bicycled over to the Depot on Monday – the day after arrival, when it was supposed to be on display to the public from 8am to 6pm. At that time, the back end of the train was roughly adjacent to the west end of the Depot (think “Big Mike”), and the engine – the fabled No. 844 – was east of the Depot, roughly halfway between Vista and Protest. Visitors were trudging to the Vista overpass, up and over, and then through goathead-infested dusty vacant frontage, if they wanted a peek at 844.

  8. I ride Amtrack, runs on time, Washington DC to Boston has Aclea service, anything south of DC is CSX tracks, rough, should a freight need the rails, Amtrack is sidelined, so the wait could be short or long. Depends
    Japan has excellent rail service. 230 miles..86 minutes, Last March spent two weeks in Japan, commendable service, price and comfort.. We as a country could learn alot about public transportation, but Exxon, road contractors,Goodyear, Ford & etc. like the current situation,nothing will change!

  9. I am still waiting for a way to travel to Kentucky (southwest) and to Northern Virginia by rail. I have had it with the airlines and I have told my children and grandchildren that if they want to see me they will have to come here.

  10. I live by the depot, and the damn thing decided to come up and park behind my house AT MIDNIGHT AND BLOW ITS WHISTLE! (No flipping reason he needed to do that.) I went and looked at it the next day and it was kind of cool, but I thought it was rude they didn’t leave it parked closer to the Depot. People DO live here. And having one pass by your house is a lot different than parked and whistling behind your house.

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