The Idaho, Northern and Pacific Railroad (INPR) is a short line based out of Emmett, Idaho and operates roughly 210 miles of ex-Union Pacific Railroad branch lines (three in total of various mileage) in the southwestern Idaho and eastern Oregon. The railroad is a fairly recent upstart having begun operations in 1993 when it purchased the lines from UP, which was looking to shed much of its secondary trackage in the area (the history of these lines date back to the early 20th century as the UP took over smaller companies that had originally built them). The IN&P today is currently a subsidiary of the Rio Grande Pacific Corporation and along with its freight operations also operates the Thunder Mountain Line, a tourist operation.
The history of many of the Union Pacific's Idaho (and Oregon) lines date back to the Oregon Short Line Railway, a subsidiary of the UP created in 1881 as a means of providing the shortest route between Wyoming and Oregon. It was renamed the Oregon Short Line Railroad after the UP fell into bankruptcy in 1893 although by 1898 had regained control of the railroad. The Oregon Short Line was mostly created through outright purchase of other lines such as the Utah & Northern Railway, Payette Valley Railroad, and the Oregon Railway & Navigation Company. Ultimately, the OSL would comprise the UP's main line to Portland and also be the catalyst for its many branches in all three western states (Idaho, Washington, and Oregon).
Interestingly, the OSL remained on UP's books until it was dissolved in 1987 and soon after the Class I began looking to shed access trackage in the region, mostly branches and secondary lines which radiated away from its main line. On November 15, 1993 three of its branches were transferred to Rio Grande Pacific which created the newly formed Idaho, Northern and Pacific Railroad; its branch between Elgin and Joseph, Oregon (63 miles); its branch between Payette and Emmett (a distance of 30 miles); its branch between Emmett and Cascade (a distance of 72 miles, although the line would be abandoned the rest of the way north to McCall, an additional 34 miles).
At this point the shortline operated a system covering 165 miles and after operating these lines for four years the shortline elected to abandon the Elgin to Joseph segment in 1997. However, this was purchased by Wallowa County which created the Wallowa Union Railroad Authority, which still operates the branch today. Shortly thereafter, Union Pacific sold to the Idaho, Northern and Pacific Railroad the rest of the branch between La Grande and Elgin, a distance of 21 miles which it continues to operate today. Additionally, two years after the shortline abandoned the La Grande Branch it picked up two more UP branches in 1999; the Caldwell to Wilder line (a distance of 11.5 miles) and the Nampa to Hillcrest branch, which also serves Boise (a distance of 24.8).
Today, the IN&P continues to operate these lines giving it 159.3 miles of railroad it owns directly. Additionally, it has trackage rights over the Union Pacific along its main line between Nampa and Weiser, a distance of 59 miles which enables the shortline to directly connect to its Idaho branches. In total, the IN&P operates some 218.3 miles of track. The Idaho, Northern & Pacific Railroad itself is broken down into two divisions; the Idaho Division and Oregon Division and its sole connection is with the UP in three different Idaho locations including Payette, Nampa, and Weiser as well as La Grande, Oreon. Its current traffic base includes timber products, chemicals, and agricultural products (wheat, grain, etc.).
The tourist railroad operation, the Thunder Mountain Line, also does very well for the railroad and is likely what the IN&P is best known for although most folks don’t realize it’s operated by the railroad. I sure know I didn’t! Using a series of five FP10s (formerly F3s) the train is adorned in a beautiful red livery with gold trim. The tourist line’s featured events include rafting expeditions (“river and rail” which means you take a trip up the rapids, are dropped off, and then ride back down the river) and dinner trains, just to name a few. Also, for more information about the Idaho, Northern and Pacific Railroad please click here to visit their official web page at Rio Grande Pacific's website. The page includes general information about the railroad and also features a system map.
Idaho, Northern and Pacific Railroad Locomotive Roster
|Builder||Model Type||Road Number||Notes||Quantity|
|EMD||FP10||1105, 1106, 1108, 1112, 1150||Ex-GM&O F3As, Used In Tourist Service||5|
|EMD||GP7u||2074, 2094||Ex-AT&SF GP7s||2|
|EMD||GP40||4500-4506||Ex-ACL, Ex-SAL, Ex-SCL, Ex-L&N||7|
For more reading on shortlines like the Idaho, Northern & Pacific Railroad consider the book American Shortline Railway Guide from author Ed Lewis. The book has gone through several updated editions to keep up with the ever-changing world of the shortline industry. Today, the publication highlights almost 600 shortlines across the country with general background information about each (such as roster information, rail line history, radio frequencies, etc.). If you have any interest in shortlines you will very likely enjoy this book. If you're interested in perhaps purchasing this book please visit the link below which will take you to ordering information through Amazon.com, the trusted online shopping network.