Soon after the Idaho, Northern & Pacific took over the Union
Pacific’s Oregon Short Line Division in 1993 the railroad began
operating its Thunder Mountain Line tourist trains, which quickly became
very popular. There are currently a few other shortlines that operate
similar excursions on their property, notably the RJ Corman's My Old Kentucky Dinner Train. Since its inception the tourist train has steadily added
new services and options for visitors as more folks continue to ride
the incredibly scenic line year after year. Today the railroad usually
employs one or more of its EMD FP10 streamlined diesel-electric
locomotives to pull its trains (they currently own five of these; #1105,
#1106, #1108, #1112, #1150) which are typically made up of both
enclosed, climate-controlled and open-air cars, depending on what you’re
in the mood for.
Today, the Thunder Mountain Line offers three different excursions to choose from. These include:
Horseshoe Bend Route: This excursion travels between
Horseshoe Bend (where travelers board at the local depot) and Banks. It
is the longest operating train running between March and December and
provides live music and refreshments during the journey.
Montour Route: This train operates between Montour and
Horseshoe Bend. As with all of the railroad's excursions, it follows the
Payette River and typically provides visitors a 1 1/2-hour journey.
This part of the line also hosts the railroad's special trains, such as
during the holidays.
Cabarton Route: This excursion runs between Smiths Ferry
and Cascade, providing perhaps the most scenery for passengers,
traveling across a steel trestle and through a short tunnel.
Unfortunately, this excursion is currently not operating.
|UP GP38-2 #2142, GP15-1 #1697, and other power lay over in Los Angeles on October 21, 1992.|
Interestingly, despite the fact that the Thunder Mountain Line is
located in Idaho it features trains running most weekends between May
and December (the railroad only operates excursions between Friday and
Sunday of each week during the year). If you are interested in riding
one of the more affordable tourist trains in the country this is it,
particularly considering that you will be riding in climate-controlled
cars as aforementioned. However, they do offer some upscale amenities
including their "Hobo Lunch" (which is extra). Also, if you would
really like to ride in style consider booking their Executive Class Bar Car.
|A quartet of Union Pacific SD40-2s rest at the Provo, Utah engine terminal on October 22, 1994.|
In total, the railroad currently offers fourteen different excursions including dinner trains, brunch trains, rafting specials, aforementioned holiday specials, and much more. For more information about the Thunder Mountain Line please click here to visit their website. There you can learn more about all of the different trips they offer (including rates), how to reach the railroad, their operating schedule, and special large group charters. If you would like to learn more about the Idaho, Northern & Pacific please click here. For more information about excursion trains like the Thunder Mountain Line you might want to consider the book Tourist Trains Guidebook, which is put together by the editors of Kalmbach Publishing's Trains magazine.