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Idaho Short Line Railroads

Published: May 15, 2023

By: Adam Burns

Boise Valley Railroad

(reporting mark, BVRR):   This short line is part of the Watco's family of railroads that began service in November of 2009.  The road operates 36 miles of disconnected property, the Wilder Branch (11 miles between Wilder and Caldwell) and the Boise Cut-off (25 miles between Nampa and near Boise).  

There are numerous customers served on the lines with primary freight including potatoes, lumber, fertilizer, and fuels.

Bountiful Grain & Craig Mountain Railroad

(reporting mark, BGCM):  This short line is currently owned by Railroad Materials Salvage although it began operations in 1998 under Camas Prairie RailNet.  It operates the former Camas Prairie Railroad between Spalding and Cottonwood, about 52 miles.

Eastern Idaho Railroad

(reporting mark, EIRR):  This Watco-owned short line first began service on November 21, 1993 operating several former Union Pacific branches in southeastern Idaho. 

There are two, disconnected segments; one runs from Idaho Falls northeast to Ashton (with various spurs) and another connects Minidoka and Martin with points west reaching Wendell and Buhl.  In all the road operates about 270 miles and moves roughly 35,000 carloads annually.

Great Northwest Railroad

(reporting mark, GRNW):  This Watco property (since 2004) operates 77 miles of the former Camas Prairie Railroad between Lewiston, Idaho and Riparia, Washington.  Its current traffic consists of lumber, bark, paper and tissue, agricultural products, industrial/farm chemicals, scrap iron and frozen vegetables.  

Idaho, Northern & Pacific Railroad

(reporting mark, INPR): This short line is owned by the Rio Grande Pacific Corporation and began service on November 15, 1993. 

It operates two, disconnected branches of Union Pacific heritage (originally Oregon Short Line and Payette Valley Railroad); one runs from Payette to Cascade, Idaho while the other connects La Grande and Elgin. 

In total the IN&P owns about 121 miles (additional mileage is leased from UP between Nampa and Weiser, Idaho) with traffic including agricultural products, forest products, and chemicals.

Montana Rail Link

(reporting mark, MRL) (Closing, 2022):  This large, Class II regional operated from 1987 until 2022. when it acquired a large segment of the former Northern Pacific main line between Montana and Washington, leased by then Burlington Northern  

In its final years the road operated between Huntley, Montana to Sand Point, Idaho with trackage rights stretching to Spokane, Washington.  There are also a handful of branches under its operation.  In all, MRL maintained more than 900 miles and moved more than 410,000 carloads annually.

MRL announced on January 10, 2022 that it would terminate its lease with successor BNSF Railway and the Class I would reacquire its property.

Pend Oreille Valley Railroad

(reporting mark, POVA):  This short line is owned by the Port of Pend Oreille (since 1984, and prior to that time, Kyle Railways) and operates the Milwaukee Road's former Metaline Falls Branch between Metaline Falls and Newport, Washington. 

It also currently leases from BNSF trackage between Newport, Washington and Dover, Idaho while interchanging with the Class I at nearby Sand Point, Idaho.

Palouse River & Coulee City Railroad

(reporting mark, PCC):  The PR&CC is a Watco property that operates 202 miles of disconnected lines in southeastern Washington, western Idaho, and northeastern Oregon.  All of the lines were acquired from Union Pacific.  Its traffic consists of wheat, lentils, and barley while moving about 4,000 carloads annually.

Spokane, Spangle & Palouse Railway

(reporting mark, SSP): Formerly known ass the Washington & Idaho Railway (until 2019, the SS&P serves the area south of Spokane, Washington and stretches as far east as Harvard, Idaho with another short segment extending to Moscow. 

The property (former Milwaukee Road and Northern Pacific) is owned by the Washington Department of Transportation, which leases the corridor to what is now the Spokane, Spangle & Palouse Railway.  Its traffic consists of agriculture products, largely grain/wheat.


St. Maries River Railroad

(reporting mark, STMA):  This interesting short line traces its history to the abandonment of the Milwaukee Road's Pacific Extension in Idaho. 

It began service during May of 1980, owned by the Potlatch Corporation, and operated the Milwaukee's former main line between Plummer Junction and Avery, 64 miles, as well as most of the Elk River Branch between St. Maries and Bovill, 52 miles. 

Its connection was at Plummer Junction with Union Pacific, which remains the case today.  Then, as it is now, traffic consisted entirely of forest products.  In 1986 it lost a fight with the U.S. Forestry Service which condemned the right-of-way between St. Maries and Avery (45 miles) for conversion into a highway. 

Since 2010 it has been privately owned by the Williams Group.  The railroad currently operates about 71 miles with traffic consisting of lumber, plywood, veneer, logs, and inbound shipments of magnesium chlorite.

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