The Railroads of Silver Valley

The Union Pacific Freight Depot is a legacy from Idaho's great age of rail.

When precious metals were discovered in Northern Idaho, the region exploded with mining activity. Railroads rushed in to serve and profit from the mines and their communities. By the turn of the 20th Century, divisions of the Union Pacific and Northern Pacific were locked in fierce competition for domination of the mining region.

In the early in the 1880's smaller railroad companies obtained charters for construction through the mining towns of Silver Valley. The Coeur d'Alene Railroad and Navigation Company (CR&N) constructed a narrow gauge rail line through the Silver Valley and was soon absorbed into the Northern Pacific Railway. In response, the Union Pacific pushed a standard gauge line through the same region. It was said the two lines were laid so close together that engineers could shake hands without leaving their locomotives.

Construction of the Union Pacific Freight Depot in Kellogg was completed in 1914. The depot handled freight and mail for the mining town of Kellogg and surrounding areas. Periodic washouts and landslides sometimes closed the route temporarily, but it was always rebuilt.

The Freight Depot faced an uncertain future as mining dwindled in the late-20th century. Confronted with closed mines and abandoned structures, Kellogg and other Silver Valley communities had to decide what to do with the relics of the mining years. One solution was the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes, a 73-mile trail created on the former Union Pacific Railroad right-of-way. The Kellogg Union Pacific Depot was leased to Excelsior Cycles in 1999, and is once again linked to the path which runs in front of the Depot. Instead of the Depot loading freight and mail from the mining town onto the railroad, the Depot now rents and sells bikes that can be used to explore the former path of the Oregon Railway & Navigation line.