Boise Depot Turns 90, Celebrates History With Free Tours

Oct 29, 2015

This year, the Boise Train Depot turned 90-years-old. The city has been holding tours to highlight the history of the depot. Two tours are set for this Sunday.

Eriks Garsvo is a walking history of the depot. He’s a Boise history and train buff who works with the Boise Parks and Recreation Department. He leads the Boise Depot tours and dresses in a full conductor’s uniform to get into the spirit of the time period.

“They started construction in August of 1924 and they finished on April 1, 1925,” says Garsvo.

He says even though there had been trains coming to the area since the 1880’s, the building of the Depot was a very big event in Boise.

“On April 16, 1925, the very first train rolled in. The entire city shut down, everybody dressed in their finest. Everybody came from downtown, packed the platform, thousands of Boise residents were there.”

Before they even saw the first train, they heard the whistle from the locomotive.

“It was reported by one of the spectators that the crowd almost lost their minds, almost went crazy at the sound of the first train whistle, before they saw the train.”

There was a parade, bands and an all-day, all-night celebration. Garsvo says that’s how important the Depot was to the city and to downtown.

“Once the Depot was completed, it brought in transcontinental rail service. From Salt Lake, Portland. We had six passenger trains a day.”

The Queen of England was once on the Union Pacific train in Boise. She didn’t get off the train, but people came to look at her inside her train car.

"The trains continued until 1971, when Union Pacific shut down passenger service. But Amtrack’s Pioneer Limited started operating from Salt Lake to Seattle via Boise. We had Amtrack from 1977 until 1997. Finally Amtrak said ‘we’re done.’ They said no more and that was it.”

He says the Depot still stands today as a historical landmark. Garsvo will give two free tours of the Depot this Sunday, complete with a full history of the building.

“Because of this Depot and the train service the Depot provided, really made Boise grow. With these tours, we’re bringing the past back to life.”

Boise Parks and Rec is planning a Christmas Open House at the Depot on December 10. The building will be decorated and special events are planned to kick off the Christmas season.

Find Samantha Wright on Twitter @samwrightradio

Copyright 2015 Boise State Public Radio