New Book Explores How The Railroad Built Nampa

Oct 6, 2014

The Oregon Short Line depot circa 1908. Railroads were the lifeblood of Nampa in the city's early history.
Credit Canyon County Historical Society

In 1885, southwestern Idaho's Nampa was just a water tower and a few shacks, but that quickly changed when the railroad came to town. A new book by historian Larry Cain examines the railroad's impact on Nampa, and how the city has changed.

Cain says the trains, and their cargo, are a big reason why Nampa thrived in the early part of the last century.

“The railroad came here and people started to build houses around the railroad,” explains Cain. “Then the town was platted and it became an incorporated town. Then Nampa became the transportation hub for this whole valley when four railroads met here.”

Nampa officially became a town in 1891. By 1900, more than 60,000 acres of irrigation farms surrounded the town.

Cain says in 1907, when Deer Flat Reservoir was built, thousands more acres turned to farmland. All that produce needed somewhere to go, and in the 1920s, the Pacific Fruit Express was built in Nampa.

“That was a joint venture with the Union Pacific Railroad and the Southern Pacific,” says Cain. “It refrigerated cars so that produce could be shipped all over the United States and into Canada.”

Nampa, 1909.
Credit Canyon County Historical Society

Cain has a long history in Nampa. His father first came to the city in 1927. Cain was born in the old Samaritan Hospital in Nampa and graduated from the old Nampa High School. He’s an Emeritus Board Member of the Canyon County Historical Society. His new book, “Nampa” comes out Monday.

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