Sandpoint Train Station (Sandpoint Train Depot) - This 1916 Gothic-style station in Sandpoint, Idaho is the oldest remaining active passenger depot of the former Northern Pacific railway. The building is closed to the public and used by Amtrak as a platform stop only. There is a outside covered waiting area at the south end of the depot.
Sandpoint, Idaho Train Station Sign
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Sandpoint Depot article by The National Trust for Historic Preservation

Here is an excerpt from a recent online article written by Sarah Campbell of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

All Aboard to Sandpoint, Idaho
Groups Agree to Maintain Train Service and Renovate Historic Depot

National Trust for Historic PreservationFor residents of Sandpoint, Idaho, the sound of a train whistle signals a job well done. Following years of uncertainty, the historic Sandpoint Burlington Northern Railway Station (now known as the Sandpoint Train Station) will remain the Idaho town’s train stop after the City of Sandpoint, Amtrak, and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway reached a tentative agreement in late June. The written agreement, which officials and residents hope will be finalized this fall, comes after many options for the National Register-listed depot were considered—including abandoning the historic structure and building a new depot outside of town.

“[It would have been] taking public transit away from the public,” says Aric Spence, a local preservationist who led efforts to save the depot. The station was closed in June 2009 after the building’s deteriorating ceiling caused safety concerns, making it a platform-only stop. Originally, it serviced the Northern Pacific Railroad, the first northern transcontinental route in the nation. Today, the Gothic-style depot is the only… Read the entire article.

Posted in Amtrak, BNSF, Historic, In the News, Station Status, Support.

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Deal brokered to save historic Sandpoint Train Depot

Article by Cameron Rasmusson from the Bonner County Daily Bee:

SANDPOINT — Months of negotiations paid off this week after city officials brokered an agreement on the restoration of the historic Sandpoint Depot.

City Council members Carrie Logan and John Reuter and Public Works Director Kody Van Dyk saw the fruits of their labors after representatives from Amtrak and BNSF Railroad agreed to cooperate in whipping the depot back into shape.

“We worked with really good people from Amtrak and BNSF,” Logan said. “I think they were a little curious at first that we wanted to keep the depot here.”

A vocal and eclectic range of interest groups invested in the depot’s restoration ended that curiosity. Logan said that the depot retains historic, economic and infrastructural benefits for the community. As one of the last vestiges of old Sandpoint and a transportation center, the city has much to gain from its refurbishment.

“There was a lot of community support for this project, and not just locally, but across the country,” Logan said.

Under the current agreement, depot owner BNSF will lease the building and platform to Amtrak, which will then sublease it to the city of Sandpoint. According to Logan, the Idaho Transportation Department will pony up nearly $1 million in escrow funds to pay for the restoration as a requirement of the Sand Creek Byway’s Environmental Impact Statement.

City, Amtrak and BNSF officials are still working out the details of the written agreement. After all the specifics are defined and put to paper, however, the city will begin designing and constructing the depot’s restoration.

Reuter said that Logan and Van Dyk were the instrumental figures in bringing negotiations to a successful conclusion.

“They deserve huge credit for all the work they’ve put into this,” he said.

Posted in Amtrak, BNSF, Historic, In the News, Meeting, Station Status.

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Sandpoint Depot to remain. Refurbishment on track.

Press release I just received from the City of Sandpoint:

BNSF Railway Company, Amtrak and City of Sandpoint agree: Historic depot is best alternative for continued Amtrak service to Sandpoint area.

Sandpoint Train StationSandpoint, ID, June 22, 2011:

BNSF Railway Company, Amtrak and the City of Sandpoint have agreed in principle to maintain passenger railroad service in downtown Sandpoint. Fruitful negotiations between the parties over the past two years have culminated in general agreement to refurbish the existing historic depot for continued use as a passenger railroad station.

BNSF, owner of the depot, has agreed to lease the structure and platform to Amtrak. Amtrak, in turn, will sub-lease to the City of Sandpoint. Funds to refurbish the depot come from a one-time payment from the Idaho Transportation Department that fulfils a requirement of the Sand Creek Byway’s Environmental Impact Statement.

Sandpoint Councilmembers Carrie Logan and John Reuter spearheaded the negotiations. “Negotiations are rarely easy, but once BNSF and Amtrak realized how committed Sandpoint was to keeping the depot in town, the parties agreed to make this happen,” according to Logan.

Upon completion of written agreements the City of Sandpoint will begin design and construction of the refurbishment project.

Posted in Amtrak, BNSF, Historic, Station Status.

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Daily Bee Article: Amtrak Train Collides with Truck on Tracks

Article published in Bonner County Daily Bee on 4/6/11:

Amtrak Empire BuilderSAGLE — A Montana man managed to avoid injury after a passenger train struck the pickup truck he was driving on railroad tracks early Tuesday morning.

Idaho State Police said Lynn Schedlbauer accessed a private at-grade railroad crossing on the east side of U.S. Highway 95 and attempted to use a side road running along the tracks, but encountered 3 1/2 feet of water and drove onto the tracks headed northbound.

Along came a northbound Amtrak train, which rear-ended Schedlbauer’s 1999 Ford F-350. The heavy-duty pickup was thrown from the tracks and into the flooded access road, state police said.

Schedlbauer, a 40-year-old from Libby, was wearing a seat belt and emerged from the collision uninjured, according to ISP. He was ticketed for trespassing.

State police did not indicate if any passengers or train staff were injured.

The collision was reported at 3:43 a.m. The crash occurred at the Davisville Road turnoff, according to Bonner Dispatch records.

Posted in Amtrak, In the News.

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Why a second main track at Sandpoint Amtrak station won’t happen

I recently had an in-depth discussion with a good friend about the Sandpoint Train Depot and the likelihood that a second main track will ever go in next to the current BNSF main line. After our conversation I received a fantastic summary detailing many of the points that we discussed and I am posting it here in hopes of promoting further discussion about this topic. There is a lot of detail here, so be sure to click on the maps if you are having trouble visualizing the routes that are mentioned. Enjoy…

Before 1970, there were three distinct railroads through Sandpoint. (All railroads operated as east and west, but through Sandpoint, they were mostly in a north-or east and south-or west alignment).  The Great Northern (GN) line skirted the town to the west; the Spokane International (SI), which is now Union Pacific (SI) went through the middle of town, and the Northern Pacific (NP) went along the lake.

The GN and NP were both railroads operating between St. Paul/Minneapolis and the Pacific Northwest.  When they merged in 1970 to form Burlington Northern (BN, now BNSF), the focus was to create one main line for traffic off the two railroads using the best of each. Between Casselton, North Dakota (just west of Fargo) and Seattle, the GN line was the chosen routing, except between Sandpoint and Spokane where the NP would be used.  Therefore, connections had to be built at Sandpoint and Spokane to create a fluid main line route.

Sandpoint Diamond where UP and BNSF cross

At Sandpoint, the connection was built from the GN line from just west of the airport (at a new siding called Boyer) east-southeast over Sand Creek to intersect the NP route just north of the site of the current Amtrak station.  This is the main BNSF route today, and the route used by Amtrak’s Empire Builder. On the “new” connection, the route crosses the UP route at grade:

http://www.wikimapia.org/#lat=48.2869624&lon=-116.5537834&z=15&l=0&m=b

The GN route west from Sandpoint toward Spokane was eventually abandoned between Newport and Dean. BNSF retains ownership between Sandpoint and Dover, but Dover to Newport was sold to the Pend Oreille Valley Railroad.

As traffic on the UP increased, the desire was to move these trains out of downtown Sandpoint, so a connection was constructed from the UP just south of the where UP and BN crossed (per link above) west to meet the ex-GN main line on the west side of Sandpoint.  UP trains would use this route instead of going through downtown Sandpoint, and then would use the ex-GN line to Dover, where a new connection was built between the ex-GN route and the UP route:

http://www.wikimapia.org/#lat=48.2519981&lon=-116.6212893&z=14&l=0&m=b

This is the current operation today, and UP trains actually operate on BNSF between Sandpoint and Dover.

With regard to the possibility of BNSF wanting to construct a second main track past the existing Amtrak station site, this can be questioned on several fronts:

  • Will BNSF construct new bridges over Lake Pend Oreille, Bridge Street, and Sand Creek?
  • Would they expect any negative feedback from environmentalists or the public in general?

The main focus should be that the likelihood of constructing a second track over Lake Pend Oreille would be minimal, given the length of the bridge, which is just less than a mile long. This would be very expensive.

An often-touted and less expensive option would be to use the UP routing west from Sandpoint. Currently for about 15 miles from southwest of Spokane through downtown, UP operates on BNSF track. The UP line more or less parallels the BNSF route from Spokane to Bonners Ferry.  (The BNSF route at Bonners Ferry, the route of the Amtrak Empire Builder, continues east into Montana along US 2, whereas the UP route goes to the border to interchange with Canadian Pacific at Eastport, Idaho/Kingsgate, British Columbia.)

UP has long sought trackage rights on BN and later BNSF in this area. Between Spokane and Bonners Ferry, the UP and BNSF routes cross three times, BNSF over UP just south of Athol, at grade in Sandpoint, and BNSF over UP near the community of Deep Creek, west of Bonners Ferry.  Building connections between the two would be exceptionally easy (and non-evasive) at Athol and Bonners Ferry where the two railroads are parallel, or existing connections could be used as in the case of Dover and Spokane.

If BNSF wanted to increase capacity through Sandpoint, the least expensive option would be to simply use their ex-GN main line through the west edge of Sandpoint to Dover, and then the UP route to Athol, where trains could then access the ex-NP route to Spokane. In exchange for letting BNSF do this, UP would probably want to have their trains use BNSF on some or all of the segments between Spokane and Bonners Ferry, but this is something they’ve wanted all along.

There are benefits for both railroads in doing this.  For UP, they would gain a railroad with signals, power switches, and more frequent sidings (or if track was paired, probably a double-track operation).  Now, the UP route is “dark” which means no signaling, and hand-operated switches.  For BNSF, the obvious advantage is not building another bridge. I couldn’t find a length of the UP bridge over the Pend Oreille River at Dover, but it is significantly shorter than the BNSF bridge at Sandpoint:

(These map links are with the same magnification)

Sandpoint

http://www.wikimapia.org/#lat=48.2621699&lon=-116.5330124&z=13&l=0&m=b

Dover

http://www.wikimapia.org/#lat=48.2529125&lon=-116.6615868&z=13&l=0&m=b

It appears that the UP bridge near Dover is about 1/3 the length, but that’s really not the point; the point is that the UP line could be upgraded to handle the additional BNSF trains at a fraction of the cost.

Therefore, suggestion that someday BNSF will need to construct another track past the current Sandpoint Amtrak station appears to be exceptionally unlikely.

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Posted in Amtrak, BNSF.

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Amtrak Empire Builder in the daytime at the Sandpoint Depot

Due to the derailment of another train in Brockton, Montana, the westbound Amtrak Empire Builder was delayed more than 14 hours and I was able to capture the arrival and departure of the train at the historic Sandpoint Depot. It is quite rare to see Amtrak during the day in Sandpoint, Idaho as the westbound Empire Builder’s scheduled stop is at 11:49 P.M. and the eastbound is scheduled to stop at 2:32 A.M. A couple of the passengers remarked about how nice it was to take in the spectacular views during the day through the Rocky Mountains.

If you appreciate the ongoing work on this website, consider making a donation using the “Donate” button in the upper right column. Enjoy the video!

Posted in Amtrak.

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Where did the current “Sandpoint” Depot signs come from?

Most people are unaware that the current “Sandpoint” Depot signs are not original to the building. The original ones were small wooden signs that split “Sand Point” into two words. They were later replaced by additional wooden signs that joined the two words into one, “Sandpoint.” Sometime in the 1970’s the second wooden signs were replaced by the metal signs that are currently in place on the north and south ends of the depot.

So, where did the signs come from? For many years I have heard rumors about their origin and, until now, there was no visual proof. Drum roll… The current signage on the Northern Pacific Depot came from the Great Northern (GN) Depot located at the end of Main Street.

A good friend recently sent me a link to several photos that were just added to the Great Northern archive and several detail the depot on Main Street. It was strange seeing the photos as I used to walk past the Great Northern Depot all the time as a kid. I can remember sledding right on the other side of the tracks down by “Chuck Slough.”

Here is a small gallery detailing the Sandpoint Depot and signage over the years along with images of the Great Northern Depot at the end of Main Street. Enjoy!

If you appreciate the ongoing work on this website, consider making a donation using the “Donate” button in the upper right column.

Posted in Historic, Station Status.

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Another BNSF Business Train Rolls Through Sandpoint, Idaho

BNSF clearly sees the benefit of daytime passenger trains to and from Glacier National Park. Several times this year they have transported executives or customers along what many consider to be the most beautiful section of railroad in the United States. It is the hope of many that Amtrak may someday provide daytime service to Glacier Park so that more rail passengers can enjoy the stunning scenery. Currently Amtrak’s Empire Builder navigates this section during the night.

Below are two videos of a 6-car BNSF business train that rolled through Sandpoint, Idaho on September 3, 2010. The first video (59 seconds) was taken at West Algoma just south of Sandpoint and the second (36 seconds) was taken at Colburn a little north of Sandpoint. BNSF business cars include: Glorieta Pass, Marias Pass, Missouri River, Stevens Pass, Mountain View and Gerald Grinstein. There are two GE ES44DC locomotives (BNSF 7437 & BNSF 7487) on the head of this train.

Show support for the effort to preserve the oldest remaining active Northern Pacific passenger depot by filling out the “Show Support” form in the right-hand column. Enjoy!

If you enjoy the videos below, you might also like:
BNSF Business Special: 7-Car Westbound, Sandpoint Idaho
BNSF Passenger Special: 14-Car Westbound, Sandpoint Idaho
BNSF Passenger Special: 14-Car Eastbound, Sandpoint Idaho

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BNSF Business Special: 7-Car Westbound, Sandpoint Idaho

Video of a 7-car BNSF business train in Sandpoint, Idaho, captured on August 10, 2010. It is an unusual site to see a passenger train roll through Sandpoint during the day, and even more rare to see BNSF business cars. Video was taken just south and across the lake from the historic Sandpoint Depot. Show support for the effort to preserve the oldest remaining active Northern Pacific passenger depot by filling out the “Show Support” form in the right-hand column. Enjoy!

If you enjoyed the video below, you might also like:
BNSF Passenger Special: 14-Car Westbound, Sandpoint Idaho

BNSF Passenger Special: 14-Car Eastbound, Sandpoint Idaho

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BNSF Passenger Special: 14-Car Eastbound, Sandpoint Idaho

Video of a 14-car BNSF eastbound special passenger train headed north past the Historic Sandpoint Idaho Train Depot. The footage was captured on August 7, 2010. It is an unusual site to see a passenger train roll through Sandpoint during the day, and even more rare to see one this length. Video was taken just north of the 1916 Sandpoint Idaho Train Depot. Show support for the effort to preserve the oldest remaining active Northern Pacific passenger depot by filling out the “Show Support” form in the right-hand column. Enjoy!

If you enjoyed the video below, you might also like:
BNSF Passenger Special: 14-Car Westbound, Sandpoint Idaho

Posted in BNSF, Event.

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