Boise Interurban Railway

The Boise Interurban Railway runs through downtown Caldwell at Seventh and Main streets next to the Caldwell Banking and Trust Co. building. Today, the building is home to the Bird Stop Coffee House.

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"Now serving the Nampa Depot,” the recorded voice said as the Boise Rapid Transit train car slowed. The doors slid open as a cacophony of sound poured in from the platform.

People crowded into the car, quickly snatching up the seats. It left those too slow for musical chairs to stand the rest of the trip into downtown Boise.

“Next stop, the Idaho Center.”

At one time in the Treasure Valley, electrically powered, metal wheels clunked against the rail that connected the Boise Valley on a 60-mile-plus loop through Boise, Eagle, Star, Middleton, Caldwell, Nampa and Meridian.

On May 28, 1890, the city of Boise chartered the initial street railway for what would eventually reach out to Caldwell by 1907 and be known as the Boise Interurban Railway, according to the Idaho State Historical Society.

It was a popular pastime to ride the entire loop on a Sunday afternoon, according to the historical society. A rail car window could frame scenes of burgeoning urban cities like Caldwell and Boise as well as the sage brush country of southwest Idaho.

“Loop the loop and see the beauties of the Boise Valley,” an old advertisement reads.

In Canyon County, tracks went through the heart of downtown Nampa and Caldwell. Two routes operated from downtown Caldwell, including a line that went to Wilder and another that extended to Lake Lowell.

George “Darwin” Symms, of Symms Fruit Ranch, rode the trolley to the Sunny Slope area after Caldwell High School football practice every day, according to the book “Symms Sunny Slope: The Life and Times of the Symms Family.”

“At least twice the coach kept him too long, and he had to walk home,” Dick Symms says about his father.

In May 1928, service on the electric line stopped. Intercity tracks were dismantled. Other tracks were paved over and forgotten.

But evidence of yesteryear can still be seen in Middleton and at The Hat on the College of Idaho campus, which was one of the stops on the interurban line.

While the rail line ceases to exist, the route made a lasting impact on transportation in the Treasure Valley. If you line up the COMPASS vision map for 2040 and the old interurban route, you’ll notice the corridors for high-capacity transit are the same.

“I do think it will serve as a foundation and a backbone for where we’re going in the future,” COMPASS Associate Planner Walt Satterfield said. “It’s kind of interesting to see how some old things become new again in certain cases.”

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