If you’re planning a visit to the capital of Idaho, make sure that you include a trip to the Train Depot. This historic monument was built in 1925 for use by the Union Pacific during the heyday of train travel in the northwest. The structure is designed and built in the Spanish style, featuring exposed trusses that show off a rail car design.
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The Early Boise Train Depot
In the early days, this Depot was an extremely busy building. It’s situated at the south end of Capitol Boulevard and includes a 96-foot tall bell tower that can be seen from nearly anywhere in the city. The attached Howard Platt Gardens were dedicated in 1927. As of 1948, there were six different passenger trains rolling through this Depot each day, including the City of Portland, the Idahoan and the Portland Rose.
Decline and Repurpose
As train travel waned and the mail began to be transported by air, the last Portland Rose passenger train passed through the Depot in 1971. The Depot was taken over for use by Amtrak for a time in 1977, but this eventually waned as well.
A Boise Community Center
In 1990, the Morrison Knudsen Corporation bought the Depot from the Union Pacific Railroad. The facility underwent a three-year refurbishment, creating a community center with attached gardens that serves the city and state as a hosting place for many events, both public and private. The gardens are popular spots for weddings and photo sessions.
Guided tours of the entire facility, including the chance to see the bells inside the tower, can be arranged by contacting the parks and rec department of the City of Boise. If you want to reserve the facility for a special event, you can book up to a year in advance.
Study Idaho History from Inside the Building
This facility is located at 2603 West Eastover Terrace. Once inside the Depot, you can get a look at the original 1925 Barkalow Brothers Newsstand and test out one of the ten original benches offered to early travelers. Initially, there was room for 165 people to sit in this busy train station.
Boise’s Train Depot Historic Gardens as Well
The Platt Gardens, built as an amenity to be enjoyed by the travelers taking the Union Pacific, include a long winding walkway, a pond for koi, many places to sit and relax, a volcanic rock monument and beds loaded with seasonal flowers. In keeping with the style of the building, these gardens were designed by Ricardo Espino, a well-known Spanish architect.
The Train Depot and gardens are situated on a hill overlooking the Capitol Boulevard. This placement makes the gardens an ideal setting for special events and photo shoots. The roses are particularly enjoyable, so if you’re planning a trip here, try to time things so you can enjoy the garden as well as the Depot!
Visit Big Mike
Big Mike, one of the Mikado locomotives that traveled through the Boise Depot is on display in Julia Davis Park. Consider starting in the Depot for a full tour and a sense of the history of the locomotive age, then stop for a close-up look at this remarkable locomotive.
Rails to Trails and Other Sites
While rail travel has waned, the rails to trails trend means that there’s great walking and cycling in and around Boise. While in the area, be ready to stretch your legs and check out the beautiful botanical gardens, the Old Idaho Penitentiary and the Boise River Greenbelt.
The city of Boise has done a wonderful job of preserving the history of the region. The Train Depot and Gardens, Big Mike in Julia Davis Park, and the bell tower are all terrific bits of history that we can enjoy today. Call ahead to find out the hours of the Train Depot and the tour options available on your travels in Idaho.