Ed Dickens, Jr., senior manager of Heritage Operations for Union Pacific, explained people's enduring love of steam locomotives this way: People from a young generation know them from animated cartoons and movies. People from an older generation know them from a time when train travel was common in the U.S. People fell in love with the sounds, smells and undeniable romance of trains.
They gathered Saturday to watch the Union Pacific 844 — a historic steam locomotive that’s been in constant service since it was built in 1944 — make its way across Southern Idaho and the Treasure Valley.
The 844 and the 1958 Challenger dome coach traveling with it will be the centerpieces of the Boise Depot’s 92nd public anniversary party on Sunday.
About 2,000 came out to see the train in Gooding, said Dickens. Rapid Aerial shot drone footage of the train’s voyage. People stood on both sides of the tracks in Nampa. They crowded rail crossings between Nampa, Meridian and Boise. Many watched from lawn chairs or the backs of pick-up trucks, waving or snapping photos.
A few clapped hands over their ears as the 844’s famous steam whistle sounded.
The train arrived at Boise Depot late Saturday afternoon. The Kirks, Nancy, Fran and their daughter, Katherine, executive director of the Idaho Heritage Trust, came to greet the 844, Nancy and Fran dressed in bright white Union Pacific sweatshirts. Nancy’s brother, Curtis Smith, was a corporate pilot for Union Pacific. All of the Kirks remember sitting on the lawn of the Boise Depot, waiting for trains to arrive in the days when Boise had passenger service. On Saturday, they stood on the platform with hundreds of others including several people who carefully lined up pennies, dimes and quarters on the rails, hoping for souvenir coin, smashed by the 844.
The crowds on Saturday didn’t surprise the Kirks.
“There was a time when every kid had a train under the Christmas tree,” said Nancy, acknowledging, like so many others, the romance of trains.
The 844’s journey, the “Boise Turn Special,” was a realization of a dream for railway historian Eriks Garsvo. His lobbying efforts helped bring the 844 to Idaho. On Saturday, dressed in retro conductor’s garb, Garsvo got to ride in the cab from Nampa to Boise. At one point, he got to blow the steam whistle and hear it reverberating off the buildings as the train passed by at 25 miles per hour. He joked, wondering if he’d reached a kind of rail lover’s peak on Saturday.
“Yep, we’re done,” he quipped.
Come to the party: Boise Depot Turns 92
The public celebration is from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, April 23, at the Boise Depot, 2603 W. Eastover Terrace. Tours of the depot are full, but there will be many events, including model train exhibits, vintage cars, food and more.
While the 844 and its 1958 Challenger coach will not be open to the public during Sunday’s festivities, people will be able to look inside the cab and meet the crew that brought the locomotive to Boise.
Note: Boise Parks and Recreation is expecting parking on April 23 to be tight. Attendees should plan ahead and be prepared to park off site and walk to the event.