Railroad thru Weiser



Railroad Workers bringing Railroad thru Weiser Area

Railroad Workers bringing Railroad thru Weiser Area 1879-1880.  This railroad went thru a crazyquilt group of companies until it ended up with Union Pacific.

It was the norm in late 1800s and early 1900s fior a small group to pool their capital and build a local railroad.  However, railroading is an extremely challenging captital market, combining many needs for expertise across many different aspects, including political. If you read railroad history of the period the railroads went bankrupt multiple times before finally consolidating into todays biggies.  Many simply disappeared into history.

Kern Riggs, a long time teacher at Falk, Payette, NP and Weiser area, gave me these photos. Kern said they were of railroad workers in 1879-1880 bringing RR thru Weiser area.

This was interesting to me because five great uncles had worked on the Utah and Northern Railway from the time it began in Cache County (1870s) under Brigham Young as a narrow gauge, then after its acquisition by another and another entity eventually ending up as part of Short Line of Union Pacific. Weiser, at that time, was a major station for stages, and then rail roading both construction and eventual operation, so my uncles were often back and forth thru this area. Eventually three of the five would settle in Weiser.

Travel at that time on the railroad was easy and quick, so often these men would work out of La Grande area in lumbering or Pendleton on the large dry land combines from Oregon to the Palouse, then back again to Cache County, Utah, to work sugar beets around Ogden, then  back up the RR to work right of way with all the spurs that were put in Washington County and Payette County.

Railroad Workers bringing Railroad thru Weiser Area 1879-1880

Railroad Workers bringing Railroad thru Weiser


These photos show just how manual the labor was. The small lean-tos were willows covered with sod.  They had not only rain to contend with, but cold as well. They said these sod lean-tos beat canvas tenting hands down!  These willow/sod lean-tos would be home for several weeks, so justified the effort to build them.

You can recognize typical Idaho terrain. The men would pick a spot for their soddies allowing them to stay there while working up and down the line for perhaps a month. However, that meant the work-face might be a mile or more away. So they kept a horse both to ride to and from work, and to pull logs to cut up for firewood.  Note the stack of baled hay behind the soddies.

Note also the simi permanent wooden built ends of the soddies.  These “ends” with doors built in, would be recycled with each move, making the beginning of each new soddie as they moved along the right of way from camp to camp.  A flatcar made it simple to move camp, so these camps held many items that most temporary camps could not afford to haul around.  The are not as “primitive” as they appear!

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