Choo Choo Your Way Thorough Sandpoint

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Real Estate

Sandpoint. Home of the trains.

How weird is it to miss experiencing trains?

Not that we ever had many in Alaska (one), but we had NO TRAINS in Hawaii.

Trains hold a certain mystique, as boats homed in a marina. You wonder where she's been and the stories she could tell if she could talk. Are there still Hobos on them? I always look. I've even though about jumping on one to see where I'd end up. It would have to be summer. Then, where is the nearest hotel? Really? Haven't you?

And the biggest question. Where are the trains when they get their graffiti paint jobs?

There must be a graffiti train stop somewhere where artists just sit and wait for arriving trains. The bizarre thing is, think about it; never must anyone be there. No one has ever seen a graffiti artist at work, have they? They always work where and when no one is there. LOL.

There are over 50 trains that pass our little town each day, and some days it's reported up to 70! That's why it's known as "The Funnel."

It's no wonder we get stuck at crossings periodically!

Side caution! When looking for property in the area, you have to KNOW the properties location of the closest train track. I suggest a book (or a movie or two or a bottle of wine or two-no driving) and sit there a full 24 hours until you know how many trains pass and the decibels of noise (depends on how close to a crossing the property is as well). I love the sound of a train, and it never bothers me personally. Not always the case, however!

I was looking at a house to buy with a friend one day, and I knew there was a train track nearby, but not sure where it was precisely in proximity to the house.

We marveled at the huge pine tree in the yard and talked about how grand it would be to decorate at Christmas. We noted all the other lovely features. A wonderful house!

We then went inside to look around. The house starts to rumble, and we look out the back window to see the white of the train conductors eyes as he motors by, just behind the grand tree! There are few listings (properties for sale) in Sandpoint right now in the PLUS $2M range with tracks literally a hundred feet away. What were they thinking when they built? They could always resale to deaf people I suppose!

Nope, I'm not buying this house! Next!

"The Funnel." Looking at a map of rail lines in the North Idaho area, you can understand why they call it the "The Funnel." Tracks from the Midwest fan out and converge on a solid choke point located in the Idaho Panhandle—(Spokane to CDE North to Bonners Ferry) that's where westbound Union Pacific, Burlington Northern-Santa Fe, and Montana Rail Link trains converge before hitting a central rail yard in Spokane, Wash.

However, before they reach Spokane, those trains have to pass over a 4,769-foot-long bridge across Lake Pend Oreille, Idaho's largest lake. The original bridge was completed in 1905 and built with a steel deck and concrete pilings. It is narrow and old—and represents one of the most severe capacity constraints for BNSF on its northern line from the Great Lakes to the Washington Coast. There has been talking for some time about constructing another bridge next to the existing. The last article I found said it was in the plans and should be completed by 2018. Oops, it's 2018, and I don't see the second bridge yet...I guess that's nothing unusual when it comes to building a great bridge over the lake such as that. Its only 4800 feet long over water after all!

Warren Buffett owns BNSF (the main train). I think I need a job on the railroad!

In 2018, BNSF expects to invest approximately $3.3 billion in its capital across its system. The most significant component of the plan will be to replace and maintain BNSF’s core network and related assets to ensure BNSF continues to operate a safe and reliable system. Also, the method includes investing in expansion and efficiency projects, advancing the implementation of positive train control, and acquiring new freight cars and other equipment. In 2017, BNSF spent approximately $55 million in Idaho for capital projects. Aww, new trains to graffiti!


One of the best inspiring views and attractions in Sandpoint is that old railroad bridge over Lake Pend Oreille (as well as the "Long Bridge). Viewing areas for the bridges can be seen off of Bottle Bay Road, which can be reached from Highway 95 south of town, or from the sidewalk/bike path along Highway 95 as it leaves town to the south. The BNSF bridge across Sand Creek Slough can be seen from a visitors center off of Highway 2/95 just north of downtown. UP can be viewed along highway 200 north of town, or at numerous grade crossings in town. A steel and concrete trestle is visible from Highway 2/95 right after Highway 200 splits off toward the east.

Both BNSF and UP have small yards in Sandpoint. Boyer Yard, BNSF’s main switching yard, is located near Sandpoint’s airport on the city’s northwest side. The Pend Oreille Valley interchanges with the BNSF at Boyer. UP’s small yard is located along Highway 200 on the north end of town just north of the BNSF/UP diamond.

Idaho is also home to BNSF’s refueling facility at Hauser, where approximately 29 trains get serviced daily. A quick-stop process enables the trains to transport freight more efficiently and reduces wait times. In addition to generating hundreds of jobs, the Hauser fueling facility has raised the bar in environmental protection. No other facility throughout North Idaho or the Spokane Valley is equipped with the level of environmental monitoring and detection systems found at the Hauser depot. That's an excellent thing!

There is only one passenger train that passes through Sandpoint; the Amtrack.

There is a station to your immediate right as you pass the bridge coming into Sandpoint. The station is along Amtrak's Empire Builder line and is the only operating Amtrak station in Idaho. BNSF Railway owns the station site.

The station building is the oldest remaining active passenger depot of the former Northern Pacific Railway. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 and is known therein as the Sandpoint.

If you love the sound and sight of these beautiful relic monsters, (they seem a bit prehistoric don't' you think, in the modern age of the "overnight instant" (Amazon) transportation mode we are becoming accustomed to?) just another reason to see Sandpoint.
Until next time!