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Old tram building saved, relocated

Weiser Signal American of Weiser, Idaho

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A small piece of Weiser and Washington County railroad history found a new home on Aug. 22, thanks to the efforts of local volunteers.

The structure known as the "Eaton Depot" was located outside of Weiser near Eaton Road. The owners of the property where it sat for many years wanted to do some landscaping and contacted the Weiser Architectural Preservation Committee to see if the building could be moved.

"We wanted to save this because it's so unique," preservation committee member Tony Edmondson said.

The building, which dates from 1900 to 1910, was lifted onto the back of a truck and relocated to the empty lot next to the start of the Weiser River Trail at the end of East Main Street in Weiser. It's sort of a fitting location for it, one volunteer said, because where the Weiser River Trail runs today was once a railroad line before it was donated for recreation use.

Two forklifts were used to lift the building off the truck and gently lower it onto cinder blocks. Tim Smedley used his own truck to haul the building and Ben Imada and Farm Commercial Irrigation donated the use of the two forklifts. Smedley operated one forklift and Randy Leach drove the other. Edmondson and John Murray assisted in the effort.

There were actually two of the small railroad buildings in the county at one time. One was located near Eaton Road and the other near Crystal Lane south of Weiser. Nobody seems to know what happened to the latter. Both buildings were train stops on the old Pacific and Idaho Northern Railway.

The Eaton Depot will eventually be restored and sit on a cement foundation near the Weiser River trailhead. Some of the wood flooring has rotted away after so many years and will need to be replaced and it is missing a window or two. What it will be used for in the future has not been decided.

"It's a blessing it's in as good of shape as it is," Smedley said.

Edmondson said the restoration of the small depot building will likely be a joint project of the Weiser Architectural Preservation Committee and the Friends of the Weiser River Trail. The building will probably be owned by Friends of the Weiser River Trail in the future, he said.

The WAPC was formed in 1983 to save Weiser's old buildings of historic and architectural significance. The nonprofit organization owns the railroad depot in downtown Weiser and the unique Pythian Castle, also located downtown, which dates to 1904.

Weiser has been an important part of Idaho's railroad history.

On May 16, 1899, the first spike of the Pacific and Idaho Northern Railway was driven into the first rail at the city of Weiser in Washington County. It would be 12 years later before the last rail would be laid a distant 90 miles north at the new townsite of New Meadows.

In 1904, Colonel E. M. Heigho became the company's general manager and in 1909 their president. Under Colonel Heigho's leadership the line was extended further north with tracks being laid to Evergreen, another 22 miles of railroad track, in 1906. The mountainous terrain proved difficult in building the tracks into Meadows Valley.

In 1911, the line was completed to the new townsite of New Meadows, making its way 89.7 railroad miles from its beginning in Weiser, according to the website www.historicpindepot.com.

"We wanted to save this because it's so unique."

~Tony Edmondson Architectural Preservation Committee member



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Original Publication Date: August 26, 2015



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