Planning and Construction
During the first decade of the 20th Century Lemhi County, in the remote Salmon River country of central Idaho, was seeing both increased agricultural development and substantial, renewed mining activity. The area was part of one of the largest contiguous blocks of land not served by a railroad at that time, and consequently there was significant interest in the prospect of building a railway line to (or through) the region. The desire for a railroad was perhaps most strongly felt by those promoting the county's mining developments, although a variety of existing railway companies also studied the prospects of the area. The Northern Pacific Railway (NP) gave Lemhi County particular attention, envisioning a new transcontinental route that would veer southward from existing NP lines in Montana, cross into Idaho via Bannock Pass, and then follow the rugged Salmon River canyon westward across the state.
These dreams began translating to action in 1907 when a group of Pennsylvania businessmen led by W, A, McCutcheon incorporated the Gilmore and Pittsburgh Railroad. McCutcheon envisioned a railroad running westward from a connection with the Oregon Short Line Railroad at Armstead, Montana. The line would enter Lemhi County via Bannock Pass, and continue to the Lemhi River valley. In the valley, branch lines would run upstream to the promising mining camp of Gilmore, and downstream to the county seat of Salmon. Soon, McCutcheon was able to interest NP officials in his plan, since a completed G&P could form a basis for a future NP line down the Salmon River. The NP assisted in the initial survey of the G&P route, and later agreed to financially and materially support the G&P's construction.
A contract for construction of the G&P grade was awarded in March, 1909, and work began in earnest the following month. Construction was pursued in earnest throughout the following year, working west from Armstead, and the tracklayers reached Salmon on April 25, 1910. The completed line was 118 miles (190 km) in length, and was largely built to the mainline standards of the NP. A golden spike celebration was held in Salmon that May 18, even though portions of the line—including the tunnel under Bannock Pass—were still being completed. Regular passenger and freight service on the G&P began soon thereafter.
Optimism and rumors concerning further expansion of the G&P persisted through 1910. McCutcheon had promised that the line would be extended northward from Armstead to Dillon, Montana that year, the first step in completing a connection to the NP's trackage at nearby Twin Bridges. No further construction took place, however, in part due to G&P legal difficulties in securing right-of-way between Armstead and Dillon. Simultaneously, though, the NP began to realize the engineering difficulties and limited economic potential of its proposed Salmon River route, and local G&P officials began to discover that the local traffic potential was actually far less than anticipated. Consequently, the hopes for future expansion of the G&P soon faded, and the line was never extended beyond either Armstead or Salmon.
Read more about this topic: Gilmore And Pittsburgh Railroad
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