Stencil on the side of a BN caboose at East Lewiston

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Bridge fire in Lapwai Canyon

A sad day befell the Lapwai Canyon portion of the Second Subdivision on Friday, September 2nd.  A wild fire crept up a portion of Lapwai Canyon, burning down bridge 21.3, the first bridge to the south (railroad west) of Half-moon bridge and tunnel 3.  This unfortunate news likely seals the fate of this once magnificent rail line.  

A view from across Lapwai Canyon shows the scorched draw where bridge 21.3 once stood.  Steve Taulbee photo, September 2, 2011.

This close-up view shows all that is left:  A few burned bridge timbers and a single piece of rail dangling across the draw.  Steve Taulbee photo.  September 2, 2011.

After being sold to North American Railnet, the line stayed in operation until November of 2000.  After being shut down, the line sat idle for three years.  It was subsequently sold to Mike Williams, re-creating the line as the Bountiful Grain & Craig Mountain Railway.  

Since its purchase by Mike Williams, part of the line has been abandoned and the rest has sat mostly idle, with only the portion between Spalding and Culdesac used for storing railroad cars. 

In 2003, some wood trestles of the former Canadian Pacific/Kettle Valley Railway in Myra Canyon near Kelowna, BC, burned down in a wild fire.  These bridges are part of the Kettle Valley Railway trail, a bike and walking path that utilizes the abandoned railways road bed.  Considering these bridges a national treasure, the Provincial and National governments helped fund their rebuilding, to Canadian Pacific specs no less!  

Lapwai Canyon is unlikely to see this sort of undertaking.   There simply isn't the money nor (in my opinion) the desire by the state of Idaho to have this bridge rebuilt for posterity or potential future commerce.  So the once great second subdivision likely gasps it last bit of breath, succumbing to something we all feared could happen any day.

Here are some pictures of the canyon and the bridges under better circumstances:

An extra Craigmont Turn descend the Lapwai Canyon grade traversing three of the many bridges in the canyon.  The bridge farthest to the left is bridge 21.3.  October, 1997.       Matt Sugerman photo. 

The recent Burlington Northern-Santa Fe merger is evident in this photo as the west bound Grangeville train crosses Bridge 23.1 in late October of 1997.  Matt Sugerman photo.
The Craigmont Turn's caboose makes its way across the bridge on the way to Lewiston.  October 1997.  Dave Lehlbach photo.