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On a Rail

A look back at the Sandpoint and Interurban Railway

Courtesy of Thomas Carty, Summer Intern for Bonner County Historical Society & Museum

Photo postcard of Main and Fourth streets in Sandpoint, Idaho. Sandpoint interurban or streetcar in foreground on Main. Photo courtesy of the Bonner County Historical Society & Museum, donated by Loren Evenson.

Every local knows the mess that is summer driving in Sandpoint and Ponderay; something our visitors will also discover quickly. The addition of the free SPOT bus in 2017 has helped to diversify transportation, but the car remains central.

Over 100 years ago, when cars were few, Sandpoint also added public transportation. In 1909, The Sandpoint and Interurban Railway opened, an electric streetcar system of three 34-person cars which operated on Main Street in Sandpoint and north on Boyer to Ponderay and Kootenai.

A trip from Sandpoint to Kootenai cost 20¢, about $6 today. Workers from Sandpoint commuted to Kootenai for a weekly rate of $1, around $30 today, while school children paid 50¢. In early 1917, the Kootenai line closed due to low ridership because of the rising ownership of cars. The remaining routes also declined, and by November the equipment was sold off with operations ending in February 1918.

Today, nothing remains living, only in documentation. With the state of traffic, perhaps it is time to reconsider the streetcar.

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