Camas Prairie Railroad

Coordinates: 46°14′N 116°28′W / 46.24°N 116.47°W / 46.24; -116.47
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Camas Prairie Railroad Company
A train on Lawyer Canyon Trestle. (1909)
A train on Lawyer Canyon Trestle. (1909)
HeadquartersLewiston, Idaho
Reporting markCSP
LocaleLewiston, ID to Riparia, WA
Lewiston to Stites, ID
Spalding to Grangeville, ID
Orofino to Headquarters, ID
Dates of operation1909–1998
SuccessorCamas Prairie RailNet
Great Northwest Railroad
(2004– )
BG&CM Railroad
(2004– ) (2nd subdivision)
Track gauge4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Camas Prairie Railroad is located in USA West
Camas Prairie Railroad
Camas Prairie Railroad

Camas Prairie Railroad Company (reporting mark CSP) was a short line railroad in northern Idaho jointly owned and operated by Northern Pacific Railway and Union Pacific.[1][2]

Parts of the former railroad are now operated by the Great Northwest Railroad and the BG&CM Railroad.


The Nez Perce Indian Reservation was opened to white settlement in 1895.[3][4][5][6] By the turn of the 20th century, Edward H. Harriman and James J. Hill were engaged in a "railroad war" for control of rail routes through this area to reach the Pacific Northwest.[7][8] Despite their competing interests, the railroad barons co-operated to build the Camas Prairie Railroad.

The CSP was built to tap the rolling, fertile hills of the Camas Prairie and the timber of the forested hills and canyonlands of the Clearwater River.[9][10] Service to the south terminus of the second subdivision line at Grangeville commenced in December 1908,[7] and continued for 92 years.

The Camas Prairie Railroad was known as the "railroad on stilts" due to the many wooden trestles along its route. In one five-mile (8 km) stretch, there were more than a dozen trestles.

In addition to its wooden trestles, the railroad's second subdivision also had a sizable steel viaduct, 1,520 feet (460 m) in length with a maximum height of 280 feet (85 m).[11][12] Bridge 38 spans Lawyer's Canyon, between Craigmont and Ferdinand, and is visible from U.S. Route 95.

Nezperce & Idaho Railroad[edit]

The Nezperce & Idaho Railroad (reporting mark NP&I) was an independently owned short line railroad that connected the community of Nezperce to the Camas Prairie Railroad. Primarily used to ship agricultural products it operated from 1910 until 1975,[13][14] it was then used for boxcar storage until the 1980s.[13]

A water tower on the Camas Prairie Railroad in Lewiston, ID.


The railroad was sold to North American RailNet in April 1998, and it became the subsidiary Camas Prairie RailNet, Inc. (CSPR). After less than two years, CSPR notified the U.S. government in late 1999 that the second subdivision line to Grangeville could be subject to abandonment, citing lack of profitability.[15][16] It made its formal request in May,[17] and it was approved by the Surface Transportation Board in September 2000; the last run to Fenn and Grangeville was on November 29.[18][19] The tracks were to be removed shortly thereafter, but that was delayed as a new operator for the line was sought.

A train on Half Moon Trestle. (1909)

When BG&CM stepped in to operate the second subdivision line in December 2002, it was originally only to extend from Spalding to Craigmont,[20] but a few weeks later decided to continue south, across Lawyer's Canyon to Cottonwood, stopping the salvage crews from going further north.[21][22]

The tracks from Cottonwood to Grangeville were removed and salvaged in late 2002 and 2003. North American RailNet sold the remainder of the railroad to Watco in March 2004,[23][24] which renamed it the Great Northwest Railroad.

In 2011, Bridge 21-3 was destroyed in a wildfire. Although BG&CM owner Mike Williams indicated plans to rebuild by spring of 2012 at the latest,[25] no construction has occurred.

By 2021 the tracks had been removed all the way from Grangeville to Ruebens.

Second subdivision[edit]

All locations in north central Idaho

  County   City / Stop   Mile   Elevation
feet m
Spalding 0 805 245
Lapwai 3.3 955 291
Sweetwater 5.3 1,090 332
Culdesac 12.1 1,645 501
Lewis Nucrag 19.5 2,780 847
Reubens 26.1 3,525 1,074
Craigmont 34.4 3,740 1,140
Idaho Ferdinand 42.3 3,720 1,134
Cottonwood 51.0 3,495 1,065
Fenn 59.5 3,275 998
Grangeville 66.8 3,395 1,035


Passenger service[edit]

Passenger service on the main line along the Clearwater River to Stites and on the second subdivision to Grangeville was discontinued 69 years ago in August 1955.[26][27]

Popular culture[edit]

The 1975 film Breakheart Pass starring Charles Bronson was filmed on portions of the railroad, as were parts of 1999's Wild Wild West.


  1. ^ "Camas Prairie Railroad was born to squabbling parents". Lewiston Morning Tribune. Idaho. September 30, 1990. p. 12-centennial.
  2. ^ Campbell, Thomas W. (July 16, 1961). "Wedding of rails provided spunky offspring". Lewiston Morning Tribune. Idaho. p. 5.
  3. ^ Hamilton, Ladd (June 25, 1961). "Heads were popping up all over the place". Lewiston Morning Tribune. Idaho. p. 14.
  4. ^ Brammer, Rhonda (July 24, 1977). "Unruly mobs dashed to grab land when reservation opened". Lewiston Morning Tribune. Idaho. p. 6E.
  5. ^ "3,000 took part in "sneak" when Nez Perce Reservation was opened". Lewiston Morning Tribune. Idaho. November 19, 1931. p. 3.
  6. ^ "Nez Perce Reservation". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. December 11, 1921. p. 5.
  7. ^ a b Hanrahan, R.E. (May 1, 1936). "Camas Prairie Railroad unique operating setup". Lewiston Morning Tribune. Idaho. p. 3.
  8. ^ Campbell, Thomas J. (December 11, 1938). "Camas Prairie Railroad marks 30th anniversary". Lewiston Morning Tribune. Idaho. p. 12.
  9. ^ "Come over and see us". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. February 27, 1895. p. 6.
  10. ^ "Camas Prairie Railroad, unique system owned by competitors, is major industry in Lewiston". Lewiston Morning Tribune. Idaho. May 20, 1939. p. 3-sec.5.
  11. ^ Renk, Nancy F.; Miss, C. J. (2002). "Camas Prairie Railroad, Second Subdivision" (PDF). Historic American Engineering Record. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress. p. 6. Retrieved May 8, 2022.
  12. ^ "CSP – Lawyers Canyon Viaduct". Retrieved July 12, 2017.
  13. ^ a b Askari, Mohsin (6 May 1990). "NEZPERCE-CRAIGMONT LINE SCRAP-METAL RAILROAD OWED ITS LIFE TO JOE LUX". The Lewiston Tribune. Retrieved 2021-06-02.
  14. ^ "It's a Short Line, But a Long Story". The Lewiston Tribune. 22 August 2011. Retrieved 2021-06-02.
  15. ^ Williams, Elaine (February 6, 2000). "Abandoning 66-mile stretch a step-by-step procedure". Lewiston Morning Tribune. Idaho. p. 1E.
  16. ^ Williams, Elaine (August 21, 2000). "Severing ties". Lewiston Morning Tribune. Idaho. p. 1A.
  17. ^ a b "Legal notices: Camas Prairie RailNet, Inc". Lewiston Morning Tribune. Idaho. May 2, 2000. p. 9B.
  18. ^ "Camas Prairie dream out of steam". Moscow-Pullman Daily News. Idaho-Washington. Associated Press. November 30, 2000. p. 2A.
  19. ^ Walker, Jodi (December 31, 2000). "Some cracks in the foundation: Last train to Grangeville". Lewiston Morning Tribune. Idaho. p. 3A.
  20. ^ Walker, Jodi (December 18, 2002). "Camas Prairie line will run again". Lewiston Morning Tribune. Idaho. p. 1A.
  21. ^ Walker, Jodi (January 9, 2003). "Cottonwood has a railroad, again". Lewiston Morning Tribune. Idaho. p. 1A.
  22. ^ Williams, Elaine (March 23, 2003). "Spalding line survives, barely". Lewiston Morning Tribune. Idaho. p. 1E.
  23. ^ Williams, Elaine (February 17, 2004). "Railroad changing hands". Lewiston Morning Tribune. Idaho. p. 1A.
  24. ^ Williames, Elaine (March 4, 2004). "Railroad changes hands, trains keep on running". Lewiston Morning Tribune. Idaho. p. 6A.
  25. ^ Tribune, ERIC BARKER of the (10 September 2011). "Owner plans to rebuild rail trestle". The Lewiston Tribune. Retrieved 2021-06-01.
  26. ^ "Camas Prairie trains stop". Spokane Daily Chronicle. Washington. Associated Press. August 24, 1955. p. b3.
  27. ^ "Camas Prairie Railroad 'Bugs' reach end of the line today". Lewiston Morning Tribune. Idaho. August 23, 1955. p. 12.

External links[edit]

External videos
video icon "Camas Prairie Railroad Cab Ride Trailer" on YouTube
video icon "Tribute to the Camas Prairie's 2nd Sub" on YouTube

46°14′N 116°28′W / 46.24°N 116.47°W / 46.24; -116.47