“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Bonners Ferry in Boundary County, Idaho — The American West (Mountains)

Great Northern Railway 1892


Great Northern Railway Marker image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, May 8, 2018
1. Great Northern Railway Marker
Inscription. James J. Hill realized his vision of a northernmost transcontinental railroad in 1892, after the 1889 discovery of the Marias pass in Montana. The gentle grade and wide valley of the 5,213 ft. pass through the Rocky Mountains contrasted with the most difficult section of construction along the steep canyon walls of the Kootenai River east of Bonners Ferry.
Railroad construction brought workers to rough and lawless work camps which sprung up along the line. These included Crossport, a huge supply camp with hundreds of workers and a colony of camp followers. Workers lived in tents and makeshift shacks, entertaining themselves by drinking, gambling, and prostitution.
The rail road also brought Chinese workers to the area where anti-Chinese sentiment was a heated issue during this period of western development. On a June night in 1892, a group of several hundred men gathered on Bonners Ferry's Main street. They gave 48 Chinese men only two hours to pack their belongings and leave town on a special Great Northern train consisting of two boxcars and a caboose. There was no report of violence.
The Great Northern railroad brought permanent changes and new settlers, some leaving the logged-out Midwest. Attracted by virgin timber and rich farmland, many homesteaders came by rented box cars filled with their animals, farming equipment,
Great Northern Railway Marker image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, May 8, 2018
2. Great Northern Railway Marker
and household goods. In the early 1900s J.J. Hill sold thousands of acres of timberland to Weyerhaeuser Company, on of the largest timber operations in the Pacific Northwest.
The railroad stimulated economic growth as shipments of Boundary County ore, grain, and lumber traveled to distant markets. Over time the Great Northern merged multiple times to finally become Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway.

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Great Northern trains originating from west coast ports transported international products to midwest and east coast cities. One of the valuable commodities was bales of raw silk imported to San Francisco and Seattle on Japanese and English ships from 1912 to 1933. The GN ran special high-speed silk trains which had priority over other trains and often attracted curious crowds along the way.
Erected by Boundary County Historical Society.
Location. 48° 41.861′ N, 116° 18.693′ W. Marker is in Bonners Ferry, Idaho, in Boundary County. Marker is on Main Street near Riverside Street, on the right when traveling north. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 7229 Main Street, Bonners Ferry ID 83805, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Kootenai Valley Railway (here, next to this marker); A Town is Born Along the Way (here, next to this marker); Spokane International Railway (here, next to this marker); Railroad Laborers (here, next to this marker); Railroad Services (here, next to this marker); Logging Railroads (here, next to this marker); Semaphores (here, next to this marker); Pelton Wheel (within shouting distance of this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Bonners Ferry.
More about this marker. This marker is located on the backside of the building at 7229 Main Street near the entrance to the Boundary County Museum.
Categories. Asian AmericansRailroads & Streetcars
Credits. This page was last revised on August 31, 2018. This page originally submitted on August 31, 2018, by Barry Swackhamer of San Jose, California. This page has been viewed 45 times since then. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on August 31, 2018, by Barry Swackhamer of San Jose, California.
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