Proposed Southwest Exposure
Proposed Northern Exposure
Scenic Byway Railroad Interpretive Center
The City of Victor purchased the 1913 Oregon Short Line railroad depot in 2011 along with an adjacent parcel totaling 2.4 acres. The Oregon Short Line (OSL) was a subsidiary of the Union Pacific Railroad (UP) that was created in 1884 and was outside of the congressionally mandated transcontinental route of the UP. The Short Line ran from Granger Wyoming across the Snake River Plain of Idaho and connected with another short line in Oregon giving the UP a Pacific coast connection. Anti-monopoly legislation kept the OSL from fully merging with the UP until 1936.
In 1912 the UP directed the Short Line to extend service south from Ashton, ID through the Teton Valley with a termination in Victor. The 48.6 miles of the route crossed three major rivers requiring bridges spanning 600’ in length and 130’ in height, all three of which have been renovated and now comprise the Victor Branch UP bicycle rail-trial. The Short Line arrived in Victor in 1913 providing much needed access to the Valley with freight and passenger service. The depot building was completed in 1913, the year World War I broke out in Europe.
Passenger service increased through the 1920’s with the formation of Grand Teton National Park and the resulting Jackson Hole dude ranch industry. This prompted a 24’ extension on the depot to expand the passenger waiting area and provide indoor restrooms. The world recovery from the Great War saw a significant spike in world grain prices which gave rise to increased Valley grain cultivation and demand for shipping services. Through the 1940’s Victor was the functional “end of the line” for passengers and shippers transiting Teton Pass into Jackson Hole and the southern entrance to Yellowstone National Park. Until the end of passenger service in the mid-1960’s the route was made famous by two scheduled passenger trains, the Yellowstone Special and the Yellowstone Express. Freight service continued sporadically through the early 70’s when the railroad petitioned the Interstate Commerce Commission for abandonment of the line north to Tetonia. The depot was essentially abandoned until a series of private owners purchased it and turned it into an apartment building until the city purchase in 2011.
Then Mayor Scott Fitzgerald and planning staff saw the depot as the most iconic building in the Valley and the vehicle for Victor’s downtown revitalization. In conjunction with area landscape architect Randy Blough of Harmony Design & Engineering, city staff developed a block-wide development expansion strategy that included a Depot Street expansion and Scenic Byway Railroad Interpretive Center, the latter of which was just awarded a Federal Highway Administration Scenic Byway grant of $383,000 for the first phase of the project.
Phase One will include the parking area depicted below with the first of the hardscape trails and landscaping. A 1500 square foot open-air pavilion designed with period railroad building architecture will be located south of the depot. The pavilion will provide restrooms, open-air picnic tables and an outside cooking and grilling area of masonry construction. There will be early railroad theme artifacts decorating the pavilion. The center’s landscape will be highlighted with architectural paths and hard surfaces and will feature interpretive plaques depicting photos and text of the early history. The trackage will terminate at the depot and begin mile-zero of the Victor to Ashton bicycle rail-trail.
Phase Two of the project will see the installation of a replication of the original two track alignment and switch turn-out that comprised the Y-turnaround allowing the early steam engines to reverse direction for the return trip north. The trackage will hold a 1950-1970 period Union Pacific caboose and other rolling stock typical of the period. A 50,000 gallon water tank replica that provided water to the steam locomotives will be installed about where the original tank was located.
The city is beginning the renovation of the depot exterior as of this writing with paint matching the original historic colors, and a proto-typical loading dock to be constructed next year which will replace the existing porch. The long-term uses for the building include an interior renovation with historic motif providing for inter-active community functions and meeting space as well as a visitor rest and interpretive center. As of this writing the depot building houses five apartment units. The depot is on the Federal Historic Registry for historic buildings.