The adults and kids alike are excited as the train chugs along on a sunny October afternoon. This is a special train trip. We’re headed from Horseshoe Bend, Idaho to the pumpkin patch so carefully arranged in the defunct town of Montour. The Thunder Mountain Line has been operating for over 100 years, originally to haul gold and ore. Later, the trains hauled logs, mail, and passengers… precious cargo both past and present.
While the normal train travels from Horseshoe Bend to Banks, the special pumpkin train (and also the Santa Express train in December) chug on tracks laid in 1911 adjacent to the Payette River on a 1.5 hour excursion. The train offers 3 classes of service: standard, first, and executive. We’ve chosen executive class, where passengers enjoy 2 and 4 person booths as the historian tells us all about the train and our destination. We also enjoy snacks of cheese, crackers, grapes, and salami with individual bottles of champagne for each person in this executive car.
The historian describes how wood and water were needed every 16 miles along the tracks. Montour became a whistle stop location that fit these needs. We also hear how the creation of the nearby Black Canyon Dam caused flooding in Montour. By 1946, a new highway for truck transport also contributed to the demise of Montour. The last business closed down in 1968.
Upon arrival in Montour, the passengers file out to the pumpkin patch. Each person is allowed one pumpkin to take home. The pumpkin patch is filled with hay bales, wooden cat sculptures, and decorated pumpkins. Ample time allows the crowd to walk among the pumpkin groupings to find the perfect pumpkin to take home.
Back on board, passengers migrate between the assigned cars and the long benches lining the open-air cars.
The sun glistens on the Payette River as we chug back to our starting point. Bruce, a fellow passenger from Fruitland, is celebrating his birthday and the historian leads the group in singing to him. All too soon, we’re back at the station, content with our pumpkin choices and the trip back in time.