Part of the reason I do this every day is that I frequently learn something new, myself. Today’s post is a good example.
I knew that Arrowrock Dam, dedicated in 1915, was the tallest dam in the world, for a little while. That’s always intrigued me, because by the standards of, say, Hoover, or Dworshak, it isn’t all that impressive. At 366 feet it held that title until 1924, when a dam in Switzerland knocked it from the throne.
But in reviewing the history of Arrowrock dam recently, I found a little Idaho first that was completely new to me. I informally collect tidbits where Idaho or an Idahoan was the first at something to defy the cynics who seem to think we’re always the last ones to the party.
This obscure first regards the railroad line that was built from the community of Barber all the way along the Boise River to the construction site of the Arrowrock Dam. The Barber Lumber Company was interested in a rail line along that stretch that could haul timber out of the mountains. In fact, they owned the right of way where the line would need to go. So, the Bureau of Reclamation worked out an agreement with Barber Lumber company where Reclamation would lease the tracks and run the railroad. That made the Arrowrock and Barber Railroad the first publicly owned line in the nation.
The Arrowrock and Barber Railroad ran from—wait for it—Arrowrock to Barber and back. The Oregon Shortline ran from Barber to the new Reclamation office in Boise, where materials were warehoused and sent to the construction site as needed. The Reclamation Service Boise Project Office, at 214 Broadway Avenue in Boise, was listed on the National Register of Historic Place in 2010.