Sandpoint, ID (SPT)
The only Idaho community with an Amtrak station, Sandpoint is known for its stunning location on Lake Pend Oreille, while nearby mountains are popular with winter sports enthusiasts.
450 Railroad Avenue
Former Northern Pacific Station Site
Sandpoint, ID 83864
Annual Station Ridership (2016): 7,510
- Facility Ownership: BNSF Railway
- Parking Lot Ownership: BNSF Railway
- Platform Ownership: BNSF Railway
- Track Ownership: BNSF Railway
For information about Amtrak fares and schedules, please call 1-800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245).
The historic red brick Gothic Revival style Sandpoint depot was constructed in 1916 at a cost of approximately $25,000. It is the oldest former Northern Pacific Railway (NP) depot still in active use in Idaho—and one of a few nationwide that remains in operation. In recognition of its physical and design integrity and place within the city’s railroad heritage, the station was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.
The building reopened to passengers in spring 2015 following a complete rehabilitation of the exterior and the passenger waiting room. Construction included repointing of the brickwork; reinforcement of the walls; installation of a new roof; and renovation of interior spaces to bring them into accordance with ADA guidelines.
Passengers now use the former ladies retiring room, which is outfitted with glazed white tile wainscot and a terrazzo floor that is durable yet elegant. Original wood benches were refurbished to serve the next generation of travelers. There is also an ADA compliant restroom and a new exterior entrance that provides access from a porch/open air waiting room. Craftsmen also installed a new brick walkway around the building. The five month rehabilitation project was overseen by Sandpoint firm Idagon Design Build.
In 2015, Preservation Idaho, a non-profit with a mission to preserve the state’s historic places through collaboration, education and advocacy, recognized the depot project for Excellence in Historic Preservation during its annual Orchids and Onions Awards. Fittingly, the awards ceremony took place in Sandpoint; attendees later joined city officials, representatives from Amtrak and Congressional offices and residents for an official depot ribbon cutting ceremony.
As far back as the 1850s, railroad promoters dreamed of lines crossing the northern United States that would connect the region to the coasts. In 1864, the U.S. Congress chartered the Northern Pacific Railway Company to connect the Great Lakes region with Puget Sound in Washington Territory. It took another six years and the powerful backing of Philadelphia financier Jay Cooke before ground was broken west of Duluth, Minn. Once stoked, momentum pushed the NP track laying teams from east and west until the approximately 2,800 mile main line across the northern United States was finished in 1883. Former President Ulysses S. Grant drove in the “golden spike.”
With the completion of the line, the NP built its first depot in Sandpoint in 1883. The Victorian structure, embellished with fancy woodwork, was located south of the current depot and along the east side of the tracks. Around 1906, the building was picked up, turned around and relocated northward on the west side of the tracks. The move coincided with a project to raise the right-of-way to prevent flooding.
The second and current depot features a gabled central block with a prominent cross gable whose upper faces are pierced by gothic-arched windows. Each gable also includes stone coping at the roof line embellished with ball finials. Trackside, a projecting bay capped with decorative crenellation marks the location of the station master’s office. Windows on all three sides of the bay allowed him an unobstructed view down the tracks to monitor traffic on the line. A gray toned water table wraps around the building and also forms the sills for the windows.
Recessed wings flank the central section. To the north is the former freight room, marked by a wide, full height wood door that allowed workers to easily move carts and wagons between the train and the depot. On the south end is the current waiting room and a porch or covered outdoor waiting area, a popular feature on early 20th century depots. Heavy carved beams between the square columns, as well as decorative brackets, continue the gothic aesthetic, which also extends to the depot’s doors.
The entire building is topped by a distinctive green tile roof. Deep, overhanging eaves protect those waiting outside from inclement weather. New pendant lighting along the eaves ensures a welcoming atmosphere as people gather for the late evening and early morning arrivals of the Empire Builder. Distinctive “Sandpoint” signs on each end of the depot were originally made for the town’s Great Northern Railway station, but were installed on the NP building sometime in the 1970s.
In the early 2000s, the depot’s future was called into question as planning progressed for a reroute of U.S. Highway 95 that was to move the roadway out of the congested downtown and onto the peninsula between Lake Pend Oreille and Sand Creek where the depot is located. To construct the highway, the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) had to negotiate with BNSF Railway, whose right-of-way travels up the short spit of land and whose property includes the depot and the parcel on which it stands.
Plans for the new 2.1 mile section of highway—known as the Sand Creek Byway—had it passing within 40 feet of the west side of the depot. As part of mitigation efforts related to construction, ITD paid BNSF approximately $922,000 to stabilize the depot or design and erect a replacement facility.
For a few years, it was uncertain if Amtrak would continue to use the old station or choose to move to a new facility outside of town. The Sandpoint City Council, Historic Preservation Commission and local residents advocated for keeping the station at its present location near downtown. In fall 2011, the city, Amtrak and BNSF agreed to remain at the site. In the meantime, the waiting room was temporarily closed to passengers in June 2009 after acoustic tiles fell from the ceiling due to a leaky roof. Amtrak subsequently worked with BNSF to modify the existing lease to include parts of the building and the platform, and BNSF transferred the ITD money to Amtrak to fund the needed rehabilitation work.
Sandpoint has won many honors over the years, including the title “America’s Most Beautiful Small Town” in a contest sponsored by USA Today and Rand McNally. The award noted the city’s stunning lakeside location surrounded by mountains—known for excellent skiing—and the lively downtown filled with small shops and restaurants.
Amtrak does not provide ticketing or baggage services at this facility, which is served by two daily trains.
- Accessible Platform
- Pay Phones