Yellowstone Part 2

last addition: 1-1-22

Union Pacific's
Yellowstone Special

Part 1
Teton Valley Branch

Union Pacific Eastern Idaho branches, 1916.

In July, 1965, my family and my teenage self spent two weeks at the Taylor (dude) Ranch in Victor, Idaho (elev. 6205 ft), just west of Grand Teton National Park. The first thing that I noticed when we drove into the village was the short yellow Union Pacific train sitting behind the town's largest building, the depot.

The train was UP's summer-only Yellowstone Special, and the town sat at the end of Union Pacific's Teton Valley Branch (completed in 1913) which ran down the drop-dead-gorgeous valley of the same name. At the time, the valley was lightly settled and declining in population like many farming areas - surrounding Teton County boasted 2639 souls in 1960, 2351 in 1970 (3921 in 1920). UP served Victor's population of something less than 300 people with a year-round mixed train, which carried passengers in the caboose. Freight cars mainly hauled agricultural products - farm machinery, seed, cattle and the like.

As it turned out, 1965 was to be the last year of operation for the Yellowstone Special. Until 1960, the Special ran up the Yellowstone Branch to West Yellowstone, Montana, with a few cars being set-out at Ashton, Idaho for the run down to Victor. From 1961-65, the Special ran directly to Victor, with a bus connection at Ashton for West Yellowstone.

After the Special quit, the mixed train out of Idaho Falls continued to carry passengers, but only until 1969. UP abandoned the bottom fifteen miles of the branch south of Tetonia in 1981, and the 30 mile balance back to Ashton in 1990. The Yellowstone Branch, which saw its first passenger train in 1908, was abandoned in 1979. In 1993, the Eastern Idaho Railroad (see Further Reading, Page 2) took over operations of the various branches (much diminished by the bursting of Teton Dam in 1976) between Ashton and Idaho Falls . The late-arriving local tourism and ski industries have fleshed out Teton Valley's population to over 6,ooo people at present.

On this page you shall find various items related to the Teton Valley Branch, Idaho. On the following page, I've amassed a small collection timetables, maps and etc., followed by a short list of relevant online and printed matter, should you be as fascinated by these trains as I am. - E.O.


When I discovered the depot in 1965, it was as tidy an ediface as a person could find, in immaculate white paint with a neat little garden on its south side. In September, 2012 I visited Victor for a second time to find the building refurbished and painted in its original yellow / brown colors; divided into apartments. The depot is now owned by the city, which has plans to make it the focus of a scenic byway interpretive center.

Since my latest visit, Teton Vallet Magazine has presented a wonderful article about the Victor depot and its trains, written by Dan Buchan as a follow-up to his original Ties to the Past, which has been offered by Wx4 in PDF form for some time. Appearing in the same issue with Dan's latest effort is a nice piece, authored by Karen L. Reinhart, about the Teton Transportation Company bus service that once ferried railroad passengers over the hill to Jackson, Moran and Grand Teton National Park.

Teton Valley Magazine Editor in Chief Mac McCoy has kindly assented to the placing of PDF copies of the aforementioned articles on Wx4. Thanks to all, especially Dan Buchan who facilitated this.

For more Teton Valley history, or if you're planning a visit to the region, give the magazine's archive a visit at:

Depot Photos

Then: July 1965

Now: September 2012

The Layout, July 1965: Victor sat at the end of the Teton Valley Branch, and equipment was turned on a wye. In steam days, a 50,000 wooden water tank stood just south of the garden. At left is the crude No-I'm-Not-Joe-Cartographer diagram that I drew at the time. Note Pierre's Playhouse, a slapstick melodrama theater that first opened a couple of years prior to my visit. It was a hoot! Of late it fell on hard times, but in the fall of 2021 it found a new owner, although it remains to be seen if the melodrama theme will be revived.

(click image for enlarged version)

The Equipment, July 1965 the train that day consisted of: a GP-9; GP-9B; heavyweight baggage; two modernized heavyweight chair cars: modernize heavyweight club-lounge; lightweight sleeper. There was also a PFE reefer and a m/w box in the yard.

(click image for enlarged version)

Yellowstone Special, July 1965

PFE company ice service 40' reefer

UP box 903563, rotary snow plow service, silver paint

Driggs to Victor Morning Run, 2009
Wx4 recently discovered a YouTube video showing a 2009 drive parallel to the Teton Valley Branch right-of way, covering the last nine miles from Driggs (Teton County Seat) to Victor. The ROW, now a hiking/biking trail, becomes plainly visible as a black line to the right of the road about one and one-half minutes into the video. If you don't have the bandwidth to watch it in high definition (153 megs-worth), you can go directly to YouTube for a lower resolution.

photographer unknown, Wx4 collection
Driggs depot in September, 1968, three years after the last Yellowstone Special ran through town; note motor
car, train order board and PFE reefer on the house track. This was the last full year that the mixed train operated.

On to Part 2: reference and further reading.