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Last Stop, Horseshoe Bend: Thunder Mountain Line Shuts Down

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Thunder Mountain Line, which has chugged families through some of south-central Idaho's most picturesque vistas since 1998, has announced it is suspending its operation. Owners made the announcement Jan. 18 on the company's website, "with great sadness and disappointment."

"We are very thankful for the many years of support from the communities, state of Idaho, tourist train industry, suppliers, sponsors, employees and general public," wrote Chris Bertel, vice president of the Thunder Mountain Line. Bertel did not give a reason for the shutdown.

The history of the Thunder Mountain Line goes back a full century, when the rail line served gold and ore prospectors who filled mining camps in the region. The original railroad ran to Smiths Ferry in 1913 and extended to McCall one year later. The Union Pacific operated the line until the 1990s, when the Idaho Northern and Pacific Railroad purchased the railroad in 1993. In 1998, Idaho Historical Railroads rejuvenated a passenger line and in 2001, Thunder Mountain Line expanded its operation to include themed train rides out of Horseshoe Bend.

"We were able to provide a unique experience for our younger generation and a glimpse back to the past," wrote Bertel in the company's closure announcement. "We provided an environment for families to reconnect and create lasting memories for years to come."