A History of John W. Young’s Utah Railroads, 1884-1894
Index For This Page
By Marlowe C. Adkins, Jr.
The Construction Of The Railroads
Railroad construction is the pitting of man’s skill against the natural obstacles of geography. This chapter is devoted to describing the natural obstacles facing the builders of the Salt Lake and Fort Douglas, the Salt Lake and Eastern, and the Utah Western railroads, and how the topography of nature was overcome.
When John W. Young established his railroads, he also created railroad construction companies bearing the same name as the railroad concerned. This practice was quite common at the time and had some financial benefits. Charles W. Hardy was the chief engineer for each of the construction companies, and it was his survey work that established the exact location of the railroad and determined how natural obstacles were to be overcome.
Hardy’s first engineering consideration was the natural topography in and around Salt Lake City. The casual traveler to the city can easily gain the impression that the city floor is flat. In fact, a constant gradient is present, inclining towards the north and east. For example, along Main Street, between South Temple and Eighth South, the difference in elevation is about eighty feet. The natural gradient thus becomes one of the factors to consider, but other, more severe problems were present.
The Salt Lake Valley, east of the north-south flowing Jordan River, was interrupted by no less than seven stream beds. The natural erosion present along these streams, which issued from the canyons to the north and east of the city, required the construction of culverts or bridges. Even these obstructions were minor construction problems compared to the bench lands.
The steep rise of the north and east benches exceeded by far the tolerable grade for a railroad. While the actual rise varies at different points, the sharp increase in height at Ninth South is typical. Between Eleventh East and Thirteenth East the land rises 134.13 feet. This translates into a mean average grade of 8.26 percent. Without doubt, the bench land was the first major barrier for the railroad builders to overcome.
Above the bench, and leading to the mountains, the land takes on a steady but not excessive upward gradient. In this area, east of the city proper, is located Fort Douglas. For the railroad, this land presented some physical problems, primarily due to the erosion of the streams and the rolling nature of the land. But just as the valley floor presented minor problems in comparison to the bench, the construction problems of the upper benchlands were minor compared to the mountains.
Rising to the north and east are the Wasatch Mountains: The canyons determined the route of the railroads, and necessitated careful engineering to keep the railroad grade and curve radius within practical limits.
Construction of the Salt Lake and Fort Douglas Railroad
For the Salt Lake and Fort Douglas the terms progress and speed were not synonymous. Once the initial franchise was granted by the Salt Lake City Council, many citizens anticipated the early completion of the railroad. The distances involved were not great, and these people had witnessed a number of successful railroad endeavors during the previous decade. Few, if any, were able to foresee that the first construction was a full year away from the granting of the franchise.
Construction began in late summer, 1885, along the easiest portion of the route. Since Eighth and Ninth South streets, and Seventh East street, were already in existence, and the grade from Fourth West to Tenth East (the base of the bench) was only .65 percent, the only problem here was to ensure that the railroad was aligned in the center of the respective streets, except where curves were necessary to change the direction of travel. Culverts and bridges to cross irrigation ditches, as well as a stream on Seventh East, had to be built before the rails were put in place. This latter watercourse became more of a problem than originally anticipated.
Above the bench, the stream issuing from Red Butte Canyon divided into two branches. The southern branch proceeded generally west-southwest, passing south of Ninth South and eventually powering the flour mill located on Brigham Young’s farm, already known by its present name of Liberty Park. The northern branch flowed in a more westerly direction, cutting across Seventh East between Eighth and Ninth South. Although this stream was not a major water carrier during most of the year, the erosion incurred over the centuries was sufficient to require a bridge for the railroad. This bridge was the first major building project on the Salt Lake and Fort Douglas line.
Work on the Seventh East bridge typifies construction progress in the early years of the Salt Lake and Fort Douglas Railroad. The brickwork of the abutments was underway in November 1885, yet a full year later the bridge was incomplete. Agents were still making arrangements to purchase the beams that formed the bridge in November 1886. They were also seeking beams for a much larger project farther along the route.
At Fuller’s Pleasure Gardens, located on the bench between Third and Fourth South, a natural ravine posed the single trestle project on the Salt Lake and Fort Douglas Railroad. Exact measurements have been lost, but the trestle in a contemporary woodcut appears to be at least one hundred feet in length and about half that in height at the highest point. The trestle and grade along the bench combined to make this the most difficult section of the S. L. & F. D. until Red Butte Canyon was reached. (The roadbed, which later became a portion of Tenth East north of Ninth South, reached a gradient of 5.5 percent.) While the pace of construction was slow through 1886, things were to change.
The rate of construction increased dramatically in 1887. By the end of March, the grade had been finished to the boundary of the Fort Douglas reservation. Since the bill granting right of way across the reservation had been signed at the first of the month, grading continued without delay towards Red Butte Canyon. The Seventh East bridge and the trestle at Fuller’s Gulch were completed, the ties distributed along the grade, and the rails began to snake towards the goal. While between 1884 and January 1887, less than one full mile of mainline track had been laid, by November 1887, rails had been completed to the city gravel pit at First South and Twelfth East. The value of the Salt Lake and Jordan canal bank as a grade was demonstrated when nearly two miles of rail was laid along it between November 8 and 25, 1887. This extended the Salt Lake and Fort Douglas as far south as Sugar House. Continued grading and rail laying ushered in the new year.
The winter weather stopped new construction in January; however, once spring arrived the Salt Lake and Fort Douglas rapidly completed its grade across the reservation and on into Red Butte Canyon. Included in this construction was a series of spurs to serve the warehouse and storage area of the fort.
Trains began running on a scheduled basis to Fort Douglas in June, and the final goal, the rock quarries, were serviced by rail in mid-September 1888. It had required nearly four years to the day from the granting of the franchise until the first trainload of sandstone was hauled directly from the quarry to the city. Nonetheless, only one phase of construction was complete, and much more remained to be accomplished.
Like meandering branches of a stream, the roadbed of the Salt Lake and Fort Douglas Railroad continued to expand. Grade and rails were extended from the mouth of Red Butte Canyon south to Emigration Canyon. This branch, designed to serve both Wagener’s brewery and other rock quarries owned by Young, was completed in October 1888. The roadbed was extended up Red Butte Canyon, reaching towards additional rock sources owned by Young in that canyon. Other crews to the south, in the meantime, prepared the grade and laid rails from Sugar House towards Big Cottonwood Canyon. This branch abruptly stopped, however, at the north bank of Mill Creek. Efforts and energies had been diverted towards a more profitable goal.
Construction of the Salt Lake and Eastern Railroad
Ostensibly complying with a request by the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce to link the city with shale beds in Parleys Canyon, survey and grading work heading east from Sugar House commenced in mid-May of 1888. By late September, when the Salt Lake and Eastern Railroad was formed, eight miles of grade from Sugar House into Parleys Canyon was complete, and four miles of track had been laid. This relatively rapid work was not the result of excitement over transporting shale. It was the potential found in hauling the ores of Park City. The terrain was difficult, the work exhausting, and Young was having to compete against the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad for the available work crews and teams.
In early 1887, the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad, and its Utah counterpart, the Denver and Rio Grande Western, had to standardize its present three-foot narrow gauge. Railroads linking with the, D. & R. G. system at Denver served notice that the expense and delay of transferring goods from standard gauge cars to the narrow gauge cars of the D. & R. G. was not economically competitive. Faced with the loss of revenue accompanying the transfer of eastern traffic to the Union Pacific line, insofar as reaching Salt Lake City and Ogden was concerned, the only possible decision was to standardize the mainline between Denver and Ogden, via Salt Lake City.
The process involved more than just moving the rails one foot, eight and one-half inches farther apart. Wider roadbed had to be prepared. When the curves or grade over the present route were too sharp or steep for standard gauge equipment, entire new right of ways had to be obtained and prepared. All of this Denver and Rio Grande Western action required large forces of men and teams. Both events and nature seemed to conspire against the Salt Lake and Eastern.
Parleys Canyon, a watershed drainage canyon whose stream flows to the west, was both the most practical route to Park City and a major obstacle with which the Salt Lake and Eastern Railroad had to contend. Had this canyon been a cut between valleys, such as Weber Canyon through which the Union Pacific Railroad entered the Great Salt Lake Valley near Ogden, the task of the S. L. & E. might have been greatly simplified. In reality, the canyon floor, which rose at a rate suitable for a railroad grade, ended far below the summit. This necessitated, after building along the canyon floor a short distance, the establishment of the roadbed along the canyon wall with a grade that averaged 2.5 percent between the canyon’s mouth and the first major construction obstacle.
Approximately eight miles from the mouth of Parleys Canyon, entering from the south, is an off-shoot canyon known as Lambs Canyon. Engineer Hardy had determined that the most feasible route at this point lay along the south wall of Parleys, but because the roadbed was now well above the canyon floor it was necessary to cross the mouth of Lambs Canyon over either a large trestle or an extensive fill. The former means was chosen as both the most economical and the fastest solution.
The trestle over Lambs Canyon provides an early example of prefabricated bridgework in Utah. The wooden trestle was constructed a section at a time at the Salt Lake and Fort Douglas depot in Salt Lake City. Each section was then placed upon flat cars and transported to the end of the Salt Lake and Eastern track in Parleys Canyon. Here the sections were unloaded from the railroad flat cars and placed upon wagons which followed the grade up to Lambs Canyon. Upon reaching the destination the sections were assembled, forming a substantial, curving trestle which bridged the mouth of the canyon. One of nature’s obstacles was thus surmounted, but another one yet remained before Park City was reached.
From Lambs Canyon, to cress the summit of Parleys Canyon, taking advantage of every feasible contour of the land, required a gradient far in excess of the capabilities of any existing locomotive. Two options, if the crossing of the summit was to accomplished, were available. Each had its advantage and its disadvantage.
The preferred solution was to build on a reasonable gradient, then bore a tunnel through the summit. This method allowed continuous and uninterrupted passage of the trains between Salt Lake City and Park City, but had the negative factor of a large expenditure of cash to construct the tunnel. The alternative was cheaper, but presented a problem in traffic control.
Construction of a switchback enabled the grade to gain the necessary altitude to cross the summit without the need for a tunnel. Unfortunately, the mechanics of a switchback served to slow the rate of transit. With both time and money as factors to consider, the easier, less expensive switchback was chosen. Once again a natural obstacle was overcome, but nature still held the upper hand.
Weather was the implacable enemy of the Salt Lake and Eastern, delaying both construction and operation of the railroad. Winter forced a halt in construction In late December 1888, and construction did not resume until late May 1889. Because the bulk of the grading work was completed in 1889, the winter of 1889-90 had less of a delaying effect. Even so, operations were closed down due to snow for most of January and February 1890, and roadbed settling, washouts, and snowstorms interrupted service periodically thereafter. While never tamed, the weather did not prevent the completion of the line into Park City.
The rails approached the lower, or north, end of Park City in mid-May 1890, and regular service began in late May. The first leg of the construction embarked upon two years previously, almost to the day, had been completed. Within four months work on the second leg, towards the timber stands of Kamas began. Pushing through far less hostile terrain, twenty-five miles of grade awaited ties and rails by early November 1890. Like its sister road on the edge of the Great Salt Lake, this particular section of grade on the Salt Lake and Eastern eroded away without ever supporting a single rail.
Construction of the Utah Western Railroad
To the railroad construction crews, the grading for the Utah Western must have been an easy task. The contract was let by July 5, 1889, and within a week four miles of roadbed was prepared. By November 10, all of the approximately fifteen miles that comprised the U. W. was graded and awaiting ties. (This includes the delay incurred while the Salt Lake City Council argued over the granting of the franchise allowing work within the city limits.) The speed with which this work was accomplished is easily explained.
Unlike the grading work on the Salt Lake and Fort Douglas and the Salt Lake and Eastern railroads, the Utah Western traversed only the nearly flat desert between the Great Salt Lake and Salt Lake City. Differing from her sister railroads, construction on the U. W. began at the far terminus on the shore of the lake and worked towards the main depot in the city. Thus, while the franchise was being debated, work continued without interruption over the greater portion of the roadbed. None of the problems found in Red Butte or Parleys canyons were present on the desert.
To form the roadbed it was necessary only to level the already relatively flat terrain. Fill material was removed from either side of the roadbed, being scraped towards the center out of the borrow pits. Once sufficient fill was obtained to give the roadbed its desired elevation, it was only necessary to lay the ties and rails. Of greatest significance, however, was the width of the roadbed.
Twelve feet wide, the Utah Western roadbed was able to accept a third rail of standard gauge. With the broadening of the Denver and Rio Grande Western, Young was forced into this option if he wanted to maintain viability. While rails were never actually laid upon this roadbed, the third rail concept was applied to portions of his railroads within the Salt Lake Valley within the next two years. The expense of establishing a new route eliminating the steep grades and sharp curves in Red Butte and Parleys canyons prohibited the addition of a third rail on those lines. Conservation of funds was paramount during all stages of construction.
Materials and Equipment Used on the Railroads
One means of economizing was to utilize as much second-hand material as possible. While the wooden ties, of necessity, were new, all of the other equipment might be previously used without degrading the condition of the railroad. As an example, some of the rails used in Parleys Canyon came from another narrow gauge line which had linked Coalville with Park City. This railroad, the Utah Eastern., had been abandoned by the Union Pacific Railroad and was being dismantled. Young, seeing an opportunity to save money, purchased the rails and other hardware from the U. P. Ironically, these materials were then used to construct another competing railroad into Park City. Just as the rails were of mixed heritage, so were the locomotives and cars that rolled over them.
For the first two years of construction on the Salt Lake and Fort Douglas Railroad, the company did not own or operate a single steam locomotive. When the first rails of the S. L. & F. D. leaving the junction with the Denver and Rio Grande Western tracks were laid, they were transported into position by horse-drawn wagons. Since the work was progressing very slowly, this inefficient method was satisfactory. By the time the rails were down for a distance of nearly a mile, a better method had to be used.
Under an agreement with the Denver and Rio Grande Western, flat cars were rented, loaded with rails, and pushed by a D. & R. G. W. locomotive to the end of the track. Since considerably more rails were moved in this manner, the work progressed much faster. The next step was for John W. Young to obtain his own motive power.
In November 1886, the first locomotive on the Salt Lake and Fort Douglas Railroad’s roster was acquired. The heritage of this locomotive is lost to history, but it had obviously seen considerable use elsewhere. The crownsheet was burned through, and numerous other- minor repairs were necessary before it could be put into use. Over the next two months this repair work was accomplished at the Denver and Rio Grande Western shops, and by January 15, 1887, it was in operation. While there is not an extant description of this locomotive, we do have some definite indications that it was very small.
The Salt Lake and Fort Douglas Railroad’s first locomotive was so short in the wheelbase that its wheels fell between the rails on a curve used by a Denver and Rio Grande Western locomotive. Another indication of the small size was the fact that it was capable of pushing only a single flatcar load of rails at a time. While better than no motive power at all, this locomotive’s limitations rendered it unsuitable if the S. L. & F. D. was going to become a viable concern.
During August 1887, negotiations were opened with the Utah and Northern Railroad to purchase some of their excess narrow gauge equipment. This opportunity was the result of the U. & N. broadening to standard gauge between Ogden and the mines it served in Montana. As a result, a number of narrow gauge locomotives and cars were becoming available. Young took immediate advantage of this market.
On October 11, 1887, the Salt Lake and Fort Douglas Railroad ordered one locomotive from the Utah and Northern shops in Pocatello, Idaho, at a bargain price of $2,500. On November 7, a second locomotive was ordered from the same source. These locomotives were numbered S. L. & F. D. No. 1 and 2 respectively, and both were manufactured by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1879. (ed note: Utah Northern numbers 9, 10, 11, 12, 14) They were rebuilt in 1880, probably when air brakes were added, and were inspected in September 1887. At the time of their last inspection by the U. & N. they were rated as in "good condition." With the addition of these locomotives to the S. L. & F. D. inventory, it was finally in a position to provide service to the businesses along its route, and also push ahead much faster in the laying of track on completed roadbed.
As construction neared Fort Douglas, an additional six locomotives and eighty-six cars were ordered from the Utah and Northern. Some of this equipment was used on the Salt Lake and Eastern after that railroad was organized in the fall of 1888. All of these locomotives were equipped with air brakes for safety on the steep grades of the Salt Lake and Fort Douglas and the Salt Lake and Eastern railroads.
As a direct result of the 6 percent grade up Red Butte Canyon, a special style of locomotive, and one of the few new pieces of equipment obtained by any of John W. Young’s railroads, was ordered. This locomotive, known as a Shay because of its special equipage, was received in December 1888, and was put into immediate use serving the rock quarries in Red Butte Canyon. Two additional Shays were ordered in the fall of 1889 for use on the Salt Lake and Eastern. These locomotives were received in 1890 and placed into service hauling the loaded ore and rock trains over the summit of Parleys, again along another stretch of track with a 6 percent grade.
Passenger train or freight train, Baldwin or Shay locomotive, the steep grade presented problems going both up and down Parleys Canyon. To prevent runaways, a six mile per flour speed limit was imposed on downhill traffic approaching and passing through the steepest gradient.
All factors considered, John W. Young’s railroad ventures during the decade of 1884-1893 totaled a respectable number of miles of track. The Salt Lake and Fort Douglas completed about 15 miles and the Salt Lake and Eastern completed about 26 miles of main line track. Both of these railroads had additional trackage in the form of spurs and passing tracks, for a total of about 20 and 36 miles respectively of completed rails. The Salt Lake and Eastern also had 25 miles of grade without rails, while the Utah Western had 15 miles of grade upon which track was never laid. While reports are not in total agreement, rolling upon the rails were at least 9 locomotives, and nearly 100 cars of various types. As the railroads were constructed and equipment improved--the grade, the ties, bridges, and trestles, the rails, spikes, and hardware, the locomotives, passenger and freight cars, the depots, repair facilities, and water tanks, to say nothing of the men who built, ran, and maintained all of this--the expense increased. Money, or the lack thereof, was of prime importance to the construction and operation of these railroads.
 As a general rule, railroads seek to avoid a gradient increase in excess of 4.5. percent, which is a vertical rise of four feet six inches per hundred feet of horizontal travel. At any paint that a grade exceeds 4.5. percent, the ability of the locomotive to pull heavy loads is noticeably decreased. Likewise, due to the rigid frame of the locomotive, the radius of the curves must be broad enough to allow passage of the drive wheels.
 John W. Young to John M. Whitaker, July 2, 1889. JWY papers.
 Charles W. Hardy was 42 years old at this time. His railroad engineering experience began when he worked on the Utah Central in 1869-1870. Jenson, Biographical Encyclopedia, 2:101.
 U. S. Geological Survey Map, "Salt Lake City North, Utah."
 Bench marks on file, Salt Lake City Engineers Office, compiled and revised in 1966.
 Some of Charles W. Hardy’s engineering papers are held in the collection bearing his name at the Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.
 The Chase mill still stands in Liberty Park, although the watercourse for its wheels has been nearly obliterated. Unfortunately the structure itself is beginning to collapse from a lack of building maintenance and preservation.
 John W. Young to (?), November 2, 1885. JWY papers.
 Arthur Stayner to D. Brinton, November 11, 1886. JWY papers.
 Copy of original woodcut in author’s possession, received from the Utah State Historical Society. The ravine has been filled in or modified beyond recognition as an inspection on foot failed to reveal any clues to the author as to its exact location.
 Arthur Stayner to John W. Young, March 30, 1887. JWY papers.
 Memo, S. L. & F. D. to D. & R. G. W., January 25, 1887. JWY papers. Also Salt Lake Tribune, November 25, 1887.
 John W. Young to Superintendent, St. Mary’s Hospital, May 4, 1888. Also, John W. Young to Mr. Joseph Richardson, August 29 and September 14, 1888. JWY papers. Also Salt Lake Tribune, June 29, 1888.
 Salt Lake Tribune, October 28, 1888.
 Salt Lake Tribune, September 16, 1888. Also John W. Young to Governor Caleb W. West, October 20, 1888. JWY papers.
 Railroad minutes, September 25, 1888. JWY papers.
 Athearn, Rebel of the Rockies, 167.
 Salt Lake Tribune, November 3, 1888.
 John W. Young to Joseph Richardson, July 3, 1889. JWY papers.
 After the turn of the century this was accomplished by the D. & R. G. W., which had gained control of the Parleys Canyon route. Plans on file in the Salt Lake City Engineers Office.
 A switchback, from above, resembles the letter "Z" with elongated upper and lower bars. The train entered one bar and pulled ahead until clear of the switch. Stopping, the switch was then turned, allowing the train to back across the angled section, past another switch and onto the other horizontal bar. Once the engine was clear of the second switch, it was turned and the train then continued on its original direction of travel. Switch and back, commonly called switchbacks, thus allowed the grade to either gain or lose altitude within a restricted area. The slowing effect of passage, however, in such an operation is obvious.
 Salt Lake Tribune, December 22, 1888. Also Callister and Melville to John M. Whitaker, May 20, 1889. Western Americana.
 Park Record, Park City, Utah, March 22, 1890.
 Park Record, May 24, 1890.
 Salt Lake Tribune, September 17, 1890.
 Park Record, November 8, 1890.
 John W. Young to Junius Wells, July 5, 1889, and John W. Young to Benjamin Watson, July 11, 1889. JWY papers.
 Salt Lake Tribune, November 10, 1889.
 John W. Young to Benjamin Watson, July 11, 1889. JWY papers.
 This was a common way of building roads found throughout Utah. Knowlton, Highway Development in Utah contains numerous descriptions of this method of road construction, identical to the method used in establishing a railroad roadbed.
 John W. Young to Benjamin Watson, July 11, 1889. JWY papers.
 Salt Lake Tribune, October 30, 1891.
 Adkins manuscript, "End of Track: Park City", Utah State Historical Society. The U. P. system obtained and abandoned the U. E. because it competed against the Echo and Park City Railroad.
 John W. Young to C. F. Mellen, U. P. R.R., September 18, 1888. Also John W. Young to "Engineers on the Utah Eastern Railway", October 15, 1888. JWY papers.
 John W. Young to D. & R. G. W. Railroad, January 25, 1887. Also Arthur Stayner to John W. Young, November 26, 1886. JWY papers.
 Arthur Stayner to John W. Young, November 20, 1886. JWY papers.
 Arthur Stayner to John W. Young, November 26, 1886. JWY papers. The crown sheet was the flat top plate of the firebox. Until the advent of steel fireboxes, the crownsheet had a life expectancy of about three years before it was necessary to patch or replace it. See John H. White, Jr., American Locomotives: An Engineering History, 1830-1880 (Baltimore, Md.: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1968), 102-105.
 Arthur Stayner to John W. Young, January 15, 1887. JWY papers. Shortly the S. L. & F. D. would build their own repair shops at Sugar House.
 Arthur Stayner to John W. Young, January 15, 1887. JWY papers.
 Arthur Stayner to John W. Young, March 14, 1887. JWY papers.
 Arthur Stayner to Mr. Hickey, October 11, 1887. JWY papers.
 Arthur Stayner to Mr. Hickey, October 11, 1887. JWY papers.
 Telegram, John W. Young to Robert Croft, November 7, 1887. JWY papers.
 Barry B. Combs, Union Pacific Railroad to author, July 17, 1974.
 John W. Young to Joseph Richardson, May 1, 1888. JWY papers.
 John W. Young to W. W. Riter, August 30, 1888. JWY papers.
 Salt Lake Tribune, December 12, 1888. Also John M. Whitaker to John W. Young, January 2, 1889. JWY papers. Most locomotives were set up with a wheel arrangement consisting of main or driving wheels operated directly by a rod coming from a horizontal, or nearly so, steam piston. The drivers could be preceded by weight supporting leading wheels and followed by other weight supporting trailing wheels. The Baldwin locomotives owned by the S. L. & F. D. and the S. L. & E. railroads had two leading wheels and six 36-inch diameter driving wheels (one and three, respectively, on each side of the locomotive) on a fourteen or fifteen foot rigid wheelbase. These were referred to as 2-6-0’s reflecting the wheel arrangement. The Shay design incorporated vertical cylinders operating a geared drive shaft. This shaft drove a series of sets of wheels mounted on trucks similar to those found on freight and passenger cars. The trucks were mounted front, center and rear of the locomotive frame, and all wheels were drive wheels. This method permitted a maximum number of drive wheels and, because the trucks swiveled, enabled the locomotive to be used over short radius curves.
 John W. Young to L. C. Trent, October 28, 1889. JWY papers.
 John W. Young to Joseph H. Young, December 25, 1889. JWY papers. Also Park Record, February 8, 1890.
 John W. Young to Joseph H. Young, December 25, 1889. JWY papers.
 Territorial Board of Equalization, Book 1 (1892), 65. State Archives.