Utah Idaho Central
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This page was last updated on August 25, 2015.
(Updated from text originally published in 2005 as part of the book, Ogden Rails)
Ogden Rails, A History of Railroading At The Crossroads Of The West
(Union Pacific Historical Society, 2005) (Available from UPHS.)
The Utah Idaho Central Railroad began as the Ogden, Logan & Idaho Railway. The earlier road had merged the streetcar and suburban lines of two companies organized by David Eccles and his associates, Ogden Rapid Transit Co. and Logan Rapid Transit Co., in both of those cities in 1914, and connected the two by way of Brigham City in 1915. (Electric Railway Journal, Volume 44, no. 18, October 31, 1914, p. 1030; Volume 44, no. 23, December 5, 1914, p. 1253)
Logan Rapid Transit had in 1912 completed its line north to Preston, Idaho. Preston was to remain the northern end of a network of electric interurban railroads extended along the Wasatch Front from Cache Valley in the north, south to Payson, at the southern end of the Utah Valley. David Eccles died of an apparent heart attack while hurrying to catch a train in Salt Lake City on December 5, 1912, but his sons and associates kept his numerous business interests going with the same vision and concern.
Ogden Rapid Transit had its roots in 1883 as the street railroad in Ogden. By 1907, the line had been extended to Brigham City, under the auspices of a new Eccles company, the Ogden & Northwestern Railway, which also built a line to Plain City in 1909. The Ogden & Northwestern lines were sold in 1911 to Ogden Rapid Transit, which had also completed a line into Ogden Canyon to The Hermitage resort in 1909. When these two rapid transit companies merged on October 17, 1914, the new company was made up of the streetcar lines in Ogden, the line up Ogden canyon to The Hermitage, the line through North Ogden to Hot Springs and Brigham City, and the former O&NW branch to Plain City, along with Logan Rapid Transit streetcar lines in Logan, and LRT lines north from Logan to Smithfield, and south from Logan to Providence. The Smithfield line was extended to Preston, Idaho, and Providence line was extended to Wellsville, in 1915 by the new Ogden, Logan & Idaho Railway.
Soon after the organization of the Ogden, Logan & Idaho, the two predecessor lines were connected via new construction between Brigham City and Wellsville, via Collinston Summit (route of today's Utah Highway 30 between Garland and Logan). The line over Collinston was completed by renovating the abandoned right-of-way of the narrow-gauge Utah Northern, built in 1873 and abandoned in 1890. The right-of-way north from Brigham City was planned as early as May 1910 when Ogden Rapid Transit had purchased property along the "Old County Road." (Box Elder County Recorder, Book J, p. 406)
The connection was completed in mid-October 1915, and the first train between Ogden and Preston was operated on October 14. (Electric Railway Journal, Volume 44, no. 24, December 12, 1914, pp. 1304, 1305; Volume 46, no. 18, October 30, 1915, p. 924; Volume 46, no. 22, November 27, 1915, pp. 1073, 1074)
The new line was officially opened on October 27, 1915. At first, the company ran 16 passenger trains a day in each direction between Ogden and Preston, and another two between Ogden and Brigham City. The trip to Preston took five hours northbound, and 10 minutes less for the return to Ogden.
Providing freight service was an important source of revenue for the Utah Idaho Central and its predecessor companies since the earliest days as Ogden Rapid Transit. That early traffic, in the link-and-pin coupler days, was operated with ORT's Number 1 steam locomotive from the Oregon Short Line interchange at Five Points, north along the North Ogden Line to the cannery in North Ogden. Coal and fruit was also moved to Brigham City. Freight traffic grew until freight revenues exceeded passenger revenues by a considerable margin. Utah Idaho Central participated in both local and national freight tariff rates and maintained freight interchanges at Ogden with D&RGW, Southern Pacific, OSL, and Bamberger, with OSL at Dewey, and with OSL's Cache Valley Branch at Hyrum and Logan, Utah, and Preston, Idaho. UIC provided free pick-up and delivery of less-than-carload (LCL) freight traffic at all of its agency stations, and provided next-morning delivery of both carload and LCL shipments between the Cache Valley and Ogden, and Salt Lake City via interchange with Bamberger. Express service was offered, using the Railway Express Agency from all stations along the UIC. LCL and express business was handled along the UIC by two rebuilt passenger motors, car numbers 505 and 510, which provided speedy and efficient movement for these light shipments during both daytime hours and as the overnight merchandiser. (Swett, Interurbans of Utah, p. 90)
Along the Ogden Canyon line, freight traffic going between Ogden and Huntsville and surrounding communities consisted of sheep and sugar beets, and other farm products, along with clay. From the earliest, former Ogden Rapid Transit days, full carloads of coal were moved up Ogden Canyon to The Hermitage resort. Materials and equipment for the construction of Pine View Dam were shipped into the canyon before the branch was abandoned in 1932. (Swett, Interurbans of Utah, p. 90)
The main line, between Ogden and Preston, Idaho, handled such items as coal, peas, fruit, milk and other dairy products, cement, gravel, sugar beets, automobiles, brick, and livestock. The Plain City Branch also handled this same variety of freight commodities.
The completion of improved roads, using both local and national tax dollars, brought competing truck lines into all of UIC's service area. As more highways were completed, UIC's freight business slowly dwindled until it depended almost entirely on bulk items, such as gravel and coal. (Swett, Interurbans of Utah, p. 90)
In addition to using cars interchanged with connecting railroads, Utah Idaho Central had its own fleet of freight cars. Among them were wooden boxcars, wooden refrigerator cars purchased secondhand in 1916 from American Refrigerated Transportation in St. Louis, former OSL wooden stock cars purchased secondhand from Union Pacific in 1916, wooden gondolas used for coal and brick service, wooden flat cars, wooden center-dump cars used for sugar beet service, and small wooden dump cars for clay service. In 1921, the railroad bought 100 new steel gondolas from Ralston Steel Car Co., and in 1939 it purchased three ex-Pacific Fruit Express refrigerator cars which it used as dry box cars. Many of UIC's cars saw more than 20 years of on-line and interchange service and were retired by 1938. The road's caboose fleet consisted of three wooden cars, numbers 401 to 403, built by predecessor road Ogden, Logan & Idaho in its own shops in 1916. (Swett, Interurbans of Utah, p. 90)
By mid-1918, electric railroads were already feeling the pressure of competition from the automobile. There were enough residents of Ogden, Logan, and Brigham City now driving to work, rather than riding the electric cars, that UIC applied to the Public Service Commission of Utah for relief from having separate commuter rates for these three cities. On July 16, 1918, PSC approved the railroad's request. By this time the streetcar line in Brigham City was seeing only intermittent service provided by just one car. (Public Service Commission of Utah, case 43)
In August 1919, UIC received regulatory approval to discontinue and dismantle its streetcar line in Brigham City. That line was a single track from the Union Pacific (OSL) depot, east along Forest Avenue to Main Street, then south along Main and U. S. Highway 89 for about three miles to Fruitdale, this part of the line being the remaining portion of the old Ogden Rapid Transit line between Ogden and Brigham City. (Public Service Commission of Utah, case 205)
The diminishing numbers of passengers on the local and suburban lines continued to keep revenues lower than expected. This decline was blamed on the growing numbers of automobiles. The most obvious declining numbers were coming from the Ogden streetcar lines, which were broken off as a separate operation in January 1920, calling itself Utah Rapid Transit, and also controlled by the Eccles family interests. The main benefit would be that management could now focus on streetcar operations, and not have to worry about inter-city passenger operations and the growing freight traffic. Likewise, Utah Idaho Central could now focus on improving its operations, without concern for Ogden's streetcars.
UIC retained the Plain City Branch because of its significant freight operations. Another freight branch was the Quinney Branch in Cache Valley, built by the Eccles' Cache Valley Railroad to serve the new sugar factory of Amalgamated Sugar Co. (also an Eccles company) at Quinney (later Amalga). Built in 1916, it served mainly to transport sugar beets to the sugar factory.
Utah Idaho Central possibly had the lowest population density for an large interurban system in the nation, fewer than 400 people per square mile. Because of the low population density, and therefore very large school districts, the railroad contracted with the districts to furnish school trains, which in later years accounted for more than 80 percent of the railroad's passenger revenue. During 1919, six daily trains ran between Preston and Ogden, with a Saturday through Monday train between Preston and Wellsville, and a stub daily train between Ogden and Dewey. The only passenger service offered on the Quinney Branch was a two-car school train. (Hilton, pp. 116-117)
As the nation's highways were slowly being improved, the amount of local passenger traffic for the interurban railroad slowly declined. Also, the cities began improving and paving their streets. With the Utah Idaho Central's tracks in place down its streets, Logan City expected the railroad to pay its share of the paving costs. Revenues derived from streetcar operations in Logan did not justify sharing in the paving expense, so UIC sought to abandon the streetcar service, retaining only its main line on Main Street, and its freight connection to OSL along Third South. In early September 1926, Utah Idaho Central received state Public Service Commission approval to abandon its streetcar line in Logan, and replace the service with gasoline buses. The street car service in Logan was operated with two cars, numbers 211 and 212. The Logan street car route was from the OSL Logan depot, east along Center Street from 6th West to Main Street, then north along Main Street, via the UIC interurban tracks, to 4th North, then east along 4th North to 6th East, then north along 6th East to 9th North. There was also a one block line along 7th East between 4th and 5th North. (Public Service Commission of Utah, case 902; Electric Railway Journal, Volume 68, no. 15 October 9, 1926, p. 688)
The company was already operating two Mack buses between Ogden and Preston, since August 1924. Utah Idaho Central received Public Service Commission approval in late July 1925 to start motor bus (known then as auto stage) service between Ogden and Logan. (Public Service Commission of Utah, case 809)
The changes in 1926 put two buses on the streets of Logan, with three more small buses added in 1935 and 1936. In 1938, several other buses were purchased. A single bus was added in 1940, and two more in 1945. All revenues continued to fall and in June 1947, Utah Idaho Central's bus operations were sold to Burlington Transportation Co. At the time, Union Pacific Stages and Fastway Lines were also operating over the same routes. Fastway Lines was owned and operated by Vern Cook of Logan, who sold his Salt Lake City-Cache Valley routes to Burlington in February 1948 in exchange for Burlington's local ex-UIC routes between Wellsville and Logan, along with the former UIC Logan city service. In 1969, Cook purchased the former Bamberger bus routes of Lake Shore Lines from Salt Lake City Lines and combined them with his former UIC Ogden to Cache Valley routes, all under the name of Cook Transportation Co. (Motor Coach Age, Volume 39, Number 6-7 [June-July 1987], pp. 7, 8)
The struggles of Utah Idaho Central against the combination of Union Pacific's regular service to Cache Valley, and the rapidly developing public highway system soon brought financial troubles to the company. On August 20, 1926, court appointed receivers took control. The bankruptcy case was brought by Westinghouse as a final effort in the debt for UIC's electrification and improvements. A new Utah Idaho Central was organized on November 20, 1926 to assume control of the railroad. (Public Service Commission of Utah, case 928; Electric Railway Journal, Volume 68, no. 9 August 28, 1926, p. 364)
An excellent description of Utah Idaho Central was filed with federal regulatory agencies in 1936, in a case to determine the company's status as a common carrier. (Railway Labor Act Docket 12, decided March 18, 1936, in ICC Reports Volume 241, pp. 707-716 [241 ICC 707])
In that document, the railroad was shown to be 94.63 miles in length, with two branch lines, one at seven miles (the Plain City Branch) and the other at 14 miles (the Quinney Branch). The line included 36 miles of spurs and yard tracks, making for a total of more than 152 miles of trackage, all in Utah, except for about seven miles in Idaho. Principle cities served were: Ogden, population 40,272; Brigham City, population 5,093; Logan, population 9,979; and Preston, population 3,381. There were 80 miles of 70-pound rail and 11 miles of 65-pound rail, with the remainder ranging from 40 pounds per yard to 85 pounds per yard. The ties were 6 inches by 8 inches and eight feet long. Only 11 miles of the line had tie plates, allowing accelerated chafing and wear between the wooden ties and the steel rail on the remaining trackage. The grade (rate of climb) of the line varied between level and almost 19 miles of 2 percent (2 feet of climb per 100 feet of track), most of which was over the Collinston Divide between Bear River Valley and Cache Valley. The maximum grade was in Logan, where a short stretch of 4.77 percent was needed because of the in-street running along Main Street at about 100 South. Most of the curves were at 12 degrees or less, but there were some spurs with 60 degrees of curvature (100-foot radius), which were so tight that they required boxcars to be switched one at a time.
UIC passenger trains in 1936 usually consisted of just one car, with a second car at times, making an average of 1.1 cars per train for the year. The adjacent steam roads were operating passenger trains of between seven and 11 cars each. There were 73 stops along the line, of which 52 were flag stops. Of the total of 408,634 passengers, 175,599 were students going to and from the public schools at the public expense. The average fare was 20 cents.
Freight traffic consisted of agricultural products, such as sugar beets, milk, tomatoes, and peas moving to factories, canneries, or processing plants along the line, and manufactured goods moving to connecting railroads. Because of the special nature of this raw agricultural traffic, many of the trains were only one or two cars in length. A daily express and package train operated with refrigeration facilities during summer and heating during winter. During the year, freight trains along the main line averaged 6.2 cars each, and the number of trains varied from 4.4 during March, to 14.7 during the harvest in October, making for an annual average of 7.7 trains per day, compared to 45 to 63 cars per day on the nearby steam roads. During 1934, Utah Idaho Central handled 6,354 carloads, of which 2,226 were local and 4,017 were interchanged with other carriers. Of the interchange traffic, 2,075 cars were moved to points in Utah, and the other 1,942 were moved to points in other states. During that same year, the railroad delivered traffic (including beets, coal, sand, gravel, gasoline, ties, lumber, poles and tin cans for the canneries) from 31 states, and shipped goods bound for 26 states (including beets, sugar, potatoes, sand, gravel, milk, canned goods, tomatoes, sheep, tin cans, and cattle).
Freight revenue always exceeded passenger revenue on the Utah Idaho Central. During 1933 and 1934, freight revenue was six times that of the passenger business, and throughout the 1920s and 1930s it was always at least twice, and usually three or four times passenger revenues. The company owned five 50-ton electric locomotives and two 35-ton electric locomotives. Three self-propelled cars hauled package freight, and they could pull other cars as needed. The largest locomotives could pull 1,000 tons, or an average of 12 to 14 cars of 45 tons each. Occasionally, a helper locomotive was needed over Collinston Divide. At times, entire trains of empty cars were operated, but these were limited to 35 cars due to air brake considerations. The company owned 100 gondola cars (the 1921-built steel cars), 22 ballast cars, 18 boxcars, 14 flat cars, 12 stock cars, and seven refrigerator cars. But UIC admitted that only the gondola cars were suitable for interchange with connecting carriers. The one fact that becomes apparent from this 1936 description of the railroad was that the Utah Idaho Central was a freight railroad that also hauled passengers, 42 percent of whom were school children handled under contract with the local school districts.
During the late 1930s, there were even more changes, driven by the continuing improvement of the public highways. In Ogden, one of the main thoroughfares was Wall Avenue. To widen the road north of 20th Street, on October 8, 1938, Utah Idaho Central received Public Service Commission approval to change the layout and relocate some of the tracks in the vicinity of the Ogden Repair Shops, to allow the construction of Wall Avenue along the west side of its property. (Public Service Commission of Utah, case 2172)
In 1939 and 1940, the company reorganized and restructured its financial debt, with no change in actual ownership, mainly members of both the Eccles and Browning families. Throughout these years, the railroad always met its expenses, with revenues exceeding expenses by between 20 and 30 percent. In the reorganization papers, it showed that it operated 160.08 miles of track, consisting of 94.63 miles of mainline, 26.04 miles of branch line, and 39.41 miles of sidings and spurs. The company also owned 15 self-propelled passenger cars, seven passenger trailers, seven freight locomotives, four self-propelled express cars, two self-propelled work cars, 176 freight cars, and five motor buses. (ICC Reports, Finance Docket 12664, decided June 5, 1940, pp. 315-323)
On October 29, 1940, Utah Idaho Central Railroad Corporation received Public Service Commission approval to take over the property of the Utah Idaho Central Railroad Company. (Public Service Commission of Utah, case 2417)
The same individuals also owned the Salt Lake & Utah Railroad, which operated an interurban railroad between Salt Lake City and Payson, at the south end of Utah Valley, along with the Utah Rapid Transit Co., operators of the buses within Ogden City.
As noted earlier, in the discussion of Oregon Short Line, OSL predecessor Oregon Short Line & Utah Northern in 1892 built a one-mile branch line from its main line, east along Second Street to Washington Avenue, where it interchanged with Ogden & Hot Springs Railroad and its line to North Ogden. In September 1942, as part of preparations for construction of the U. S. Army's Quartermaster Corps' Utah General Depot (now Defense Depot Ogden), Ogden City took the franchise away for the OSL branch along Second Street, and ordered UP to remove its tracks. Rail access to the depot was to be by way of UP's remaining five-mile stub of the original 1869 transcontinental line.
Union Pacific fought the loss of the Second Street franchise all the way to the Utah State Supreme Court, but lost in February 1943. A time extension was given, but UP finally removed its tracks along Second Street, from its main line to Washington Boulevard. This also cut Utah Idaho Central's access to its 3.55-mile long North Ogden Line, which it reached by trackage rights over the UP branch line between the branch's crossing of the UIC main line and Washington Boulevard, then north along the boulevard to North Ogden. In October 1944, Utah Idaho Central applied to abandon its North Ogden Line. The proposed abandonment was protested by Ben Lomond Orchard Co., North Ogden Canning Co., North Ogden Fruit Exchange, and North Ogden Town itself. The only spur on the line served North Ogden Canning Co. A fruit loading track in North Ogden was used by the other protestors. Aside from the fact that UIC had lost access to the line, it showed that expenses far exceeded any potential revenue from continued operations and in December 1944, it was allowed to abandon and remove its trackage along Washington Boulevard.
On December 13, 1944, Utah Idaho Central received Public Service Commission approval to abandon the North Ogden Line. (Public Service Commission of Utah, case 2818)
A decline of local passenger and freight traffic following the end of World War II dealt the death blow to an already ailing Utah Idaho Central. The lifting of wartime restrictions on fuel and "unnecessary" travel saw the rise of private auto travel, along with the growth of trucks moving less-than-carload freight traffic over the publicly funded and maintained highway that paralleled the entire Utah Idaho Central route between Ogden and Cache Valley.
During the peak year of 1945, Utah Idaho Central handled 238,702 passengers, an average of 653 passengers per day, together with 136,272 passengers in its motor coaches along the paralleling highways. A peak year for freight traffic was 1942, when 478,486 tons were handled in 10,746 cars (about 30 cars a day). (ICC Finance Docket 15549, Return To Questionnaire, pp. 14, 15)
The declining traffic, both freight and passenger, soon led the railroad into difficulties with its shareholders and bondholders. One of the company's major shippers had always been the Amalgamated Sugar Co. Utah Idaho Central was the major source of transportation for the sugar company, moving freshly harvested sugar beets from trackside loaders to the sugar company's sugar factory at Lewiston, and moving the finished product to both regional and national markets. After other, unsuccessful, alternatives were explored, a last-resort appeal on the part of the railroad was made to the board of directors of Amalgamated to assume the management and direction of the railroad's affairs. (Actually, the two corporations shared many of the same board members, since they were both Eccles enterprises.) The board accepted, and on January 1, 1945, Amalgamated Sugar Co. took 96 percent ownership of the railroad. Financial difficulties continued, and UIC declared formal bankruptcy in December 1946. (Bachman, Story of the Amalgamated Sugar Company, 1897-1961, p. 162)
On January 31, 1947, Utah Idaho Central applied to the Interstate Commerce Commission to abandon of its entire railroad. The major reason given was due to its economic condition, the railroad had been forced to continually defer maintenance, and at the time, it would require an expenditure of $350,000 to bring the railroad up to minimal operational standards. The deferred maintenance had been in its ties, ballast, rail, roadbed drainage, fences, gates, cattle guards, overhead wire and structure, and all of its rolling equipment. A high percentage of its ties were old and decayed. Many rails were surface-bent and had battered joints, especially in the cities and towns, and on the curves. At many locations, the track had sunk below water level due to inadequate ballast and roadbed drainage. The salvage value of all property was put at $640,000. (ICC Finance Docket 15549, Return To Questionnaire, p. 2)
During its final days, the railroad exchanged freight traffic with Union Pacific, Southern Pacific, Rio Grande, and Bamberger, all at Ogden. It did the same with Union Pacific at Brigham City, Dewey, Hyrum, Logan, and Lewiston. As 1947 began, two round-trip passenger trains ran daily, including No. 1 and No. 4, the daily mail train. But on January 5, 1947, the second train, numbers 2 and 3, stopped running between Logan and Ogden. (Salt Lake Tribune, January 5, 1947)
This change left only a single passenger train in each direction each day between Preston, Idaho, and Ogden, which also carried mail and express items. (ICC Finance Docket 15549, Return To Questionnaire, pp. 2,3)
Also by January 1947, the entire UIC route between Ogden and Preston is paralleled by truck service from Fuller-Topance Truck Line and by bus service from Cook Transportation Company. (Public Service Commission of Utah, case 3078)
During the previous five years, the company had eliminated one stub run between Logan and Preston, along with another stub run between Logan and Mendon. In addition, it had eliminated two school trains between Logan and Mendon, and one daily trip each way between Ogden and Preston, along with a scheduled freight and less-than-carload train in each direction.
The last run for the Utah Idaho Central came on Saturday, February 15, 1947, after a federal judge issued an order on February 13 suspending the line's operations. (Salt Lake Tribune, February 16, 1947)
The court order had come at the request of the line's trustee, First Security Corporation (organized in June 1928 as a consolidation of several Eccles- and Browning-owned banks), which had held the financial "paper" on the railroad since the 1939 reorganization. The complaint stated that the railroad had used its profits to pay only interest on its debt and had been unable to pay down any of the actual principal amount owed from the 1939 loan of $452,000. The complaint also stated that all maintenance on the line had been deferred in favor of interest payments. Between 1942 and 1946, UIC had run at a loss, showing a debt of more than $289,000 - unable to make money even carrying wartime loads, the opposite of almost every other railroad in America. The end of railroad operations brought all of the line's freight and passenger equipment to a standstill, including nine locomotives, 16 passenger cars, nine miscellaneous cars, and 15 other freight cars. The shutdown idled 190 employees. Even though trains stopped running, UIC buses continued to run between Ogden and Preston three times daily. In June 1947, Utah Idaho Central's bus operations were sold to Burlington Transportation Co. and operated by Burlington Trailways, and later by Cook Transportation Co.
In May 1947, the Ogden car barns at 17th Street and Lincoln Avenue were sold to the Ogden Transit Co. (successor to Ogden-streetcar operator, Utah Rapid Transit Co.) for use as a garage for its gasoline buses. The brick car barns measured 90 feet by 325 feet, and had been completed in 1915 by the predecessor line, Ogden, Logan & Idaho, and was known as one of the largest and most modern car shops in the west. The shops consisted of six brick buildings, including the car barn, the machine, blacksmith and truck shop, the paint and carpenter shop, the substation (added in 1918), and the boiler house. After the transit company ended its bus operations, the buildings were used by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints as a storehouse. (Public Service Commission of Utah, case 3121)
As one of its final acts of bankruptcy, UIC in February 1948 sold its right-of-way between Hot Springs and Collinston to the Utah State Road Commission for $22,193. On July 18, 1947 the District Court of Northern Utah, in case 1249, ordered the UIC to sell its real estate. The State Road Commission purchased the right of way between Hot Springs and Collinston on February 26, 1948, in three parcels, for $22,193. (Box Elder County Recorder, Book of Deeds 56, pp. 170-199)
On March 16, 1948, the receiver of Utah Idaho Central received Public Service Commission approval to the receiver's request to destroy the records of the corporation because they are no longer of use. (Supplementary order to Public Service Commission of Utah, case 2336)
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