Major Rail-Served Industries in Ogden
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This page was last updated on July 11, 2017.
(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.)
With the development of the large railroad terminal in Ogden in the mid- and late-1870s, business and industry soon took advantage of the availability of cheaper rail transportation. Other than the mining industry, one of the first major industries served by railroads in Utah was the shipment of salt from the shores of Great Salt Lake. In addition to being used by farmers and ranchers throughout the region, salt was needed in the silver reduction mills of Montana, and increasingly in Utah, as flux for their ores. Among the earliest salt plants, in 1880, was George Payne's, located in Syracuse, named for the salt-industry center of the same name in New York state. The shipment of salt started with the use of wagons to haul dry salt from the lake shore to the new Utah Central line completed between Ogden and Salt Lake City in 1870.
Other early industries served by Ogden-area railroads included agricultural products for sale outside of the immediate vicinity. One of the first was the export of eggs from Cache Valley by Adams & Vandyke, an Ogden freighting firm. From 1869 to 1871, many shipments of eggs, along with butter, went to the mining and railroad towns in Nevada, and further west to San Francisco. At the same time, Adams & Vandyke encouraged local farmers to grow crops for cash sale. The most successful of these was potatoes, with "car-loads upon car-loads" being sent to Colorado and California, starting a demand for Utah potatoes and a "potato boom" that lasted from the 1870s until at least the late 1880s. (The Western Galaxy, Volume 1, Number 4, June 1888, p. 458)
Wheat was also an early Utah commodity that was shipped by rail. In 1879, the ship "Ivy" sailed from San Francisco bound for Europe with 66,000 bushels (1,905 tons, or about 63 30-ton carloads) of Utah wheat. The grain had been gathered at Ogden by Zions Co-operative Mercantile Institute and sent to San Francisco by rail over the Central Pacific. Carload shipments of Utah peaches, plums, and pears also made their way by rail to markets in California. Beginning in 1881, H. L. Griffin began shipping fruits and produce from Utah to markets throughout the West, and sent many shipments of potatoes to Illinois, Ohio, Tennessee, and Texas. In 1887 alone, he shipped 165 carloads, along with 85,000 dozen eggs. David Kay acted as broker for more than 800 carloads of grain, dried fruit, seeds, and potatoes to almost every state, from California in the west to New York in the east. (The Western Galaxy, Volume 1, Number 4, June 1888, p. 459)
After its beginnings in the early 1880s, the salt traffic soon grew to such proportions, about 20,000 tons per year (90,000 tons for the entire eastern shore by 1891), that Union Pacific began thinking of building a branch directly to the salt plants on the lake shore. In February 1887 the Ogden & Syracuse Railway was organized to build that branch line, although actual construction had already begun in January. This line was completed between Syracuse Junction (the name was later changed to Clearfield) and Syracuse, almost six miles to the west, on the lake shore. However, the combined effects of the silver collapse of 1893 (with a resulting decrease in silver mill market) and a low cycle of natural changes in lake level caused a cutback in salt production. Traffic on the branch soon depended almost solely on visitors to the Lake Shore resort, built adjacent to the salt works. The Ogden & Syracuse Railway was one of the companies that merged to form the Oregon Short Line & Utah Northern in July 1889, and the line became the OSL&UN's (and later OSL's) Syracuse Branch. It remained in operation until the salt works failed completely and the receding lake shore brought about the closing of the resort.
The branch remained intact until March 1906 when it was shortened by about one mile. The rest of the Syracuse Branch stayed in service, mostly for sugar beet service, until August 1955, when it was cut back to its present three mile length, ending in east Syracuse at the C. H. Dredge warehouse on 2000 West. By 2001, no rail traffic had moved over the line west of the Freeport Center for over at least two years. On April 10, 2001, the federal Surface Transportation Board gave its approval for UP to abandon the western one-mile portion of what was by then known as the Syracuse Industrial Lead. The abandonment became effective on May 22, 2001, and affected from milepost 1.1 west to milepost 2.182. The trackage to milepost 1.1 remained in use as part of the Freeport Center complex.
Ogden Union Stock Yards
Ogden Union Stock Yards and the meat packing industry
The railroad stock car was developed as one of the first special-design freight cars, to handle live cattle from the open ranges of the West to the markets of the East and Midwest. The much-romanticized cowboys and cattle drives of the 1860s to 1880s that brought Texas beef to the railheads at Dodge City and Wichita, Kansas, became possible only with the availability of the stock car. Ogden, too, was a shipment point for livestock. Maps from 1874 show a large "horse corral" and large stockyards served by Central Pacific. By 1889, large stockyards and horse corrals were located on Central Pacific land between the CP tracks and the Weber River. These stockyards were jointly served by both standard-gauge roads, Union Pacific and CP, as well as by the narrow-gauge D&RGW (and later standard-gauge Rio Grande Western). In May 1898, both Rio Grande Western and Oregon Short Line signed an agreement with UP that allowed the two companies access to the "Stockyard or Stock Corral." The annual fee was set at $350 for each company. (Rio Grande Western, Lease From The Union Pacific Railroad Company to The Rio Grande Western Railway Company and The Oregon Short Line Railroad Company of the Stock Corral at Ogden., May 31, 1898)
As the livestock industry in Utah continued to grow, so, too, did the livestock handling facilities, culminating in the giant Ogden Union Stockyards, completed in 1917. A year previously, as shown on a map dating from 1916, the need for a new location was evident by the extensive stockyards crowded in between the SP yards, the old Utah Central main line, and the 1897-built UP roundhouse. In addition to handling beef cattle, Ogden soon developed into the sheep center of the West, and later became the home for the largest lamb slaughtering industry in the nation. The location on West 24th Street near the Weber River of the Ogden Packing & Provision Co.'s slaughterhouse (later the American Packing & Provision Co., then Swift & Co.) was dependent on the adjacent stockyards.
A need for better transportation facilities became more apparent as the nation's livestock and meat industry continued to grow. Federal law, in effect since 1905, requires that livestock be fed and watered at least every 36 hours while in transit. Because of its interchange location between Southern Pacific and Union Pacific, Ogden was an ideal location for a much-expanded and improved stock handling facility to fulfill this requirement. The need for expansion made it obvious that the stockyards could not remain at their pre-1917 site east of the Weber River, among the railroads' mechanical repair buildings. A new site was selected across the Weber River and operations of the new Ogden Union Stock Yards began on April 1, 1917. (Ogden Standard Examiner, Monday, July 15, 1974)
Ogden Union Railway & Depot built a spur that crossed the river north of the Ogden Packing & Provision plant. Growth was steady, and by 1929, Ogden was the largest livestock market west of Denver. The daily number of cars was said to be 250 carloads of cattle, 200 carloads of sheep, and 100 carloads of hogs. (Roberts, Ogden Union Station, p. 47)
To promote this industry and the city's growing stature in that field with the completion of the stockyards, the Ogden Livestock Show was organized in 1918 as a new auctioning center for the region's ranchers, growers, and livestock brokers. A specialized auction facility, known as the Golden Spike Coliseum, was completed in 1923, and the Ogden Livestock Show was re-named the Golden Spike National Livestock Show. (Roberts, Ogden, pp. 140, 141, 143)
"The stock yards company was organized in 1917, being financed entirely by Ogden capitol with an Ogden man, Lester F. Whitlock, as general manager. In the beginning, the yards had a capacity of 50 carloads of cattle, 30 carloads of sheep and 30 carloads of hogs. Today  they have a capacity of 200 carloads of cattle, 200 carloads of sheep and 100 carloads of hogs. It became necessary this year to construct a new $30,000 exchange building to properly house the offices of the stock yards company and the numerous commission firms doing business there. The Ogden stock yards handle more cattle, sheep and hogs than any stock yards west of Denver. So far this season, more than 525,000 sheep have been handled at these yards, together with a record number of cattle and hogs." (Ogden Standard Examiner, December 31, 1922)
An office building located at the stockyards, known as the Exchange Building, was completed in 1930 as a central location for transacting livestock business. ("Remember When" Ogden Standard Examiner, September 10, 1980. The Exchange Building at Ogden Union Stock Yards was begun in September 1930. The contractor was George Whitmeyer & Sons. Cost was to be $100,000.)
The Ogden Union Stock Yards and the Swift & Co. plant, and to some degree the operations of Wilson & Co. on Wilson Lane, were the focus of the area's livestock industry. The Swift plant was first operated by the Ogden Packing & Provision Co., which was a February 1906 outgrowth of the Ogden Packing Co., itself organized in 1901. The Ogden Packing & Provision Co. became the American Packing & Provision Co. ("Mountain Brand Products") in July 1924, at which time it purchased control of the Ogden Union Stock Yards Co. The packing company and the stockyards remained under common control until a federal court decision in 1935 prohibited any packing house in the nation from owning or having interest in any stock yard. In January 1936, the stockyards were sold to the Denver Union Stock Yards Co., which remained in control until they were closed in January 1971. American Packing & Provision Co. was sold to Swift & Co. on July 24, 1949. Swift & Co. maintained a large lamb processing facility at Ogden that shipped whole lamb carcasses, hung in specially equipped Pacific Fruit Express iced refrigerator cars to the primary lamb markets in New York and Philadelphia. (Pacific Fruit Express, p. 374)
After completing a new facility in Sacramento, California, Swift & Co. closed its Ogden plant on November 13, 1970, putting 1,000 workers out of work. (Salt Lake Tribune, January 17, 1971; Roberts, Ogden, p. 143)
When the word livestock is used, many will think of cattle. At the Ogden stockyards, livestock meant sheep. The total numbers of sheep that passed through Ogden was always at least three times the numbers for cattle, and in some years it was four times. The peak year for numbers of animals was 1945, with almost 1.8 million head of sheep, 300,000 head of cattle, and 350,000 hogs. The year 1945 was also the peak year for livestock-related rail traffic, with 20,000 cars of sheep, 19,000 cars of cattle, and 6,000 cars of hogs being either unloaded at Ogden, or loaded after sale, or re-loaded after the prescribed four-hour rest period. Sheep and the processing of lamb and mutton was the reason Swift & Co. purchased the American Packing & Provision Co.'s plant in Ogden in 1949. The Swift plant in Ogden furnished almost all of that company's lamb and mutton meat for Eastern markets.
In addition to Swift & Co., other firms served the meat packing industry. These included Wilson Packing Co. and Ogden Dressed Meat Co. Wilson Packing (later, Wilson & Co.) was located at about 900 West on 21st Street, and was sold to W. C. Parke & Sons in about 1943. Parke & Sons closed its operation in 1970. (Roberts, Ogden, p. 143)
Other livestock-associated companies large enough to warrant railroad service included the Western Livestock Feed yard on Wilson Lane, and Utah By-Products Co., which was first located at the stockyards and later in the former Utah Canning Co.'s building on 29th Street.
The Ogden Union Stock Yards were served almost solely by Union Pacific from the east side. A limited service was provided by D&RGW from the west side. At first, UP (actually OUR&D) served the stockyards over a single track bridge that crossed the Weber River. In December 1930, a second lead was added and the river bridge was widened to two tracks.
D&RGW's 1951 Traffic Guide shows Ogden Union Stock Yards as having 356 pens for all livestock, and 214 low pens for hogs only. The yards had 19 loading chutes for single-deck cars and 14 loading chutes for either single-deck or double-deck cars. (Because of their shorter height, sheep and hogs were usually shipped in double-deck railroad cars.) In comparison, facilities at Denver were roughly three times the size of those at Ogden, with 1,000 pens and 79 loading chutes. On D&RGW, only Denver was larger than Ogden in livestock handling capacity.
The peak year for the Ogden Union Stock Yards was 1949, with revenue of $87 million. The peak years for sheep sales were between 1936 and 1944. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, the meat packers began buying directly from the growers, reducing the participation of the stockyards and livestock brokers (the middlemen). The availability of good roads and bigger trucks made it possible to use trucks to ship livestock direct from growers (and the then-new feed lots), to packing houses, cutting the railroads out of the rapidly changing meat-packing industry. (Ogden Standard Examiner, July 15, 1974)
As a continuing move to cut transportation costs, packing houses in the 1950s began moving to rural locations near the growing number of commercial feed lots, replacing large multi-story plants in urban areas with smaller and more numerous packing plants in rural areas, redesigned to be more efficient. Although the number of animals being slaughtered doubled between 1945 and 1983, the number of domestic businesses supplying livestock for slaughter declined by half during the same period. This was a direct indication of the move to bring the slaughter houses closer to the feed lots. Also during the same period, there were one-third fewer meatpacking and processing facilities operating. In 1954, Cudahy was the first to leave the urban Chicago area. By 1960, all of the large meat packing plants in Chicago were closed. The largest stock-handling facility in the world, the Chicago Union Stock Yards, closed in 1970 due to lack of business. (Jimmy M. Skaggs, Prime Cut, page 9; page 190)
The combination of direct sales and trucks soon significantly cut the numbers of animals moving through the Ogden stockyards. While the ratios between sheep, cattle and hogs stayed the same, the volume changed from the 1945 peak of 2.4 million head to 594,000 head in 1960, to just 168,000 (a more than 90 percent reduction from 1945) in 1970, the stockyards' final full year.
Throughout their entire history, livestock sales at Ogden Union Stock Yards were conducted both by public auction and by what was called "private treaty," or closed-commission sales. Changes affecting the meat-packing industry nationwide also affected Ogden. The auction activity slowly declined in the decade prior to the late 1960s, and closed-commission sales ended at Ogden in December 1967. The stockyards closed on January 31, 1971. Within a year, the stockyards and all adjacent property, including the Coliseum and Exchange buildings, were sold to Weber County by the parent company, Denver Union Stock Yards. (Ogden Standard Examiner, April 16, 1972, "Progress '72" Edition)
On January 4, 1972, a new company, the Weber Livestock Auction Co., began auction sales on a much smaller scale at the Ogden stockyards, leasing the facilities from Weber County. The sale of sheep remained for another couple years, with Southern Pacific moving its last carloads of sheep in April 1973. (Roberts, Ogden, pp. 140, 141, 143)
Pacific Fruit Express
Soon after the completion of the transcontinental rail line through Ogden, the route became the home of the first shipment of perishable goods (fruits and vegetables) from California growers to markets in the East. At first, shipments were sent in ventilated boxcars, called "fruit cars," some of which are visible in the early photos of Promontory. The first shipment, said to be a load of grapes and pears, went east in November 1869. By the mid-1870s, annual shipments of fruit had grown to at least 115 carloads from California alone. By 1895, the car fleets of both Union Pacific and Central Pacific/Southern Pacific included as many as 1,800 cars dedicated to the shipment of perishables. In the previous decade, the two companies had organized the California Fast Freight Line, specifically to move California fruits.
By the mid-1890s, several private car lines and shippers owned and operated fleets of specialized cars, the largest of which was the Armour Packing Co. The total fleet of refrigerator cars was just over 1,000 in 1880 and more than 6,000 in 1885. Within 15 years, by the turn of the century, the fleet grew to more than 68,000 cars, 20,000 of which belonged to Armour alone, giving the company control of a third of the private refrigerator cars in the country. Much of this traffic moved via the Overland Route, through Ogden.
Armour and the other companies (including Swift & Co., Cudahy, and Schwarzchild & Sulzberger, which later became Wilson & Co.) had started with the shipments of dressed meat from their various packing houses. Their shipments soon included fruits and other perishables. Along with the meat packers, private companies that shipped perishables, likely through Ogden, included Continental Fruit Express, Goodell Line, Kansas City Fruit Express, California Fruit Express, and Fruit Dealers Dispatch. The shipments over the private car lines exceeded those in the railroads' own cars.
To better preserve the perishables, ice was added to keep the shipments cool, thus giving birth to iced refrigerator cars. The first really successful refrigerator car was the Tiffany car of the late 1860s, which used ice in separate boxes stacked on the boxes of the perishable load. The first recorded shipment of California strawberries to New York was in an iced Tiffany car in 1888, although it is not known if the shipment was through Ogden on the Overland Route, or by way of Southern Pacific's just-completed Sunset Route. Later, the ice was placed in special compartments (bunkers) suspended from the car roof, or at the end of the car. (Lambert, "The Post War Refrigerator Car, A Brief History", three parts, March, April, May 1994, Railroad Model Craftsman, March 1994, p. 87)
To furnish ice for these refrigerator cars, large supplies of natural ice were needed. Ice was harvested during winter and stored in heavily insulated (with sawdust) icehouses located along the routes that the cars took. The major refrigerator car shipper through Ogden was the Armour Co., which handled perishable traffic under contract for both Union Pacific and Central Pacific. Wintertime harvesting and storage of ice for summer use was not new, but what the car companies needed was a reliable and consistent supply of it.
This became doubly important when Union Pacific and Southern Pacific formed the jointly owned Pacific Fruit Express Co. in 1906. During its first year, PFE continued to use the facilities that had been used by the Armour Company, including facilities at Donner Lake, California, Carlin, Nevada, and Evanston, Wyoming. In 1907, PFE purchased the Armour facilities and began a program to increase its natural, and later, manufactured, ice capability. The extensive ice ponds, and harvesting and storage facilities at Evanston, built by UP in 1887, were a focus of PFE operations in the region. With the formation of PFE in 1906, the UP icehouse in Ogden (completed in 1889, and matching the one just completed at Evanston) was leased to the new jointly owned company. The Ogden plant's icehouse had a storage capacity of 35,000 tons, enough to supply approximately 7,000 railroad refrigerator cars, each of which used about five tons of ice when fully re-iced. The Evanston natural ice plant was closed in 1921 after PFE completed a new ice manufacturing plant at Ogden. (Thompson, Pacific Fruit Express, pp. 283-284)
But Ogden was already important to Pacific Fruit Express operations in 1906 because it was the interchange point between SP and UP, thus requiring re-icing of cars. The original icehouse at Ogden was what PFE called an Ice Transfer Plant, a facility that received its ice from the natural ice plants at both Evanston and Carlin, storing it for use year-round. Maps of Ogden yard dated 1904 show both an original icehouse and a newer icehouse, built in 1889. The original icehouse measured 32 feet by 140 feet, located perpendicular to a seven-foot by 120-foot car icing platform, all situated at about 27th Street, west of the yard tracks. The newer facility, measuring 98 feet by 200 feet, was located between the original Union Pacific roundhouse and the OUR&D yard tracks, at about 26th Street. Facilities almost identical to those completed by UP at Ogden in 1889 were also built by UP at the turn of the century at both Laramie, Wyoming, and Grand Island, Nebraska.
By 1916, the larger storage house had been moved to the original site and had doubled in size. The UP icehouse at Ogden was made up of four attached but separate buildings, all of which stored ice. Insulation to keep the ice solid year-round came from double walls with sawdust between. On August 5, 1919, all four PFE icehouses were destroyed by fire. (Union Pacific Railroad, Authority For Expenditure (AFE) Register, reference number 1806)
A replacement was not completed until 1921, at the same site on 26th Street, but with re-arranged trackage to allow easier access for through trains. The former-PFE building that stands today was constructed by PFE in 1921 as an Ice Manufacturing Plant. Built entirely of concrete, it had a daily capacity of 375 tons of ice, later increased to 500 tons. By this time, refrigeration technology was advanced enough to allow ice to be manufactured, rather than harvested, thus increasing the capability of PFE's iced refrigerator car fleet and the "protective services" that the company marketed. (Thompson, Pacific Fruit Express, pp. 304-306. Unless noted, most of the factual information concerning PFE's facilities in Ogden comes from this source.)
In addition to the new ice manufacturing plant, Pacific Fruit Express in 1921 also built a single island-type icing platform, which forced the demolition of the nearby 1897-built UP roundhouse. The new platform was 2,000 feet long with two adjacent service tracks, and could service 46 cars along each side. In 1927 a second, 70-car island-type platform was added, and the original 46-car platform was extended to 66-car capacity. Both platforms were of PFE's standard covered-island design. (Union Pacific Magazine, February 1927)
The 1927 changes allowed longer Southern Pacific trains to directly enter the icing platform tracks from the north for re-icing, without having to break the trains in two. This was possible because of the extension, completed in July 1927, of the 24th Street viaduct directly west to the high ground of West Ogden. Before this, the viaduct (completed in 1909) had ended about a block east of the Weber River and automobiles crossed the river via a bridge adjacent to the railroad bridge for UP's Evona Branch. The road crossing for 24th Street at the base of the old viaduct made earlier extension of the icing platforms impossible. Sometime after 1928, an adjacent, uncovered 15-car dock was added, served by stub-ended double tracks for the initial icing of shipments of fruits and vegetables originating in Ogden. The platforms for through trains gave a combined capacity for re-icing up to 272 cars at any one time. PFE continued to expand its facilities in Ogden, and by 1929, the ice plant had a capacity of 400 tons of ice daily. During that year, 82,302 refrigerator cars were iced at Ogden.
August 21, 1938
"Refrigerator Traffic" "Pacific Fruit Express reports about 300 refrigerator cars of fruit moving into Ogden on the Southern Pacific daily. This figure, 10 per cent above the similar period last year, is expected to continue into the last of September, when it will increase to around 500 per day." "At present, about 50 of the daily 300 are grapes. Idaho potatoes make up 100 cars, and onions, green peas, and other products bring the Idaho movements to 135 cars daily." (Ogden Standard Examiner, August 21, 1938)
September 28, 1938
"Fruit Traffic Running High" "California Sending Large Amounts Eastward Through Ogden" "California fruit and vegetable shipments through Ogden are near their seasonal peak -- 400 to 500 carloads each day -- said the Pacific Fruit Express Co. today." "About half the movement consists of grapes, which are moving from California in huge quantities." "In addition, about 200 carloads of potatoes and apples are being shipped from Idaho each day." "Very few refrigerator cars are iced at Ogden at present, said officials. Most of the cars are iced before loading, with one re-icing either at Kansas City or Council Bluffs." (Ogden Standard Examiner, September 28, 1938)
In 1954 the icing plant was upgraded and became the most modern ice manufacturing plant on the PFE system. A new ice manufacturing plant and 110-car icing platform were constructed in Riverdale Yard and in August 1954, PFE added the ability for automatic icing with the installation of three Preco-brand mechanical icing machines, also at Riverdale. Prior to 1954, the PFE tracks in Riverdale Yard had been used only for cleaning and storage of westbound (empty) cars. The new plant was capable of producing 700 tons of ice per day, in the form of 4,750 cakes of ice, each measuring about 11 inches by 22 inches by 42 inches. A bridge conveyor took these ice cakes overhead to the new mile-long ice platform, built to re-ice two 110-car trains at the same time, giving PFE the capacity to service 352 cars at a time. With the completion of this platform, the original 70-car platform in the old main yard was retired, leaving only the remaining original 66-car platform in place. This 1954 expansion gave PFE two separate facilities at Ogden: the original 66-car platform and 1921-built, 500-ton ice manufacturing plant in the main yard (at 26th Street); and the new 700-ton ice manufacturing plant and 110-car mechanized icing platform at Riverdale.
In the history of Pacific Fruit Express published in 1992, there is a reference showing that in 1943, both original platforms in the Ogden main yard were extended by 33 car-lengths to accommodate train lengths of 100 cars. There is no evidence of the platforms at Ogden being extended beyond their final 66-car and 70-car lengths, which indicates that this information may have been gleaned from a proposal that is part of PFE records. This proposal, possibly from a report completed in September-October 1950, may have been associated with the expansion of OUR&D's Riverdale yard in 1954. (see Pacific Fruit Express, second edition, page 305 and page 459)
The 1954 expansion of icing facilities reflected the booming nature of PFE's traffic. Perishable traffic through Ogden originated on SP, from throughout Oregon and from a myriad of sources in California, north of Santa Margarita in accordance with the 1923 agreement that assured traffic over the Overland Route through Ogden. All of SP's perishable traffic from points in the Central Valley north of Bakersfield, and from the Salinas Valley north of Santa Margarita moved east by way of Ogden. The perishable traffic during World War II for PFE alone was in the range of 350,000 cars per year. During the harvest season in California and Oregon, solid trains of PFE refrigerator cars moved east through Ogden, averaging 700 to 800 cars a day, adding to a daily total of more than 9,000 cars moving through Ogden during peak season. PFE's peak years for carloadings, with almost 500,000 cars loaded per year, were between 1950 and 1953, with only slightly less, but still more than 400,000 cars per year, throughout the mid-1950s. A steady decline in carloadings throughout the 1960s was a reflection of both the development of larger mechanical refrigerator cars and increasing competition from refrigerated highway trucks.
In mid-1953, Pacific Fruit Express placed its first mechanical (non-iced) refrigerator car into service, part of a group of 25 cars built that year. The fleet grew rapidly through the remainder of the decade, and in 1960, the company owned more than 2,700 mechanical cars, comprising nine percent of PFE's 28,600-car fleet. By 1970, the quantity of mechanical cars had grown to more than 12,400 cars, 68 percent of a fleet of 18,200 cars. The last season for iced refrigerator cars through Ogden was in 1972, and the last iced car on all of PFE was operated in September 1973, when PFE eliminated all icing facilities.
Competition from refrigerated highway trucks began in the early 1950s, at the same time that mechanical refrigeration was first used by the railroads. By the late 1960s only a third of the perishable produce was moving by rail, and by 1979, the railroads' share fell to only 10 percent of all produce traffic. As mechanical refrigerator cars continued to replace iced refrigerator cars, the need for extensive icing facilities diminished, until the early 1970s, when they stood unused. (White, The Great Yellow Fleet, p. 124)
The icing platforms at the original location were retired during the early 1960s, and the platforms at Riverdale remained until the early 1970s. The PFE ice plants at Roseville, California, and Ogden stood idle after the 1972 season. (Signor, John R. Donner Pass, Southern Pacific's Sierra Crossing, p. 215)
During the summer of 1974, the Riverdale icing platforms were removed as a potential fire hazard, at about the same time as the icing platforms in Roseville, California (also on the Overland Route), which were demolished in March 1974. (CTC Board, Issue 130, March 8, 1974)
Pacific Fruit Express retained employees locally to maintain its fleet of mechanical refrigerator cars, both at the car repair track at Riverdale and on the many through trains handed over interchanged between SP and UP. The breakup of Pacific Fruit Express in April 1978, with its remaining assets being split between UP and SP, illustrated the general decline of transcontinental rail shipment of perishable goods.
Grain Elevators, Grain Mills, and Flour Mills
Another major source of traffic for railroads in Ogden was the grain storage, grain milling, and flour milling business. Since its early, pioneer days, the city has been the location of flour-producing gristmills. And the industry continues today, with Cargill, Inc. and Cereal Food Processors being important suppliers for flour and bran in the western United States.
Three large flour mill and grain elevator operations are located in the area: the Sperry mill (now Cereal Food Processors) on 29th Street and Pacific Avenue, and two mills in West Ogden, the Globe mill (now Cargill) and the Farmer's Grain Co-operative mill. Other companies milling flour included the Albers Brothers Milling Co. on 27th Street, and the Hilton Flour Mills. By 1929, Ogden had become the grain and flour milling center of the West, with 15,000 cars of grain moving through the local yards. (Roberts, Ogden Union Station, p. 47)
The Sperry Flour Company's plant in Ogden was completed in about 1928. The 28 storage "tanks" held 500,000 bushels of grain, and were 17 feet in diameter and 88 feet high. The storage tanks were completed in 11 days by C. F. Dinsmore & Company, of Ogden, one of Utah's most prominent general contractors. (Ogden Standard Examiner, January 27, 1929 and August 31, 1930)
The Sperry mill was one of Sperry Flour Co.'s many mills in the West, which included facilities in California, Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. Sperry got its start in 1852, when Austin Sperry and George Lyon erected their first mill in Stockton, California. By 1936, the Sperry company had five mills, with a total daily capacity of 13,800 barrels of flour and 1,850 tons of feed grains. The storage silos at Ogden were part of a network that included five mills and 88 associated county elevators throughout the West, with a combined capacity of 13 million bushels. In 1928, Sperry was included in gigantic merger of milling, cereal, and elevator companies that formed General Mills, Inc. Sperry remained separate until General Mills consolidated its operations. Prior to the consolidation, the General Mills organization was mainly a centralized marketing and research operation, but as the market that it served continued to change and grow, a more centralized control of the actual milling operations required that the General Mills name be applied to the milling operations themselves. (Arthur Pound, "Up From The Grass Roots" Industrial America, Its Way Of Work And Thought, Chapter VII, , Boston, Little, Brown & Company, 1936, pp. 153-155)
Sperry remained separate until General Mills consolidated its operations. Prior to that, the General Mills organization was mainly a centralized marketing and research operation, but as the market that it served continued to change and grow, a more centralized control of milling required that the General Mills name be applied to all of its milling operations. General Mills closed its Ogden mill in early 1967.
The plant fell silent and the silos remained empty until July 1967 when Colorado Milling and Elevator Co. took them over. The plant was later sold to The Peavey Co., which merged with agricultural giant ConAgra in July 1982. By a consent agreement between the two companies and the Federal Trade Commission, the merger was allowed with the stipulation that ConAgra would divest itself of four western milling operations. The Ogden plant was chosen as one of the four, and it was sold in April 1984 to ConAgra's competitor, Cereal Food Processors. It continues to mill both hard flour and soft flour, with a daily capacity of 13,000 hundred-weight (100-pound bags, or cwt). Its wheat comes by rail from the Midwest. The mill uses soft wheat and hard wheat, received in an average of 10 cars per day. Some soft wheat comes by truck from Idaho.
The Globe mill in West Ogden was built in 1920 by the Globe Milling Co. It was sold to the Pillsbury Co. in 1941, along with Globe mills in Colton, San Diego, Sacramento, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, all in California. Also at Los Angeles were Globe's feed mill, feed lot, cottonseed operation, and macaroni factory. The original Globe mill in Ogden had a flour-making capacity of 4,000 cwt. per day. A typical 40-ton-capacity railroad boxcar could hold 800 cwt. By 1950, Pillsbury had increased the plant's output to 5,000 cwt., and, by the mid-1960s, to 7,500 cwt. In 1973, the plant could produce 10,500 cwt. of hard flour (for macaroni) and 9,000 cwt. of soft flour (for breads and cakes). Much of Pillsbury's Ogden "grind" went to furnish the California flour market, competing with mills in Washington, Oregon, and Kansas City.
The cost of transportation was, and still is, a great factor in keeping Ogden mills open, furnishing flour and grains for sale in the West. In 1971, the Santa Fe railroad made a favorable change in its rate to move finished flour from Kansas to California, which also shut out Ogden's flour completely from the Phoenix, Ariz., flour market. Pillsbury's Ogden mill furnished all of the flour for the company's "Gold Medal" flour market west of the Rockies, keeping supermarkets supplied from a wholesale warehouse in Clearfield, Utah. In addition to producing flour of all types and grades, Pillsbury's Ogden mill and its adjacent 2.5-million-bushel elevator served as a storage facility for wheat and barley that Pillsbury bought from local growers and sold all over the West. (Telephone interview with current (1996) Cargill manager; other portions from William W. Terry Collection, Weber State University.)
Pillsbury sold the former Globe mill to Cargill, Inc. in 1991. Cargill made some changes in capability, converting it to a "swing mill" that can produce either 10,000 cwt. of soft flour, or an equal quantity of hard flour. Although Cargill has stopped producing flour made from hard Durham wheat (used for macaroni and pasta), it still produces large quantities of heavy bran. Grain for Cargill arrives either by rail or by truck, and finished flour and grain products leave by bulk rail car, by bulk truck, or in bags and sacks protected inside trucks and boxcars.
June 23, 2003
"OMAHA -- The Scoular Company announced today that it has assumed operation of the grain facilities owned by Farmers Grain Cooperative of Idaho. The principal facility is located in Ogden, Utah, with additional facilities in American Falls, Michaud, Malad, Grace and Bancroft, Idaho. These facilities give Scoular 6,950,000 bushels of grain storage space, in addition to the 360,000 bushels of space at the Ogden facility already owned by Scoular. Both of the Ogden facilities are served by the Utah Central Railway. The Bancroft, Michaud, and American Falls facilities are served by the Union Pacific Railroad." (The Scoular Company press release, dated June 23, 2003)
Sugar Beets and the West Ogden sugar factory
Between 1895 and 1940, before the widespread use of trucks, railroads were the most efficient way to transport Utah's sugar beets to the factories. Because sugar beets are such a low-density item, many of them are needed to produce profitable amounts of sugar. Making sugar from sugar beets required large quantities of other raw materials, including coal, coke, and lime. Finished sugar was shipped from Amalgamated Sugar's West Ogden and other sugar factories in 100-pound bags. For 15 tons of finished, granulated (300 100-pound bags) to be produced, the sugar factory required the delivery of 100 tons of sugar beets, nine tons of coal, and five tons each of coke and lime rock. To put these numbers in more visible terms, for each average 40-foot boxcar-load of finished sugar (1,000 100-pound bags), the West Ogden sugar factory would need six carloads of beets and partial carloads each of coal, coke and lime. The sugar factory in West Ogden, built by Ogden Sugar Co. in 1898 as the second sugar factory in the state, was the destination of many carloads of sugar beets. By 1900, it was one of 30 factories operating in the nation. During its first season of operation, it produced 1,280 tons of pure white beet sugar. In 1902, the company became the Amalgamated Sugar Co., with the West Ogden factory remaining in operation until September 1941, when it was closed due to decrease in local sugar beet growing capacity. It's machinery was moved to a new factory completed in Nampa, Idaho. The West Ogden buildings remained for use as warehouse facilities, and later by a liquid-sugar-making plant. The factory is today served by trackage formerly owned jointly by Union Pacific and Rio Grande. UP gains access through a connection to the former Rio Grande main line through West Ogden, from the west end of its Evona Branch (the remains of the original Utah Central's 1870 line to Salt Lake City).
During the mid-1930s, Utah's canning industry was the eighth-ranked producer of canned goods in the nation. Over the span of years that canneries were active in Utah, from 1885 to the mid 1970s, fewer than 15 canneries were truly successful and were able to remain in business year-round. Railroads, and the low-cost transportation they offered, were important to the canneries and each of these successful canning factories was located on a railroad spur, which allowed direct shipment of canned goods to market. Del Monte's West Ogden plant was the largest in the state. It was built in 1900 by the Adams Nursery & Tin Can Manufacturing Co., which was reorganized in 1903 as the Wasatch Gardens and Orchard Canning Co. In 1914, the plant was purchased by William "Jake" Parker and became the center of his operations in Utah. Four years later, Parker sold his entire Utah operation to the Utah Packing Co., a newly organized subsidiary of California Packing Co. (also known as CalPac), which in 1968 became Del Monte, Inc., taking the name of one of its most popular brand name labels. Del Monte's West Ogden canning factory was closed in 1974. The building was then used by a lumber dealer for about 10 years, and in about 1986 the property was purchased by Grant Brothers for use in its livestock and trucking business.
Other canneries located along Union Pacific's main line through Ogden, each with its own spur, were the pioneering Utah Canning Co. at 29th Street and Pacific Avenue, and two others located east of UP's main line adjacent to Riverdale Yard: Sunshine Canning Co. on 31st Street, and Riverdale Canning Co. on Riverdale Road.
In 1914, to support the canning industry in Utah and other western states, the American Can Co. built in Ogden one of the largest can manufacturing facilities in the West. Between 1915 and 1979, when the plant was closed, American Can, located on 20th Street between Lincoln and Grant, shipped many boxcars filled with new, empty cans to canneries all over the state and the region. The factory was served by three of Ogden's railroads: Union Pacific, D&RGW, and Bamberger (from about 1947 to 1951). The large American Can smokestack, and the adjacent factory building, remain today as a testament to Ogden's past as a supplier to the region's canning industry.