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Utah State Railroad Museum at Ogden Union Station

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This page was last updated on February 13, 2014.

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((This article is an updated and expanded version of an article published in 2005 as part of the book "Ogden Rails.")

Museum History

The original plans to turn Ogden Union Station into a museum and convention center were first presented to officials of both Union Pacific and Southern Pacific at the celebration of the Golden Spike Centennial in 1969. (Deseret News, May 31, 1969, p. A9)

In December 1971, after the May 1971 takeover by Amtrak of all passenger trains through the city, the first formal proposal for a railroad museum in the Ogden Union Station was presented in a letter to the president of Ogden Union Railway & Depot Co. in San Francisco. The letter, from Ogden Mayor Bart Wolthuis, asked that the empty building be donated to the city for use by the Golden Spike Empire as a museum. It took a couple years for the proposal to be taken seriously, and more time for negotiations to be completed, but Ogden's city fathers were persistent. (Deseret News, December 7, 1971)

In 1973, the city organized the Union Station Development Corp. to manage and operate the hoped-for prize. (Salt Lake Tribune, October 22, 1978)

By June 1975, Ogden Mayor Stephen Dirks announced that a general agreement had been reached for the city to acquire the station, with details of the sale still to be worked out. By early 1977, all parties were agreed and the vacant station was turned over to the city to become a tourist and convention center. Renovation work began immediately, under the direction of Elizabeth "Teddy" Griffith, who as a volunteer for the Junior League of Ogden, had finished a study of the building's history that placed it on the National Register of Historic Places. (Salt Lake Tribune, October 18, 1978, p. A13) (Teddy Griffith stayed on as Union Station's director until her retirement in October 1993.)

Renovation continued and by mid-1978, a dedication ceremony was scheduled. To celebrate, Union Pacific operated its widely known 1944-built 4-8-4 steam locomotive number 8444 and a special train from Cheyenne. The train arrived a week early and was held ready at Salt Lake City, awaiting the big day. On October 21, 1978, the train left Salt Lake City with Utah Governor Scott M. Matheson and UP President John C. Kenefick in the locomotive cab for the quick run to Ogden. (Pacific News, January 1979, p. 12)

In an earlier attempt at railroad preservation, on July 18, 1959, two retired 0-6-0 steam switching locomotives were dedicated in Ogden's John Affleck Park on Wall Avenue. Union Pacific 4436, a 1918 Baldwin engine, and Southern Pacific 1297, a 1921 Baldwin engine, were donated by the railroads and displayed nose to nose (similar to the 1869 Golden Spike ceremony), with a granite stone and bronze plaque between. The many years of display were not kind to these two little workhorses, and they were finally removed in 1993. They remain part of the Ogden Union Station museum collection.

In 1986, Continental Engineering of North Kansas City, Missouri, donated Union Pacific Gas-Turbine locomotive number 26-26B. It had been stored at Continental's facility for 13 years, ever since UP had sold the retired units in 1973. The Gas-Turbines were powerful locomotives that operated regularly out of Ogden throughout their service lives, from 1960 until their retirement in 1972. Turbine 26-26B arrived in Ogden on July 10, 1987, and was repainted and cosmetically restored by volunteers of the local Golden Spike Chapter of the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society. (CTC Board, July 1987, pp. 26, 80)

In September 1987, Southern Pacific donated its GP9E 3769, a 1,750-horsepower EMD road switcher from the 1950s, which it had retired in late 1986, along with caboose 1555. (Extra 2200 South, Issue 87, April 1988, p. 15)

Union Station was designated as the official Utah State Railroad Museum on February 26, 1988. When the station was dedicated in 1978, UP donated a retired steam derrick, and a steam rotary snowplow, two of the last pieces of steam-powered equipment remaining on the railroad. To build a collection, other donations were sought from Ogden's railroads and from other corporations. In October 1985, Union Pacific donated one of its retired EMD Model DDA40X 6,600-horsepower Centennial diesel road locomotives, number 6916. (Extra 2200 South, Issue 84, p. 28; Pacific Rail News, February 1986, p. 21)

During 1991, the museum acquired from the U. S. Air Force at Hill Air Force Base a collection of 35 former military cars and locomotives. Included were four specially constructed training cars used to train bomber crews for the Strategic Air Command. Of the 35 pieces of rolling stock, 12 were in better condition and were retained for the historic collection, with the remaining 23 pieces being sold for their scrap value, and the proceeds going to renovate the remaining pieces. (Ogden Standard Examiner, May 23, 1991)

A project to operate tourist trains between Ogden and the Promontory site of the driving of the Golden Spike was announced in February 1992, under the name of the Ogden-Promontory Tourist Rail Line. The proposal called for the operation of a tourist line from Ogden Union Station to Corinne on Union Pacific tracks. There, the passengers would transfer to 1920s-era railroad equipment and continue their journey to the National Parks Service's Golden Spike National Historic Site at Promontory. Running trains between Corinne and Promontory would require re-laying part of SP's Promontory Branch (abandoned and torn up in 1942) - the route of the original 1869 transcontinental railroad. The feasibility of the tourist operation was confirmed by a 1991 study funded by a $10,000 grant from Ogden City. A resolution, sponsored by Weber County Senator Winn Richards, and passed by the Utah State Legislature in February 1992, asked the federal government to provide $300,000 for a more detailed study. The 1991 study confirmed that the operation of tourist trains along the route would just barely pay operating expenses, but would never recover the expected construction cost of $12 million. Local public officials continue to search for ways to fully fund the project. (Salt Lake Tribune, February 22, 1992, p. C-4)

D&RGW Narrow-Gauge Equipment

The D&RGW narrow gauge boxcar, gondola and caboose were moved to Ogden after Pioneer Village at Lagoon was closed for the 1988 season. After being open for 12 years, Lagoon closed Pioneer Village at the end of the 1988 season to make way for the Log Flume ride.

The narrow gauge railroad equipment had been on display at Lagoon's Pioneer Village since being moved there in mid 1975. The Lagoon amusement park had purchased the entire Pioneer Village collection from the Sons of Utah Pioneers for a reported $275,000. All of the items from the original Pioneer Village location in southeastern Salt Lake City, at 2998 Conner Street, was moved to Lagoon during the summer of 1975. The collection was assembled on Lagoon property and prepared to be open to the public for Lagoon's 1976 season. Included in the displays were the three pieces of narrow gauge railroad equipment, which sat adjacent to the preserved Union Pacific Kaysville passenger depot, which had been moved from Kaysville.

The narrow gauge railroad equipment had been originally donated by D&RGW to Pioneer Village in early 1953, when its location was to be on the grounds of the old state prison in Sugarhouse. But when that deal fell through, the equipment was moved to the Conner Street location in time for Pioneer Village's grand opening on November 13, 1953. Pioneer Village remained open to the public at the Conner Street location until the Freed family purchased the entire collection for display at their Lagoon amusement park as part of the national Bicentennial celebration in 1976.

After being moved to Ogden after Lagoon's 1988 season, the narrow gauge railroad equipment was stored just west of the Shupe-Williams candy factory, just south of Ogden Union Station. The equipment remained at the site until the fire on the night of February 12, 2006.

D&RGW Narrow-Gauge 2-8-0 No. 223

Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad narrow-gauge 2-8-0 locomotive number 223 is the sole surviving engine built by the Grant Locomotive Works. It operated in Utah between 1881 (when it was built) until 1890, when the D&RGW tracks in Utah were changed from narrow, three-foot gauge to standard, 4 feet 8-1/2 inches gauge. Number 223 remained in service on Rio Grande's other three-foot gauge routes in Colorado until its retirement in 1940. D&RGW loaned the locomotive to the people of Salt Lake City as part of the city's Pioneer Day celebration on July 24, 1941, and after participating in the parade down Main Street (mounted on a highway trailer), it was placed on display in Liberty Park. It was formally donated to the city in 1952. (Salt Lake Tribune, Sunday November 6, 1986, p. E-1)

Years later, Salt Lake City wanted to expand a playground adjacent to the locomotive's display site, and on January 11, 1979, the city gave the engine to the State of Utah. (Salt Lake Tribune, January 9, 1979)

The locomotive's resting place in the park was needed for a new children's playground. The Utah State Division of History accepted it with intentions of displaying it at the former Salt Lake City Union Station of D&RGW and Western Pacific, the future home of the Utah State Historical Society.

The locomotive remained at Liberty Park, near the carousel, until March 27, 1980, when it was gingerly lifted from its resting place of 28 years onto a heavy-duty flatbed trailer and moved across town to a new location west of the former Rio Grande station. There the little locomotive sat for 12 years, suffering from varying degrees of bureaucratic and budgetary concern and neglect. (Salt Lake Tribune, Friday March 28, 1980, p. B-1)

After many proposals were floated to either restore the locomotive or sell it to other interested groups, in June 1989, the State History Office consulted with a professional restoration specialist on possible alternatives. Costs varied from $88,000 for simple stabilization for continued display to $1 million to make Number 223 fully operational. A public meeting was held on December 7, 1989, seeking input for the locomotive's disposition. (Salt Lake Tribune, December 6, 1989)

Due mostly to lack of funding from the state legislature, the 223 project languished until 1991. In the meantime, the museum at Ogden Union Station was designated by the Legislature as the Utah State Railroad Museum. D&RGW 223 was given to the Utah State Railroad Museum and moved to Ogden Union Station in 1992. At that time efforts were begun by the Golden Spike Chapter of the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society to restore the little locomotive, possibly to operating condition, and those efforts continue today [2005]. (Salt Lake Tribune, December 26, 1993)

The following came from John Manion, via an email dated April 1, 2012:

In early 1941, Salt Lake City had asked the D&RGW about getting a locomotive and some cars to display there. D&RGW leased no. 223 to Salt Lake City, and it was moved on a flatbed trailer in a Pioneer Days parade on July 24, 1941. The engine was placed in Liberty Park in a ceremony that same day. D&RGW also donated high-side gondola no. 1051, boxcar no. 3576, and short caboose no. 0573, but they were displayed at Pioneer Village in Salt Lake City, created by the Sons of Utah Pioneers to exhibit 19th Century Utah history. For a number of years, the cars were displayed at Lagoon Amusement Park, midway between Ogden and Salt Lake, but they were not well maintained. Number 223 remained in Liberty Park for almost 29 years, and ownership was transferred to the city in 1952. In 1980, no. 223 was lifted onto a flatbed trailer and moved to D&RGW’s Salt Lake Union Station. The building was to become the location of the Utah State Historical Society. During the move, the mainframe and left side main rod were badly bent by incorrect lifting.

Number 223 remained at this location unprotected and badly deteriorated due to weather and vandalism. Most of the wood pieces rotted, and metal parts rusted badly. No efforts were made to restore or protect no. 223, despite plans to do so, and the neglect sadly continued the damage of this historic locomotive. In 1991, the Utah legislature selected Ogden Union Station as the site for the Utah State Railroad Museum. On September 26, 1992, no. 223 was moved by truck to Ogden. Number 223, and the boxcar, gondola, and caboose no. 0573, having been moved from Lagoon Amusement Park, were parked along the Shupe-Williams Candy Company factory at that time. During that year, the Golden Spike Chapter of R&LHS adopted no. 223 and began planning for her badly-needed restoration. Wooden parts needed to be replaced, but the cab and tender were so badly corroded that they would both have to be completely replaced. The engine received a new steel boiler in 1914, but her display outdoors with her stack not capped had taken its toll on the boiler and smokebox. Plans to restore no. 223 for operation will require considerable effort and funding.

Number 223’s bad luck continued on March 11, 2006, when fire of a suspicious origin broke out in the Shupe-Williams Candy Company factory, a 1905 building which had not been in use for some time. Efforts to keep the fire from spreading to surrounding buildings kept firefighters from dealing with the threat in the immediate factory area. Caboose #0573 was destroyed in the blaze, boxcar no. 3576 was seriously damaged, and gondola no. 1051 had one end seriously damaged. The damaged cars were subsequently bulldozed for scrapping, and nothing remained but some metal parts. Damage to no. 223 was minimized, as the cab, pilot, and tender underframe had already been removed from it for restoration. The surviving metal parts of the cars went to the Roaring Camp & Big Trees Railroad in California, the Colorado Railroad Museum, and the Cumbres & Toltec.

(click here to go to Ogden Union Station's web page)

(click here to go to a web page with information about all of D&RGW's C-16 class 2-8-0s)

The Fire

The following was originally from Maynard Morris, via several railroad internet forums:

At about 2100 on February 12, 2006, the Shupe-Williams candy factory building's alarm was activated and the building was checked out from the outside with no easily visible entry points noted. The building sits next to a flop house and transients are a real problem in the area. No one went inside to check out the alarm.

About 30 minutes later the fire alarms started going off and the Fire department responded. Someone made the decision to let the building burn and the Fire department pulled back for a perimeter protection.

Behind the building on the west side we had a fenced in compound with 223 and three railcars inside. The building turned into an inferno since nothing was being done to control the burn. Initially, there was a fire hose in the back spraying down the railroad equipment but then the buildings across the street were being threatened. The rear hose was shut down and moved to the front or side.

The following is conjecture. It was at this time the flying sparks set the caboose on fire. This then burned and set the boxcar on fire that was coupled to it. The boxcar had a metal roof so it was immune from sparks from the top. The metal top is tilted away from the fire which seems to indicate the car burned initially from the side away from the building fire. The gondola burned only on the end next to the boxcar. It was on another set of tracks. The side of this car facing the building was not scorched so the danger was not radiant heat but flying embers from the timbers in the candy factory. I suspect most of the heat went right over the 223 and since all wood had been removed from the engine, burning embers had little effect on the steel boiler.

The Shupe-Williams candy factory building was at least 100 years old. It was a large brick four story building that has been out of use for some time. There have been a lot of discussions lately with what to do with it since somehow Ogden City owned it. A museum group wanted to make a museum out of it but the city just wanted them to go away. All a matter of money.

The following came from Steve Smith:

The sad news is that the Caboose 0573 is just a jumble of truss rods and scorched brake piping, as is Boxcar 3576 including the metal murphy roof.

Gondola 1051, which was in very poor condition, was damaged on one end. The real sad note is that had the Ogden City fire department would have cared to protect the west side of the building these cars would have likely been saved, but Ogden City has a mayor that wants the Museum closed and turned into a commercial strip mall, and he was conveniently out of town in Europe checking out gondola tramways for commuters in Ogden (a whole other story).

The 223 was fortunate to have had all of the components removed a long time ago, so there is no damage there. The damage to the boiler and running gear have yet to inspected as the building and adjacent ground is still considered a fire and crime scene. The old tender tank really didn't get scorched, and the tender frame and trucks were in the restoration shop, as was the new cab.

It is believed that the cars' wheel and truck assemblies went to Roaring Camp and Big Trees Narrow Gauge Railroad in Felton, California. The Colorado Railroad Museum in Golden, Colorado got all of the short caboose parts, and in January 2008 the Friends of the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad got what was left for use on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad at Chama, New Mexico.

Other Information

February 5, 2002
Union Pacific donated former Southern Pacific SD45 no. 7457 to the Utah State Railroad Museum at Ogden, Utah. The following is from a Union Pacific Railroad news release, dated February 5, 2002:

Union Pacific Donates Vintage Locomotive to Utah State Railroad Museum -- Union Pacific Railroad today donated a vintage Southern Pacific locomotive to the Utah State Railroad Museum at Ogden Union Station. The railroad also announced that it has renewed the lease for the historic station property to the museum for a dollar a year.

Union Pacific Western Region Vice President Jeff Verhaal and Ogden Mayor Matthew R. Godfrey participated in a donation ceremony which also featured Union Pacific's two Winter Olympic Torch Relay locomotives which helped relay the Olympic flame across much of the United States to Utah.

Bob Geier, Director of the Utah State Railroad Museum, said the city was extremely pleased with the locomotive donation and new lease agreement. "This significant reduction to our lease expense will greatly help and benefit the museum's ability to develop new displays and enable us to become a world class attraction," said Geier.

Ogden Union Station was donated to Ogden City in the late 1970s. It has grown into a significant museum and community center complex featuring the Utah State Railroad Museum.

"Union Pacific and Ogden have had a longstanding partnership," Verhaal said. "We are happy we are able to enhance our support of the museum." Verhaal added that Union Pacific has a history of support for the Utah State Railroad Museum and other Ogden non-profit organizations through Foundation and Corporate grants. In the past five years grants have totaled more than $130,000.

The locomotive donated to the museum is the first SD45 model Electro-Motive Division of General Motors diesel-electric delivered to Southern Pacific in 1966. The model became the signature locomotive on SP with 356 units, the largest SD45 fleet in the country. The locomotives were a common sight in Ogden, a historic gateway between UP and SP. UP acquired SP in 1996.

Roster of Equipment

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