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Ogden Union Railway & Depot Company

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When Union Pacific first came to Ogden in early 1869, the apparent need for a junction point of UP and Central Pacific pushed Mormon leader Brigham Young and other church leaders to work with owners to acquire land "for the purpose of locating a railroad town and depot." Some sold their plots for $50, while others donated their land.

At that time, he had negotiated with Erastus Bingham for Bingham to sell 160 acres of his farm over to Young, so that the new city of Ogden could be located at the forks where the Ogden River met the Weber River, near today's 22nd Street. Young had purchased the original 160-acre plot of land with his own money, and portions were reimbursed to him in small amounts over the next 20 years or so, by the Ogden city council as the city was able to sell other lots within the city limits. In addition, upon the city being organized, there was a 10-acre plot located at the western end of 5th Street (today's 25the Street) that had been set aside as a "Union Square" for city beautification and recreational use. At his request, the plot containing Union Square was turned over to Young by the city council, the sale price being equal in value to the amount still owed him. (Journal Of Discourses, Volume 20, p. 263, March 2, 1879, a talk by LDS church president John Taylor in which he invited Lorin Farr, first mayor of Ogden, and mayor at the time of the coming of the railroad, to relate the history of Brigham Young obtaining the station grounds in Ogden, which Young then turned over to the railroads. President Taylor was answering negative comments about the appropriateness of the transaction.)

This was the initial depot grounds used by the Utah Central after its completion in 1870, and formed a triangle with its long side laid along the west side of Wall Avenue. The common point of the other two sides of the triangle was near the Utah Central crossing of the Pacific roads. The completion of Utah Northern in February 1874 brought that narrow-gauge line down Wall Avenue to Third Street (today 23rd Street), then angling slightly south-southwest to a connection with Utah Central, but still east of the Union Pacific-Central Pacific crossings of the Utah Central. This connection was all within the initial triangle of land owned by the Utah Central in Ogden. Being a narrow-gauge line, Utah Northern had its own passenger depot and stub-ended freight yard, adjacent to and north of the Utah Central yard.

Regular passenger trains between Omaha and Sacramento began running within a week of the driving of the Golden Spike at Promontory. The passenger station facilities at Ogden at the time consisted mainly of a group of shacks, as the town was not originally intended to be the junction. The first real passenger depot was a two-story wooden frame structure, completed in November 1869.

By 1874, the two Pacific roads still hadn't decided on a site for their common junction. As an inducement to speed their decision, and to make it in favor of Ogden, Brigham Young in May 1874 arranged for 131 acres of privately owned land just west of the city to be made available for use as the terminal yards.

Young arranged with the owners to sell their land to him, and still more was donated. In October 1874, Ogden City Council appropriated $5,000 (presumably to pay Young for the land), "for the purpose of securing the location of the Junction of the U.P., C.P., U.C. and U.N. Railroads in Ogden City." The space was located directly west of the city, between the city and the Weber River, in the vicinity of Fourth and Fifth streets, now 24th and 25th streets. The area included space for facilities serving UP and CP, the Utah Central branch line to Salt Lake City, and the Utah Northern line to Cache Valley. Until 1878, when a common depot was put into use, each company maintained its own depot facilities.

As passenger traffic continued to grow throughout the 1870s, the carriers could see that all would benefit from the use of a common depot. On September 20, 1878 the trains of UP, CP, and Utah Central, along with those of the newly reorganized narrow-gauge Utah & Northern, began using a "Union" depot in Ogden, that station being the original red Union Pacific 1869-built two-story wooden structure. In addition to providing a ticket office, the depot held waiting rooms, a baggage office, and less-than-carload-freight facilities. Next to the depot stood the Union Depot Hotel.

By 1878, passenger traffic on the transcontinental line had grown to three trains a day in each direction, with four trains a day in each direction on the Utah Central and a single train arriving and departing on the narrow-gauge Utah & Northern, which moved on September 20, 1878, from its own depot on Wall Avenue, over to the "Union" depot shared by Union Pacific and Central Pacific. (Salt Lake Herald, September 21, 1878)

The transcontinental trains consisted of an express train, an accommodation train, and an emigrant train. Utah Central's service consisted of two passenger trains and two mixed trains, which were made up of both passenger and freight cars.

Almost immediately, and continuing into the mid-1880s, the local press was filled with complaints about the dark and gloomy depot, with its quarter-mile of wooden sidewalks across swampy mud flats at Wall Avenue and 25th Street that served as the embarrassing entrance to Ogden. The complaints included calls for the carriers to erect permanent buildings and workshops, and to "go to work like substantial corporations, instead of dickering around in shanties and balloon tinderboxes, like some two-and-a-half dollar concerns." Between 1870 and 1890, the city's population quadrupled, from 3,127 to 12,889. In 1890, Union Pacific inaugurated the Overland Limited, a luxury train that passed through Ogden on its 71-hour journey between Omaha and San Francisco. Ogden was growing, both as a passenger destination and as a center for industry. The young city needed a new depot, and Ogden Union Railway & Depot Co., a company whose purpose was to meet that need, was organized on September 17, 1888.

The tracks of Ogden Union Railway & Depot Co. were specified to run "from a point on the Union Pacific Railway about 1/2 mile south of the point where said line crosses 8th Street in the City of Ogden, then north to a point on the Central Pacific Railroad about 1/4 mile north of where said line crosses 1st Street." (Articles of Incorporation, Ogden Union Railway & Depot Co. Office of the Secretary of State, State of Utah; link)

This general area from the 20th Street crossing on the north to the 29th Street crossing on the south (with East Yard added in 1942) was the home of OUR&D operations from the time of its organization until the late 1960s when its two owners, Southern Pacific and Union Pacific, took over its freight operations. As with any terminal company, OUR&D was organized to allow the member railroads to share facilities, mostly to avoid conflicts of operation and to ensure that each road had an equal say in the operations.

While the timing of the formation of a depot company was a reaction to the complaints of Ogden's citizens to the lack of service by UP and SP, the depot company, operating as a terminal railroad, would oversee the operations of UP and SP, along with Utah Central, Utah & Northern (soon to be combined as the Oregon Short Line & Utah Northern), and Ogden's newest railroad, Denver & Rio Grande Western. But first the depot needed attention. During the 1880s, Union Pacific's president, Charles F. Adams, had commissioned noted architect Henry Van Brundt and his Van Brundt & Howe firm in Kansas City, Mo., to design new stations for UP at Omaha, Cheyenne, and Portland. In September 1886, he added Ogden to the list after it became apparent that it, too, needed a new building. (Hunter, Beneath Ben Lomond's Peak, p. 425. The last stone in the foundation was laid on December 31, 1886.)

Van Brundt published his preliminary sketches of the new Ogden depot in American Architect and Building News in November 1886. They showed that the design was Romanesque in style, a treatment that was being promoted by another noted American architect, H. H. Richardson. The final design contained many of the preliminary features, but other details were altered to make the building more functional. Both the north and south wings were built with two floors. In the center was a three-floor building with a clock tower, and the roof was finished with dormers replacing the suggested Romanesque steeple and spirals. Included in the design were 33 hotel rooms in the south wing. In the center upper floor were railroad offices, including the superintendent's office, with the lower floor taken up by ticket offices and waiting rooms. In the north wing was the baggage handling facilities and an emigrant waiting room. In early September 1886, Adams commissioned Francis M. Sharp of Kansas City to be the building contractor. Construction commenced immediately, and by late December the sandstone foundation was laid.

Mayor David Eccles declared a city-wide holiday for the laying of the corner stone. He invited businessmen to close their establishments and urged citizens to "engage in the ceremonies." Reporting on the 5,000 to 6,000 persons that attended, the Ogden Standard commented that "the old shanties called the depot will not be used much longer."

Work halted, however, during 1887 as Union Pacific's attention turned to defending itself before the Pacific Railway Commission, formed by Congress to fully investigate the affairs of the government bond-aided railways, and their questionable methods of repaying the government for obligations coming due during the late 1890s. To separate the mainline roads from any improvements they wanted to make, and to aid in the financing of the depot, and other improvements at Ogden, UP and CP organized the Ogden Union Railway & Depot Co., as noted, in September 1888. Work resumed and the depot was completed in July 1889, with July 31 being set aside as the day of grand celebration.

The station was open to the public all day. The celebration was capped off that evening with a round of speeches and a dance. At 1 a.m., a special train returned Salt Lake City guests to their homes, while the Ogden guests danced until 2 a.m. One speaker remarked that "after long years of anxious waiting, we have at last secured the great prize, and the people of Ogden are happy." In addition to the new depot, OUR&D built a freight house, and in 1889, Union Pacific completed a large addition to its ice house.

Growth continued and Ogden became one of the largest railroad centers in the West. By the turn of the century, the city was the home of numerous canneries, wholesale houses, clothing mills and factories, foundries and machine shops, brick yards, and other factories of all kinds. As a railroad center, Ogden was the home of UP's Wyoming Division, SP's Salt Lake Division, the Salt Lake & Ogden Railway (later called the Bamberger), and the Ogden & Northwestern Railroad, later to become the Utah Idaho Central. New mechanical facilities (roundhouses and car and locomotive shops) were completed for UP in 1897, and for SP in 1906. The Southern Pacific shops acted as its General Eastern Shops, and employed more than 500 men in its "three immense buildings of white stone and brick." Both Union Pacific and the Denver & Rio Grande also maintained their shops in Ogden, employing 125 men between them. In 1910, a new OUR&D freight house replaced the one built in 1889. Located just north of Union Station on Wall Avenue, it was 700 feet long and could handle 100 cars on its seven tracks. [The OUR&D freight house was closed and demolished in 1972.]

The November 1906 Official Guide of the Railways provides an excellent look at passenger railroading in Ogden. In 1906 there were six Rio Grande Western trains operating through Ogden. Included were trains that connected with one of Oregon Short Line's trains to Seattle. Union Pacific ran six through trains, four of which connected directly with Southern Pacific trains. UP also ran a local between Ogden and Echo. SP's trains connected with UP at Ogden, except for a mixed train that operated between Ogden and Kelton on the old Promontory line.

At the time, Oregon Short Line did not name its passenger trains, using only train numbers. During 1906, it ran four through trains (two in each direction) between Salt Lake City and Seattle, with connections at Pocatello for Butte, Mont. OSL also operated a Salt Lake City-to-Cache Junction local.

In 1915, the Chamber of Commerce was promoting the city as a warehousing center, a canning center, a packing house center, and a food manufacturing center, in addition to being a railway center. During the early part of the 1900s, the depot handled 76 passenger trains a day. By the 1920s, Ogden was experiencing explosive growth in railroad traffic. The number of freight and passenger trains grew almost daily, with 1921 being the peak year for passenger train revenues on Union Pacific. (Hunter, Beneath Ben Lomond's Peak, p. 428)

The growing congestion called for more and better facilities. In 1917, the Ogden Union Stockyards were completed, making the city the largest center west of Denver for handling livestock in railroad cars. A freight bypass for Oregon Short Line trains was completed, as were mechanical facilities (roundhouse and car shops) to maintain Union Pacific locomotives and cars. Pacific Fruit Express rose from the ashes of an icehouse destroyed by fire in 1919 to complete (in 1921) an up-to-date concrete ice manufacturing plant, with expanded facilities for the icing of entire trains of refrigerator cars. Tracks were added to the OUR&D yards to accommodate the increased traffic, and to make room for the new PFE facilities. This forced the reconstruction in 1927 of the steel 24th Street Viaduct (completed in 1909) to extend it directly to the West Ogden Bluff.

A New Depot

In the midst of all this growth in the mid-1920s came a huge setback. On February 13, 1923 one of the hotel rooms in Union Station caught fire, and the blaze spread all too quickly. By 2:30 a.m., when the fire department brought it under control, the center part of the building and all its equipment were a total loss, but no injuries occurred. The north wing and south wing were still intact, but all that remained of the center were the stone exterior walls. The loss of the large Victorian depot was not mourned. It was 36 years old and had served its days. The day after the fire, the Ogden Standard Examiner reported that "the squatty, poorly lighted, ill-vented, unattractive old depot will now be replaced," adding that the building had recently become "dilapidated, ill-ventilated, unsightly, over-crowded and unsanitary." Yet, imagine the community's consternation when the railroad companies announced that the structure would be repaired rather than replaced. After much pleading by community leaders, the railroads relented, and by April 1924 the depot grounds were cleared.

Hired to design the new depot were John and Donald Parkinson, principals in a Los Angeles architectural firm that had also designed UP Mission-style depots at Caliente, Nev., in 1921, and Kelso, Calif., and Milford, Utah, in 1923. The same firm also furnished the designs for Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal, Los Angeles City Hall, and Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

On November 22, 1924 the station was declared complete, and a dedication ceremony was held. The new depot stood on the foundation of the depot that burned. Ogden historian Richard C. Roberts described the new depot this way:

"Its architectural design is Italian Renaissance of the style which flourished in the fifteenth century in Europe. The building is 374 feet long and an average of 88 feet wide, with a waiting room of 60 feet by 112 feet, and a ceiling height of 56 feet. The ceiling and roof are supported by six huge wooden trusses which are made from Oregon or Douglas Fir. The trusses were >highly ornamented in brilliant colors' and >attractive designs,' (which have since been painted over). The roofing is of a Cordova Spanish tile. The brick is a pink buff brick produced in Ogden and faced with Boise sandstone. The two main entrances on the east of the building are carved Boise sandstone. The designs in the sandstone are of >fruits,' featuring mostly clusters of grapes. Over each entrance door is a carved buffalo.

"Inside, the building has the large waiting room in the center. On the north end of the building on the ground floor is a smoking room for men, and a ladies rest parlor. Farther along are the baggage and mail rooms. There was also a small >emergency hospital' located in the north wing. The south wing of the ground floor housed the Western Union and the station master's offices.

"On the east of the waiting rooms was the ticket office which was separated from the waiting room 'by a long counter reaching across the arcade openings.' On the west side of the waiting room was the Union News Company stands and the parcel checking area. At each end of the waiting room were built two artistic drinking fountains with colored tile designs. The floor of the waiting room is laid in six inch alternating red and gray tile to match the wall plastering done in old ivory with buff tiled wainscoting.

"On the second floor were the division offices of the Southern Pacific, the Superintendent of the Ogden Union Railway & Depot Company, the Union Pacific Telegraph Department and the Claims Agent. The building was steam heated by a boiler plant built about 600 feet west of the structure with the steam carried to the station through an underground pipeline. The total cost of the structure was $400,000." [The power plant was built in 1913.]

When completed, the depot directly replaced the old one in both size and function. To solve an earlier problem of limited access to the multiple depot tracks, sometime before 1920, a passenger subway (underground walkway) was completed between the waiting room and stairways up to the depot tracks. In March 1927, the subway was extended to serve the outside tracks, allowing passengers to walk directly from the waiting rooms to the platform of their choice, without regard to whether tracks above were occupied by waiting trains. (Oregon Short Line Railroad Co., OSL Authority For Expenditure Register, Reference Number 338, work began on May 26, 1926; work completed on March 5, 1927.)

With the completion of the passenger subway, officials considered adding umbrella sheds to protect passengers from the elements. As with many things at the jointly owned Ogden Union Station, minor disagreements surfaced over the design of these new sheds. Union Pacific wanted sheds that were 19 feet wide, similar to those just installed at Salt Lake City. Southern Pacific wanted sheds that were 23 feet wide, similar to those installed at Sacramento. A decision was made in November 1927 to use the Sacramento design, and the sheds were completed between April and September 1928. In all, there were 5,600 linear feet of sheds protected the four tracks. The sheds were torn down during April 1969. (Oregon Short Line Railroad Co., OSL AFE Register, rReference number 413; OUR&D AFE 5, approved on November 9, 1927, work begun on April 20, 1928; work completed on September 30, 1928; Salt Lake Tribune, April 13, 1969)

More Improvements

Other improvements came to Ogden during the mid- and late-1920s. As noted earlier, UP built a new roundhouse and shops, and PFE built a new ice plant and icing platforms. The extension of the 24th Street viaduct to reach the West Ogden Bluff, cleared the way for more expansion in the railroad yard below.

In 1930, there were 119 freight trains were operating daily through Ogden yard. During the previous year, just over 1.4 million cars moved through the yard, which was said to have the capacity a 12,000 cars. During 1929, the stockyards handled more than 2.1 million head of livestock, including cattle, hogs, sheep, horses, and mules. The stockyards accepted 13,298 carloads of livestock, and shipped 13,531 carloads. At the PFE icing plant (which could produce 400 tons of ice a day, and store 2,000 tons), 82,302 cars were iced at the two icing platforms. These platforms could re-ice 272 cars at one time, and have all 272 cars completely re-iced in just one hour. ("Ogden: Gateway of the West", Utah Payroll Builder, Volume 19, Number 5, May 1930, p. 2)

Also during 1930, more than 750 carloads of wheat were inspected each month at Ogden, placing it second only to Portland, Ore., in amount of wheat shipped by rail; this was in the days before covered hoppers, and grain was shipped in 40-foot boxcars. (Ogden Chamber of Commerce, "Ogden - The Minneapolis of the West", Ogden - The Gateway to the Intermountain West, 1930)

By 1946, 140 trains were moving through Ogden every day, counting both eastbound and westbound movements. (Salt Lake Tribune, October 2, 1949)