OUR&D's Riverdale Yard
This page was last updated on September 17, 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.)
As America recovered from the depression of the 1930s, and with a war coming in Europe, traffic on America's railroads was booming. Much industrial effort was going into the economy of the West, and Ogden was on the route for trains to and from the West Coast. The number of trains was growing steadily, and Ogden's rail yard was feeling the pinch. It needed more room. During the fall 1941 peak, as many as six trains were held on the main line at any one time awaiting space in Ogden yard. Additional space came to the south (east in railroad terms). To build its new "East Yard," Ogden Union Railway & Depot Co. in 1942 purchased 305 acres of land, situated between the Union Pacific main line on the east, the Weber River on the west, the embankment for the Bamberger over-crossing on the north, and the Riverdale Road bridge on the south. The "East Yard" name came from the fact that it was located (railroad) east of the Bamberger Railroad crossing at 33rd Street.
The new yard would consist of four 125-car tracks and a new switch lead. One of the projected uses for the new yard was to store westbound empty Pacific Fruit Express refrigerator cars, which were taking up valuable space in the then-current Ogden yard. Empty PFE cars were also taking up valuable space in numerous sidings along the UP main line across Wyoming, and as far east as the Omaha/Council Bluffs terminal. Additional space was provided for two ten-track yards, to be developed as required. In addition to OUR&D holding tracks for westbound PFE cars, Pacific Fruit Express itself leased space for two 125-car tracks, located nearer the Weber River, to serve as clean-out tracks for its fleet of refrigerator cars. (Union Pacific Railroad, Memorandum by President in support of OUR&D AFE No. 2 and OSL AFE No.46, May 17, 1942)
East Yard was completed and placed in operation in June 1942. The improve switching operations, the trackage in the vicinity of the 30th Street Wye, also known as the OSL Wye, and 29th Street was re-arranged. Switch engines were then able to continue operations during north-south train movements, which was impossible at the present time. The resulting expansion of switching operations required UP to add a second and third diesel General Motors Electro-Motive Division (GM-EMD, or just EMD) NW2 model switcher to the single unit that was already working in Ogden.
Until East Yard, situated between 33rd and 50th streets, was completed in 1942, all trains were operating in and out of the original OUR&D "West Yard " between 21st and 29th streets. In addition to the seasonal storage of empty PFE cars, East Yard handled all Southern Pacific eastbound traffic, along with all Union Pacific traffic bound for Salt Lake City and Los Angeles. It also handled the seasonal eastbound PFE shipments. West Yard handled all westbound traffic for SP, all westbound Union Pacific (OSL) traffic for Idaho and the Northwest, and all local industrial traffic. Construction of East Yard eased the congestion somewhat, but within 10 years, more space was needed again.
Rail traffic growth continued through the post-World War II years, again squeezing the yard facilities. The amount of perishable traffic from California's agricultural industry produced a peak in PFE traffic in 1953, with almost 500,000 cars being loaded. Perishable traffic was part of the average of 7,000 to 8,000 cars per day moving through the "Ogden Gateway," with a winter season peak of more than 9,000 cars per day, reflecting the increase in fruits and vegatables moving from California. To handle this surge, UP and SP announced in July 1953 that the jointly owned Ogden Union Railway & Depot Co. would expand its Ogden East Yard. ("At The Ogden Gateway...It Pays To Communicate", Railway Signaling and Communications, January 1956, p. 24)
This expansion would permit better handling of all eastbound traffic. The original, main yard (briefly known as West Yard) would then be dedicated to the better handling of all westbound traffic. Included in the East Yard (by then known as Riverdale Yard) expansion was almost 22 miles of new yard tracks, a new overhead viaduct for Ogden's 31st Street, two new yard offices, a diesel fueling facility, two new control towers, floodlights for both yards, a new 150-ton track scale, a pneumatic tube message system, and radio and paging communications. Also included was a second steel overhead bridge for the Bamberger Railroad, whose original steel bridge had stood since 1914. At the same time, UP would build a new four-track car repair area, with shop, office, locker room, and storehouse.
Also included was a new island-type icing platform for Pacific Fruit Express that would allow the company to mechanize part of its operation at Ogden, along with expanding its facilities to allow the re-icing of two full-length, unbroken 110-car trains at once. This platform would replace the 1927-built 70-car platform in the main yard. PFE would retain the older 66-car icing platform, also located in the main yard. To mechanize the icing operations, the new platform at Riverdale would be equipped with three Preco mechanical icing machines and a 500-ton ice manufacturing and storage facility, and an ice conveyor system connecting the storage facility with the icing platform. (Railway Age, Volume 135, number 3, July 20, 1953, pp. 22-23; see also Deseret News, June 15, 1953 and July 1, 1953)
The new "Speedway Yard" opened on September 1, 1954. The new name was only briefly promoted (railroaders then, as now, knew it as Riverdale Yard), but its intention was to highlight the fact that the yard would enable both Union Pacific and Southern Pacific to move trains through the Ogden Gateway with greater efficiency and speed. ("Week At A Glance", Railway Age, Volume 137, number 10, September 6, 1954, p. 4)
To build Speedway Yard and complete other local improvements, UP, SP, and their subsidiary OUR&D, spent $4 million in 1953-54. Union Pacific spent $78,000 for additional tracks and track cleaning in 1957. An additional $123,000 was expended in 1959 for UP to expand its car repair facilities. Between 1957 and 1962, OUR&D spent $400,000 for improvements, including water treatment facilities, mail handling equipment, and train crew facilities, along with other building and trackage changes. (317 ICC 481)
On a typical day in October 1955, either a passenger train or a freight train arrived or departed Ogden every 11 minutes. An average of 20 passenger trains and 7,000 to 8,000 freight cars moved through the city daily. (Ogden Standard Examiner, May 4, 1969)
By the mid-1960s, because the economic and political benefits were becoming less obvious, both Union Pacific and Southern Pacific could see that the interchange at Ogden by way of the jointly owned Ogden Union Railway & Depot Co. had outlived its usefulness. Traffic on the Overland Route had declined significantly, especially the seasonal trains of perishable goods. This, and changes in the Utah tax code, led to a severe reduction in OUR&D operations. The ICC held hearings in the mid-1960s to consider curtailment of OUR&D operations, and in October 1967 the ICC gave its blessing.
Reflecting the 1968 reorganization and subsequent operational changes, all of Riverdale Yard and all trackage south of 29th Street became solely Union Pacific property. SP took over much of the former UP trackage in the old main yard, including the area directly west of the passenger depot tracks. Several tracks adjacent to the old PFE facility stayed with UP. The remaining property around and under Union Station itself, and the former site of the freight house, remained as a joint OUR&D holding.