Central Pacific and Southern Pacific
Index For This Page
(Additional research has been completed since this was published in 2005; see separate SP in Utah page)
Union Pacific's connecting partner in the historic 1869 completion of the transcontinental railroad was Central Pacific. Until September 1996, it was Southern Pacific that operated into Ogden from California, across the Great Salt Lake and Nevada. The narrative of how one became the other begins with the organization of the Central Pacific Railroad by the "Big Four," a group of Sacramento, Calif., businessmen headed by Collis P. Huntington, in 1863 to construct the western portion of the Pacific Railroad. After the Golden Spike was driven, Central Pacific aimed its sights on completing feeder lines in Oregon and northern California that would furnish, or "feed," traffic to the new transcontinental rail line. One of these was the Southern Pacific Railroad, started by other individuals in 1865 as a line from San Francisco to San Diego. Its construction stalled until Huntington became financially interested in mid-1868, and he gained control in September 1869.
Just as Union Pacific had contracted with Brigham Young for the construction its line into Utah, Central Pacific also contracted with the Mormons. Upon Young's advice, the CP contract was taken by Lorin Farr, the first mayor of Ogden, and still a resident of the city. He was also in the local church leadership. Brigham Young recommended that Farr not try to manage all of the contract himself, and Farr brought in Chauncey West, also of Ogden, and Ezra Taft Benson, of Logan. The contract that Benson, Farr, & West took was to complete the grading of the Central Pacific from Humboldt Wells in Nevada, east as far as Weber Canyon. Territory. Benson, Farr & West completed the full and original 200 miles of grade, and unlike the UP contract with UP, CP paid them the entire amount owed to them on the grading contract. Included was payment for 53 miles of grade between Promontory Summit and Ogden that was not used by CP after Ogden was decided on as the terminal for the transcontinental line. Instead, after completion of the tracks to Promontory, the trackage between Ogden and Promontory completed by UP was turned over to CP, and the original CP grade sat unused. The Deseret News of March 24, 1870, verified the fact that Farr, his associates both being dead, received from the Central Pacific Railroad Company the amount of $100,000. The amount, however, all went to pay Farr's sub-contractors. According to a local history of the affair, Farr himself emerged from the undertaking with little or nothing for his efforts. That same history mentions that Chauncey West's biographer attributed West's death in January 1870, at the age of 43, to the stress managing the contract, collecting the amount owed on the contract, and to the San Francisco weather, saying, "His health had been greatly impaired by hardships, and the damp, foggy weather of the coast, coupled with his great anxiety to secure such a settlement as would enable him to discharge his obligation, proved too much for him in his weakened condition." (Our Pioneer Heritage, Volume 8, pages 335-337)
The Benson, Farr & West contracts for Central Pacific included their subcontracting with the firm of Snow, Nichols & Loveland for the completion of the 27 miles of grade between Willard City, on the northeast shore of the Great Salt Lake's Bear River Bay, northwest around the north end of the lake to the Promontory Mountains. In its issue for November 25, 1868, the Deseret News carried an news item that the line had all been surveyed and located, and ground had been broken on the previous Thursday. (Deseret News, November 25, 1868.)
By the end of 1882, with the completion of its line into Oregon, Central Pacific operated 1,330 miles of railroad in Utah, Nevada, Oregon, and in northern California. To capture the California market, CP's organizers, including C. P. Huntington, had also organized the Southern Pacific as a sister company to Central Pacific. By the late 1870s, SP had built and operated a railroad throughout central and southern California, and in mid- March 1880 had reached Tucson, Arizona Territory, and Texas in 1883. A new holding corporation, the Southern Pacific Co., was organized in 1884 to manage all of Huntington's railroad interests, including Southern Pacific Railroad, Central Pacific, and several other leased railroads. CP was leased to the Southern Pacific Co. on April 1, 1885, giving the SP complete control of Huntington's Central Pacific lines in California and Oregon, together with the Overland Route, between Sacramento and Ogden (the original Central Pacific), and the Sunset Route, between southern California and New Orleans (the original Southern Pacific). (Myrick, David F. "Refinancing And Rebuilding The Central Pacific: 1899-1910", The Golden Spike, David E. Miller, ed., Utah State Historical Society, University of Utah Press; Salt Lake City, Utah: University of Utah Press, 1973, pp. 89-90)
In the years following completion of the transcontinental railroad, both Union Pacific and Southern Pacific sought ways to circumvent and delay making payments on their respective government bonds coming due in 1899, 30 years after completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869. As set down in the original 1862 Pacific Railway Act, these payments were to be based on the net earnings of each road. UP delayed its payments by questioning the definition of "net earnings." The company also used other delaying tactics, trying to keep its various improvements, including its development of badly needed feeder lines, such as Oregon Short Line, Utah Central, and many others, separate from the business of the original transcontinental trunk line. As already noted, the creation of Ogden Union Railway & Depot Co. in 1888 was one of these tactics. Central Pacific's owners chose to avoid the question of net earnings by acquiring control of the SP, and transferring much of Central Pacific's business to the southern route, completed in 1883, draining traffic away from the Ogden interchange. (Riegel, The Story of the Western Railroads, pp. 198, 202)
The 1885 lease of Central Pacific by Southern Pacific brought SP to the forefront of railroad operations in Ogden. Throughout the 1880s and 1890s, SP's profits were slowly losing ground in keeping up with expenses, in part due to terms of the Central Pacific lease. This, together with government debt coming due from 1896 to 1899, led SP and CP, along with committees of their shareholders and bondholders, to enter into negotiations with the federal government that resulted in a reorganization of the CP in 1899.
The Central Pacific Railroad was reorganized as the Central Pacific Railway on August 1, 1899. A direct benefit of this reorganization was that, over the next 10 years, CP's debt of $58 million to the federal government for bonds of the original transcontinental rail line was repaid in full, with interest. SP owned and controlled the new Central Pacific by lease and full ownership of its capital stock. Southern Pacific Co. then operated 8,200 miles of railroad, from Portland, Oregon, south and southeast through southern California and Arizona, across Texas to New Orleans, along with its Overland Route across Nevada and Utah, to a connection with Union Pacific at Ogden. Central Pacific remained a separate corporate entity, as owner of the route into Ogden, fully controlled by SP, until it was formally merged into the parent company 60 years later - on June 30, 1959. (Myrick, "Refinancing The Central Pacific", p. 113)
The patriarch of Southern Pacific, Collis P. Huntington, died on August 13, 1900. Huntington's rival, Edward H. Harriman, was taking the newly reorganized Union Pacific Railroad into its industry-leading position by throwing large amounts of money at numerous improvements. Harriman had tried unsuccessfully to talk the aging Huntington out of his SP holdings, but Huntington would have nothing to do with Harriman. Upon Huntington's death, Harriman saw his chance and took it, buying Huntington's 46 percent of SP, and voted himself a seat on SP's board of directors. Harriman's move immediately shut out D&RGW, along with other interlopers into Utah, including the Burlington through its Colorado Midland subsidiary. Harriman said at the time that UP had to control the larger Southern Pacific "to maintain and protect the position of the [Union Pacific] system and to safeguard its future against combinations of other lines . . ." He later said, "We have bought not only a railroad, but an empire." (Hofsommer, Don L. The Southern Pacific, 1901-1985; College Station, Texas: Texas A&M University Press, 1986, p. 13)
This gave Harriman control of both SP (the largest railroad in the nation), and UP (the most profitable road), providing a one-company connection between the Missouri River and the Pacific Coast via the Overland Route, along with SP's Sunset Route from Oakland to New Orleans. Harriman also controlled rail access to most of the ports along the Pacific Coast, from Portland on the north, to Long Beach on the south, along with the Gulf port of Galveston, Texas. All of this unfolded against the backdrop of president Teddy Roosevelt's campaign of "trust busters," in which he sought to break up corporate cartels such as Rockefeller's Standard Oil petroleum trust, James J. Hill's Northern Securities railroad trust, and Henry Havemayer's American Sugar cane sugar and beet sugar trust. Harriman's purchase of SP attracted the attention of the trust busters, and soon he found himself fighting the U. S. government over his growing collection of railroads, which included Illinois Central, Alton & Southern, and Erie. Although Harriman fought the federal lawyers until his death in 1909, the government eventually won its case.
The case of the United States vs. Union Pacific (226 US 61), decided in 1912, was the government's successful action to force UP to divest itself of SP. That 1912 decision by the Supreme Court also dealt with SP's lease and control of Central Pacific. In February 1914, the government sued to break that control, in United States vs. Southern Pacific (259 US 214), with the case being decided, again by the Supreme Court, against SP in 1922, forcing the road to terminate control of Central Pacific and separate the properties.
In the meantime, the Transportation Act of 1920 changed the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887 to allow the Interstate Commerce Commission jurisdiction over the issue of one railroad controlling another, if the public interest was maintained. The ICC found that the 1920 act constituted a "radical change in the legislative policy of Congress, in respect of the application of the Sherman [anti-trust] law to the railroads of the country." The timing of the 1922 Supreme court decision, coming after the 1920 Transportation Act, gave SP the opportunity to re-present its case for control of Central Pacific, this time to the ICC.
SP's major argument before the ICC was that it and Central Pacific were dependent on each other, and that an independent CP would have difficulty meeting its financial obligations. Union Pacific filed a brief with the ICC supporting SP's continued control of the Central Pacific, saying that if CP failed after being broken away from SP control, UP would lose its connection for westbound traffic at Ogden. Next came the question of the percentage of traffic that SP was diverting to its Sunset Route through southern California, and across Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, and away from the short haul along the Overland Route across Nevada to UP at Ogden. Evidence showed that due to the competitive position of its southern route, SP was giving itself the long-haul, and attendant higher profits.
In return for supporting Southern Pacific's control of Central Pacific, UP in 1923 won an agreement with SP to send traffic via the Overland Route through Ogden. This pact became known as the "Santa Margarita Agreement." It stated that all eastbound traffic originating north of Santa Margarita, at the south end of California's Salinas Valley, would travel by way of Ogden. With the agreement in place, SP was forced to furnish a dependable amount of rail traffic to Union Pacific at the Ogden Gateway, with a small bit going to D&RGW to satisfy the ICC government regulators. The ICC decided in Southern Pacific's favor in 1923, giving it control of CP but insisting that Southern Pacific solicit traffic for the Overland Route, via Ogden, for interchange with Union Pacific there. (ICC Docket 2613, SP control of CP, approved February 6, 1923, in 76 ICC 508)
In using such specific language, the ICC unwittingly shut Rio Grande out of sharing any meaningful amount of SP traffic at Ogden. This decision effectively forced D&RGW to depend even more on its connection with Western Pacific at Salt Lake City.
D&RGW endured the imbalance until the post-World War II boom, pleading its case before the ICC in a bid for a share of the postwar prosperity. In 1953, D&RGW was granted limited joint rates with Union Pacific through Ogden. UP contested the decision, claiming that it was entitled to all of SP's traffic at Ogden as a provision of both the Pacific Railway Act of 1864 and the 1923 ICC decision. In a series of legal maneuvers that continued in the courts from the mid-1950s through to the late-1960s, Union Pacific attempted to avoid being forced to share its Ogden traffic with upstart D&RGW. When SP trains began running directly into Rio Grande's Roper Yard in Salt Lake City in 1970, it was a direct result of a final settlement of what has been called the Ogden Gateway case.
The Lucin Cutoff
After Central Pacific was reorganized in 1899, it was able to concentrate on improving its railroad. Surveys were run in an effort to find ways bypass or ease the many difficult curves and severe grades across Nevada and western Utah. Over the next 10 years, 221 miles of the 443 miles of line across Nevada were relocated to better alignments. One of the first improvements was a plan to eliminate the operational bottleneck over Promontory summit in northern Utah, with its just over 700 feet of climb above the level of the lake. This would be accomplished by building the Lucin Cutoff, a new east-west water level route between the Utah/Nevada state line and Ogden, directly across Great Salt Lake.
Planners had envisioned a direct route across the lake as early as the first surveys for the transcontinental railroad. In June 1868, a party of Central Pacific surveyors took depth soundings of the lake and found that at its deepest it was not 11 feet, as previously estimated, but 38 feet deep. UP's Chief Engineer G. M. Dodge's original survey had UP building its line west from Ogden, across the Bear River arm of the lake to Promontory Point, then north along the western slope of the Promontory Mountains to the north end of the lake, then west to Nevada. Construction technology did not yet exist to build the route across the lake. The direct route had to wait for another 30 years and the construction of the Lucin Cutoff, which would slice 43 miles off the trip between Ogden and Nevada. Later, after operations had begun, Southern Pacific found that the cutoff saved an average of 24 hours of transit time. Also, the cutoff would eliminate as many as three helper locomotives on every train on the 2.2 percent climb up to Promontory summit, compared to the almost level cutoff route. (Doris R. Dant, "Bridge: A Railroading Community On The Great Salt Lake", Utah Historical Quarterly, Volume 53, number 1, Winter 1985, pp. 55-73)
At the time of the construction of the cutoff, the Promontory line was handling six million tons of railroad traffic per year, or about ten trains per day, each made up of 33 50-ton cars. (Gwynn, J. Wallace, ed., "Great Salt Lake, a Scientific, Historical and Economic Overview", Utah Geological and Mineral Survey, Bulletin 116, June 1980, p. 13, "At the time of the construction of the trestle, the Promontory line was handling 600,000 tons of railroad traffic per year." Assuming rail cars of about 50 tons capacity, this figure works out to be about 33 cars per day, which seems low for the line's place in the shipment of cross-country rail traffic.)
Planning for the 103-mile Lucin Cutoff, with its 12 miles of wood trestle and 11 miles of earth fill causeway, began in November 1899 and got under way the next month when engineers started taking depth soundings. (Myrick, "Refinancing The Central Pacific", pp. 115-116)
In June 1900 a separate corporation, the Ogden & Lucin Railroad, was organized to construct the cutoff. Construction was delayed after Huntington's death in 1900, but resumed with Harriman's ownership and control of Southern Pacific. When the railroad announced its intention to replace the original Promontory route, Salt Lake City boosters called for the new route to come to their city instead of Ogden. As with the original transcontinental line, Salt Lake lost out, this time to simple distance. A route through Salt Lake City would be 67 miles longer than a line directly across the lake to Ogden. Contracts for construction were awarded in late February 1902 (which included a grand celebration in Ogden). Work began in March 1902, and the first pile was driven on August 2. (Klein, Union Pacific, Volume II, p. 129; Myrick, "Refinancing The Central Pacific", pp. 115-116; Gwynn, J. Wallace, ed., "Great Salt Lake, a Scientific, Historical and Economic Overview")
The problems were immense. Using state-of-the-art construction techniques, workers dumped enormous amounts of rock fill into the lake (70,000 carloads at Rambo alone), with the bottom of the lake seeming to open up and swallow whatever was offered. At times, the fill would appear to be stable, only to sink below the water's surface later. One of the construction engineers lamented, "We know what it ought to do, what we don't know is why it doesn't do it." (Klein, Union Pacific, Volume II, pp. 127-129)
The original plan called for an earth fill over the entire distance, but the engineers finally gave up and completed the most troublesome portion as a wooden trestle instead. Another observer found similar problems, "The builders of the "Lucin cut-off" from Ogden across the lake are meeting with considerable bad luck, caused by the track sinking in places while loaded trains of supplies and ballast are passing over it and thus precipitating the train into the lake. The engineers say that all such obstacles will be overcome before long." (Letter from the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to LDS church President Francis M. Lyman, dated May 20, 1903. Cited in James R. Clark, Messages of the First Presidency, Vol.4, p. 56)
SP drove the last pile in the trestle on October 26, 1903, and the last rail was laid on November 13, 1903. The total cost was said to be $4.5 million. Freight trains began using the cutoff on March 8, 1904, but because parts of the fill were still settling in places, passenger trains continued to use the longer Promontory line until September 18, 1904. The Lucin Cutoff was officially opened on January 1, 1905. ("Utah Central and Other Railroads", Hidden Treasures of Pioneer History, Volume 1, 1952, p. 34; Ogden Standard Examiner, February 22, 1953; Hunter, Beneath Ben Lomond's Peak, p. 428; Myrick, "Refinancing The Central Pacific", pp. 115-116; Interstate Commerce Commission. Southern Pacific Proposed Abandonment, Finance Docket 9791, proposed abandonment of portion of Promontory Branch between Kelton and Lucin, Utah, denied June 11, 1934, in 199 ICC 731.)
In building the Lucin trestle, Southern Pacific operated of a sternwheeler named "The Promontory," along with a fleet of seven barges. The design of the trestle included a deck of planks three inches thick, topped by a layer of asphalt, then a foot or more of rock ballast, and finally the ties and rail. At the center of the trestle was a telegraph station named Midlake, with a store, telegraph office, living quarters for the operator and section crews, and later, even a small garden plot. (Ogden Standard Examiner, February 22, 1953)
Planned during the construction of the original trestle, Midlake was first known as Camp 20. Fire protection for the 11.67-mile-long trestle consisted "of a bucket hung here and there and a fire extinguisher every half mile." (ICC Docket 9791, SP proposed abandonment of portion of Promontory Branch, in 199 ICC 735.)
Between 1920 and 1927, the trestle was strengthened with additional decking, stringers, and struts. The added strength was needed to handle the heavier trains that were coming into use with the advent of steel cars, heavier shipments, and more powerful locomotives.
Telegraph stations on the Lucin Cutoff were situated at (from west to east) Lakeside, Midlake, and Promontory Point. When double track west of Ogden was extended west over the earth fill between Little Mountain and Promontory Point to the east end of the trestle in 1929, a new station called Bridge replaced the telegraph stations at Promontory Point and Midlake, which were both closed. The buildings at Midlake, where there was also a passing siding, remained in place as section men's quarters. The telegraph office at Midlake was reopened in 1941 to help with wartime traffic, but all telegraph stations on the cutoff were closed with the completion of Centralized Traffic Control in 1945. (Doris R. Dant, "Bridge: A Railroading Community On The Great Salt Lake")
The station buildings and living quarters at Midlake, which rested on a wide spot in the trestle 40 feet wide and 240 feet long, were dismantled in August 1945. (Ogden Standard Examiner, February 19, 1950)
Southern Pacific's Promontory Branch
Over the 30 years following the building of the Lucin Cutoff, the original Central Pacific line into Ogden by way of Promontory Summit got little more than routine maintenance. In April 1933, Southern Pacific applied to the ICC for permission to abandon operation of the western 55-mile portion of the Promontory Branch, between Kelton and Lucin. At that time, two principle areas of settlement existed in the vicinity of that part of the branch; Rosette had 15 families and Park Valley had 45 families, and neither was situated directly on the rail line. Traffic for the once-a-week local train consisted mostly of seasonal livestock shipments, particularly the movement of 125,000 sheep to their winter ranges, and 10,000 head of cattle, along with in-shipment of hay and grain to supplement the sparse desert grazing. Other traffic came from a deposit of infusorial earth, a product used in filtering water. During 1932, four carloads of this highly specialized commodity were shipped from Peplin, a station just west of Kelton.
Only 5,161 tons (about 100 carloads) of rail traffic originated on the western part of the branch between 1928 and 1932, compared to the several hundred carloads that were moving over the Lucin Cutoff every day. Most of the traffic on the Promontory Branch, about 83 percent, was in the form of wheat shipped from Lampo, east of Promontory Station on the eastern part of the branch. At one time, Lampo was one of the largest originating points for wheat in Utah. Much of the wheat on the eastern portion of the Promontory Branch was purchased by Sperry Mills and shipped either to its mill and silos in Ogden for storage and partial milling, or to the company's extensive milling operation at South Vallejo, Calif. Hilton Flour Mills in Ogden was also a customer for the area's wheat.
The abandonment proceedings for the west end of the branch lasted until June 1934, at which time the ICC denied the application, because SP lawyers revealed that the railroad was planning neither to dismantle the line, nor to halt maintenance that would keep it in operating condition. They merely wanted to withdraw the line from participation in interstate commerce. Southern Pacific was hesitant to abandon and dismantle the entire Promontory Branch due to possible problems that might arise from its status as collateral for the 1899 mortgage for the reorganization of Central Pacific. (ICC Finance Docket 9791, SP proposed abandonment of portion of Promontory Branch, in 199 ICC 731-739.)
An SP attorney at the ICC hearings stated that "We feel that this mortgage is a possible barrier to the abandonment of that line by the Central Pacific Railway Co." The ICC denied the application because the inconvenience to the shippers along the line outweighed the small potential savings for the railroad. (ICC Finance Docket 9791, reconsideration, in 212 ICC 398-404.)
The case was reopened in December 1934 at the request of SP, which argued that the population along the line consisted only of a section gang and two persons on one ranch and three part-time residents on another ranch. Parties protesting the abandonment, namely Box Elder County and the Utah State Economic Development Board, stated that railroad service was needed due to a severe drought in the region, citing the fact that 269 tons (about five carloads, or 50,000 gallons) of water had been shipped in during 1934 alone. They added that in 1928, 435 tons of water had been shipped in for the livestock along the line. In 1933 and 1934, only 576 tons of "freight-all-kinds" had originated on the line, about one carload every two weeks. The application for reconsideration was denied again on March 17, 1936, because the railroad still could not show that the benefits from abandonment would outweigh the inconvenience to livestock shippers on the line. (ICC Finance Docket 9791, reconsideration, in 212 ICC 398-404.)
Service between 1937 and 1940 consisted of various combinations of mixed trains (freight and passenger) and on-call freight service. From December 1937 to June 1938, a mixed train ran between Ogden and Lucin on Wednesdays, and another mixed train ran between Ogden and Kelton on Mondays and Fridays. From June 1938 to June 1939, the only service was the mixed train between Ogden and Lucin. From June 1939 to March 1940, the mixed train operated between Ogden and Kelton, only on Wednesdays, with on-call service at other times, including after the mixed train was dropped in March 1940. After 1940, the on-call, freight-only service ran only on Wednesdays. (Ogden Standard Examiner, March 11, 1942)
During its final years, a few passenger specials were run - for example, rabbit hunter excursions in 1937 (238 passengers) and again in 1939 (346 passengers). Also, the Civilian Conservation Corps had operated special trains between Ogden and Kelton in July and December 1938 (both totaling 306 passengers), and again in January 1939 (137 passengers). (ICC Finance Docket 13655, Questionnaire, part of Public Service Commission of Utah file for abandonment of Central Pacific Promontory Branch.)
The livestock industry provided the only business on the west end of the line, between Kelton and Lucin. Between Kelton and Corinne there was grain farming, livestock, sugar beets, and asphalt mining. The grain was loaded at Kosmo, Promontory, and Lampo. Livestock was shipped in and out at Lampo, Balfour, and Conner. Sugar beets were shipped from Dathol (Corinne Junction) and Stokes. The asphalt, in the form of eight carloads during 1941 and 1942, came from subsurface deposits developed by the Rosette Asphalt Co., 13 miles from the branch rails at Rozel. (ICC Finance Docket 13655, Report Of The Commission, Decided June 11, 1942, "This report will not be printed in full in the permanent series of Interstate Commerce Commission Reports", part of Public Service Commission of Utah file for abandonment of Central Pacific Promontory Branch.)
The grades and curves on the Promontory Branch were difficult at best. Between Lucin and Kelton, the line climbed over the flanks of Terrace Mountain and Peplin Mountain, where there was an eastbound 1.59 percent grade, meaning 1.59 feet of rise in 100 feet of distance, and a 1.61 percent westbound grade. The climb up and over the Promontory Mountains required a grade of 1.62 percent grade up the west side, and a grueling 2.21 percent up the east side. Because of its close proximity to the northern reaches of Great Salt Lake, the rest of the route averaged grades of 0.1 and 0.2 percent, with very little of it actually being level. The curves were numerous and sharp. More than 31 miles of track lay on curves less than 6 degrees (3 degrees is a sharp curve on a main line, with 6 degrees being very sharp) and another two miles of curves greater than 6 degrees, with a short stretch of 10 degree curvature. All trains were restricted to 15 mph. (Drawing, Condensed Profile, Lucin To Ogden, Main Line and Promontory Branch, C. E. Drawing 17045, April 1942)
Freight traffic on the line was predominantly outbound, with 676, 879, 691, 572, and 660 carloads for each of the years from 1937 to 1941, respectively. Inbound traffic for the same years were 23, 26, 23, 10, and 15 carloads, respectively. Total carloads for the five-year period were 12 cars of asphalt, 121 cars of sheep, 165 cars of cattle, 820 cars of wheat, and 2,325 cars of sugar beets (all originating from Dathol, Stokes, and Rochefort on the east end of the branch). The carloads of sugar beets were interchanged with UP at Corinne, and were shipped to the Utah-Idaho Sugar refinery at Garland. Sheep and cattle were all loaded at Kelton, with carloads diminishing after 1937, when stockmen began using Bear River City on UP's Bear River Branch as their main loading point. (ICC Finance Docket 13655, Questionnaire, part of Public Service Commission of Utah file for abandonment of Central Pacific Promontory Branch.)
Southern Pacific's Promontory Local out of Ogden traveled over Union Pacific (OSL) from Ogden to Corinne. In 1903, UP had completed its Malad Branch north from Corinne. Construction of this line included the four-mile "Brigham City Cut-off," a connection between the UP's Ogden-to-Pocatello line at Brigham City and a connection with Central Pacific's Promontory Branch at a new station called Corinne Junction, 1-1/2 miles east of Corinne. The agreement that allowed UP to use the 1-1/2 miles of Central Pacific tracks from Corinne Junction to Corinne also allowed SP trains to use Union Pacific's line between Ogden and the new Corinne Junction, thus saving SP the cost of maintaining the old Central Pacific line between Ogden and Corinne Junction. A side note from the Promontory Branch abandonment hearings in 1935 was SP's revelation that over the prior 30 years, about 10 miles of tracks between Corrine Junction and Bonneville (Hot Springs), eight miles north of Ogden, had been "removed by persons unknown to the railway company." With trackage rights over UP having been in effect since 1903, the original Central Pacific line (purchased from UP in November 1869), had lain dormant and unused. (ICC Finance Docket 9791, 212 ICC 402)
In a reflection of the line's status, SP applied for, and received on August 26, 1929, authority to close the agency station at Cecil Junction, a point less than a mile north of its Ogden yard, where the Lucin Cutoff joined the original CP line to Promontory in 1904. (Public Service Commission of Utah, Case 1133)
Operations on the Promontory "Old Line" continued to exhibit the difficulties that forced the construction of the Lucin Cutoff 40 years earlier. A former locomotive fireman, David Mann wrote in 1969 about his experiences on the line. The regular train, he said, consisted of a locomotive, as many as six freight cars, and a single passenger car. According to Mann, six freight cars were the limit, due to the steepness of the climb over the Promontory summit.
With the federal ICC denial of abandonment in 1936, SP tried a different tack. In February 1937, the railroad applied to the Public Service Commission of Utah for permission to abandon its mixed (combined freight and passenger) trains over the line. These mixed trains included a once-weekly train over the entire branch, from Ogden to Lucin on Mondays, returning to Ogden the next day. Also included was another mixed train between Corinne and Kelton three days a week, on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays. SP stated that in 1935 and 1936, no passengers rode between Kelton and Lucin, and the company collected only $12.89 per trip in freight revenue, against costs of $56 per trip. On March 31, 1937, the Utah commission allowed SP to discontinue all trains, both freight and passenger, on the western 20 miles of the branch between Lucin and Watercress. The commission also allowed for "on-call" freight service over the 34 miles of branch between Kelton and Watercress, while still requiring regular, scheduled service to continue on the 92 miles between Ogden and Kelton. (Public Service Commission of Utah, Case 1918, Report And Order Of The Commission; Ogden Standard Examiner, March 11, 1942)
The end of the Promontory Branch came five years later, in 1942. It took the form of a letter, dated April 22, 1942, from the War Department office in Sacramento, Calif., to SP officials, seeking help in procuring secondhand railroad rail and assistance in fabricating railroad switches for numerous National Defense projects then under way. The military specifically asked about the 114 miles of "very rarely used" 62-pound rail laid on the Promontory Branch. In a letter dated April 27, the Navy Department assured Southern Pacific that it would receive "prices not exceeding the ceiling quotations for relay rails and scrap." Later communications requisitioned a total of 120 miles of rail, approximately 15,000 tons, with which to lay track in the new Naval Ammunition Depot at Hawthorne, Nev. The requisition was based on a newly enacted law dated October 16, 1941. (Letter, Henry L. Stimson [War Department] to Southern Pacific, April 22, 1942; Letter, U. S. Engineer Office [War Department] to Southern Pacific, April 27, 1942; Utah-Idaho Sugar Company, inter-office memo, Abe Murdock to Douglas Scalley, May 26, 1942, all three items are part of Public Service Commission of Utah file for abandonment of Central Pacific Promontory Branch.)
It is unclear, considering the March 9, 1942, date of its application for abandonment to the ICC, whether SP volunteered the rail, or whether the Navy asked for the rail earlier in other communications. In either case, a public hearing was held on May 1, 1942. The abandonment was opposed by Box Elder County, by the Public Service Commission of Utah, and by several other interests. But it was all for naught. SP insisted that the Navy needed the rail, and the matter was therefore settled. The railroad also stated that further operation of the line would require extensive rebuilding to bring it up to current safety standards, citing that the branch had only dirt ballast and many narrow rock cuts. (Letter, Public Service Commission of Utah to Box Elder County Clerk, July 8, 1944, part of Public Service Commission of Utah file for abandonment of Central Pacific Promontory Branch)
On June 11, 1942, the ICC approved the abandonment, and Southern Pacific set about immediately removing the rail. Some of the rail was actually used at the Navy facility at Hawthorne, but most was used right in Utah on the many defense projects under way, including Hill Field, Clearfield Navy Supply Depot, Tooele Army Depot, and Utah General Depot. In a ceremony arranged by the Ogden Standard-Examiner newspaper, with Utah Gov. Herbert Maw and officials of UP and SP in attendance, on September 8, 1942, a ceremonial last spike on the branch was removed at Promontory, where the first Golden Spike was put into its laurel tie in 1869. All that remained then was the 1-1/2 miles of line between Corinne and Corinne Junction (Dathol). (Ogden Standard Examiner, February 19, 1950)
SP sold several buildings at Corinne in 1942, including the depot and the agent's dwelling. The agent's dwelling was sold in November, and the 30-foot by 80-foot passenger and freight depot, built in 1870, was sold in December 1942, and removed from railroad property. (Documentation in support of Union Pacific Work Order 4902, September 20, 1956, retirement of 30' x 80' frame passenger and freight depot.)
On March 16, 1945, Union Pacific, in the name of its subsidiary Oregon Short Line, leased (with right to purchase) all of the trackage, facilities, and right-of-way of the 1-1/2 mile remnant. OSL purchased the property, buildings and tracks on October 16, 1947, including 1.83 miles of branch line and another 1.4 miles of spurs and sidings. SP had already removed their remaining tracks between Corinne Junction and Ogden in 1942, except for a 962-foot stub at Corinne Junction, which it had sold to Utah Idaho Sugar Co. for use as a beet loading station. OSL bought the spur from the sugar company on April 21, 1950. (Union Pacific engineering department records)
On February 13, 1951, Southern Pacific sold a 16.5-foot right-of-way along the 34 miles of the original Central Pacific main line from Ogden to Corinne Junction to the Salt Lake Pipeline Co., for use as a natural gas pipeline route to southern Idaho. (Box Elder County Book of Deeds 59, p. 613.) (Southern Pacific sold a 16.5 foot right of way, 8.25 feet on each side of the center line, along the 34.01 miles of the original Central Pacific mainline from Ogden to Corinne, described as Cecil Junction, Station 729+60, MP 820.78, north to Corinne Junction, Station 1796+09 of the CP Promontory Branch main track.)
Portions of the abandoned original transcontinental roadbed, the unused remnants of the rail line that tied America together in 1869, are visible today along the west side of Interstate Highway 15. Pipeline markers show its location, with many farmers using the alignment for their roads, and its flat spaces to stack their bales of hay.
The Salt Lake Causeway
The Lucin Cutoff, with its combination of trestle and rock fill causeways, served Southern Pacific well and long for more than 50 years. By the early 1950s, the wooden decking of the trestle was in need of repair, and maintenance costs were rising. Trains were becoming heavier and heavier, and the trestle needed to be strengthened. In addition, the threat of fire damage from both accidental causes and vandalism was becoming a concern. A standing slow order of 15 mph was imposed for all trains because the trestle tended to move and sway as a train traversed it. Plans were made to improve the Great Salt Lake crossing by replacing the trestle with a new causeway that would replace the original wooden trestle between Promontory Point, and Lakeside, on the west shore.
Several alternatives were examined, including varying combinations of rebuilding and new construction. The minimum effort would have been to re-deck the existing trestle and look at complete replacement in 25 years. Other alternatives included combinations of additional earth fill and new trestle, either wooden or concrete. The final selection was to replace the wooden trestle completely and construct a 13-mile rock fill causeway, with work starting right away. (Anderson, H. V. "New sampler speeds design of 31,000,000-cu yd fill", Civil Engineering, Volume 27, December 1957, p. 40)
Preliminary planning started as early as 1950, and engineering work started in 1953 with a study of the lake bottom and its ability to support the proposed causeway. Work began in June 1955 when Southern Pacific construction crews started dumping fill material to improve the existing partial fills at each end of the new causeway. On February 20, 1956, SP signed a $45 million contract with Morrison-Knudsen Co. of Boise, Idaho, to construct the 12.7 mile New Fill. SP spent an additional $4 million for track and signaling improvements. Morrison-Knudsen's work began in March 1956. The construction methods called for approximately 20 to 30 feet of lake bottom mud to be dredged out, producing a trench varying from 175 feet wide, for the hard salt-crust sub-layer, to 480 feet wide for the hard clay sub-layer. The trench was then filled with material taken from a large quarry on the west side of Promontory Point, called Little Valley, where an extensive worker's village was established. The 43.7 million cubic yards of fill material was transported by means of a fleet of tugs and barges that kept moving day and night (the typical 100-ton hopper car on today's railroads holds approximately 134 cubic yards). Due to varying lake depths and a maximum lake depth of 38 feet, the fill would be between 85 and 102 feet high, with plans for the finished track to be 17 feet above lake level. The actual finished height was 12 feet above the water. Morrison-Knudsen mobilized an army of 670 men, six shovels, 30 dump trucks, eight tugboats, eight barges, and two dredges to move the fill and quarry-rock material. (Morrison-Knudsen Company Inc., The Great Salt Lake Railroad Crossing For Southern Pacific Company, October 1957)
During construction of the fill, the potential problems of the wooden trestle became apparent when, in May 1956, a fire caused by discarded oil-soaked packing from an overheated car axle bearing burned 645 feet of the trestle. The railroad and Morrison-Knudsen cooperated to rebuild the trestle and get it back in service within just one week by placing special trusses atop the unburned portions of the wooden piles that lay below the water's surface. After the causeway was completed, Southern Pacific's own crews laid the track and installed the Centralized Traffic Control signaling, which was controlled by dispatchers in Ogden. (Anderson, H. V. "New sampler speeds design of 31,000,000-cu yd fill", p. 40)
The Salt Lake causeway was completed on July 9, 1959, when Morrison-Knudsen formally turned the then-trackless causeway over to SP for actual track-laying, which was completed over the following 30 days. Regular passenger service started on August 19th. (Morrison-Knudsen, "Mariners In Hardhats", video; Salt Lake Tribune, July 12, 1959; Ogden Standard Examiner, January 3, 1960) (There was no apparent newspaper coverage of either the first freight train over the causeway, or the date that the causeway was completed.)
The new causeway includes the 7.3-mile Bagley Fill between Little Mountain, on the lake's eastern shore, and Promontory Point, at the south end of the Promontory Mountains. From Promontory Point, the causeway is made up of the 2.5-mile Saline Fill on the east end and the 5.1-mile Rambo Fill at the west end, connecting to the western shore at Lakeside. Between is the 12.7-mile New Fill, which jogged north of the original trestle by 1,500 feet to allow maneuvering of construction equipment and to avoid any delays in train operation during its construction. The three smaller fills - Bagley, Saline, and Rambo - were part of the construction of the original 1904 Lucin Cutoff and were improved at the same time as the construction of longer New Fill. When completed, the New Fill held only a single track, with a passing siding at its center, instead of the full length of double track on the trestle.
The Salt Lake causeway is the focus of Southern Pacific's operations in Utah. Since its completion in 1959, through to today's modern operations, the railroad has kept a close watch on the causeway's condition, adding rock fill on a regular basis to keep the track in good maintenance. But the wet winters of 1983 and 1984 and the subsequent high waters of following years tested the railroad's maintenance forces to their limits. One of their tricks included filling retired boxcars, hopper cars, and gondola cars with rock and lowering them in the water on the north side of the causeway to act as a buffer to the destructive wave action. During the worst storms out of the north, waves could rise as high as 15 feet. Throughout 1983 and 1984, SP spent $25 million to raise the level of the causeway five feet. To do this, the railroad operated three or four work trains, 12 hours a day, six days a week, for more than a year, moving vast quantities of rock and fill material. These trains operated from both the Lakeside Quarry on the west shore, and the Saline Quarry, at Promontory Point. (Doug Harrop, in CTC Board, Issue 103, January 1984, pp. 12-19)
When the Salt Lake causeway was completed 25 years before, it cut off the flow of water to north arm of Great Salt Lake. Since there are no inlets of fresh water to the north arm, it soon stood 37 inches lower than the rest of the lake. To equalize the north and south arms of the lake, Southern Pacific, under contract to the State of Utah, cut a 300-foot opening in the causeway in August 1984. A bridge was installed and trains continued to operate over the causeway. In the following two-week period, the difference in lake level between the two sections was reduced to 23 inches. (CTC Board, October 1984, p. 5)
During the summer of 1986, the lake rose to its modern record of 4,212 feet (above sea level). The high water level, along with the wave action of the heavy salt water during storms, literally beat the causeway down to and below the level of the lake's waters. The railroad's maintenance crews did their best, adding rock and fill material to stabilize the causeway and keep the track above water level.
The lake remained at or near its record level for another two years, with the railroad maintenance forces just barely keeping the track above water, at times losing the battle. Between 1983 and 1986, SP spent $85 million on keeping its 60 miles of rail line between Little Mountain and Hogup (14 miles west of Lakeside) above water. In April 1986, the causeway was closed on two occasions, for four days between April 2 and April 5, and again for three days between April 12 and April 15. The route was closed again in May, between the 3rd and the 5th, and again between the 21st and the 24th. At times when a train was caught out on the causeway during a storm, with waves as high as six feet and winds blowing at 70 mph or more, it appeared that the train was actually a boat in a storm-tossed sea, with waves crashing against the locomotives and cars. (CTC Board, May 1986, p. 43; CTC Board, June 1986, p. 18; CTC Board, June 1985, p. 6, which includes a very dramatic photo of waves crashing against GP9 locomotives on a work train during a storm with 50 mph winds.)
Finally in June 1986, a series of storms destroyed the causeway, and Southern Pacific began operating all of its trains over Union Pacific's former Western Pacific southern route (UP had merged with WP in 1982). With the closure of the Salt Lake causeway, all SP mechanical and clerical personnel in Ogden were laid off, pending a return to normal operations. To some, it looked like the end of railroad operations across Great Salt Lake. To save time, train crews were taxied down to Salt Lake City and westbound SP trains began departing out of D&RGW's Roper Yard there. (CTC Board, June 1986, p. 18; CTC Board, July 1986, p. 36) (The storms also washed out the AMAX evaporation ponds at Rowley. Many crews were dying on the 12 hour, Hours Of Service law because all trains were run over the UP during a 14 hour overnight window, between 16:30 and 06:30.)
After a frantic 78 days of reconstruction, the causeway was reopened for very limited operation on August 23. After the causeway reopened, SP continued to operate its more important trains over UP's tracks along the southern edge of the lake, running from two to four trains per day. (CTC Board, September 1986, p. 14; Deseret News, August 25, 1986) (The Lucin Cutoff causeway reopened on Saturday August 25, 1986. The causeway had been closed since June 7th when a severe storm caused major damage to the causeway. Southern Pacific was the prime contractor for the construction of the West Desert Pumping Station, projected to be complete by February 1987.)
When natural emergencies strike, railroads have agreements for short-term use of each others' tracks for periods of 30 or fewer days, with reasonable use-rates for longer periods of less than 90 day's duration. In the case of SP trains operating over Union Pacific, the period of 30 days passed all too quickly, and the longer 90-day period was soon past also. After 90 days, UP raised the rate from $9 per train-mile to $63 per train-mile. SP objected to the higher rate and took the argument to court, saying that the rebuilt causeway could not withstand a return to its previous number of trains, and that since the emergency continued, the lower rate should prevail. With the argument unsettled, in February 1987, Union Pacific informed SP that it was terminating the detour contract. A new detour agreement was negotiated, allowing Southern Pacific to continue UP tracks. SP would continue to close the causeway whenever wind storms would cause wave action to threaten the causeway. (CTC Board, June 1987, p. 45)
Throughout the remainder of 1986 and early 1987, SP continued to operate over the causeway only at night. SP was using the daylight hours to work on raising the causeway above the lake level, by operating work trains six days per week, and during these periods, Southern Pacific trains running in daylight used the UP route. During the summer of 1987, Great Salt Lake became less of a problem for both SP and UP, which had been having its own problems with the former Western Pacific route along the lake's south shore. The lake level peaked again at 4,212 feet that year. In June, Southern Pacific's trains detoured for a single day after a storm washed out short lengths of track at nine locations. By July 1987, the lake level dropped five inches lower than its previous level the summer before, due in part to three new pumps located at Lakeside, installed and paid for by the State of Utah. Subsequent years brought a still lower lake level, and an end to the contentious and costly detours. (CTC Board, August 1987, p. 21)
Southern Pacific Mechanical Facilities
After the transcontinental line was completed in 1869, Central Pacific built a large yard and locomotive and car shops at Terrace, Utah, 70 miles west of Promontory and 123 miles west of Ogden. The shops at Terrace, which were designated as the main eastern shops for Central Pacific's Salt Lake Division (Sparks, Nev., to Ogden), consisted of a five-stall car and machine shop, along with a wooden framed roundhouse. The roundhouse originally had 10 60-foot stalls (as shown in an 1869 inventory of buildings on the Salt Lake Division), but is shown in a map dating from the 1880s as having 15 stalls. An 1878 photo shows a unique fully enclosed water tank adjacent to the machine shop. (Raymond and Fike. Rails East To Promontory, The Utah Stations, pp. 24, 44, 47)
A map of Ogden dated 1874 shows the first Central Pacific shop in the new junction city as a single-stall enginehouse sharing a common turntable with Union Pacific. This turntable was located on the UP side, south of the Utah Central crossing, between the Weber River and the joint passenger station. The CP enginehouse was unique in that it held a large water tank inside the structure. The existence of the large yard and mechanical facilities at Terrace, 123 miles to the west, explains these minimal facilities in Ogden. The 1874 map was prepared to show the railroads' facilities just prior to Ogden being designated as the junction city through the efforts of Brigham Young and the City of Ogden. As the city's importance grew with its status as the actual junction between the two Overland Route railroads, so too did the need for better Central Pacific engine facilities. Sometime before 1882, and before its 1885 lease to Southern Pacific, CP increased the size of its yard and built a seven-stall roundhouse and turntable adjacent to the west side of its freight yard, all of which was north of the Utah Central crossing.
As already noted, Ogden Union Railway & Depot Co. was organized in 1888 as a joint company to own and operate the Ogden terminal and yards. With the creation of OUR&D, Julius Krutschmitt, assistant manager of Southern Pacific, announced that the eastern shops of SP's Salt Lake Division would be moved from Terrace to Ogden. The Ogden Chamber of Commerce cooperated with this move by furnishing 300,000 bricks to erect the shop buildings. The roundhouse and shops were completed in late 1890. (Hunter, Beneath Ben Lomond's Peak, p. 427)
By 1902, 10 trains per day (each with an average of 33 cars) were running on SP's line across northern Utah and through Nevada, reflecting E. H. Harriman's efforts to increase the capacity of the Overland Route after his purchase of SP in 1900, and illustrating the need for the Lucin Cutoff, completed in 1904 (by 1917, the number had risen to 12 trains per day. More SP trains in Ogden meant more SP locomotives in Ogden, and those locomotives needed a better home for their maintenance. (Raymond and Fike, Rails East To Promontory, The Utah Stations, p. 22; Klein, Union Pacific, Volume II, p. 129)
In 1906, the shops built in 1890 were replaced by a modern 33-stall brick roundhouse, with stalls that were 88 feet long. The adjacent Machine Shop was also completed in 1906. In 1908, a 70-foot Nichols transfer table was completed immediately north of the Machine Shop, and a coal chute with six 100-ton coal pockets was added. After completion of these facilities, the local press commented that the shops were among the area's most important industries, with almost 800 employees. In 1907, a 220-foot long cinder pit was built. It was retired on April 18, 1929. (SP engineering department records, including AFE 78346 for the cinder pit; Hunter, Beneath Ben Lomond's Peak, p. 428)
In 1914 and 1915, UP and SP agreed to set up joint mechanical facilities. The Blacksmith and Tin Shop (also known as the Tin and Tank Shop), 94 feet by 234 feet, was completed in 1915, just north of the 1908-built transfer table, at the same time that the 100-foot pony truss turntable was installed. (SP engineering department records)
The next changes in SP's locomotive facilities were prompted by dieselization, which began with the operation of the City of San Francisco in 1936. Special inspection pits for the passenger power and new diesel switchers were completed in 1950. Until that time, the diesels were serviced in converted space in the Machine Shop and in the roundhouse. Four roundhouse stalls were retired in 1950 and 1951. The entire roundhouse was retired in October 1954 and torn down. Part of the transfer table pit was removed in 1957 and replaced with diesel inspection pits at the west end. An addition was built on the south side of the Machine Shop in 1954, and a drop pit was added on the east side in 1961.
In a reflection of the October 1988 merger with D&RGW, and Rio Grande's now-available Roper Yard and service tracks in Salt Lake City, all of the remaining SP locomotive and car repair facilities were officially retired on December 31, 1988, in what was noted in company records as the "Big Bang." The buildings remained throughout the 1990s, being mostly unused, except as storage. With the 1996 merger between Union Pacific and Southern Pacific, and with a continuing dual concern of litigation by trespassers, and damage done by vandals, the buildings, including the Machine Shop and the Tank Shop, were completely leveled during June 1999. (The resulting cleared space allowed UP to construct a new high-speed, dual track mainline that was completed in September 2000.)
Southern Pacific in Ogden, 1960 to 1996
The completion of the Salt Lake Causeway in 1959 was a major step for the modernization of Southern Pacific in Utah. But as with any railroad, many small improvements were completed between major projects. Small changes made by SP in Utah and Ogden helped it to move trains better and faster. Southern Pacific opened a new Centralized Traffic Control center in Roseville, Calif., and in mid-December 1963, and announced that in February 1964 it would move the 15 train dispatchers for the Salt Lake Division from Ogden to Roseville. (Ogden Standard Examiner, December 12, 1963)
Between the mid-1920s and the late-1960s, SP was involved in what has been common termed the Ogden Gateway case, a series of legal decisions affecting the flow of freight traffic among railroads at Ogden. (The case is covered in more detail in the Rio Grande section of this book.) After the case was settled in 1968, SP operations in Ogden became more balanced. The Gateway case, together with the almost complete dissolution of Ogden Union Railway & Depot Co. in 1968 (jointly owned with Union Pacific since 1888) led SP to interchange more trains with Denver & Rio Grande Western. The settlement of the case also led to Southern Pacific operating complete trains, including SP locomotives, south over Rio Grande tracks to D&RGW's Roper Yard in Salt Lake City. To accept the new traffic, in late 1968, Rio Grande added four new tracks along the west side of its Salt Lake City yard. But the majority of SP traffic at Ogden still came from Union Pacific.
For many years during the 1960s and the early 1970s, Southern Pacific's Ogden switching operations were among the few that used switch locomotives from American Locomotive Co. (Alco) The last Alco S-2 switcher on SP, number 1778, was retired at Ogden in March 1974, leaving just 11 other Alco S-4s on SP. (CTC Board, Issue 131, March 29, 1974)
On December 22, 1982, the merger of the Union Pacific, Western Pacific, and Missouri Pacific railroads became final, and it brought wrenching changes for rail operations in Ogden. No longer would there be a dependable number of UP trains handed over daily to Southern Pacific. Prior to the merger, UP regularly gave SP 12 (and as many as 20) trains per day. With the merger, most of those UP trains now were channeled to the former Western Pacific, SP's competitor across Nevada to northern California since its completion in 1909. Southern Pacific's only traffic was reduced to two or three trains per day from UP and two trains per day from D&RGW, plus a daily Amtrak train each way. UP's diversion of freight touched off a fierce competition from the combined services of SP and Rio Grande. UP and SP still connected at Ogden, but most eastbound SP trains ran right through Ogden, then south over D&RGW tracks to Salt Lake City. In February 1983, SP and Rio Grande announced a joint traffic agreement, and by 1984 the cooperation was becoming successful in marketing their shorter route (by 178 miles) between Ogden and Oakland, Calif., especially after SP spent millions of dollars to improve its route across Nevada, allowing for much higher train speeds. The improvements included tens of thousands of new ties, high-quality crushed granite ballast, and miles upon miles of new continuous welded rail. The most important trains, such as the hot CHOAT (Chicago-Oakland Trailers) now rolled smoothly across Nevada at 70 mph.
Southern Pacific trains from the D&RGW connection in Salt Lake City began entering Ogden over UP tracks in late 1983, after portions of Rio Grande's line near Centerville and Farmington in south Davis County were flooded by the rising Great Salt Lake. The change in operations became permanent in October 1985 with the signing of a mutual trackage rights agreement, which also allowed UP trains to use Rio Grande tracks between Salt Lake City and Provo.
Merger of Southern Pacific and Rio Grande
In a defensive reaction to the 1982 merger of Union Pacific and Western Pacific, Southern Pacific and Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe announced the next year that they would combine to form a new railroad to be called Southern Pacific Santa Fe Railway, controlled by a newly merged parent company, Santa Fe Southern Pacific Corp. (which later became Santa Fe Pacific Industries). The formal application for the merger was filed on March 23, 1984. (Pacific Rail News, Issue 250, June 1984, p. 4)
In July 1986, the ICC turned down the proposed merger, and the subsequent appeal in June 1987, ordering the already-merged parent corporation to sell one of its railroads, with a plan to do so due within 90 days. During the interim of the merger appeal of 1986-1987, both Rio Grande and Kansas City Southern separately announced their interest in purchasing Southern Pacific if the appeal failed. After the appeal was rejected, and to satisfy the ICC's 90-day mandate, D&RGW's parent company, Rio Grande Industries, announced on September 25 its intention to purchase the Southern Pacific railroad (formal name: Southern Pacific Transportation Co.) from Santa Fe Southern Pacific Corp. All the details were worked out and the sale was made final on December 28, 1987. (Drury, Train Watchers Guide, p. 41; Pacific Rail News, February 1988, p. 12)
At the time of Rio Grande Industries' offer to buy the Southern Pacific, SP employed only 80 people in the Ogden area, compared to 2,000 during the peak of its operations in there during the years following World War II. (Deseret News, December 29, 1987, p. 6B)
On August 9, 1988, the Interstate Commerce Commission approved Rio Grande Industries' purchase of the Southern Pacific Transportation Co., at a cost reported to be $1.8 billion. The agreement became effective on October 13, 1988, when Rio Grande Industries took full ownership and control of SP. After the merger, the SP facilities in Ogden were closed and most operations were moved to the former D&RGW's Roper Yard in Salt Lake City. (Pacific Rail News, Issue 296, July 1988, p. 8; Deseret News, August 9, 1988, p. A-1; CTC Board, Issue 154, July 1988, p. 3, which included excellent coverage of the sale; CTC Board, Issue 159, May 1989, page 18.) (The sale included rights to the Southern Pacific name. The name of the former parent company was changed from Santa Fe Southern Pacific Corporation, to the shorter Santa Fe Pacific Corporation.) (For further review of the sale, and possible benefits, see Trains magazine, Volume 49, Number 1, November 1988, page 3.)
The two railroads' operating departments were combined on May 1, 1989, with the former routes being separated into three regions. Ogden was included in a new Central Region for the lines between Kansas City and California, which included all of the former Rio Grande lines and the former SP's Salt Lake and Modoc divisions. (Pacific Rail News, Issue 310, p. 10)
On October 9, 1989, the portion of the former Rio Grande from Ogden to Helper, Utah, including Salt Lake City, became part of the new Salt Lake Division, a component of the Central Region. This new division, with offices in Salt Lake City, included Southern Pacific's route from Ogden west across Great Salt Lake to Carlin, Nevada. (Pacific Rail News, December 1989, p. 13; CTC Board, February 1990, p. 6, says October 1, 1989)
This brought to a close 101 years of a Southern Pacific offices in Ogden, beginning in 1888 when the offices of the original Salt Lake Division were moved there in conjunction with the organization of Ogden Union Railway & Depot Co.
Over the next seven years after the 1988 merger, the combined Southern Pacific and Rio Grande railroads, operating as the new Southern Pacific Lines, competed fiercely with Union Pacific for transcontinental traffic, and was successful at increasing its traffic along both the combined Rio Grande/SP Central Corridor and the former SP-only Sunset Route. In 1995 Burlington Northern, Inc. and Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway merged to form the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad. In late 1995, reacting to the BNSF merger, Union Pacific and Southern Pacific announced that they would merge to protect their competitive positions. The UP/SP merger was approved and became final on September 11, 1996.
For additional coverage of the construction of the Central Pacific across northern Utah, the interested reader is directed to these two works:
- Griswold, Wesley S. A Work of Giants, Building the First Transcontinental Railroad. (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1962), pages 309-312
- Raymond, Anan S., and Richard E. Fike. Rails East to Promontory. (Bureau of Land Management, Cultural Resource Series No. 8, 1981), pages 13-22