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Salt Lake City Streetcars

Index For This Page

This page was last updated on January 18, 2015.

(This is a work in progress; research continues.)

The Streetcar Companies

"Mass Transit in the Salt Lake Valley: 1872 to 1960" -- An scanned version of Utah Economic and Business Review, Volume 37, Number 9, September 1977.

Salt Lake City Railroad -- Clarence Reeder's excellent history of the Salt Lake City Railroad before it was electrified in 1889.

Salt Lake City Streetcars -- Articles by Mike Laine about Salt Lake City's streetcars. Written for the locally produced Gandy Dancer newsletter.

Salt Lake City Streetcars -- An excerpt from John S. McCormick's The Power To Make Good Things Happen, The History of Utah Power & Light.

Salt Lake City Streetcar Timeline -- A timeline of events of streetcar development in Salt Lake City.

Salt Lake City's Streetcar Equipment -- Lists and other infomation about the streetcars themselves.

1939 Report of Operations -- Information extracted from Utah Light & Traction's 1939 Report of Operations.

Salt Lake City's Trolley Coaches -- An article from Bus World magazine (Volume 5, Number 2, February 1983) about Salt Lake City's trolley coaches, streetcars without rails.

Photos of Salt Lake City streetcars. (just a few for now, others to be added later)

Street Railway Journal -- An index to articles in Street Railway Journal magazine (1903-1914) and Electric Railway Journal (1914-1932).

Bus Information -- Information about the histories of bus transit systems in Utah, and the history of Utah Transit Authority.

Streetcar Conspiracy

The so-called "streetcar conspiracy" does not apply to Salt Lake City's streetcar system. National City Lines' purchase of Salt Lake City's transit system in 1944 came at a time when there was only a single route remaining. And its abandonment had been approved in May 1941, three years before, but was delayed to support the war effort.

Brad Snell's infamous streetcar conspiracy theory is hard to prove. American drivers quit riding streetcars because they wanted to, and had better alternatives. Driving a car is much more convienient that riding a street car, or light rail today. Light rail only works today because of congestion, and a common destination of sufficient density to justify the numbers of needed riders to support its high cost.

Beginning with research in the early 1980s, studying the demise of railroad passenger traffic here in Utah, it was always the same. As soon as an improved road, or a paved road came to town, rail passenger traffic fell off considerably. Paved highways started back in the 1930s, using taxpayer dollars, because our elected representatives at the time simply did what they thought we wanted, or at least what the various special interests wanted. Almost all of the various streetcar routes in Salt Lake City were abandoned in the 1920s and 1930s because Utah Light & Traction did not want to pay its share of paving the various streets as Salt Lake City proceeded to pave the streets throughout the city. I have researched all of the requests before the Public Service Commission to abandon the routes, and it was always the same circumstances. Improved roads meant more automobile traffic, and more ruts and pot holes, which in-turn led to paving, which led to abandonment of the streetcar route. It was the same in every case, a consiracy by GM is not needed to explain it, at least here in Utah. By the time National City Lines, or in our case, its Pacific City Lines subsidiary, came to Salt Lake City, there were only a one streetcar route left.

While a conspiracy would explain all things nicely (and you can find a conspiracy theory for every "bad" thing that has ever happened), the truth is, GM and its associated interests simply filled a market niche that had developed due to the way public dollars were being spent. Yes, the U.S. Senate convicted GM and its associates of anti-trust, but don't read too much into that particular political decision. It was pretty much after the fact, and rubber-tired mass transit was already well established.

On July 13, 1944, Salt Lake City Lines, a subsidiary of Pacific City Lines, took over the entire transit operations of Utah Light & Traction. At the time that Pacific City Lines purchased the transit operations of UL&T, PCL was an Oakland-based holding company which controlled 12 properties in 3 western states: Montana, Washington and California. PCL's wartime earnings allowed the purchase of the Salt Lake property just a few months after acquisition of the utility-owned transit system in Sacramento, the capital of another western state, California. National City Lines had held a substantial interest in PCL but had relinquished control during a major refinancing in 1940. Management and operating methods were, however, little changed, and except for equipment numbering practices, there were few external differences between PCL and NCL properties. By spring 1946, Pacific City Lines was back under the control of National City Lines. (part from Motor Coach Age, Volume 29, Number 3, March 1987)

Streetcar Conspiracy Links

Random Notes

Notes from Utah Power & Light archives Box 5755 (From UP&L file dated September 18, 1914; research completed on March 5, 1982)

Notes from "Utah Light & Traction Co., History of Origin and Development, Prepared in Connection With Federal Power Commission Request, Order Dated May 11, 1937" (From Utah Power & Light archive library) (Research completed on March 5, 1982)

More Research

Much more research is needed into the relationship between Utah Light & Railway and Electric Bond & Share. EBS was a trust formed in 1905 by General Electric to control the generation of electric power in the U.S., and to increase the use of electricity by building electric railroads, both street railways and interurban railways.) (Google search 1) (Google search 2)

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