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Union Pacific Delta Branches

Index For This Page

This page was last updated on May 31, 2019.

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Overview

The following comes from notes taken during an examination of engineering drawings of the branches.

LA&SL at Delta

Timeline

1911
A new depot was built at Delta, measuring 24x110 feet. Built with a 60 foot baggage room, modified in 1920 with the waiting room becoming part of the office and newer mens and ladies waiting rooms built in part of the baggage room. (Brian Burr)

The Delta Project, the first Carey Act project in Utah, opened the area north and west of Delta by irrigating 30,000 acres of previously unproductive land. Over 400 families moved to the area, mostly from southern California. There was also the Lynndyl Project, at 20,000 acres, and the Beaver Project, meant to irrigate 15,000 to 18,000 acres near Milford.

The Delta Project had its beginnings as the Oasis Land and Irrigation Company organized in March 1908. A series of dams were built on the Sevier River in Juab, Sanpete and Millard counties, and a canal system built to irrigate 43,000 acres of federal land in Millard county acquired under the Carey Act to irrigate and "reclaim" lands in the semi-arid states of the western United States. One of the dams failed in May 1910 and farmers in the Delta region were without sufficient water for two seasons. Law suits were filed and damages paid, after which the Oasis company was reorganized in March 1911 as the Delta Land and Water Company, with the same owners and officers. One of the changes from this reorganized company was that previously, the settlement was known as Oasis, the post office was called Burtner, and the railroad station was called Aiken. The change on May 11, 1911 brought the name Delta into use as the settlement, the post office, and railroad station.

(Read the Wikipedia article about the Carey Act of 1894)

June 26, 1913
"Most successful Carey Act Irrigation project in the history of the West. 43,000 acres; nearly one million dollars spent on perpetual water system; 33,000 acres sold; first land opened two years ago. The water is on the land; a new town is laid out for this final tract. The State sells you the land; we sell you the perpetual water for it at a price fixed by the State. Land and water is $60.50 per acre; 15 years to pay. $7.25 an acre and your living expenses for a year will start you. After that the land will pay for itself. and make you independent." (Carbon County News, June 26, 1913; advertisement for Western Security and Trust of Salt Lake City)

January 15, 1914
"Railroad Day" The following comes from the January 8, 1914 issue of the Salt Lake Tribune newspaper.

Elaborate preparations are being made for the celebration of the beginning of work on the Salt Lake route extension from Delta into the rich adjacent agricultural territory to Hinkley.

Railroad day will be January 15. Governor William Spry will drive the first spike that will open the construction of the extension, which will cost about a quarter of a million dollars.

At daybreak the celebration will open by the raising of a national flag, accompanied by an artillery salute. The visitors will breakfast at 8:30 o'clock and at 9 o'clock will leave on an automobile trip to inspect the Delta project. At noon the governor will drive the first spike. This will be followed by a big barbecue.

The following comes from the January 15, 1914 issue of the Salt Lake Tribune newspaper.

Millard county, and especially Delta, Hinckley and Abraham, which will be vitally affected by the new Delta branch of the Salt Lake route, which is to run fifteen miles northwest of Delta, will celebrate today in honor of the beginning of actual work on the new line. Today is Railroad Day at Delta, and the small town will have a city's population within its limits this afternoon when Governor Spry drives the first spike of the new branch.

A special train carrying prominent Salt Lakers who will take part in the celebration and officials of the Salt Lake route, who have come to Utah from their headquarters in Los Angeles, left last night shortly before midnight on the Salt Lake route.

The new fifteen-mile branch, which is the cause of the celebration by Delta and vicinity, will pierce the north portion of the immense Delta irrigation project, said to be the most fruitful in the west. The line will be essentially one for carrying the products of the farmers to Delta, where fast connections on the main line of the Salt Lake route can be made with Salt Lake.

Several days ago the first grading was started and it is expected that the entire line will be graded this winter. The railroad expects to have track entirely in and trains carrying the products of the prosperous farms to market before October 1 of this year. The total cost of the branch is estimated at $150,000.

That "First Spike" was later engraved commemorating the event, and was presented to the Delta Commercial Club.

May 18, 1914
Tracklaying began on the Delta Branch between Delta and the bridge over the Sevier River, a distance of about 1.4 miles. After the track was laid, a pile driver would be moved into place to begin construction of a bridge over the river. (Ogden Standard, May 19, 1914, "yesterday")

Work stalled on the portion of the branch west of the Sevier river after the Delta Land and Water company was unable to finance an extension, with the farmers supposedly supplying the labor to grade the branch. The delay was from a disagreement as to the location of the branch, and the specific districts the branch would serve. In April 1915, the Delta Land and Water company was able designate a specific route without input from the farmers, and planning and design work resumed.

July 25, 1915
"Orders have been issued also for the completion of the Delta branch in Millard county, Utah, work on which was begun last year. This branch will be fourteen miles in length when completed, only one mile having been constructed last year when work was undertaken." (Salt Lake Telegram, July 25, 1915)

October 1, 1915
A celebration was held for the completion of the Delta Branch to Sugarville. (Salt Lake Herald Republican, October 2, 1915)

October 7, 1915
Work began building the Hinkley Branch, from a new station called Moody, on the Delta Branch. (Millard County Chronicle, October 7, 1915)

November 9, 1915
"Delta-Sugarville Line Completed. Last Tuesday the Delta branch of the Salt Lake Route was declared finished, and was turned over to the operating department of the company. A triweekly service will be established immediately to serve the stations on the branch. A mixed train will be operated from Delta on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays until after the crops have been harvested. Part of this line has been in operation since the harvesting of the fall crops began, the work being done by the crews of the work trains. The line extends from Delta northwest to Lucerne. a distance of 13.6 miles with an extension of 1.5 miles toward Hinckley, from Moody Junction, 4.6 miles out from Delta." (Millard County Chronicle, November 11, 1915, "last Tuesday")

October 1916
LA&SL completed the 13.6-mile Delta Branch, built north from Delta to serve the sugar beet growing area north of Delta that was being developed due to the completion of irrigation projects on the Sevier River. The land was being developed by companies such as the Delta Land & Water Company, the Morgan-Okelbery Land & Sheep Company, and the Delta Investment Company.

1917
The Delta Sugar Beet Company built a sugar factory at Delta. The factory was built by the Stearns-Roger Manufacturing Company, and had a daily capacity of 1,000 tons. The factory was reorganized as the Great Basin Sugar Company in 1918, and was acquired by Utah-Idaho Sugar Company in 1920. The factory ceased operations in 1924 and in 1927 the plant was was dismantled and moved to Belle Fourche, South Dakota. (Arrington, Beet Sugar In The West, 1966, page 86, 106, 192, 193)

The factory at Delta was built due to the high prices of sugar during World War I. The first year's production, in 1917, was 45,000 tons of sugar beets. The total rose to 58,000 tons in 1918, which was the largest crop in the area before the white fly blight hit the fields. The first year of Utah-Idaho ownership, in 1920, saw a total of 416 growers plant 10,200 acres of sugar beets, from which 53,498 tons of beets were harvested, producing 123,130 100-pound bags of finished sugar. In 1924 only 42,598 bags of finished sugar were produced. (Arrington, page 192, 193)

The sugar factory at Delta was considered a failure because the local growers did not respond by planting more sugar beets, and the per-acre yield was too low to continue production. The cause was an infestation of insects and fungus on the beet plants, known as "blight," that stunted their growth. During 1923, the 5,700 acres planted in the Delta area yielded only 18,300 tons of finished sugar. The yield was only 3.2 tons per acre, compared to an earlier yield in other beet growing areas of 10 to 12 tons per acre. Throughout the region where Utah-Idaho operated beet sugar factories, total production plummeted from 2.2 million 100-pound bags of finished sugar in 1925, down to 760,000 bags in 1926. The blight was devastating. (Arrington, pages 105-106, 112)

The beet growing area surrounding Delta was limited by irrigation, and by regular infestations of white fly blight. The initial production of 53,000 tons of sugar beets in 1920, declined to 25,000 tons in 1922 (at 7.2 tons per acre), and 18,000 tons in 1924 (at 5 tons per acre). The Delta factory did not operate in 1923, 1925 or 1926. (Arrington, page 108)

In the late 1930s, after the Delta and Hinkley branches were abandoned and removed, a blight-resistant variety of sugar beet became available, and sugar beets were loaded at Delta and shipped by rail to sugar factories in Spanish Fork, Gunnison and West Jordan.

April 25, 1918
LA&SL completed the 3.35-mile Hinkley Branch which connected with the Delta Branch at Moody (Mile Post 4.5); ran due south to LaMoto, then southwest to end-of-track at Hinkley (MP 3.35). The branch was built to serve the sugar beet growing area west of Delta. (ICC Valuation drawing, ICC Financial Docket 9538, 187 ICC 642)

On the Hinkley Branch, sugar beet dumps were located at: LaMoto (name changed from Waters on July 23, 1917) and at Hinkley (MP 3.35).

The Hinkley Branch was retired (MP 0.00 to MP 3.35) on December 3, 1932. (Work Order 119; ICC Financial Docket 9538, dated October 20, 1932)

1930s
The combination of a drought in central Utah and the depressed national economy of the 1930s made for some hard times in the region around Delta. The farmers in the area were hauling wood for their fuel, instead of buying coal. On November 29, 1932 LA&SL received Utah Public Utilities Commission's approval to close the agency station at Oasis (Mile Post 644.4, 5.5 miles south of Delta). All of the agency's business was to be moved five miles north to Delta. The depot building was converted to living quarters for the signal maintainer. The Public Utilities Commission gave its permission to remove the depot building on November 6, 1947. (Public Service Commission of Utah, case 1279)

March 31, 1930
LA&SL received Utah Public Utilities Commission approval to discontinue gasoline motor car service between Delta and Fillmore, and replace it with auto bus service. The branch had been in service since spring 1923 and the motor car service had begun on June 10, 1929. Between November 1929 and February 1930 the motor car had been operating mostly empty, and never with more than two passengers. The approval was in effect after April 3. (Public Service Commission of Utah, case 1160)

On March 21, 1932 LA&SL received Utah Public Utilities Commission approval to transfer the auto bus service between Delta and Fillmore to Mr. Moyle Sargent.

October 20, 1932
The federal ICC approved the abandonment of the Delta and Hinkley branches. (187 ICC 642)

December 1932
LA&SL retired and removed the entire 3.35-mile Hinkley Branch, from Moody (Mile Post 4.59 on the Delta Branch) to the end of track at Hinkley. The railroad also retired and removed five miles of the Delta Branch, from Nelson (Mile Post 8.4) to end of track at Lucerne (Mile Post 13.5). (187 ICC 642; ICC Finance Docket No. 9538; Los Angeles & Salt Lake Railroad Company, Abandonment; Submitted September 30, 1932, Decided October 20, 1932)

July 1934
During the month of July 1934 LA&SL retired and removed the remaining 7.7 miles of the Delta Branch, from Mile Post 0.8 to the end of track at Nelson (Mile Post 8.5). The abandonment was approved by the Interstate Commerce Commission on October 20, 1932. In the application for abandonment Union Pacific showed that the traffic had been decreasing steadily since 1927, with only 1,932 tons being shipped in 1931, 750 of which was mining ores. The shipment of ore had decreased from over 9,700 tons in 1930.

Both the Delta and Hinkley Branches were constructed in about 1917 to serve a developing sugar beet industry. Beet dumps had been built at Erwin (Mile Post 5.2), Abbott (Mile Post 6.7), Wilson (Mile Post 8.4), Gordon (Mile Post 9.3), and at Sugarville (Mile Post 11.5 on the portion that was abandoned in December 1932). Also at Wilson the railroad built a 50 x 320 foot stockyard with a double deck loading chute, to replace a portable stock chute that been placed there earlier.

The production of sugar beets was inadequate to sustain continued operation of the sugar factory at Delta and the factory was dismantled in 1927. The revenues from the other traffic on the branches after the closure of the sugar factory, including coal, hay, sheep and ore, was not sufficient to meet the expenses of the branch line operations. (ICC Financial Docket 9538 187 ICC 642)

1950s
The depot from Clear Lake (24x64; built in 1903-1905) was moved to Delta in the 1950s and was used as an apartment building until 1991, then it was torn down. (Brian Burr)

Abandonment

The following comes from the published report by the federal Interstate Commerce Commission, approving the abandonment of the Delta and Hinkley branches in October 1932:

Finance Docket No. 9538
Los Angeles & Salt Lake Railroad Company
Abandonment
Submitted September 30, 1932. Decided October 20, 1932

(Published in ICC Reports, Volume 187, pages 642-644)

The Los Angeles & Salt Lake Railroad Company, on July 21, 1932, applied for permission to abandon (a) its so-called Delta branch, extending from a point near Delta, known as engineer's station 26+70, to Lucerne, 12.82 miles, and (b) its so-called Hinckley branch, extending from Moody to Hinckley, 3.35 miles, all in Millard County, Utah.

Delta is a town of about 1,200 inhabitants. From a connection with the applicant's main line at that point, the Delta branch extends westerly about 4 miles to Moody, thence northerly, through several small villages, to Lucerne, its terminus. The United States census for 1930 does not show any population at Lucerne. It is proposed to abandon all of that branch except a portion thereof, 0.76 mile long, extending from the main-line connection at Delta to engineer's station 26+70 above referred to. The portion thus retained, including a wye track, will be used to serve a grain elevator.

The Hinckley branch extends southerly from a connection with the Delta branch at Moody, to Hinckley, its terminus. Moody appears to be a small village. Hinckley is a town of about 700 inhabitants. No other railroad traverses the territory served by the two branches.

Both branches were constructed about 15 years ago to reach certain areas within which it was hoped to develop a substantial production of sugar beets to supply a sugar refinery then located near Delta. The production of sugar beets proved inadequate to sustain the successful production of the refinery. The latter has been dismantled.

At present no passenger traffic and very little freight traffic is handled over either of the branches. The tributary territory, devoted to farming, stock raising, and mining on a small scale, offers no prospects of furnishing the branches with increased traffic in the future and there appears to be no public demand in the territory for continued rail transportation facilities. An improved highway extends from Delta to Hinckley. A so-called dirt road extends to Lucerne. The applicant represents that a large portion of the traffic handled by the branches can be satisfactorily handled through Delta.

The volume of traffic handled over both branches aggregated 6,617 tons in 1927, 3,126 tons in 1928, 7,168 tons in 1929, 12,029 tons in 1930, and 1,962 tons in 1931. The yearly average was 6,180 tons. Classified as to commodities, the traffic of both branches in 1931 consisted of bituminous coal 304 tons, hay 236 tons, ore 750 tons, sheep 611 tons, miscellaneous freight 61 tons, total 1,962 tons.

The financial results of operation for the years 1930 and 1931, consolidated as to both branches, are shown by the applicant's return to our questionnaire as follows: For the year 1930 the operating revenues as allocated to the branches by mileage prorate amounted to $2,282.03 and the revenues accruing to the applicant's entire system on traffic destined to and from the branches amounted to $25,509.98. The branch-line operating expenses and taxes, upon an actual basis, for the same year amounted to $10,629.55. For the year 1931 branch-line revenues on the mileage basis amounted to $347.68 and the system revenues on the branch-line traffic amounted to $7,228.24. Operating expenses and taxes for the year amounted to $9,940.63. It is thus seen that for the year 1931 branch-line expenses and taxes exceeded the system revenue by $2,712.39. The year 1930 was not representative, the traffic of the branch lines for that year reaching 12,029 tons as compared with the average for the years 1927, 1928, 3929, and 1931 of 4,718 tons. Operating results for the years prior to 1930 are not shown.

As above indicated, the revenues accruing to the applicant's system on traffic delivered to and received from the branches decreased from $25,509.98 in 1930, to $7,228.24 in 1931. The record indicates that this decrease was due to a corresponding decrease in the volume of traffic delivered to and received from the branches in 1931. Among other commodities shipped over the branches, ore declined from 9,721 tons in 1930, to 750 tons in 1931. Shipments of sugar beets aggregated 650 tons in 1930, but none were shipped over the branches in 1931.

The matters of record herein clearly indicate that the branches in question have served the purposes for which they were built and that continued maintenance and operation thereof would impose needless burden upon interstate commerce.

We find that the present and future public convenience and necessity permit the abandonment by the Los Angeles & Salt Lake Railroad Company of the branch lines of railroad in Millard County, Utah, described in the application. An appropriate certificate will be issued. Such certificate will provide that it shall take effect and be in force from and after 30 days from its date. Suitable provision will be made therein for the cancellation of tariffs.

Map

UP/LA&SL Delta and Hinkley Branches -- A Google map created by Brian Burr, showing the UP (LA&SL) branches west of Delta, Utah.

Sources

Online newspapers.

Additional information was compiled from handwritten notes, dating from 1978-1988, with recent updates from other material.

Most of the original information here was transcribed from handwritten notes taken while doing research in the files of UP's engineering department during 1982-1983, then compiled as a computer file in 1988, with additions through September 1994. Other updates and additions made after creation of web page in 2015.

The notes from the early 1980s were completed prior to the closure of UP's engineering office in Salt Lake City in about 1984. All files and most personnel were moved to Omaha in 1983-1984. The office was located in the Utah Division offices in the former depot annex building, just south of Union Pacific's Salt Lake City depot. The building was demolished in 1999 to make room for The Gateway Project.

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