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Oregon Short Line In Utah

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This page was last updated on August 29, 2017.

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Overview and Timeline

OSL in Utah, Salt Lake City to Ogden, and north of Ogden -- Tracks owned by OSL; all UP lines north of Salt Lake City (leased to UP in 1936; merged with UP in 1987)

Research Notes

Compiled from handwritten notes, dating from 1978-1988.

(Most of this information 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.)

(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.)

OSL Newspaper Articles

OSL Locations in Utah

(Salt Lake City to Ogden and North)

OSL in Salt Lake City

From a Union Pacific engineering drawing dated March 1913:

OSL in Davis County

OSL at Ogden

(incomplete; work in progress)

OSL at Dewey

OSL Branches in Utah

(listed alphbetically)

OSL Baker Siding and Spur

North of Brigham City, east of the Bear River

OSL Bear River Branch

Garland (on Malad Branch) south to Bear River City, west of the Bear River

OSL Cache Valley Branches

(Read more about the OSL and UP branches in Cache Valley)

OSL Evona Branch

OSL Little Mountain Branch

North of Ogden. Hot Springs westward to east shore of Great Salt Lake.

Completed in 1971. Abandoned in 1997.

June 16, 1967
Application made to construct a 13.27 mile branch line from Hot Springs (9.95 miles north of Ogden) to the newly developing mineral industries on east shore of Great Salt Lake.

September 6, 1967
The application to the ICC was first made to build the Little Mountain Branch. Hearings were held in December 1967, in which there was support from industries that would benefit from competition between UP and SP to serve their plants, including those already under construction, and those with plans to soon start construction. SP objected to UP's planned spur on the grounds that competition was not needed and that it and its connecting railroad, D&RGW, would suffer detrimental effects. (Ogden Standard Examiner, September 6, 1967, "today"; December 12, 13, 1967)

Principle developer of Little Mountain area is Great Salt Lake Minerals and Chemicals Corporation testified that it must have single-line service with UP, which would provide the shortest, most direct route to territories not reached by SP.

Other potential customers include: Lithium Corporation of America; Dow Chemical; Prior Chemical Company; Boise Cascade Corporation; Potlatch Forests, Incorporated; and Amalgamated Sugar Company.

Construction to commence before May 3, 1969, to be completed before November 3, 1969.

February 1969
Union Pacific secured Interstate Commerce Commission approval to construct its Little Mountain Branch. The line was to extend 13.27 miles southwesterly from Hot Springs to mineral industry trackage on the east shore of Great Salt Lake, where Great Salt Lake Minerals and Chemicals was developing its extensive facility. (ICC Finance Docket 24635, dated February 3, 1969, in 334 ICC 267)

Union Pacific's application was protested by both Southern Pacific and the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad, arguing that the new trackage would duplicate SP's already existing 1.7-mile spur, and that shippers had not shown that they required duplicate service from two railroads. The two roads argued that SP, as the existing carrier, was entitled to an opportunity to serve the shippers prior to Union Pacific being granted entry into the area. SP had constructed its 1.7-mile spur northward from its main line to transport construction materials to the site, intending further extension into the area to connect with industry trackage as the area developed and industrial plants were completed. The ICC found that the Little Mountain industrial area was not exclusive SP territory, and that the area was as yet undeveloped and not generating any substantial traffic. Great Salt Lake Minerals, the largest potential shipper, testified that it required single-line service access to Union Pacific, because its markets were all located within Union Pacific territory in the Pacific Northwest, southern California, and in Utah, Idaho, Colorado, Nevada, and Wyoming. Other shippers in the area wanting competitive Union Pacific service included Prior Chemical Co., Boise Cascade Corp., Potlatch Forests, Inc., and Amalgamated Sugar Co. Construction was completed by the end of 1969. (ICC Financial Docket 24635, in 334 ICC 267-272)

(Read more about the extraction of salt and other minerals from Great Salt Lake)

May 20, 1970
Southern Pacific and D&RGW sued the ICC in federal District Court of Colorado, to overturn the commission's decision. The District Court upheld the ICC decision, and the two railroads appealed to the U. S. Supreme Court. (Ogden Standard Examiner, May 20, 1970)

November 23, 1970
The U. S. Supreme Court upheld both the ICC decision and the opinion of the District Court, approving the construction of UP's spur to serve the Little Mountain industrial complex. The ICC, in its original decision had stated that even without UP's spur being built, Union Pacific would receive at Ogden, 65 to 75 percent of the traffic from the complex because the traffic would consist of predominantly eastbound shipment of chemicals. (Ogden Standard Examiner, November 24, 1970)

December 28, 1970
The ICC reinstated its decision from 1969 allowing UP to build the branch, with the stipulation that construction was to start within three months. Union Pacific started construction of its Little Mountain Branch on March 18, 1971, and the line went into service on September 23, 1971. Projected shipments from the Little Mountain complex were reported as being 1 million tons per year by 1974, about 10,000 carloads, or about 30 cars per day. (Ogden Standard Examiner, March 5, 1971; April 1, 1971; September 19, 1971)

Abandonment (1997)

By letter dated December 22, 1997, UP notified the STB that service had been discontinued, but that additional time was needed to negotiate trail use for 10 miles of the 12-mile branch. The railroad retained a one-mile segment at the branch's connection to the mainline at Little Mountain Junction, also known as Hot Springs, and another one-mile segment was retained at the Little Mountain end. Both segments were needed for car storage. (STB Docket AB-33, Sub 99X, Decision 31314)

"UP states that the abandonment does not include active industries at Little Mountain Junction or Little Mountain, UT. UPRR also states that it intends to consummate the abandonment on or after the effective date of the Board’s approval in Finance Docket No. 32760." (STB Docket AB-33, Sub 99X, Decision 31314, decided August 6, 1996) (STB FD 32760 was the UP-SP Merger case, decided on September 11, 1996)

(Read the full STB decision, at STB-DOT.gov)

Negotiations to turn the abandoned 10 miles of right of way of the Little Mountain Branch into a trail began in August 1996, and several extensions were requested through following years, with the last extension expiring on September 8, 2000. All parties reached final agreement in August 2000, and the new Little Mountain Rail Trail was opened to the public in early June 2002. (Salt Lake Tribune, June 3, 2002)

OSL Malad Branch

Built by Malad Valley Railroad, a direct subsidiary of OSL; incorporated on November 25, 1902.

OSL and Malad Valley Railroad signed an agreement with Bear River Water Company, on November 25, 1902, to construct a line from Corinne, north to a construction site of a new sugar factory to be built by Bear River Water Company, a distance of 12 miles (later known as Garland). The new contrsuction included a new connecting line between the OSL at Brigham City, and a connection with Central Pacific at a point near Corinne, then into and through Corinne to a connection with Malad Valley Railroad. The water company agreed to acquire all needed property and right of way, and then to pass all rights and ownership of said property and right of way to OSL and Malad Valley Railroad. In return, in a separate agreement on the same day, OSL and Malad Valley Railroad agreed provide transportation services for the sugar factory, at a rate that was the same or lower than any rate that the sugar company might obtain from any competing railroad.

From Brigham City to Corinne Junction was called the "Brigham City Cutoff".

The land companies involved in the development of the agricultural land adjacent to the new Malad Branch included the Bear River Land, Orchard and Sugar Beet Company, and the Bear River Valley Land Company, which was in receivership and was sold to the Malad Valley Railroad in April 1903.

OSL/UP leased all of the former Central Pacific facilities, trackage and right-of-way between Corinne Junction and Corinne on June 5, 1945, effective on March 16, 1945, with a right to purchase. The trackage and property was purchased on October 16, 1947.

(from UP AFE 14, dated March 20, 1947)

OSL Syracuse Branch

(NOTE: check Davis County Book of Deeds J-280 for Ogden & Syracuse Railway.)

OSL's Syracuse Branch ran southwest for about 5.8 miles from Clearfield Junction to a wye on the east shore of the Great Salt Lake at Syracuse. (Syracuse, Utah was named after the town in New York state, which also had a predominant salt industry.)

Built in 1887 as the Ogden and Syracuse Railway. Became part of the Oregon Short Line and Utah Northern in 1889, which became the Oregon Short Line in 1898.

John R. Barnes bought land from Union Pacific on March 22, 1878 and sold it to the Ogden and Syracuse Railway on March 1, 1887. (Davis County Book of Abstracts A, page 205)

Tracks from Syracuse (MP 4.7) to the end-of-track at the lake shore, at engineering station 285+32 (5.4 miles) was taken up in March 1906. This trackage served the salt industries along the lake shore and the Syracuse Resort, a swimming resort located along the north side of the branch, just west of the north-south leg of the wye.

The switch at the location that the curved north leg of the wye connected with the north-south leg of the wye was at engineering station 285+32. The end of the north tail track of the wye was at engineering station 29+00 (0.54 mile). The north-south leg of the wye, along with the south tail track of the wye ended at station 41+30 (0.78 mile).

On October 24, 1927 the Inland Crystal Salt Company sold its interests to the Morton Salt Company. Included were about 61 acres in the NWQ of SWQ of Sec 7, a strip of land approximately a quarter mile wide by a half mile long, all of Lot 3 of sec 7, and about 128 acres in the NWQ of Sec 18, a strip of land approximately a quarter mile wide and a mile long. All three parcels were along the east shore of the Great Salt Lake. (Davis County Book of Deeds 1-H, page 387)

The tracks from Syracuse (MP 4.7) to the end of track (about MP 5.4), including the wye tracks, were taken up in March 1906. The tracks were shown as ending at the 1/2 section line of sections 7 and 18; track ran along section line between sections 7 and 18; property included lots 2 and 3 of Section 7, and lots 1, 2 and 3 of Section 18.

The trackage of the Syracuse Branch extended to Station 285+32 (5.4 miles), at the switch of the north leg of the wye, including the north curve of the wye. The actual north leg of the wye extended to station 29+00 (0.54 mile). The west side and south leg of the wye extended to Station 41+30 (0.78 mile). No information was available for the south curve of the wye.

Steed station (MP 3.2, at 3000 West, on the section line between Sections 8 and 9, T4N, R2W) was retired on December 4, 1946.

The West Point Spur (1.8 Miles, also known as the Steed Spur) connected with the Syracuse Branch at Steed and proceeded northwest for 1.8 Miles along the top of the bluff to the West Point Road (300 north). The spur was built and owned by the Layton Sugar Company to serve their beet dump on the West Point Road.

In September 1928 the sugar company purchased a fifty foot easement from the Steed and Wilcox families to be used for the "present spur track". The easement was perpetual as long as it was used for the spur track. Upon removal of the track the easement reverted to the families. (Davis County Book of Abstracts 4, page 89, Book of Agreements H, page 449)

The West Point beet dump was on 1.54 acres of land that the sugar company had purchased from James Patterson in April 1921. (NWQ of NWQ of Section 5, T4N, R2W) (Davis County Book of Abstracts 4, page 83; Book of Deeds 1-F, page 18) (The spur was retired at the same time as the branch, in August 1955. No construction date or retirement date for the West Point Spur is known, but Steed Spur may have been retired because the West Point Spur was removed.)

There was also a pea viner located at the Syracuse Branch's crossing of the Bluff Road (3000 West), just across the road from the Steed beet dump. A pea viner was used by the local green pea growers to separate their peas from the vines and pods. The pea viners were operated by the canning companies, with the separated peas being loaded and shipped directly to the canneries and processed. Two other pea viners were located Syracuse, one not served by rail, at about 1000 South and 1000 West, and another at the western end of D&RGW's Bennett Branch in south Syracuse, at 2700 South and 1000 West. (Interview with Don Rentmeister)

Barnes (MP 2.1) was retired on November 30, 1953. (Work Order 4083)

The track between Barnes (MP 2.1) and Syracuse (MP 4.7) was retired on August 31, 1955.

Before each transaction of selling the abandoned right of way, the OSL sold each parcel to the Union Pacific for one dollar. Union Pacific then sold the parcel to the adjoining land owners.

Union Pacific sold a 2.94 acre parcel to Jack and Bessie Kerr in August 1955. This portion of Davis County was included in UP's original 1869 land grant. UP had originally sold the land to David Kerr in 1887. David Kerr later, in April 1887, sold a right of way to the Ogden & Syracuse Railway. (Davis County Book of Records 102, page 507)

Union Pacific sold a 3.17 acre parcel to Walter W. Steed in July 1954. The deed gives the description of the Syracuse Branch "as formerly constructed and operated". (Davis County Book of Records 68, page 559)

(NOTE: Information above partially from OSL ICC Valuation and Alignment Map 17362, dated May 1913, on file at Davis County Recorder's office.)

(NOTE: Original research done at Davis County Recorder's office, Farmington, Utah, on August 2-3, 1980 while researching land ownership of Joseph Glen Simpson, the author's father-in-law. The Syracuse Branch end-of-track and wye, along with the Syracuse Resort, was located on Mr. Simpson's property, in Sections 7 and 18, T4N, R2W.)

OSL Thatcher Branch

From a point near Tremonton (on Malad Branch, west to Thatcher.

(from OSL drawing 21809, dated January 1924)

(from UP AFE 148, dated September 12, 1922)

OSL Urban Branch

North of Brigham City, east of the Bear River

(from OSL drawing 20716, dated February 1919)