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Salt Lake City's Grant Tower

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This page was last updated on June 25, 2016.

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Overview

Grant Tower was formerly an interchange between UP (both OSL and LA&SL), D&RGW and WP to get their respective trains in and out of Salt Lake City. It was completed in 1948 when D&RGW moved its Salt Lake-Ogden mainline over against the UP mainline to get away from street-running along 700 West north of South Temple Street, and to improve train handling for interchange cuts of cars between Rio Grande at Roper yard, and Union Pacific at North yard.

A study by Rio Grande completed in December 1943, recommended a change in tracks, adding a double track line parallel to UP's tracks along Fourth (500) West. Moving the mainline to Ogden away from the center meridan of Sixth (700) West, with its 15 miles per hour speed restriction, over to a new route parallel to UP's line, would greatly improve train speeds through the area between Second South and Second North. The new tracks would also eliminate delays for trains bound for Ogden, which were required to stop before crossing the combined Union Pacific, Western Pacific, and Salt Lake Garfield & Western tracks at the intersection of Sixth West and South Temple streets. The proposed line change was shown as the "Fourth West - Sixth West Track Change," and would later become known as the Grant Tower Interlocking.

UP used the interchange to move trains from its joint LA&SL/OSL North Yard, including LA&SL trains moving to and from Los Angeles via both the leamington Cutoff to the west, and the Provo Subdivision to the south. UP also used Grant Tower to move trains that interchanged traffic between North Yard and D&RGW's Roper Yard.

D&RGW used the interchange for its Ogden-bound trains, and WP used tracks at the interchange's western end to move its freight trains from its joint line with UP (LA&SL), south to D&RGW's Roper Yard. WP also used the interchange itself to move its passenger trains in and out of the joint WP-D&RGW passenger depot.

After 1983, UP controlled the former WP, and after 1996, UP controlled the former D&RGW trackage. The former D&RGW trackage is still there and UP uses it to get from North Yard, eight miles south to Roper Yard. UP sold the Provo Subdivision to Utah Transit Authority in 1993, and it became UTA's light rail line. With the completion of UTA's frontrunner commuter rail line in early 2008, the Frontrunner trains used the east side of the Grant Tower alignment for its new trackage between Salt Lake City and Ogden/Pleasantview

From late 2001 until late 2007, due to congestion of trackage west of Salt Lake City and to bypass Grant Tower, UP was again using the former Passenger Line along 900 South to get from the west directly to Roper Yard.

From UP engineering department records:

Timeline

February 11, 1944
Part of D&RGW's "4th West - 6th West Line Change" (D&RGW AFE T-10073)
Approved on February 11, 1944
Completed on December 20, 1952

February 11, 1944
D&RGW Grant Tower building (D&RGW AFE T-10073)
Approved on February 11, 1944
Completed on May 29, 1950

Before Grant Tower, D&RGW passenger trains to Ogden used the joint trackage north along 500 (Fourth) West, turning west at South Temple and used trackage jointly owned by WP and D&RGW. Then at 700 (Sixth) West, they turned north along the D&RGW mainline to Ogden. There is a map on page 24 of Jeff Asay's "Track and Time" book about WP.

After Grant Tower, the track due north along 500 (Fourth) West, the east leg of the wye, was D&RGW track to where it met the north leg of the wye, which was owned by D&RGW. from there north, it was joint D&RGW-OSL to 500 (Fourth) North. The south leg of the wye at Grant Tower was owned by OSL.

Also after Grant Tower, WP and D&RGW split the joint passenger line east of 700 (Sixth) West, with WP taking the portion between 700 (Sixth) West and the west curb line of 500 (Fourth) West. D&RGW took the line in and along 500 (Fourth) West, including the turnout for the east leg of the wye, to allow them to serve the industries along that part of the line.

September 1, 1944
D&RGW renewed the joint operation agreement for the Salt Lake City Union Depot & Railroad Co. with Western Pacific. (ICC Finance Docket 14695, approved on October 25, 1944, in 257 ICC 816). The original agreement was dated November 1, 1908. The SLCU&D was incorporated in Utah on May 29, 1907.

D&RGW Station "U.P. Crossing" on Salt Lake City to Ogden line (MP 745.6, from Denver)

1948
D&RGW completed a line change in 1948-1951 to move its 600 West line in Salt Lake City over to the east, along UP's line along 400 West. At the same time, the Grant Tower interlocking was completed.

The 400 West/600 West Line Change was completed to allow the state highway department to construct a super highway, which today is known as Interstate 15.

1951
According to the 1951 annual report to shareholders, Union Pacific constructed "Interlocker facilities at Salt Lake City, Utah, jointly with other railroads, to expedite train movements."

July 1950
Railway Age magazine carried the following news item about Grant Tower:

Denver & Rio Grande Western ­ Union Pacific
These roads have filed a joint application with the I.C.C. for authority to change certain trackage arrangements in Salt Lake City, Utah. The D.& R.G.W. will construct approximately 8,435 ft. of new trackage, in two segments, at an estimated cost of $124,900. The segments will connect present D.& R.G.W. tracks with those of the U.P. and the roads have made an agreement under which the former will acquire trackage rights over 5,050 ft. of U.P. tracks. The U.P. will acquire trackage rights over 960 ft. of the newly constructed D.& R.G.W. line. The D.& R.G.W. will abandon 4,100 ft. of its present track which follows Sixth West street. (Railway Age, Volume 129, page 84, July 1, 1950)

1955
The Grant Tower interlocking did not show up in UP's employee timetables until 1955.

November 1985
Grant Tower was closed as the last manned interlocking plant in the state of Utah. From then on, all movements through Salt Lake City's busiest rail crossing was controlled by D&RGW's dispatcher number 5 in Denver, Colorado. The interchange itself was unique because all approaches were uphill, bringing a degree of safety to operations. An uncontrolled movement, sometimes known as a "runaway", would be harder through the interlocking plant because of this "top-of-the-hill" location. (part from Trainorders.com, December 23, 2004, reported by James Belmont)

May 5, 1986
D&RGW closed Grant Tower. The following story comes from CTC Board, May 1986, page 12:

Changing Of The Guard . . . The Rio Grande has taken another step in maintaining its position of modernization. Grant Tower, milepost 745.5 on the Utah Division, Seventh Subdivision, was to be closed Monday, May 5th.

The tower, located adjacent to the Union Pacific's depot in Salt Lake City, controls a massive and complex layout of trackage. The Rio Grande's double tracked mainline northbound from Salt Lake City to Ogden is crossed by the Union Pacific's two mainlines, one being the original Los Angeles and Salt Lake, and the other the old Western Pacific. All movements were controlled by a manual interlocking system with the levers operated by a towerman which was on duty twenty-four hours daily.

Effective with the closure of the tower, control of the interlocking is transferred to Denver under the auspices of Dispatcher Five. The facility is both large and complex enough to require two displays on the CRT to contain it. Up to eighty movements per day utilize the junction and special programs have been added to the D&RGWs computer controlled dispatching system just for the purpose of handling the complexity of this section of track.

October 1986
Amtrak moved its Salt Lake City station from the UP depot to the D&RGW depot. The change in depot locations included about 1,000 feet of new track between 2nd South Street and 1st South Street along 5th West Street. This new track connected with UP's Provo Subdivision just south of the south leg of the Grant Tower wye, west of the UP depot. The work was performed by the Rio Grande's own construction crews, and was slated for completion on October 26, 1986. (CTC Board, November 1986, page 11; CTC Board, June 1988, page 16, reported by Ryan Ballard)

August 1994
The Southern Pacific Lines received Federal Railroad Administration approval of the conversion of the manual interlocking system to a traffic control system, at Grant Tower, milepost WA-745.4, near Salt Lake City, Utah, Rocky Mountain Region, Subdivision 7. The reason given for the proposed changes is to enhance safety by having the dispatcher use only one set of operating rules for the territory under his control. (Federal Railroad Administration, Block Signal Application Number 3300)

1996
Utah Power & Light completed the environmental cleanup of the former American Barrel site adjacent to the tracks of the Grant Tower Interchange. Work had begun in 1990 after the site had been placed on the EPA's "Superfund" National Priorities List in 1989. The 2.2 acre site was cleaned up and made available for redevelopment as part of the Gateway project. The site had been first used starting in 1873 as a coal gasification plant, which remained in operation until 1908. Beginning in about 1927, Utah Power & Light began treating line poles with creosote in at least two pole dipping tanks. Later the site was used to store 55-gallon barrels, with as many as 50,000 barrels being on site. Barrel storing activities ended in 1987. Environmental inspections first took place in 1986 and by 1988 UP&L had installed fencing to surround the site and removed trees and vegetation. Inspections in 2001 and 2006 confirmed that the site was no longer a danger to human health. (Environmental Protection Agency, Superfund Site Record of Decision, EPA ID: UTD980667240)

September 1998
The abandonment (in September 1998) of UP's trackage in Salt Lake City along 400 West, 500 West, and 900 South forced Amtrak to move (in July 1999) from the former D&RGW passenger depot to a temporary intermodal facility directly to the west and located adjacent to the former D&RGW freight line along 600 West. The move was being forced by changes along Salt Lake City's west side that included a redesign of freeway on- and off-ramps for Interstate 15. The new freeway access included removing the overhead viaducts along 500 South and 600 South that kept them above the railroad tracks below. The removal of UP and D&RGW passenger lines forced Amtrak to move its depot west to a "temporary" location on the east side of the former D&RGW freight line leading south from Grant Tower interlocking toward Roper Yard.

The new Amtrak station was on the same east-west street (300 South Street) that the current D&RGW station is centered on, but about two blocks farther west. All this change will remove tracks of the former UP Provo Sub, and will leave both the Rio Grande and UP depot buildings with no tracks. The former Rio Grande freight line through the area along 600 West will remain, as will the current UP main lines that head west from the Grant Tower interchange.

Grant Tower, which is still standing, is the key junction where UP's two western routes (former Los Angeles & Salt Lake, and Western Pacific) connect with the former Rio Grande and the UP line north to Ogden, and in a related project, Grant Tower trackage will be modified to provide higher-speed curves. Also, a single double-track route west will replace the current separate UP and WP single-track alignments, thus reducing the number of grade crossings. (Trains "NewsWire", September 30, 1998)

April 26, 1999
UP's tracks along 400 West were officially removed from service when the turnout leading to the trackage was spiked shut at the north end, at Grant Tower. (interview with Rick Durrant, UP operating official)

February 5, 2001
UP reached an agreement with UTA that granted UTA to share a 20-foot corridor adjacent to UP's mainline between Salt Lake City and Ogden on the condition that UTA acquire a "fee interest" in the UP's mainline corridor between Ogden and Provo. The corridor was not uniform in width, and for UTA to acquire a consistant width for its own tracks, it would have to acquire small strips of additional land from 189 property owners in 60 jurisdictions by way of eminent domain. Senate Bill 256, then before the Utah legislature, would grant UTA the needed power of eminent domain and condemnation to proceed with the needed acquisitions. (Utah League of Cities and Towns, Meeting Minutes, February 19, 2001)

November 2001
Changes in the commercial district in the vicinity of Grant Tower were completed as part of the Gateway development. These changes included a new six-feet high fence around the building itself to separate it from the adjacent parking area and a newly constructed 500 West Street, a street that did not exist prior to the Gateway project.

Westside Railroad Realignment Project

October 27, 2003
Union Pacifc and Salt Lake City announced an agreement for the realignment of tracks in the Grant Tower Interchange which would stop the operation of trains along the 900 South Line. The first step of the agreement, to be completed by the end of 2004, would be preliminary design configurations and cost estimates. Funding, about $40 million, was to come from federal sources. Union Pacific commited to contribute $4.5 million to the project. Construction was to be completed by September 30, 2007, when the agreement was to expire. (Salt Lake City Office of the Mayor, News Release, October 27, 2003)

In 2005, the U.S. Congress earmarked $5 million in Department of Transportation funds for the Grant Tower project. These funds will be used by Union Pacific for a project called the Roper Yard Segment, a series of separate track improvements and safety upgrades Union Pacific needs to make south ofthe Grant Tower area to improve the crossings and enable higher train speeds. (Salt Lake City Council, July 17, 2007)

(A search of federal on-line databases (U. S. Congress, Library of Congress and Government Printing Office) for earmarks for FY2005 and 2006 did not find this reference to $5 million in federal funds. The above document stated that the total cost of the project was put at $6.5 million, using $5 million in federal funds and $1.25 million in local funds.)

July 2005
Utah received $5 million for its part of the Grant Tower Realignment Project as part of larger portion of $1.8 billion for highway projects throughout the state. (Senator Orin Hatch, Press Release, July 28, 2005)

January 2006
The Utah state legislature voted to provide $3.5 million as the state's contribution to the $50 million project for the realignment of the Grant Tower interchange. With a projected total cost of $50 million, the costs had been divided as Salt Lake City and Union Pacific contributing a total of $29.5 million, Utah Transit Authority contributing $12 million, Federal Department of Transporation contributing $5 million, and the State of Utah contributing the final $3.5 million. (The Salt Lake Tribune, January 28, 2006)

February 2006
The funding for the Grant Tower Realignment Project was given with different proportions: Union Pacific and Utah Transit Authority each contributing $15 million; Salt Lake City contributing $11 million; federal government contributing $5 million; and the State of Utah, via HB372, contributing $4 million. (Salt Lake Tribune, February 21, 2006)

April 2006
The Grant Tower interchange was, in April 2006, host to one of the busiest railroad junctions in the Mountain West, with about 80 million tons of freight rolling through the junction each year. It was also one of UP's biggest bottlenecks, at times forcing trains to slow to 10 mph due to congestion. (The Salt Lake Tribune, April 30, 2006)

June 2, 2006
Union Pacific received federal Surface Transportation Board approval to formally abandon the 900 South Line between milepost 780.1, west of Redwood Road, and milepost 782.32, near 400 West, all in Salt Lake City. The line's abandonment was not to actually take place until after the reconfiguration of UP's Grant Tower interchange, which is planned for completion in early 2007 as part of many changes in support of UTA's commuter rail project between Salt Lake City and Ogden. (STB Docket AB-33, sub 237X, decided on May 24, 2006)

Use of the Passenger Line east of Redwood Road was greatly reduced after Amtrak's startup in May 1971, and in 1999, UP suspended service over the portion of the 900 South Line east of Redwood Road (milepost 780.79) to facilitate the Salt Lake City Gateway Area Redevelopment Project and related street improvements. In 2001, UP reactivated the 900 South Line as a freight bypass for through traffic to relieve pressure on its existing routings via Grant Tower.

September 2006
In September 2006, Salt Lake City, under eminent domain laws, condemned eight pieces of property that were needed to complete the combined UP and UTA realignment of Grant Tower trackage. These properties were within the interchange itself (the former "barrel yard") and properties along South Temple Street between 600 West and 800 West, including parcels adjacent to, and under the I-15 overhead viaducts. Construction was planned to begin in December 2006, forcing to city to take legal action in lieu of negotiated settlements. Total cost to the city was reported as $3.6 million. (The Salt Lake Tribune, September 22, 2006)

November 1, 2006
Union Pacific was given temporary authority for the "temporary discontinuance of the block signal system, at UP's Grant Tower in Salt Lake City, Utah. The temporary discontinuance will be for a period of no more than 120 consecutive days, within a time period starting after November 1, 2006 and ending before August 1, 2007. The reason given for the proposed changes is to support the installation of new track and new signal system. At the end of the temporary discontinuance, the affected area will have a new signal system fully complying with Federal Regulations." (Federal Railroad Administration, Docket Number FRA-2006-25265; Federal Register, August 8, 2006, Volume 71, Number 152, Notices, Page 45100)

August 23, 2007
With the completion of the realignment of its double track mainline through the northern portions of the Grant Tower interchange, Union Pacific announced that the entire project was at the half-way point. Completion was planned for November 2007. An improved train-signal system, and improved street crossing siganls and gates was to allow UP to operate its trains as fast as 40 miles per hour, supposedly four times as fast as the present speeds. (The Salt Lake Tribune, August 23, 2007)

A more realistic assessment of the operation points to a speed of about 20 to 25 miles per hour, with severely reduced need for warning bells and whistles due to improved safety at street crossings.

November 2, 2007
With the formal completion of the realignment of UP's tracks through the Grant Tower interchange, beginning on November 2 Union Pacific increased train speeds from 10 mph to 40 mph. A November 1, 2007 press release advised all interested parties that train speeds were to increase "through multiple grade crossings in Salt Lake City, Utah, beginning on November 2. The crossings include 1800 North Street, 3rd North Street, 4th North Street, 6th West Street, 8th West Street, 9th West Street, 10th West Street and 2nd South Street." According to Scott Moore, vice president - public affairs, Western Region, "The Grant Tower realignment will enable Union Pacific trains to pass through downtown Salt Lake City at 40 mph, rather than 10 mph, enhancing the fluidity of the railroad and improving efficiency and convenience for Salt Lake City residents." (Union Pacific press release, November 1, 2007)

Upon completion of the Grant Tower Realignment Project, Union Pacific transferred ownership of the 900 South Line to Salt Lake City. The tracks were removed during the summer of 2008. (Read more about UP's 900 South Line)

City Creek Realignment

City Creek is to be brought to the surface just west of the UP/Frontrunner tracks at about 750 West, then flow along a short new alignment until it meets the abandoned Western Pacific passenger line along Folsom Avenue, about a half block south of the rebuilt UP line west from Grant Tower. From that point, at about 750 West, it will flow due west to the Jordan River along the alignment of Folsom Avenue, which itself is the former WP line. Plans include an open stream, and a bike/walking trail that will form a spur of the Jordan River Parkway.

In 1910 about three miles of the creek were channelized in an underground aqueduct beneath the alignment of North Temple Street, west from West Temple Street to about 450 West where it continued under the various railroad tracks, and continued west to about 1100 West where the creek flows into Jordan River. The Grant Tower project, with the realignment of UP tracks along South Temple Street west of I-15, would allow part of City Creek to be realigned along a portion of the abandoned UP right of way, opening the creek as part of a parkway and trail system. (The Salt Lake Tribune, April 30, 2006)

Additional plans for the development of the City Creek along the soon to be abandoned UP (ex WP) right-of-way include a more specific location along the former Western Pacific line about a half block south of the existing UP mainline along South Temple Street. This alignment is often known as Folsom Avenue, and was completed as WP's mainline into Salt Lake City in 1906-1907. The eastern portion of WP's tracks east of 700 West, usually known as WP's Passenger Main, was removed after UP took control of WP in 1983. The western portion has remained in place as a connection, via a new track alignment completed in 1983-1984, that allowed UP to make use of the double track between Grant Tower and Smelter, 16 miles to the west.

The realigned creek was planned to be about 10 feet wide and three feet deep, meandering along the 80- to 100-feet wide abandoned railroad right-of-way. The "daylighted" creek will come to the surface at the intersection of 500 West Street and South Temple Street. The project will provide at least 12 acres of revitalized habitat consisting of about 8900 feet of restored creekbed. (Urban Rivers Restoration Pilot Fact Sheet, City Creek/Gateway District, Utah, EPA and US Army Corps of Engineers)

The City Creek relignment is part of what Salt Lake City's Department of Public Utilities calls "The City Creek Flood Control and Folsom Avenue Parkway Project." Construction of Phase One began in 2007 and was completed as part of the Grant's Tower Railroad Realignment Project. This involved the construction of a 54-inch reinforced concrete pipe extending from the City Creek diversion structure at 500 West to 800 West and South Temple. This pipe will divert part of the flows from the City Creek stormwater conduit to the Jordan River during occasional high flows. This phase will not be operational until the entire project is completed. Phase Two of the City Creek stormwater conduit realignment and rehabilitation was begun in 2009. This phase will connect the conduit segment at 800 West and South Temple with the Jordan River outfall, running within the corridor vacated by the abandonment of the Union Pacific Grant's Tower rail section. Construction of this phase offers opportunities for public enhancements, including the potential day-lighting of City Creek and the construction of a pedestrian parkway.

(Daylighting Salt Lake City's City Creek, published by the Golden Gate University Law Review)

Map

Grant Tower Map -- A Google Map of tracks from Grant Tower to the Jordan River, including WP before 1967 line change.

More Information

Grant Tower photos -- A UtahRails photo album showing several train in the Grant Tower vicinity, along with a photo of the track diagram control board, in the tower itself.

Trainorders.com message thread from December 2004, with photos (login required)

Railway Signaling & Communications trade magazine article from March 1954, that describes the function and details of the building, tracks, and signaling used in the then-new Grant Tower interlocking.

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