A Publication of the Utah Electric Railway Historical Society
Volume 3, Number 1 (no date, circa February 1997)
A Way of Life Changed When the Old Utah, Idaho Central Took Its Last Trip
By Necia P. Seamons
Saturday, Feb. 15, marks the 50th anniversary of the last run of the Utah, Idaho Central Railroad. For just over 30 years the rail line carried passengers and freight, 94 miles from Ogden, Utah, to Preston, Idaho, on a daily basis. It was the only mode of transportation for many people as fewer had automobiles than they do today.
The line opened in 1914 when Logan Rapid Transit and Ogden Rapid Transit lines connected their lines. The owners of the operation, the Eccles Corporation, intended to take the line to Yellowstone Park, but that never transpired.
Living in Richmond as a youth, Keith Christensen, Preston, can remember giving five cents to the conductor to ride about three miles south of Richmond to get to the beet fields where he and his buddies worked. They played there, too.
"We had these new hats and wanted to see what the train would do to them so we put the hats on the rail. The train ruined them and we had to hide them from Dad. ...he found out and got our rumps paddled a bit," he said.
The train made four trips in and four trips out of Preston every day, except Sundays and holidays. Leaving at 7 a.m., 8 a.m., 2 p.m. and 5:15 p.m., stopping at eight locations before it reached Logan and 26 locations before reaching Ogden. From there, passengers could catch the Bamberger Railroad into Salt Lake City and points in between.
On flag, or by request of passengers, the train would also stop at a variety of non-designated places.
Running between competing high schools especially in Preston, Richmond, Hyrum, and Logan was a special deal on game nights, recalled Keith Christensen.
"We'd get 200 or 300 students together and they would have a special run to the games for us. They pretty much gave us the run of the place. We'd hold pep rallies on the train cars," he said.
In 1924, buses began making the trip, leaving Preston at 9 a.m., 12:01 p.m., and 7:30 p.m. according to the time table. They stopped at the train stations and would stop along the highway at a passenger's request as long as the stops were outside city limits.
Rulon Dunn, Preston, remembers riding the train for nothing but the pleasure of getting away for the afternoon and doing some shopping in Logan.
"Reed Bosworth and I took it just for the afternoon to get away," he said. It was open air, fun to ride and it stopped at all the stops along the way. We got a kick out of it," he said. The round trip cost 35 cents, recalled Dunn.
"Life styles have changed and the pace of life has increased," said Christensen, "but the old train is missed." When his children were young and the family was living on South State, in Preston, he said they would listen for the whistle and watch as it rolled into the station. The Preston depot still stands, being used as a tire store, but long gone are the whistles of a bygone era.
We have hit upon another 50 year anniversary. Last year we marked the sad day of March 1, 1946, as the last day of operation on the Salt Lake and Utah Railroad. This time we mark an equally sad event, that being the final passenger run and eventual dissolution of the Utah Idaho Central Railroad, on Feb. 15, 1947.
The story of the Utah Idaho Central Railroad is really the history of the Eccles family, and their contribution to many facets of life in Northern Utah. From the inception of the Ogden Rapid Transit Company, created by David Eccles, to rescue Ogden's failing street railway system, to the final day of operation in 1947, the Eccles name was part of the Board of Directors and heavy stock holders, all be it through other Eccles owned corporations. The fate of the U.I.C. was also an Eccles decision. Spencer Eccles wrote in his family's history, that the poor performance of many Eccles interests during the war years, forced a re-evaluation of their viability. The only choice was to divest of poorly performing interests. The U.I.C. was one of those interests.
The final days of the U.I.C. were less than glorious, and numbered as early as 1945. While most railroads were strained beyond there means during the war, the U.I.C. had picked up very little business. In fact between the years 1943 and 1946, the road had lost $237,664, this during a time that the Bamberger Electric Railroad, running between Salt Lake and Ogden, was seeing $2,000,000 to $3,000,000 increases it yearly revenue.
Further blows to the railroad came as paved highways began to connect the Wasatch Front and Cache Valley. Auto, bus and truck competition whittled at both freight and passenger service. The railroads main revenue became the mail contract, sugar beets, and coal. About this same time, natural gas lines went north out of Ogden reducing coal usage substantially.
In March of 1945, a not so surprising sale of the line to Amalgamated Sugar, occurred. Amalgamated Sugar, an Eccles corporation, was the main customer of sugar beet traffic. The company was most interested in divesting itself of passenger service and utilizing only parts of the line that brought their sugar beets from the fields to the processing plant. It was quickly realized that the line would be too expensive to maintain for their minimal seasonal needs.
The road bid high on the mail contract in 1946 and won the bid. Thus they were tied to passenger and mail service for another year. The next years mail bid was also high, and this time Fuller Topance truck lines won the bid. Feb. 15, 1947, was to be the last day of mail service and thus was the last day of passenger service.
While 50 years have past since that fateful day, many for whom, the U.I.C. was a part of daily life, still carry fond memories, as noted in our cover story by Ms. Seamons. For those who still remember, and those who came along to late, it is only fitting that we devote this issue of the RETRIEVER to the grand old Utah, Idaho Central.
Submissions to the Railway Post Office have been edited for length and clarity. ed.
In regards to the question posed in the fall issue of the RETRIEVER concerning Baldwin's truck nomenclature, I have prepared the following information.
Bamberger Electric Railroad's standard truck was the Baldwin 78-25 A. It differs with the Baldwin 84-30 A truck in many ways. Baldwin's nomenclature explains the differences. The first number, 78 in this case represents the length of the wheelbase in inches, Bamberger's trucks being a 6'-6" wheelbase measurement from axel center to center where the other truck mentioned had a 7'-0' wheelbase.
The second number, Bamberger's being 25, refers to the weight that the truck can hold. In this case the load can be up to 25,000 lbs with a running speed of 40 - 60 miles per hour, (although this was not adhered to, luckily with no adverse affects).
The "A" simply represents the type of mounting equipment, related to hanging the electric traction motors. An "A" mounting will hold motors of the 60 to 75 h.p. range.
History at a Glance: Major Events on the Utah, Idaho Central
May 16, 1900: O.R.T. (Ogden Rapid Transit Company) incorporated.
Jan. 29, 1910: L.R.T. (Logan Rapid Transit Company) incorporated.
Oct. 17, 1914: O.L.&I. (Ogden Logan & Idaho Railway Company) was incorporated as a consolidation the O.R.T. and the L.R.T.
Oct. 15, 1915: First through train from Ogden to Preston, a total of 94.7 miles.
Jan. 1, 1918: The O.L.&I. name changes to the U.I.C. (Utah, Idaho Central Railway)
Jan. 1, 1920: U.I.C.'s Ogden City streetcar lines were split off, to create the U.R.T. (Utah Rapid Transit Company.
1924: Bus operations began, eliminating trains on the Plain City Branch, and the Logan Street car lines.
Nov. 5, 1926: U.I.C. sold at receivers sale, the new company name Utah Idaho Central Railroad Company.
Nov. 24, 1939: George. S. Eccles purchases the railroad under bond, renaming it Utah Idaho Central Railroad Corp.
June 14, 1940: With bonds repaid, I.C.C. (Interstate Commerce Commission) authorizes purchase and operation of the line, the major stock holder at 96% is Amalgamated Sugar Co., an Eccles corporation.
Dec. 20, 1946: U.I.C. asks I.C.C. for authority to abandon the rail line.
Feb. 13, 1947: Judge Johnson issues order to suspend passenger operations.
Feb. 15, 1947: The last day of passenger operation.
June 1947: I.C.C. authorizes total abandonment and dissolution of the U.I.C. Burlington Trailways to take over bus operation, and Hyman-Michaels, job of dismantling the line.
Evolution of the Utah, Idaho Central's Rolling Stock
Most who remember the Utah, Idaho Central Railroad, remember large dark green or green and silver motor and trailer cars seating 60 to 70 people. A select few, privledged to experience the line before or during the depression, will recall a much more diversified fleet of cars.
In 1900, David S. Eccles, Ogden Rapid Transit Company, took over the Ogden Electric Railway Company, and began operation with two worn out, single truck, street cars, one running on Washington Avenue, and the other on 25th street. Soon 12 of the old city cars were rehabilitated and in operation. These cars, held together with bailing wire, were the sole fleet until the purchase of three, Barney & Smith, 28 foot cars, in 1904. 1905 saw the arrival of four more Barney & Smith cars, and soon after, four 38 foot St. Louis semi-convertibles.
The next equipment purchases were in 1908, to handle rapid expansion of Ogden's street car lines. Three, 41 foot St. Louis semi-convertibles, and four, 41 foot motor cars from Cincinnati Car Co. were purchased.
With incorporation of the Logan Rapid Transit and building of the Ogden Canyon line. Four, 46 foot, St. Louis suburban motor cars, three, 38 foot, American Car Co. trailers, were purchased. Many older cars began to be rebuilt at this time. 1912 saw the purchase of nine more American Car Co. trailers.
With the creation of the Ogden, Logan & Idaho Railway in 1914, the more memorable American Car Co., 62 foot motors and trailers began showing up on the property. By 1917, 18 Motors and six trailers had been received. These cars, known as the 500 and 600 class cars were to be the main stay of the line between Ogden and Preston, along with handling occasional crowds on the Ogden Canyon line.
With the large cars for long distance travel, dyeing streetcar operations were given their final financial infusion. The Ogden streetcar lines were renamed the Utah Rapid Transit which received 16 new American Car Co., single truck Birneys, allowing retirement of many older cars. The 1936 dissolution of Ogden's streetcar lines, left only the 500 and 600 class cars in service.
The big news, is the sale of the old Bamberger depot site in Centerville, Utah. For years this site has sat looking just as it did after abandonment. The site would have been an ideal museum location, but now a set of apartments will occupy the site. One more chance to preserve what little is left is gone.
On a happier note, resortation of Bamberger Bullet car #127 is moving along slowly but surely. #127 is now adorned with a shinny new coat of orange paint.