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Salt Lake & Utah Railroad

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This page was last updated on April 6, 2019.

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The Salt Lake & Utah Railroad ran from Payson to Salt Lake City. The line was built in 1914 as an electric interurban. On April 3, 1914 it reached as far as Pleasant Grove. By 1916, the line reached Payson. It was unofficially called the "Orem" after A. J. and W. C. Orem, who arranged the corporate financing to build the line.

When the line was constructed as far as Provo, special-built new cars began running. They were dark red, thirty-six passenger capacity cars, each divided into a freight compartment and two passenger compartments, smoking and non-smoking. Each car was heated, lighted and powered by four 110-horsepower Westinghouse motors, which drew electricity from overhead cables.

The Salt Lake & Utah Railroad also carried the United States mail and newspapers. Other freight included milk and produce along with regular every day commodities.

A spur in Pleasant Grove ran to a loading station under a dumping ramp where ore and fire clay were loaded. The clay came from natural deposits on the hills east of town, mined there in two locations, the Homer/McFarland and the Wadley pits. The ore was hauled from mines in American Fork Canyon.

Ridership was lively before the family car became popular in the mid 1920s. During the depression, and through WWII when gas was rationed, people again patronized the convenient rail system, which, due to its deterioration, was referred to as "The Red Heifer" or "Leaping Lena". The line was closed in 1946, just after the war.

(Read more about the Salt Lake & Utah Railroad; excerpted from Ira Swett's "Interurbans of Utah")


Utah citizens secure franchises for a railroad from Salt Lake City south through Salt Lake and Utah Counties. (Stephen Drew, email dated January 21, 2008)

Orem interests led by Walter C. Orem (1873-1951), from a wealthy Boston family and builder of the Nevada Copper Belt Railroad, took control of the Salt Lake & Utah Railroad project. (Stephen Drew, email dated January 21, 2008)

October 16, 1912
The Salt Lake & Utah Railroad was incorporated in Portland, Maine. (Stephen Drew, email dated January 21, 2008)

C. Dyer, Portland, President; F. M. Orem, SLC, Treasurer. Capital Stock $3,000,000. The Interurban Construction Company also incorporated by the Orems in Maine

October 20, 1912
SL&U construction begun in Provo, Utah. (Stephen Drew, email dated January 21, 2008)

June 1913
At SL&U stockholders' meeting, W. C. Orem elected President and General Manager; F. M. Orem elected Secretary and Treasurer. (Stephen Drew, email dated January 21, 2008)

October 1913
Salt Lake & Utah announced that three new gasoline motor cars had been ordered from the Hall Scott Car Company of Berkeley, California. These were to open SL&U for public use on January 1, 1914, and after electrification would be kept for use as standby equipment in emergencies. (Swett, Interurbans of Utah, page 41)

October 1913
Salt Lake & Utah announced that a track laying machine had been purchased and its delivery was expected to increase construction work. (Swett, Interurbans of Utah, page 41)

December 1913
Local newspapers call SL&U construction "The biggest event of the year." (Stephen Drew, email dated January 21, 2008)

Early February 1914
Three Hall-Scott all-steel motor cars, SL&U numbers 501-503, arrive from West Berkeley running via Southern Pacific to Ogden and Salt Lake & Ogden Railway to Salt Lake City. 59-feet 7-1/2 inches long, 56-seat capacity. (Stephen Drew, email dated January 21, 2008)

March 23, 1914
The SL&U, The Orem Lines, open with eight daily gasoline motor car trips between Salt Lake City and American Fork, operated by the Interurban Construction Company. 33.4 miles, travel time 1 hour 25 minutes. (Stephen Drew, email dated January 21, 2008)

July 24, 1914
"Electric service was inaugurated on the Salt Lake & Utah Railroad on July 24, between Salt Lake City and Provo, a distance 48-1/2 miles." (Electric Railway Journal, Volume 44, Number 6, August 8, 1914, page 271)

SL&U begins public service to Provo, 48.5 miles, with 14 daily electric trains, red interurban cars. SL&U assumes operating responsibility. Travel time 1 hour 55 minutes. (Stephen Drew, email dated January 21, 2008)

August 15, 1914
Through freight service inaugurated. SL&U interchanges with Oregon Short Line (UP) at Salt Lake City and Denver & Rio Grande at Provo. (Stephen Drew, email dated January 21, 2008)

October 1914
SL&U averaging more than 800 passengers daily. (Stephen Drew, email dated January 21, 2008)

December 5, 1914
Sixteen daily trains between Salt Lake City and Provo. (Stephen Drew, email dated January 21, 2008)

April 9, 1915
Salt Lake & Utah announced that the road would be extended south from Provo to Springville. Some materials were already on the ground and available. Other material needed for the extension would arrive within the next six weeks. (Vernal Express, April 9, 1915)

May 16, 1915
Increased to 20 trains daily. (Stephen Drew, email dated January 21, 2008)

July 18, 1915
"Salt Lake & Utah -- Announce completion of their main line into Springville. Passenger service of 20 daily trains will be inaugurated on Sunday, July 18th, 1915. Express will be carred on all passenger trains. A freight train in each direction will be run daily, except Sunday, on and after Tuesday, July 20th." (American Fork Citizen, July 17, 1915)

October 1915
SL&U Hall-Scott motor car No. 503 repainted by SL&U as Nevada Copper Belt No. 22. (Stephen Drew, email dated January 21, 2008)

November 1, 1915
NCB No. 22 en route from SL&U to Orem's NCB at Mason, Nevada. (Stephen Drew, email dated January 21, 2008)

November 10, 1915
Salt Lake & Utah, and all the other companies and interests of A. J. Orem & Company (Salt Lake & Utah RR, Nevada Copper Belt RR, Nevada Douglas Mining Co., Interurban Construction Co., and Salt Lake Terminal Co.), moved from the Newhouse building, to the former location of the old Commercial Club, at 222 South West Temple. The building had been purchased by the Terminal company during 1914 to fulfill its plans of a new terminal building. The building was on the west side of the street, and was just north of Pierpont Avenue, where the Terminal company planned to build its new interurban terminal. (Salt Lake Tribune, November 10, 1915)

May 26, 1916
W. C. Orem's father, A. J. Orem & Company, completes SL&U construction. (Stephen Drew, email dated January 21, 2008)

SL&U gold spike driven at Payson. 24 daily electric trains inaugurated over the 66.6-mile standard-gauge Salt Lake City-Payson mainline. (Stephen Drew, email dated January 21, 2008)

July 16, 1916
Increased to 26 trains a day. Running time 2 hours 15 minutes. (Stephen Drew, email dated January 21, 2008)

September 25, 1916
A temporary interurban terminal station was completed on the site recently purchased at the southwest corner of West Temple and South Temple streets. The tracks were in their permanent locations, but the construction of a permanent building was to be delayed due to economic conditions. (Salt Lake Herald, September 20, 1916)

October 10, 1917
9.7-miles Magna Branch put into service. (Stephen Drew, email dated January 21, 2008)

(no date, circa 1919)
SL&U received Utah PSC approval to allow construction of tracks east along 9th South, crossing 1st West, Jefferson Street, and West Temple, including the tracks of Utah Light & Traction Company along West Temple. SL&U's main track runs north and south along 1st West. Salt Lake City has granted a franchise permitting tracks along 9th South. Grade Crossing Permit No.32. (Utah Public Service Commission, Case 119)

May 24, 1920
SL&U was approved to receive a $64,600 two-year loan from U. S. government to purchase new equipment and motive power, to make additions and betterments, and to pay part of floating debt. Applied for a $300,000 five-year loan. ICC Finance Docket 1016. (65 ICC 8) (Research done August 22, 1988)

July 10, 1920
SL&U was approved to receive a $235,400.00 15-year loan from U. S. government, being the remainder of an original application for a $300,000 five-year loan. ICC Finance Docket 1016. (65 ICC 55; 67 ICC 52) (Research done August 22, 1988)

June 23, 1921
SL&U was approved to receive a $700,000 15-year, first mortgage loan from U. S. government, under the provisions of the Transportation Act of 1920, Section 210. ICC Finance Docket 1475 (67 ICC 791) (Research done on August 22, 1988)

October 19, 1922
Contracts were let for the construction of the permanent interurban terminal station for the Salt Lake Terminal Company. The contracts, with a reported value of $210,308, were signed in the offices of Young & Hanson, architects for the new building. Work was to commence "next week or in ten days," and the building was to be ready for occupancy within 150 working days (30 weeks). The new building was to have a frontage along South Temple of 194 feet, and a frontage along West Temple of 92 feet. The main entrance was to be on the South Temple side. The building was to have two stories and a full basement. (Salt Lake Telegram, October 20, 1922, "yesterday")

(Read more about the Salt Lake Terminal Company's interurban terminal station)

September 30, 1923
The new interurban terminal station was to open on October 4th. The traffic office of the Salt Lake & Utah railroad was to move into the building "tomorrow." (Salt Lake Telegram, September 30, 1923)

October 4, 1923
The new interurban terminal station opened to the public. It was an informal opening, without any ceremony except brief remarks by former Governor Bamberger. (Ogden Standard Examiner, October 5, 1923, "yesterday"; Salt Lake Telegram, October 5, 1923, "yesterday")

July 24, 1925
SL&U enters receivership, due to increased auto and truck competition. (Stephen Drew, email dated January 21, 2008)

July 25, 1925
SL&U receivers appointed July 25, 1925. (Utah Public Service Commission, Case 928)

August 1929
A direct connection was completed at Provo between Utah Railway and Salt Lake & Utah Railroad. Prior to this there was no connection allowing direct interchange of cars, meaning that D&RGW acted as the intermediate switching carrier. (Ax-I-Dent-Ax, August 1929, page 17)

SL&U received Utah PSC approval to increase freight rates, along with all the other railroads in the state. Columbia Steel Corporation's Ironton plant began operations on May 1, 1924. Between 1924 and 1934, the plant produced: 1,189,598 tons of pig iron; 825,574 tons of coke; 44,702 tons of sulfate of ammonia; and 35,939 tons of benzyl. The pig iron produced at the plant is shipped to plants in Pittsburg and Torrance, California. (Utah Public Service Commission, Case 1658)

December 20, 1934
SL&U received Utah PSC approval to close the agency at Salem. (Utah Public Service Commission, Case 1660)

January 26, 1938
SL&U sold at foreclosure sale to new The Salt Lake & Utah Railroad Corp. (Stephen Drew, email dated January 21, 2008)

September 6, 1939
SL&U received Utah PSC approval to do business as a common carrier. The company is no longer in receivership and has been sold. (Utah Public Service Commission, Case 2298)

July 2, 1945
SL&U received Utah PSC approval to close the depot on Center Street in Provo. The depot will be replaced by a new one to be built on its freight line along 5th South. Also to abandon its tracks to the Center Street depot, provided that it is not required to remove them. The normal five month deadline for action was waived because of the labor shortage due to the war. (Utah Public Service Commission, Case 2861)

December 12, 1945
SL&U again placed in receivership. (Stephen Drew, email dated January 21, 2008)

(no date, circa late 1945)
SL&U received Utah PSC approval to abandon all service and discontinue operation of its entire line of railroad. Protested by Pleasant Grove Lumber & Supply Company because it is the only railroad served coal yard in the vicinity. The company sold $11,250 in coal in 1944. Protested by H. W. Jacobs Feed & Grain Company of Pleasant Grove. They have shipped 40 carloads of feed in the past year. (Utah Public Service Commission, Case 2925)

March 1, 1946
All SL&U operations discontinued. (Stephen Drew, email dated January 21, 2008)

June 3, 1946
Salt Lake & Utah officially abandoned.

June 8, 1946
Abandonment authorized by ICC. (Stephen Drew, email dated January 21, 2008)

June 26-27, 1946
Trackage, equipment, property and other assets sold at auction by Hyman-Michaels Company, salvage contractor for Salt Lake & Utah. (Stephen Drew, email dated January 21, 2008)

July 26, 1946
Salt Lake & Utah's interest in Salt Lake Terminal Company was sold to Bamberger Railroad for $1.00.

July 26, 1946
Bamberger was the successful bidder for SL&U tracks between the Salt Lake Terminal on the north, and Fayette Avenue on the south. D&RGW was the successful bidder of Salt Lake & Utah tracks in Salt Lake City, from Fayette Avenue (975 South), south to about 1800 South, along with SL&U trackage between Orem and Provo, and trackage at the Springville and Spanish Fork sugar factories. (Salt Lake Tribune, July 27, 1946)

December 4, 1946
Salt Lake & Utah trackage in Salt Lake City along First West (200 West after 1972) was sold to Bamberger Railroad on December 4, 1946. The Bamberger trackage was sold to D&RGW on December 31, 1958. (D&RGW engineering drawing for former Bamberger line, South Temple to 13th South, Utah State Archives, Index H-232)

December 27, 1946
Salt Lake & Utah Railroad dissolved as a Utah corporation. (Stephen Drew, email dated January 21, 2008)

February 5, 1977
Former Bamberger spur -- "After 72 years, the last locomotive moved along spur railroad tracks on First West Friday. The diesel pushed an empty box car before it. The boxcar had contained molding starch which had been delivered to the Sweet Candy Co. manufacturing plant at 2nd South." "The first rail was installed on the street [First West] in 1905. The Sweet Co., just a few yards from the spur, asked to be linked up in 1920." "Sweet Candy had been in Salt Lake City since 1900. Its present factory, embracing 130,000 square feet, consists of three contiguous buildings - built in 1911, 1921 and 1953 respectively." (Salt Lake Tribune, February 5, 1977)

The spur was linked to the former Bamberger tracks along First West (200 West). The line had originally been constructed by the Salt Lake & Utah interurban line in 1910. Bamberger had purchased the portion along First West, north of 1300 South, when the Salt Lake & Utah had shut down in 1946. D&RGW had purchased the tracks when Bamberger shut down in 1959, and continued to serve the businesses along First West (200 West after 1972) since that time. The Sweet Candy street address was 224 South First West (200 West).

Other Information

Red Arrow Fast Freight Service

Express Service At Freight Rates -- The Legend of the Red Arrow Fast Freight 50' Box Cars

by Gordon Cardall

In the late 30's and early 1940's, the cracker and cookie company built a new wholesale bakery at about 7th South and what was originally 1st West (now 200 West) in Salt Lake City, located on a spur on the Salt Lake & Utah RR mainline. They baked several kinds of biscuits, but mostly cookies, and distributed them around the state. They had a similar bakery in Denver, Colorado. After a couple of years, their business increased to the point where they needed larger facilities. Instead they decided to bake several types of cookies in the Salt Lake plant and different ones at the Denver plant, and ship them back and forth in box cars over night. They were loaded out on the Salt Lake & Utah, which hauled them to a Provo warehouse to unload a drop shipment out of the car and then they turned it over to the Rio Grande for shipment of the remainder to Denver. The same thing happened in the other direction. As they were speculating painting their own box cars, the Salt Lake & Utah ceased operation in early 1947. Bamberger bought the track as far as 13th South, so they were interchanged with the Rio Grande at that point. They used the slogan "Red Arrow Fast Freight" on some of their passenger cars. As far as I know, the slogan "Express Service at Freight Rates" was never painted on any of their equipment, but was printed several times on their passenger schedule.

(Later research has found that it was not Purity Biscuit Company that was served by Salt Lake & Utah. Purity Biscuit had its cookie and cracker factory at 471 West 5th South, and was served by D&RGW from 4th (500) West, and OSL (UP) from 3rd (400) West.)

Equipment Roster

Salt Lake & Utah Equipment -- Information about SL&U's passenger and freight equipment.


Salt Lake & Utah Map -- A Google map of the Salt Lake & Utah Railroad, put together with the help of Steve Seguine, based on traces of the abandoned (in 1947) route through Salt Lake and Utah counties. The map is based on examination of the new feature in Google Maps that shows property lines, along with a couple SL&U maps I have, and USGS topo maps on Acme Mapper.

More Information

Interurbans of Utah -- Salt Lake & Utah Railroad, extracted from Ira Swett's book, "Interurbans of Utah."