Utah's Salt Industry and Utah's Railroads

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This page was last updated on April 13, 2020.

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Salt and railroads in Utah are closely tied together. The earliest reference comes from the mid 1880s. The town of Syracuse, west of today's Clearfield, was so-named because of the salt that was being harvested and shipped by wagon to the Utah Central line. The name was taken from Syracuse, New York, a large center for salt shipments at the time. The salt from Syracuse, Utah, was then transloaded from wagons to the cars of Utah Central and shipped north to the Montana mines. The salt shipments were growing rapidly, so UP and local interests organized the Ogden & Syracuse Railway in 1887 to build a spur from a new station called Syracuse Junction, west to the salt plants on the eastern shore of Great Salt Lake. Syracuse was also the site of one of the earliest lake side resorts. Syracuse Junction was renamed as Clearfield in July 1907. Oregon Short Line's Syracuse Branch to what was by then the Syracuse plant of Inland Salt Co. remained in place until 1906, by which time the Syracuse plant had closed.

Inland Salt was an innovator of the industry when they figured out that as the water evaporated, the minerals in salt at the lake built up in layers, with the 99 percent pure common salt crystal at the center. The company developed a process that harvested the crystals at the proper moment when handling would not destroy the crystals, but the outer layers were thin enough that they could be removed economically, thus exposing the pure common salt. The end product was then screened to produce either rock salt, or a fine-grained table salt.

The Inland Crystal mill at Saltair was a leader in the nation's salt industry until other companies developed their own processes. Big money came to the rescue when Inland Salt was reorganized as Inland Crystal Salt in 1892. The LDS church held a large interest in Inland Crystal Salt, but sold its interest to Morton Salt in 1923, thus making Morton Salt the dominant salt producer in Utah. Morton came to Utah in 1918 when it bought the potash plant of Salt Lake Chemical Co. at Burmester, Utah. The potash plant had been built in 1916 to supply the chemical for the war effort during WWI.

The Saltair plant of Inland Salt Co. was opened in 1892, at a station on the new Salt Lake & Los Angeles Railway, which was completed to the Saltair salt plant, and further west, the Saltair resort on the south shore of Great Salt Lake (the resort opened in 1893). Inland Cystal Salt built a seven-mile system of rail spurs on its property, serving the various sites among the 2,000 acres of evaporation ponds where dried salt was loaded, at the rate of a trainload every day, all bound for mines and mills in the surrounding states. This seven-mile system of rail lines was incorporated as the Inland Railway in 1916 as a subsidiary of the SLG&W, which itself was the renamed Salt Lake & Los Angeles company. A new connection to the west was completed that allowed salt to be shipped westward on the UP and WP from their Garfield station, without having to make the long trip east to Salt Lake City, then back to the west after interchange with UP and WP. Of course, all of this under today's massive Kennecott Copper tailings pond.

The Kennecott tailings pond, and its expansion in the mid 1990s, was also the final blow to keeping the original Saltair plant open. The Morton Salt plant at Saltair station was in the way of further expansion. In September 1991, Kennecott and Morton International, along with North American Salt Co. and Great Salt Lake Chemical Co., worked out a complex combination of trades and sales that allowed Morton to close its Saltair plant, take over North American's salt plant at Grantsville, and turn over Morton's 2,700 acres of salt ponds to Kennecott as the basis for the expansion of the tailings pond. As a side note, Kennecott also made a deal with Union Pacific to move its tracks out of the way. UP acted as its own contractor for the move, but Kennecot paid for the entire move. The new UP tracks at "New Garfield" went into service in June 1997.

With the Morton plant at Saltair closing in 1992, there was no reason for SLG&W to provide service west of the International Center at 7200 West, and the tracks were removed.

Inland Crystal Salt Co.

Inland Crystal Salt Co. -- Information about Inland Crystal Salt Company, operating adjacent to the Salt Lake, Garfield & Western immediately east of the Saltair resort. Includes information about the Inland Railway, an in-plant railroad that was wholly-owned and controlled by the Inland Crystal Salt Company.

Lake Minerals

Great Salt Lake Minerals -- Information about the extraction of salt and other minerals from the brines of Great Salt Lake.