EMD and GE In North Salt Lake, Utah

Index For This Page

This page was last updated on January 24, 2023.

(Return to EMD History page)

(Return to the Locomotive Notes Index Page)


At the same time as the completion of Union Pacific's Salt Lake shops in early August 1955, General Motor's Electro-Motive Division (EMD) completed its own factory branch in nearby North Salt Lake, Utah, a separate community located north of Salt Lake City, but across the county line in adjacent Davis County. EMD's North Salt Lake facility was meant as an important link in a series of factory branches, and was built to serve railroads and electric utilities throughout the west.

The North Salt Lake facility was officially dedicated on Wednesday, April 6, 1955, after having been under construction for the previous two years. EMD had foreseen its need and had purchased the needed 9.4 acres in May 1952, with the help of the Union Pacific Land Department.

The facility was equipped with a 20-ton overhead crane, and an enclosed load cell for the testing of remanufactured diesel engines, along with a short spur and interior loading dock. By the early 1950s, the railroads in the west were well into entering their second phase of dieselization, upgrading from FT and F3 to F7 and F9 freight locomotives, and from the earlier models of the pioneering E-series to the newer E8 and E9 passenger locomotives. A facility was needed to perform the remanufacture of earlier versions of EMD's 567 diesel engine to its most modern version, the 567BC and 567C types. The Salt Lake City area was selected and construction commenced in early 1953. The project to upgrade UP's F-units, along with the prospects of the same type of work to be done on both the AT&SF and the SP, was reportedly the reason that EMD opened its facility and warehouse in North Salt Lake City, Utah, about five miles north along the mainline to Ogden from the new Salt Lake Shops.

Between 1954 and 1957, as many as 54 of Union Pacific's 1400 class F3s which hadn't already been re-assigned in to the Northwest in 1950, were converted internally to F7s by the railroad's own shop forces. While other shops on Union Pacific may have done some of the work, most of the conversion project was done at the new Salt Lake shops. The conversion consisted of installing a 567BC engine in place of the original 567B engine, and updating the electrical components. Many of the F3s also received the F7 type of dynamic braking with the three-foot diameter cooling fan. Although the trade press announced that the F3 to F7 conversions were being done by EMD, the upgrade was projected to be so extensive that UP and EMD decided to complete it at the railroad's new shop facility in Salt Lake City. This project, along with the prospects of the same type of work to be done on both the AT&SF and the SP, was a leading factor in EMD opening its facility and warehouse in North Salt Lake, located about five miles north along the mainline to Ogden from the new Salt Lake shops.

EMD's North Salt Lake facility was more than a warehouse. It was equipped as a rebuild center for both the 567 diesel engines and the rotating electrical gear (the generators and traction motors). Rather than Union Pacific sending the old equipment all the way from Salt Lake to La Grange, a suburb of Chicago, the railroad only had to move the equipment five miles north to EMD's new shop.

The North Salt Lake branch remained as an important link in EMD's remanufacturing and warehousing network until August 1964. The property was sold in April 1965 to a local developer. By that time EMD had greatly increased its capacity at its La Grange factory, and had completed warehouses in both Ogden, Utah, and Commerce, California. After EMD vacated the facility in 1964, it was occupied by defense contractor Sperry Utah Company.


May 15, 1952
General Motors' Electro-Motive Division announced that they would spend $1.5 million to build a repair shop and warehouse near Salt Lake City, Utah. The company had obtained an option to purchase 20 acres in North Salt Lake, Utah, near the Union Pacific and D&RGW tracks. The facility is located to allow service contracts with area railroads, including Union Pacific, Denver & Rio Grande Western, Southern Pacific, Western Pacific, and Kennecott Copper Corporation in both Utah and Nevada. (Salt Lake Telegram, May 15, 1952)

February 12, 1954
General Motors announced that it would complete the plans and specifications for its new repair shop and warehouse located on 16 acres in North Salt Lake by late February. The repair shop would be completed by the end of 1954. The attached office building would be 66 feet by 66 feet, and the adjacent factory area would be 156 feet by 300 feet. The shop would have the capability to repair diesel engines, generators and traction motors. (Davis County Clipper, February 12, 1954)

October 15, 1954
The branch general manager of the new EMD repair facility in North Salt Lake, J. S. Chisholm, presented a program describing the new shop to the local Bountiful Lions club on October 11th. The new plant was located on 16 acres of land, and had approximately 60,000 square feet under roof. Mr. Chisholm stated that the new pant was located in North Salt Lake to service EMD locomotives for railroads and companies in the western region, where ten per cent of the 15,000 locomotives built by EMD were in service. Employment would include about 100 local persons and about 20 persons transferred from other EMD locations, including specialists and technicians. (Davis County Clipper, October 15, 1954)

April 13, 1955
EMD held a formal dedication ceremony and open house for its new repair shop and warehouse in North Salt Lake on Wednesday April 13, 1955. On hand for the ceremony was N. C. Dezendorf, vice president of General Motors and general manager of EMD. The new shop included a boring machine to recondition diesel engine blocks and crankcases, along with precision equipment to balance rotating electrical gear such as generators and traction motors. The plant also had full capability to rebuild traction generators and traction motors, including an abrator machine that used apricot pits to clean armatures used on electrical motors and generators (Utah was reported as being the chief source for apricot pits). On hand for the ceremony and open house were 1750-horsepower locomotives owned by Union Pacific and D&RGW. (Davis County Clipper, April 8, 1955) (UP had received 244 GP9s in 1954 and D&RGW had just received the first four of its fleet of 24 GP9s.)

"General Motors Corp. officially opens this first Utah plant with dedication Wednesday at 2 p.m. Operated by Electro‑Motive Division of the corporation, the plant is an important link in series of factory branches designed to serve railroads and electric utility customers in remanufacturing parts." (photo caption, Salt Lake Tribune, Sunday, April 10, 1955, p.B17)

Facility had a 20 ton overhead crane.

Built on land purchased by General Motors Corporation in May 1952, from the Moss and Harwood families. (Davis County Book of Records 37, p.382 and Book 38, p.225)

Located on 9.43 acres of land in the Town of North Salt Lake, Davis County, Utah. One source says that the property was purchased from the land department of the Union Pacific Railroad, which likely acted as a middle man in the transaction.

UP sold the property for the spur to General Motors in August 1962. (Davis County Book of Records 248, p.568)

In March 1964 GM sold the property to the Deshon Property Corporation for $1.02 million, and leased it back on a twenty year lease, dated March 19, 1964. Others involved in the lease were Thomas A. Kenny, John T. Booth, Paul E. Taylor Jr., W. E. Wilson, VP of GM, and the Morgan Guaranty Trust Company. (Davis County Book of Records 288, p.649, Book 289, p.10, and Book 291, p.541)

June 17, 1964
General Motors announced that it would close its North Salt Lake facility "sometime in August." The plant employed 53 people. The remanufacturing of diesel engines for railroad locomotives would be moved to its Los Angeles plant. The parts warehouse portion of the North Salt Lake plant would be moved to a new location in the Greater Salt Lake region. (Salt Lake Tribune, June 17, 1964)

In April 1965 GM sold the property to the Otto Buehner Trust Company of Salt Lake City. The facility was vacant until July 1966 when the Buehner Trust leased the facility to Sperry Rand Corporation. At that time the Buehner Trust agreed to remove the engine test cell that was in place inside the main building. (Davis County Book of Records 349, p.215)

GE in North Salt Lake

General Electric bought the former EMD facility in March 1971 to be able to expand their Salt Lake operations. Their previous facility in Salt Lake City at 300 South and 700 West had become too small. (Davis County Book of Records 453, p.642; telephone interview with GE personnel in 2002)

In 1971 General Electric, EMD's competitor in the world locomotive market, moved into the shop, calling it the Salt Lake Apparatus Service Shop. GE needed a facility for some limited rework on components of UP's U50Cs, along with work on other heavy rotating electrical gear for other divisions within GE. This GE shop was where some of the three-unit turbines were stripped after UP traded them in during the early 1970s. And as this is written (in 1991) the shop is still serving as a focal point for GE's service to its customers nationwide. An extensive truck modification has just been completed on UP's new 9100-class Dash 8-40Cs, and like the F3-to-F7 project with EMD, the workload was shared between the North Salt Lake facility and UP's Salt Lake Shops.

GE moved to North Salt Lake from its original Salt Lake City site at 400 South and 700 West to gain more space. This original site was a temporary site, close to the former D&RGW locomotive backshop in downtown Salt Lake City. The original site was opened by GE to work on gas turbines used in Union Pacific's Gas Turbine Electric locomotives, and was opened at the same time as UP's Salt Lake City Diesel and Turbine shop in 1955. In 1964, as UP began retiring their smaller gas turbine locomotives, the gas turbines were removed at the railroad's Salt Lake shop and shipped over to GE Salt Lake shop, where they were mounted to skids for use in many of the nation's petroleum fields.

Just after being sold in August 1971, UP Gas Turbines 14 and 16 were moved to GE's Apparatus Service Shop in North Salt Lake where the gas turbines were removed. Ken Ardinger took a photo in September 1972, showing UP 14 and 16 sitting at GE's shop in North Salt Lake. The B-units had already been scrapped and the gas turbines removed, and were sitting on the ground nearby. The photo also shows two other already-removed gas turbines, including part of 24B, on the ground awaiting removal of its carbody, along with three gas turbines from UP's smaller 4500hp turbines. After storage at GE in North Salt Lake, and then at Salt Lake City, in 1979 both UP 14 and 16 made their way to Kansas City, from where they were both donated to Illinois Railroad Museum.

In January 1973, the U. S. Department of Transportation sent its GE U30C no. 001 to GE in North Salt Lake for some warranty repair work. The unit was assigned to USDOT's test track near Pueblo, Colorado. (Pacific News, Issue 137, March 1973, page 7)

In November 1974, GE at its North Salt Lake site rebuilt the former U.S. Army 65-ton center-cab locomotive no. 7176 after it had been sold as surplus to Utah Power and Light Company. UP&L used the newly rebuilt unit to its Carbon Plant at Castle Gate, Utah, replacing a former D&RGW 44-ton unit. (Pacific News, issue 161, March 1975, page 5; January 1976, page 32)

Beginning in early March 1990, GE initiated a modification program to change the inlets for the dynamic braking feature from the top of the units to the side, just behind the cab on the engineer's side. GE had found from tests on UP, as well as other western roads, that in heavy storm situations, melt water from snow and ice accumulation at times drained into some of the dynamic braking circuitry causing an increase in burned-out dynamic braking grids. After a successful test of the side-inlet design on the first 9185 at Erie, the 105-unit group 9250-9355 were all modified during 1990, with 9251 being the first completed, on 6 March 1990. The entire Union Pacific standard cab Dash 8 fleet was later modified to the new inlet style, with the work being done by UP's own mechanics at the Salt Lake City shops, under the supervision of GE personnel assigned there. Concurrent with this modification was the application of dampeners between the locomotive frame and the locomotive trucks, along with other maintenance-reducing enhancements to the trucks themselves, including replacement of all traction motors. As each unit was scheduled through the Salt Lake City shops, it would receive fully rebuilt trucks, by complete change-out of both trucks, and the dynamic brake side-inlet modification. The trucks were removed from the units at the Salt Lake City shop and transported to GE's Apparatus Service Shop in North Salt Lake, Utah, where GE personnel completed the rebuild program. Upon rebuild, the trucks were transported back to UP's shop and installed under a different unit. The swapping of trucks further scrambled the mismatched combination of truck designs under UP's Dash 8 fleet. The use of trade-in U30C trucks had made for some interesting combinations of the four known truck designs under individual locomotives, and the truck change-out program added even more variety.