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This page last updated on June 25, 2022.
A history of railroads in Ogden, Utah, from 1869 to today.
Ogden, Utah, has been known for many years as the "Crossroads of the West" As one looks at a map of the western United States, the reason is obvious, especially if it's a railroad map that pre-dates today's publicly funded highway system. The construction of railways through Ogden made it a geographical crossroads, and it remained so right through most of the 20th Century, up until merger mania began to sweep the nation's western railroads during the late 1970s and through the 1990s. With the merger of Union Pacific Railroad and Western Pacific Railroad in 1982, UP's connection to the San Francisco Bay area was no longer Southern Pacific at Ogden, but instead, SP's much smaller competitor, Western Pacific, through Salt Lake City. With the merger, the traffic patterns of rail cars through the Ogden rail yards changed forever. The number of trains moving through Ogden fell dramatically when Southern Pacific began diverting many more cars to its own east-west route through the Southwest and Texas. Still more changes are on the horizon with the September 1996 merger of Union Pacific and Southern Pacific.
From the day the first rails entered Ogden in 1869, railroads have played an important and inseparable part in the city's economy and its sense of who it was. Before the improved highway system came during the late 1940s and early 1950s, railroads and Ogden rode the economic roller coaster together -- when the nation's railroads hit rocky ground, so did the city. But even with the highways and their never-ending truck, bus, and private auto competition, nearly everyone in Ogden either worked for the railroad, or knew someone who did. Working for the railroad meant that you had an important job, that you made good wages, and that you were contributing your part. Boys dreamed of being a railroad engineer. During much of this century, railroads were an everyday part of life. Before World War II, many people in Ogden didn't own a car, or owned only one car, and rode the streetcars downtown, or rode the electric trains of the Bamberger to Salt Lake, or the Utah Idaho Central to Logan. When the family traveled, it went by train to visit relatives in Seattle, or California, or somewhere in the Midwest. "Travel By Train." "Workin' On The Railroad." These two phrases summarize what many local residents thought of railroads, and what many residents today remember of railroads. This, then, is the story of railroads and railroading in and around Ogden, Utah.
Crossroads Of The West
The earliest reference to Ogden being the crossroads of the west is in the July 28, 1921 issue of the Ogden Standard Examiner. "Ogden is the place which should be made the center of railway mail activity in all this region, as this is at the cross-roads of the west..."
Then in the October 14, 1923, the Ogden Standard Examiner wrote, "The very strategic position which Ogden occupies at the cross-roads of the West should lead, with the aid of surrounding territory such as Cache Valley to a great enlargement of the importance of Ogden in western trade and commerce."
Then Salt Lake City stole the phrase to promote its new aeroport. The earliest reference in online newspapers about Salt Lake City as the crossroads of the west was in the July 1, 1928, issue of the Salt Lake Telegram, in an article about new airline routes, calling Salt Lake City the aerial crossroads of the west.
The April 1, 1931, issue of the Salt Lake Telegram had an editorial titled "Blowing Our Horn" saying that "Salt Lake City and Utah stand at the crossroads of the west in the very center of Scenic America. On railroads and highways its strategic location is second to none. The major portion of the tourists who come into the west pass through the city and state."
In this statement ("the major portion"), it is highly likely that the Great Northern and Northern Pacific railroads along the northern tier would disagree, as would the marketing departments at the Santa Fe railroad, and the Southern Pacific railroad along the southern tier.
In the November 2, 1934, issue of the Salt Lake Tribune, Utah's Governor Blood declared "Utah is the crossroads of the west."
With that announcement in his speech calling for the establishment of a government "air defense station" in Salt Lake City, and the stationing of a unit of the Army Air Corps in Salt Lake City, Governor Blood created the phrase of "Utah, Crossroads of the West."
Union Pacific in Ogden
A historical narrative of the construction of Union Pacific into Utah, through Ogden, and on to Promontory Summit. Includes historical narratives of the construction of the Utah Central between Ogden and Salt Lake City, the narrow gauge Utah Northern, and UP's subsidiary Oregon Short Line company. Includes a historical narrative of the UP/SP jointly-owned Ogden Union Railway & Depot Co., which operated Ogden Union Station and the joint freight yards in Ogden. Also included are historical narratives of UP's Little Mountain Branch, the Union Pacific Laundry, and UP's locomotive roundhouses in Ogden.
Southern Pacific In Ogden
Southern Pacific in Ogden -- A historical narrative of the construction of SP's predecessor Central Pacific in Utah, along with histories of SP's Promontory Branch, the Lucin Cutoff across the Great Salt Lake, and the causeway that replaced it. Also included are historical narratives of SP's locomotive shops and roundhouse, and the 1988 merger of SP and Denver & Rio Grande Western.
D&RGW In Ogden
D&RGW in Ogden -- A historical narrative of the construction of the Denver & Rio Grande between Salt Lake City and Ogden, along with narratives of the operation of successor companies, Rio Grande Western and Denver & Rio Grande Western. Also included is a narrative of the Ogden Gateway case in which D&RGW was kept from fairly competing for traffic through the Ogden terminal.
Rail-Served Industries In Ogden
Rail-served industries in Ogden -- A historical narrative of the industries that were served by the railroads in Ogden, including the railroad-related Pacific Fruit Express. Included here is a full history of the Ogden Union Stock Yards, the largest stock handling facility west of Denver. Also included are limited historical narratives of the canneries in Ogden, the grain elevators and roller mills, and the sugar beet-related activities.
Electric Railroads In Ogden
A historical narratives of the Bamberger and Utah Idaho Central interurban railroads, and the street railroad in Ogden.
Military Facilities In Ogden
Military Facilities In Ogden -- Information about the three large rail-served military facilities in the Ogden area: Hill Air Force; Ogden Arsenal; and Utah General Depot/Defense Depot Ogden.
Utah State Railroad Museum
Utah State Railroad Museum -- The history of the Utah State Railroad Museum located in Ogden's Union Station.
"Ogden Rails" (Second Edition) was published in 2005 by Union Pacific Historical Society in a new and considerably expanded format. Compared to the original (sold out) 96-page soft cover book in vertical format, the new edition is 172 pages, hard-cover in a 11 inches by 8-1/2 inches horizontal format. It contains 216 photographs, with 72 in color, along with 24 maps. Like the first edition, the new edition also has a bibliography and index. It is available from better hobby shops and booksellers everywhere, or direct from UPHS, P.O. Box 4006, Cheyenne, WY 82003-4006; $52.95 plus $4.00 shipping (UPHS members: $40.00 plus $4.00 shipping) (ISBN 1-932704-04-3)
"Ogden Rails" (First Edition) is out of print and no longer available. The first edition was published in 1997 as a soft cover book, in association with the Golden Spike Chapter of the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society, Ogden, Utah. The original publication included 96 pages, 102 black and white photographs, six black and white maps, one 11 x 30-1/2 four-color fold-out map, and a bibliography and index. The book sold for $24.95. (no ISBN)
This online version of "Ogden Rails" includes much updated information since the publication of the book in 2005, but does not include any photographs or maps. Included exclusively here are footnotes that show the sources of much of the information.