Ogden Union Railway & Depot Company
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This page was last updated on July 5, 2022.
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(Updated from text originally published in 2005 as part of the book, Ogden Rails)
Ogden Rails, A History of Railroading At The Crossroads Of The West
(Union Pacific Historical Society, 2005) (Available from UPHS.)
When Union Pacific first came to Ogden in early 1869, the apparent need for a junction point of UP and Central Pacific pushed Mormon leader Brigham Young and other church leaders to work with owners to acquire land "for the purpose of locating a railroad town and depot." Some sold their plots for $50, while others donated their land.
In August 1850, Brigham Young had shown where the city of Ogden would be located. ("About the middle of August, Brothers Young and Kimball, accompanied by Brother Hyde and others, visited Weber county, and located and gave the plan for the city of Ogden, near Ogden river, and between that and the Weber river." -- Clark, James R. Messages of the First Presidency. Fourth General Epistle of the Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, September 27, 1850, in MS 13:49-54, dated February 15, 1851, Volume 2, p. 57)
At that time, Brigham Young negotiated with Erastus Bingham for Bingham to sell 160 acres of his farm to Young, so that the new city of Ogden could be located at the forks where the Ogden River met the Weber River, near today's 22nd Street. Young purchased the original 160-acre plot of land with his own money, and portions were reimbursed to him in small amounts over the next 20 years or so, by the Ogden city council as the city was able to sell other lots within the city limits. In addition, upon the city being organized, there was a 10-acre plot located at the western end of 5th Street (today's 25th Street) that had been set aside as a "Union Square" for city beautification and recreational use. At his request, the plot containing Union Square was turned over to Young by the city council, the sale price being equal in value to the amount still owed him. (Journal Of Discourses, Volume 20, p. 263, March 2, 1879)
(The above Journal of Discourses reference is a talk by LDS church president John Taylor in March 1879, in which he invited Lorin Farr, first mayor of Ogden, and mayor at the time of the coming of the railroad, to relate the history of Brigham Young obtaining the station grounds in Ogden, which Young then turned over to the railroads. President Taylor was answering negative comments about the appropriateness of the transaction.)
(Arrington, Great Basin Kingdom, p. 265, states that in January 1869, Brigham Young arranged for 131 acres of privately owned land just west of the city to be made available for use as the terminal yards.)
Brigham Young petitioned the Ogden City council on March 20, 1869 to have Ogden City purchase Blocks 23 and 34, Plot A, near the west gate of city, and present it to him for use of the Utah Central Rail Road. The council appointed Pres. F. D. Richards, Alderman Herrick, and Alderman Parry to a special committee to negotiate with the owners of Blocks 23 and 34. (Minutes Of City Council, Ogden City, 1869-1872, pp. 14,15; LDS Church Historical Department, MS 3720, folder 2.)
On October 13, 1869 Brigham Young requested that the Ogden City council present him the Public Square west of Birch's House and that right-of-way be granted to the Utah Central Rail Road Company. The council passed a motion that Square 18, Plot A, Ogden City, be presented to President Brigham Young. (Minutes Of City Council, Ogden City, 1869-1872, p. 41; LDS Church Historical Department, MS 3720, folder 2)
On November 25, 1869, the Ogden City council voted that the water from the spring located on Lots 1 and 9, Block 31, and right-of-way for pipes to the water tank be granted forever to Utah Central for railway purposes. The lots belonged to Thomas Jones. (Minutes Of City Council, Ogden City, 1869-1872, p. 48; LDS Church Historical Department, MS 3720, folder 2)
This was the initial depot grounds used by the Utah Central after its completion in 1870, and formed a triangle with its long side laid along the west side of Wall Avenue. The common point of the other two sides of the triangle was near the Utah Central crossing of the Pacific roads.
In his book, Great Basin Kingdom, published in 1958, on page 265, Leonard Arrington wrote that in January 1869 Brigham Young secured 131 acres in Ogden for use by Union Pacific as a railroad terminal. The page includes much detail about the small plots of land that were donated by individual property owners.
In anticipation of this problem, Brigham Young, five months in advance of the completion of the transcontinental line, met with property owners in the western part of Ogden and "proposed conditionally to buy the same for the purpose of locating a railroad town and a depot upon it." Approximately 131 acres of urban property were involved. The church chronicles [Journal History] continue:
Brigham Young and the brethren with him met with the proprietors of the five acre lots at Ogden, who all consented to let him have their land at $50 per acre, provided the property was for a railroad town. At Ogden those brethren who owned the land where the railroad station was to be built signed the agreement to sell. Brigham Young showed Dr. Durrant a fine place for railroad work shops a short distance above the site of Elder Taylor's mill, a few miles south of Ogden.
A large share of this block of land was donated by the individual owners, or sold at less than its value, the owners realizing they could obtain, at a reasonable price in labor, a lot in some other location colonized by the church. The land was offered to U. P. and C. P. officials free of charge on condition that they locate their depot and shops upon it, the church absorbing the cost of the land. The amazed railroad officials, who had not counted on this boon, and had not expected the church to swing it, agreed to recommend that the junction of the two roads be located at Ogden, rather than at Corinne.
Page 485-486, Notes to Chapter 9
23. -- Journal History, December 31, 1868, January 1, 4, 1869.
24. -- Testimony of David H. Peery, mayor of Ogden, Senate Exec. Doc. 51, pp. 2208-2210.
25. -- Under date of February 2, 1869, Charles Smith wrote to a friend: "A few weeks ago he [Brigham Young] went to Ogden to make some purchases of the brethren, of land, for so as to accomodate the directors of the railway with space enough for their purpose[.] after talking with the brethren, they came freely forward, and gave up their claims. Dr. Durant was present ... he said their was not another Man on earth could have done the same ... "Diary of Charles Smith 1819-1905," February 2, 1869, typescript, BYU.
The following comes from the Pacific Railway Commission hearings, being the testimony of David H. Peery, Mayor of Ogden, taken in Ogden on July 21, 1887:
I guess in the spring of 1869 in Brigham Young's day here, he thought it advisable, or that it would be to the interest of the people of Ogden, to give the railroad company a large tract of land here - about 130 acres. Some were opposed to it and some were in favor of it. But, anyhow, those who were opposed were bought out, and those 130 acres of land were turned over to them with the understanding that this should be the permanent depot, and with the understanding that we should have a depot house in keeping with the town and with the commerce that would grow from it. The people threw in a great deal of money for that day, at least, and were taxed voluntarily, I believe, expecting that the depot would be established here. It was not a tax upon the city. It was a voluntary donation. Some persons owned land, and did not want to give the land without being paid for it. Some of them owning small amounts did give it, and others were paid. (Pacific Railway Commission, Part 5, Volume 4, pages 2208-2210)
In his book, The Iron Trail, published in 1969, John Stewart wrote, "To help persuade the two railroad companies that they should have their terminal in Ogden rather than in Corinne, Brigham Young early in 1869 arranged for the Church to obtain, through purchase and contribution, 131 acres of choice land adjacent to Ogden and offered it as a gift to the railroads if they would locate their terminal depots and maintenance shops there."
An informal reading of the contract and other agreements made in 1868 and 1869, covering the original 131 acres deeded to Brigham Young suggest the wording was "for railroad purposes." With Ogden's present-day interest in becoming a "modern" city, there are those who feel that UP simply owning the land, then leasing the land to Ogden City as a community center, is not railroad purposes. This may explain why a railroad museum at Union Station is possibly mandatory, since the depot hasn't been used by any railroad since Amtrak's Pioneer passenger train left in 1997. Utah State Railroad Museum was the city's and state's version of "railroad purposes." Note should be made that the present-day Ogden station for UTA's Frontrunner commute train is outside of the original station grounds, but still witin the original 131 acres.
Three articles in the Ogden Standard-Examiner newspaper (Feb 28, 2016; May 12, 2016; Dec 29, 2016) discussed a potential dispute being set up with the city's plans to develop Ogden's Union Station neighborhood. It seems the contract between Brigham Young and the two railroads, Union Pacific and Central Pacific, stipulated that the railroad (and its successors; both are now part of Union Pacific) was to hold the property in perpetuity and if it is sold the railroad is in default and the property returns to Brigham Young's heirs. But the heirs would not gain much of anything if they took ownership, other than a massive environmental cleanup before the land could be developed.
The completion of Utah Northern in February 1874 brought that narrow-gauge line down Wall Avenue to Third Street (today 23rd Street), then angling slightly south-southwest to a connection with Utah Central, but still east of the Union Pacific-Central Pacific crossings of the Utah Central. This connection was all within the initial triangle of land owned by the Utah Central in Ogden. Being a narrow-gauge line, Utah Northern had its own passenger depot and stub-ended freight yard, adjacent to and north of the Utah Central yard.
Regular passenger trains between Omaha and Sacramento began running in mid-May 1869, within a week of the driving of the Golden Spike at Promontory. The passenger station facilities at Ogden at the time consisted mainly of a group of shacks, as the town was not originally intended to be the junction. The first real passenger depot was a two-story wooden frame structure, completed in November 1869.
By 1874, the two Pacific roads still hadn't decided on a site for their common junction. As an inducement to speed their decision, and to make it in favor of Ogden, Brigham Young in May 1874 arranged for 131 acres of privately owned land just west of the city to be made available for use as the terminal yards.
Young arranged with the owners to sell their land to him, and still more was donated. In October 1874, Ogden City Council appropriated $5,000 (presumably to pay Young for the land), "for the purpose of securing the location of the Junction of the U.P., C.P., U.C. and U.N. Railroads in Ogden City." The space was located directly west of the city, between the city and the Weber River, in the vicinity of Fourth and Fifth streets, now 24th and 25th streets. The area included space for facilities serving UP and CP, the Utah Central branch line to Salt Lake City, and the Utah Northern line to Cache Valley. Until 1878, when a common depot was put into use, each company maintained its own depot facilities.
As passenger traffic continued to grow throughout the 1870s, the railroad companies could see that all would benefit from the use of a common depot. On September 20, 1878 the trains of UP, CP, and Utah Central, along with those of the newly reorganized narrow-gauge Utah & Northern, began using a "Union" depot in Ogden, that station being the original red Union Pacific 1869-built two-story wooden structure. In addition to providing a ticket office, the depot held waiting rooms, a baggage office, and less-than-carload-freight facilities. Next to the depot stood the Union Depot Hotel.
By 1878, passenger traffic on the transcontinental line had grown to three trains a day in each direction, with four trains a day in each direction on the Utah Central and a single train arriving and departing on the narrow-gauge Utah & Northern, which moved on September 20, 1878, from its own depot on Wall Avenue, over to the "Union" depot shared by Union Pacific and Central Pacific. (Salt Lake Herald, September 21, 1878)
The transcontinental trains consisted of an express train, an accommodation train, and an emigrant train. Utah Central's service consisted of two passenger trains and two mixed trains, which were made up of both passenger and freight cars.
Almost immediately, and continuing into the mid-1880s, the local press was filled with complaints about the dark and gloomy depot, with its quarter-mile of wooden sidewalks across swampy mud flats at Wall Avenue and 25th Street that served as the embarrassing entrance to Ogden. The complaints included calls for the railroads to erect permanent buildings and workshops, and to "go to work like substantial corporations, instead of dickering around in shanties and balloon tinderboxes, like some two-and-a-half dollar concerns." Between 1870 and 1890, the city's population quadrupled, from 3,127 to 12,889. In 1890, Union Pacific inaugurated the Overland Limited, a luxury train that passed through Ogden on its 71-hour journey between Omaha and San Francisco. Ogden was growing, both as a passenger destination and as a center for industry. The young city needed a new depot.
Ogden Union Railway & Depot Company was organized on September 17, 1888, to fill Ogden's need for a new depot. The tracks of Ogden Union Railway & Depot Co. were specified to run "from a point on the Union Pacific Railway about 1/2 mile south of the point where said line crosses 8th Street in the City of Ogden, then north to a point on the Central Pacific Railroad about 1/4 mile north of where said line crosses 1st Street." (Articles of Incorporation, Ogden Union Railway & Depot Co. Office of the Secretary of State, State of Utah)
(Read more about the OUR&D incorporation)
This general area from the 20th Street crossing on the north to the 29th Street crossing on the south (with East Yard added in 1942) was the home of OUR&D operations from the time of its organization until the late 1960s when its two owners, Southern Pacific and Union Pacific, took over its freight operations. As with any terminal company, OUR&D was organized to allow the member railroads to share facilities, mostly to avoid conflicts of operation and to ensure that each road had an equal say in the operations.
While the timing of the formation of a depot company was a reaction to the complaints of Ogden's citizens to the lack of service by UP and SP, the depot company, operating as a terminal railroad, would oversee the operations of UP and SP, along with Utah Central, Utah & Northern (soon to be combined as the Oregon Short Line & Utah Northern), and Ogden's newest railroad, Denver & Rio Grande Western. But first the depot needed attention. During the 1880s, Union Pacific's president, Charles F. Adams, had commissioned noted architect Henry Van Brundt and his Van Brundt & Howe firm in Kansas City, Missouri, to design new stations for UP at Omaha, Cheyenne, and Portland. In September 1886, he added Ogden to the list after it became apparent that it, too, needed a new building. (Hunter, Beneath Ben Lomond's Peak, p. 425. The last stone in the foundation was laid on December 31, 1886.)
Van Brundt published his preliminary sketches of the new Ogden depot in American Architect and Building News in November 1886. They showed that the design was Romanesque in style, a treatment that was being promoted by another noted American architect, H. H. Richardson. The final design contained many of the preliminary features, but other details were altered to make the building more functional. Both the north and south wings were built with two floors. In the center was a three-floor building with a clock tower, and the roof was finished with dormers replacing the suggested Romanesque steeple and spirals. Included in the design were 33 hotel rooms in the south wing. In the center upper floor were railroad offices, including the superintendent's office, with the lower floor taken up by ticket offices and waiting rooms. In the north wing was the baggage handling facilities and an emigrant waiting room. In early September 1886, Adams commissioned Francis M. Sharp of Kansas City as the building contractor. Construction commenced immediately, and by late December the sandstone foundation was laid.
Mayor David Eccles declared a city-wide holiday for the laying of the corner stone. He invited businessmen to close their establishments and urged citizens to "engage in the ceremonies." Reporting on the 5,000 to 6,000 persons that attended, the Ogden Standard commented that "the old shanties called the depot will not be used much longer."
Work halted, however, during 1887 as Union Pacific's attention turned to defending itself before the Pacific Railway Commission, formed by Congress to fully investigate the affairs of the government bond-aided railways, and their questionable methods of repaying the government for obligations coming due during the late 1890s. To separate the mainline roads from any improvements they wanted to make, and to aid in the financing of the depot, and other improvements at Ogden, UP and CP organized the Ogden Union Railway & Depot Co., as noted, in September 1888. Work resumed and the depot was completed in July 1889, with July 31 being set aside as the day of grand celebration.
On July 31st, the new station was open to the public all day. The celebration was capped off that evening with a round of speeches and a dance. At 1 a.m., a special train returned Salt Lake City guests to their homes, while the Ogden guests danced until 2 a.m. One speaker remarked that "after long years of anxious waiting, we have at last secured the great prize, and the people of Ogden are happy." In addition to the new depot, OUR&D built a freight house, and in 1889, Union Pacific completed a large addition to its ice house.
Growth continued and Ogden became one of the largest railroad centers in the West. By the turn of the century, the city was the home of numerous canneries, wholesale houses, clothing mills and factories, foundries and machine shops, brick yards, and other factories of all kinds. As a railroad center, Ogden was the home of Union Pacific's Wyoming Division, Southern Pacific's Salt Lake Division, the Salt Lake & Ogden Railway (later called the Bamberger), and the Ogden & Northwestern Railroad, later to become the Utah Idaho Central. New mechanical facilities (roundhouses and car and locomotive shops) were completed for UP in 1897, and for SP in 1906. The Southern Pacific shops acted as its General Eastern Shops, and employed more than 500 men in its "three immense buildings of white stone and brick." Both Union Pacific and the Denver & Rio Grande also maintained their shops in Ogden, employing 125 men between them. In 1910, a new OUR&D freight house replaced the one built in 1889. Located just north of Union Station on Wall Avenue, it was 700 feet long and could handle 100 cars on its seven tracks. [The OUR&D freight house was closed and demolished in 1972.]
The November 1906 Official Guide of the Railways provides an excellent look at passenger railroading in Ogden. In 1906 there were six Rio Grande Western trains operating through Ogden. Included were trains that connected with one of Oregon Short Line's trains to Seattle. Union Pacific ran six through trains, four of which connected directly with Southern Pacific trains. UP also ran a local between Ogden and Echo. SP's trains connected with UP at Ogden, except for a mixed train that operated between Ogden and Kelton on the old Promontory line.
At the time, Oregon Short Line did not name its passenger trains, using only train numbers. During 1906, it ran four through trains (two in each direction) between Salt Lake City and Seattle, with connections at Pocatello for Butte, Mont. OSL also operated a Salt Lake City-to-Cache Junction local.
In 1915, the Chamber of Commerce was promoting the city as a warehousing center, a canning center, a packing house center, and a food manufacturing center, in addition to being a railway center. During the early part of the 1900s, the depot handled 76 passenger trains a day. By the 1920s, Ogden was experiencing explosive growth in railroad traffic. The number of freight and passenger trains grew almost daily, with 1921 being the peak year for passenger train revenues on Union Pacific. (Hunter, Beneath Ben Lomond's Peak, p. 428)
The growing congestion called for more and better facilities. In 1917, the Ogden Union Stock Yards were completed, making the city the largest center west of Denver for handling livestock in railroad cars. A freight bypass for Oregon Short Line trains was completed, as were mechanical facilities (roundhouse and car shops) to maintain Union Pacific locomotives and cars. Pacific Fruit Express rose from the ashes of an icehouse destroyed by fire in 1919 to complete (in 1921) an up-to-date concrete ice manufacturing plant, with expanded facilities for the icing of entire trains of refrigerator cars. Tracks were added to the OUR&D yards to accommodate the increased traffic, and to make room for the new PFE facilities. This forced the reconstruction in 1926 of the steel 24th Street viaduct (completed in 1909) to extend it directly to the West Ogden Bluff.
The 24th Street viaduct has always been a landmark in downtown Ogden. The original bridge crossing over the railroad tracks was completed in 1909. That bridge ended about midway across the rail yards, bringing automobiles to the bridge crossing the Weber River and allowing them to continue westward along Wilson Lane, past the Ogden Union stockyards. Expanding the rail yards in the 1920s meant that the 24th Street bridge was in the way, and it was extended to the West Ogden bluff in 1926. Work began on the extended bridge on June 13, 1926, and was completed in November 1926. Access to the east end of Wilson Lane was provided by a ramp. Although the finishing touches took another week, on November 22, 1926, at 12 noon, all the whistles in the vicinity sounded and a parade proceeded across the bridge. Ogden mayor George E. Browning and others rode in the first automobile to cross the new bridge, following behind the Ogden high school band. (Ogden Standard Examiner, November 22, 1926)
(Read more about Ogden's 24th Street Viaduct)
A New Depot
In the midst of all this growth in the mid-1920s came a huge setback. On February 13, 1923 one of the hotel rooms in Union Station caught fire, and the blaze spread all too quickly. By 2:30 a.m., when the fire department brought it under control, the center part of the building and all its equipment were a total loss, but no injuries occurred. The north wing and south wing were still intact, but all that remained of the center were the stone exterior walls. The loss of the large Victorian depot was not mourned. It was 36 years old and had served its days. The day after the fire, the Ogden Standard Examiner reported that "the squatty, poorly lighted, ill-vented, unattractive old depot will now be replaced," adding that the building had recently become "dilapidated, ill-ventilated, unsightly, over-crowded and unsanitary." Yet, imagine the community's consternation when the railroad companies announced that the structure would be repaired rather than replaced. After much pleading by community leaders, the railroads relented, and by April 1924 the depot grounds were cleared.
Hired to design the new depot were John and Donald Parkinson, principals in a Los Angeles architectural firm that had also designed UP Mission-style depots at Caliente, Nevada, in 1921, and Kelso, California, and Milford, Utah, in 1923. The same firm also furnished the designs for Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal, Los Angeles City Hall, and Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
November 9, 1924
A complete descriptive summary of the features of the new depot. (Ogden Standard Examiner, November 9, 1924, page 5)
November 15, 1924
The first day of passenger operations. Official opening set for November 22nd. (Ogden Standard Examiner, November 14, 1924, "tomorrow")
On November 22, 1924 the station was declared complete, and a dedication ceremony was held. The new depot stood on the foundation of the depot that burned. Ogden historian Richard C. Roberts described the new depot this way:
Its architectural design is Italian Renaissance of the style which flourished in the fifteenth century in Europe. The building is 374 feet long and an average of 88 feet wide, with a waiting room of 60 feet by 112 feet, and a ceiling height of 56 feet. The ceiling and roof are supported by six huge wooden trusses which are made from Oregon or Douglas Fir. The trusses were "highly ornamented in brilliant colors" and "attractive designs," (which have since been painted over). The roofing is of a Cordova Spanish tile. The brick is a pink buff brick produced in Ogden and faced with Boise sandstone. The two main entrances on the east of the building are carved Boise sandstone. The designs in the sandstone are of "fruits," featuring mostly clusters of grapes. Over each entrance door is a carved buffalo.
Inside, the building has the large waiting room in the center. On the north end of the building on the ground floor is a smoking room for men, and a ladies rest parlor. Farther along are the baggage and mail rooms. There was also a small >emergency hospital' located in the north wing. The south wing of the ground floor housed the Western Union and the station master's offices.
On the east of the waiting rooms was the ticket office which was separated from the waiting room "by a long counter reaching across the arcade openings." On the west side of the waiting room was the Union News Company stands and the parcel checking area. At each end of the waiting room were built two artistic drinking fountains with colored tile designs. The floor of the waiting room is laid in six inch alternating red and gray tile to match the wall plastering done in old ivory with buff tiled wainscoting.
On the second floor were the division offices of the Southern Pacific, the Superintendent of the Ogden Union Railway & Depot Company, the Union Pacific Telegraph Department and the Claims Agent. The building was steam heated by a boiler plant built about 600 feet west of the structure with the steam carried to the station through an underground pipeline. The total cost of the structure was $400,000. [The power plant was built in 1913.]
When completed, the depot directly replaced the old one in both size and function. To solve an earlier problem of limited access to the multiple depot tracks, sometime before 1920, a passenger subway (underground walkway) was completed between the waiting room and stairways up to the depot tracks. In March 1927, the subway was extended to serve the outside tracks, allowing passengers to walk directly from the waiting rooms to the platform of their choice, without regard to whether tracks above were occupied by waiting trains. (Oregon Short Line Railroad Co., OSL Authority For Expenditure Register, Reference Number 338, work began on May 26, 1926; work completed on March 5, 1927.)
With the completion of the passenger subway, officials considered adding umbrella sheds to protect passengers from the elements. As with many things at the jointly owned Ogden Union Station, minor disagreements surfaced over the design of these new sheds. Union Pacific wanted sheds that were 19 feet wide, similar to those just installed at Salt Lake City. Southern Pacific wanted sheds that were 23 feet wide, similar to those installed at Sacramento. A decision was made in November 1927 to use the Sacramento design, and the sheds were completed between April and September 1928. In all, there were 5,600 linear feet of sheds protected the four tracks. The sheds were torn down during April 1969. (Oregon Short Line Railroad Co., OSL AFE Register, reference number 413; OUR&D AFE 5, approved on November 9, 1927, work begun on April 20, 1928; work completed on September 30, 1928; Salt Lake Tribune, April 13, 1969)
Other improvements came to Ogden during the mid- and late-1920s. As noted earlier, UP built a new roundhouse and shops, and PFE built a new ice plant and icing platforms. The extension of the 24th Street viaduct to reach the West Ogden Bluff, cleared the way for more expansion in the railroad yard below.
In 1930, there were 119 freight trains were operating daily through Ogden yard. During the previous year, just over 1.4 million cars moved through the yard, which was said to have the capacity a 12,000 cars. During 1929, the stockyards handled more than 2.1 million head of livestock, including cattle, hogs, sheep, horses, and mules. The stockyards accepted 13,298 carloads of livestock, and shipped 13,531 carloads. At the PFE icing plant (which could produce 400 tons of ice a day, and store 2,000 tons), 82,302 cars were iced at the two icing platforms. These platforms could re-ice 272 cars at one time, and have all 272 cars completely re-iced in just one hour. ("Ogden: Gateway of the West", Utah Payroll Builder, Volume 19, Number 5, May 1930, p. 2)
Also during 1930, more than 750 carloads of wheat were inspected each month at Ogden, placing it second only to Portland, Oregon, in amount of wheat shipped by rail; this was in the days before covered hoppers, and grain was shipped in 40-foot boxcars. (Ogden Chamber of Commerce, "Ogden - The Minneapolis of the West", Ogden - The Gateway to the Intermountain West, 1930)
In 1939, OUR&D operated 85 miles of yard tracks, and employed 950 persons. (Ogden Standard Examiner, May 4, 1969)
In 1942, OUR&D built its new East Yard, which later became known as Riverdale Yard. The yard was greatly expanded in 1954.
(Read more about Riverdale Yard)
December 27, 1947
Ogden Union Railway & Depot began using the first diesel-electric switching locomotives in Ogden. The locomotives were actually leased from both UP and SP, the depot company's owning railroads, and retained their UP and SP paint and numbering. SP was using eight switchers in Ogden and they would be sent to West Oakland for disposition. (Ogden Standard Examiner, December 26, 1947; December 27, 1947; December 28, 1947 [photo showing SP Alco 1383])
October 2, 1949
The following comes from the Salt Lake Tribune newspaper October 2, 1949: "The Ogden Union Railway & Depot Co., jointly owned by U. P. and S. P., operates 110 miles of trackage. In 1946 it handled 2,262,129 freight and passenger cars (about 6,100 cars per day). About 140 trains are in and out of Ogden each day."
During 1950, the OUR&D company handled about 6,000 freight and passenger cars per day. "Fifty passenger trains and an average of 60 freight trains arrive and depart from the terminal each day." Ten new yard tracks were added between 33rd Street and Riverdale Road, each with a capacity of 125 cars. There were about 100 miles of tracks, and the company served 60 industries. There were about 1,400 employees, including 70 switch crews on all three shifts. (Ogden Standard Examiner, February 19, 1950)
In a typical month in August 1955, a passenger or freight train arrived or departed from the OUR&D yards every 11 minutes. A total of 1,400 to 1,500 workers handled an average of 20 passenger trains and 7,000 to 8,000 freight cars every day. (Ogden Standard Examiner, May 4, 1969)
In November 1961, the Utah State Tax Commission directed Weber County to raise its property tax assessment rate for property in Ogden, west of Grant Avenue, and south of 12th Street. This description included the entire property of Ogden Union Railway & Depot Company. The tax rate for the 1962 tax year was raised by seven percent, bringing it to the newly established state-wide minimum of 15 percent (the rate for non-residential and non-commercial properties), almost doubling the tax liability of OUR&D's two owner railroads. Increased property taxes was the result of a year-long review that began in April 1960, with the state tax commission studying tax inequities across the state. The Weber County assessor entered pleas and appeals asking the commission to reconsider its order that affected large numbers of businesses in the designated zone, including the railroads. From the same tax study, all counties along the Wasatch Front were directed for the 1964 tax year, to change their depreciation schedules. In Weber County alone, this change would affect more than 28,000 buildings and structures. (Ogden Standard Examiner, April 1, 1960; Salt Lake Tribune, November 16, 1961; December 12, 1961; December 23, 1961; Ogden Standard Examiner, September 25, 1963)
The change in property taxes, together with the impending settlement of the Ogden Gateway case (a rate and traffic-division dispute) negated many of the advantages of maintaining a separate terminal company. The two railroads agreed that OUR&D had served its purpose, so in 1965 they applied to the ICC for the "curtailment" of its operations.
(Additional research is needed to find the details of this ICC petition and decision.) (ICC Docket 23534, "Union Pacific - Trackage Rights - Terminal facilities at Ogden, Utah", decided November 14, 1966 (not printed), cited in 334 ICC 270) (Not available in published ICC reports)
(Read more about the Ogden Gateway Case)
By the mid-1960s, because the economic and political benefits were becoming less obvious, both Union Pacific and Southern Pacific could see that the interchange at Ogden by way of the jointly owned Ogden Union Railway & Depot Co. had outlived its usefulness. Traffic on the Overland Route had declined, especially the seasonal trains of perishable goods. The railroads learned that the increased tax assessment would be less if they showed a reduced use, and therefore a reduced value to their property. This, and the decline of carload traffic passing through Ogden, led to a reduction in OUR&D operations. The ICC held hearings in 1965 and 1966 to consider curtailment of OUR&D operations, and in October 1967 the ICC gave its blessing.
On March 1, 1965, Union Pacific and Southern Pacific petitioned the federal Interstate Commerce Commission for approval of a proposal that "would substantially curtail OUR&D operations." The changes were to "reorganize the OUR&D and discontinue some of its switching and other operations. Part of OUR&D operations would be taken over by SP and UP." (Ogden Standard Examiner, April 16, 1965)
On July 14 and 15, 1965 the ICC held hearings at Ogden to investigate the proposal by UP and SP to curtail the operations of OUR&D. The major feature of the reduction in operations was a direct connection between SP and D&RGW at Ogden. This connection would cut terminal time for trains being interchanged between D&RGW and SP at Ogden from over eight hours to two hours for eastbound trains, and from almost seven hours to one hour for westbound trains. The result would be the immediate reduction of eight four-man switch crews and eight yard clerks due to the interchange trains not being switched between D&RGW and SP by OUR&D crews. (Ogden Standard Examiner, July 14, 1965)
On August 11 and 12, 1965, the ICC held hearings in Ogden for the proposed curtailment of OUR&D operations. The second session was set aside to allow union attorneys to question railroad representatives concerning the changes in freight train inspections that would be done by UP and SP employees, instead of OUR&D employees. (Ogden Standard Examiner, August 11, 12, 13, 1965)
In February 1966, the ICC decided that the petition to curtail OUR&D operations would be denied, subject to appeals. After a review by the ICC's own Finance Review Board, the decision was changed, and the full commission approved the curtailment of OUR&D operations, to take effect on December 31, 1966, again subject to appeals by railroad unions. (Ogden Standard Examiner, December 6, 1966)
October 4, 1967
The ICC issued its order authorizing the curtailment of OUR&D operations, subject to employment offers by UP and SP for the 445 effected OUR&D employees. The order was to take effect on November 4, 1967, and would establish a direct connection between SP and D&RGW, instead of going through OUR&D. In December 1966, the labor unions appealed the ICC decision, on the grounds that the lack of train inspections by OUR&D would affect the safety of America's railroads. New hearings were held in February 1967, and the ICC was silent until the decision issued "this week." (Ogden Standard Examiner, October 6, 1967)
Previous agreements between SP and UP stated the OUR&D will remain as a separate entity in the handling of a portion of switching for local industry, passenger terminal facilities, mail baggage, freight house and other activities.
The change would permit UP and SP to interchange full trains directly with each other instead of going through OUR&D.
The ICC order also would permit a direct interchange between the SP and Rio Grande. Rail officials said the changes will eliminate delays of up to 18 hours in moving trains through the Ogden yards. (Ogden Standard Examiner, October 6, 1967)
In October 1967, the ICC approved the request, which allowed D&RGW and SP to start a direct interchange, bypassing the switching of their interchanging trains by OUR&D crews. The order also allowed UP and SP to perform all of their own freight switching, with OUR&D continuing to operate the passenger depot and to handle passenger-train switching.
January 8, 1968
D&RGW and SP began direct interchange over their new connection, without switching by Ogden Union Railway & Depot Co., the joint UP-SP terminal company, and the Ogden Gateway case was closed. (D&RGW Green Light, January 1968; courtesy of Keith Hahn)
March 13, 1968
OUR&D was reorganized, affecting 1,050 workers. Union Pacific hired 550 workers to support its former-OUR&D operations, Southern Pacific hired 150 workers, and the remaining 350 stayed with OUR&D to support the passenger-train operations. Ogden Union Railway & Depot Co. was always an important employer in the area. In 1939, the company employed 950 workers, with a combined payroll of $1,528,309. By 1950, the annual payroll for its 1,450 workers was $4.7 million. (Ogden Standard Examiner, March 13, 1969, "today")
March 20, 1968
UP and SP signed an agreement transferring OUR&D employees to UPRR and SPCo., and agreed on the portions each company would pay as part of employees' job protection. The agreement, which took effect on March 1st, also allowed former OUR&D employees to retain their membership in the Union Pacific Hospital Association. (UP correspondence file index, entry dated March 20, 1968)
Reflecting the 1968 reorganization and subsequent operational changes, all of Riverdale Yard (formerly East Yard) and all trackage south of 29th Street became solely Union Pacific property. SP took over much of the former UP trackage in the old main yard, including the area directly west of the passenger depot tracks. Several tracks adjacent to the old PFE facility stayed with UP. The remaining property around and under Union Station itself, and the former site of the freight house, remained as a joint OUR&D holding.
End Of Passenger Operations
October 26, 1967
"SP Seeking To Stop 2 Mail Trains" (Ogden Standard Examiner, October 26, 1967)
Two fast mail trains now operating daily between Ogden and Oakland, Calif., may be discontinued Nov. 16 by Southern Pacific Co. The proposed halting of the trains must be approved by the Interstate Commerce Commission before the final order is given, said Jack G. Roche, district freight and passenger agent for Southern Pacific. If the order is approved, only seven passenger trains will be stopping at the Union Depot.
Southern Pacific will continue two passenger trains between Ogden, Nevada, and California. Union Pacific Co. will continue to operate four passenger trains through the Ogden depot. "It is inevitable that Southern Pacific takes such action since the post office has terminated operations of the railway post office," Roche said.
Both trains carry one chair car and are used primarily for mail, baggage and express freight.
Bob McKeen described the configuration of Ogden's passenger depot from early 1968 until the summer or fall of 1971:
Tracks 1-4 were open for passenger trains, with Track 5 used for OUR&D runarounds, usually switching the City of Los Angeles and City of San Francisco. Everything further out, except Track 10, which was used by run through freights, was torn up and the passenger sheds torn down. The subway was also closed beyond Tracks 3 and 4.
Sometime in 1971, Track 3 was lifted, with the subway closed but still unofficially open (though unneeded) for Tracks 1 and 2. The passenger shelter came down, probably after July.
The Burton-Walker spur that branches off to the east was used to load and unload storage mail cars because the north wing of Union Station housed a Post Office terminal, which was massive. By the time Amtrak took over, that had almost entirely ceased, with whatever storage mail that still originated or terminated there moving in freight trains.
Given that the City of San Francisco moved from Track 4 to Track 2 after Amtrak, due to no switching being needed, and that D&RGW's Rio Grande Zephyr was changed from rail service to limousine service in mid June 1971, it's possible that the Rio Grande Zephyr was moved to Track 4 during its final months of running to Ogden. That would have given detraining passengers a view of their connection that wouldn't have been as obvious, had the RGZ remained Track 3, as was the case before Amtrak.
April 13, 1969
Ogden Union Railway & Depot company was close to completing its project to remove the train sheds from the west side of the main depot building. The subway providing access to other tracks when one or more is occupied, will remain in place. The interior walls of the main waiting room, and the large overhead wooden roof trusses had also been cleaned. (Salt Lake Tribune, April 13, 1969)
February 15-22, 1970
Ogden Union Railway & Depot company demolished its commissary building at Ogden. Built in 1909 the Commissary served all passenger trains passing through Ogden. The last operation was on September 21, 1969, servicing The City of Los Angeles, the only passenger train being serviced by the commissary and commissary personnel, with the train only being provided with water and coal.
The following comes from the February 22, 1970 issue of the Ogden Standard Examiner.
After 61 Years; Commissary Falls -- It was built in 1909 -- 61 years ago.
At one time it serviced 120 trains east and westbound through Ogden, with an annual payroll oí $400,000. Today it no longer exists. The Ogden Commissary of the Union Pacific Railroad has been torn down. Demolition on the structure began Monday, and by the week end was virtually complete. The area will now be swept clean and some will forget that it was ever there.
At the time operation ceased at the Ogden Commissary on Sept. 21, 1969, the only train serviced there was the City of Los Angeles Domeliner. There were no others. And at that, the City of Los Angeles took on only coal and water. Years before the Ogden Commissary provided the trains with charcoal for broiling steaks in the dining cars, presto logs for the diner stoves, dry ice for the perishables, and a healthy array of foodstuffs. According to Calvin Stuart, general store keeper for the UPRR in Ogden, in one three month period ending July 31, 1951, the Ogden Commissiary issued $365,000 worth of supplies to the trains passing through. And after 35 years with the railroad, Mr. Stuart says, "I'm a storekeeper without a store."
Supplies serving the diners of trains now passing through Ogden come out of Omaha or Los Angeles. Other services are provided in Salt Lake City. In all when the facility was closed it was estimated that 20 clerks, 50 dining car employes, 12 cooks, 16 waiters, four stewards, and an "extra board" of 18 waiters no longer had a commissary. Locally an estimated $120,000 worth of foodstuffs where purchased annually. And, although the Ogden Commissary no longer exists, for 61 years it was a very important part of a city built on steel rails.
[photo caption] Pile Of Rubble is nearly all that was left of the old Union Pacific Railroad Commissary building. Demolition began Monday on the 61-year-old structure as longtime railroaders gathered to watch an old friend gradually disappear.
D&RGW began running a passenger connection between Salt Lake City and Ogden, as an extension of its Rio Grande Zephyr, the remnant of the former California Zephyr.
April 3, 1970
The last Red Cap porter retired. Railroad passenger service in Ogden, the City of San Francisco, was down to three days per week. The number of tracks serving the Ogden depot had been reduced from 14 tracks, down to just five. (Ogden Standard Examiner, April 5, 1970)
May 1, 1971
Amtrak took over the nation's railroad passenger trains. Service through Ogden was in the form of the San Francisco Zephyr, running on the schedule of the former City of San Francisco.
June 14, 1971
The connecting service from D&RGW's Rio Grande Zephyr at Salt Lake City, to Amtrak's San Francisco Zephyr at Ogden, was changed from rail equipment (one locomotive and one car) to an over-the-highway passenger van, known as "limousine service.". (Rio Grande In Color, Volume 2: Utah, pages 123, 124, three photos)
(The limousine service from Salt Lake City to Ogden, remained in place at least through June 1982, as shown in the D&RGW public timetable dated June 10, 1982.)
December 6, 1971
D&RGW and Ogden Union Railway & Depot Company signed a final agreement for D&RGW to use the Ogden passenger station facilities, excluding trackage at Ogden. (UP correspondence file index)
December 7, 1971
Ogden City sent a letter to Union Pacific and Southern Pacific, as joint owners of Ogden Union Station, asking that the two railroads donate the Ogden depot to Ogden City. The city wanted to turn the depot into a museum and convention center. A separate letter to Union Pacific asked that part or all of the collection of steam locomotives held at Cheyenne, Wyoming, be donated to Ogden City. (Deseret News, December 7, 1971)
November 3, 1972
Ogden Union Station was used as the venue for an art auction and dinner for the benefit of the Bertha Eccles Community Art Center. This was the first use of the depot building for any activity or group other than railroad employees for the purpose of either passenger service or freight service on the railroads. There is only one eastbound Amtrak train, and one westbound Amtrak train per day using the depot building. "Most of the time, the depot's empty, except for a few dozen SP and UP employees who devote most of their energies to handling freight services or taking care of engineering and communication details." The art auction and dinner was a precursor of potential use of the large structure as a community event center. "A committee of civic leaders and railroad officials has been formed to untangle the many details of such a conversion." A proposal of converting the depot to a community center had first been presented in 1969 during the celebration of the driving of the golden spike. An application had been prepared to add Ogden Union Station to the list of National Historic Places. (Ogden Standard Examiner, November 2, 1972)
June 12, 1975
Ogden Mayor Stephen Dirks announced that a general agreement had been reached for the city to acquire the station, with details of the sale still to be worked out. The city was to purchase the three terminal buildings (main depot building, post office annex, trainmen's building) from Union Pacific and Southern Pacific, and lease the ground on which the buildings sit. The exact terms of the sale and lease were yet to be worked out. (Ogden Standard Examiner, June 12, 1975, "today")
The early years of the story of how Ogden Union Station was restored and redeveloped as a city-owned community use center is in "Recycling Historic Railroad Stations: A Citizen's Manual," a report completed by the U. S. Department of Transportation, published in November 1978.
February 12, 1976
Mayor Dirks announced that Ogden City received title to the depot "last week." (Ogden Standard Examiner, February 12, 1976)
June 6, 1977
Amtrak's Pioneer, Trains 25/26, between Seattle, Washington, and Salt Lake City, Utah, began service. (Ogden Standard Examiner, June 6, 1977)
The work by Ogden City to renovate and remodel the main depot building was nearing completion, with a "grand opening" planned for October 16-21. Features of the new uses include the John M. Browning Firearms Museum, the M. S. Browning Theater in the former freight and baggage area, a gift shop, an art gallery, the Moler board room for conferences, and other administrative offices. Also included is an Old Timers' Hall at the building's south end, and a new set of stairs to access the Old Timers' Hall. A corps of more than 120 volunteers were being trained to provide public tours of the remodeled "multipurpose community center." Extensive modernization included lighting improvements, sound systems, upgraded electrical systems, a new steam heating plant, air conditioning, updated rest rooms, and modern kitchen spaces for events. (Ogden Standard Examiner, September 2, 1978; Salt Lake Tribune, October 18, 1978)
October 30, 1983
The last eastbound Amtrak California Zephyr left Ogden Union Station after having come east on SP's Great Salt Lake causeway, ending almost 115 years of continuous passenger service between Ogden and Oakland-San Francisco. After leaving Ogden, the train proceeded south to Salt Lake City and then headed east across Colorado instead of east through Wyoming. The next day, the eastbound train ran into Salt Lake City over Union Pacific's tracks (formerly Western Pacific) along the south shore of the lake, bypassing the causeway and Ogden completely. (CTC Board, Issue 102, December 1983, p. 10)
Amtrak's full-time agency at Ogden's Union Station was closed due to its close proximity to Salt Lake City. After the change, passengers could board the train at Ogden, after buying tickets from travel agencies, but tickets were not available in-person at Ogden. (Salt Lake Tribune, May 25, 1991)
Ogden's Union Station was reinstated as a full-agency Amtrak station in March 1991. This was the first time an agent was on duty there since January 1985, when the facility was closed due to Ogden's close proximity (36 miles) to Salt Lake City. This took place in preparation for dropping Salt Lake City as a terminal for the Pioneer, and the rerouting of the train eastward from Ogden, east up Weber canyon and across Wyoming to Cheyenne and Denver, there to meet and combine with the California Zephyr as had been done previously in Salt Lake City.(Salt Lake Tribune, May 25, 1991)
May 25, 1991
Amtrak and Ogden City reached an agreement for Amtrak to lease a portion of Ogden Union Station, which has been owned by Ogden City since 1976. (Salt Lake Tribune, May 25, 1991)
November 10, 1996
Due to insufficient funding, Amtrak expected to discontinue the routes of both the Pioneer (Seattle to Denver, via Ogden) and the Deseret Wind (Los Angeles to Salt Lake City). The cuts would eliminate passenger service to a total of 42 stations. At the same time, Amtrak was to restore daily service to the California Zephyr, which had previously been scheduled to operate three times per week. The changes were announced in August. A Portland-Seattle segment of the Pioneer would remain, and Amtrak was hoping for to keep a Los Angeles-Las Vegas segment of the Deseret Wind. (Pacific RailNews, October 1996, page 8; Trains, October 1996, page 17)
May 11, 1997
The last eastbound Amtrak Pioneer left Ogden at 7:38 am on the morning of Sunday May 11, 1997. The train had arrived at Ogden at 7:00 am. (Ogden Standard Examiner, May 12, 1997)
OUR&D Freight Depot
A check of newspapers for when the freight depot opened in 1911 does not reveal a photo. But here are the dimensions from various newspaper items.
Completed and partially occupied by mid January 1911, the structure was 62-1/2 feet wide and 700 feet long, containing 54,400 square feet of concrete floor space. There were two transfer sheds, 16 feet by 700 feet. (Ogden Standard, January 18, 1911)
The office end of the new freight depot was two stories, made of fireproof concrete and steel, 50 feet by 119 feet, with offices on both floors. Adjoining the two-story office section was a freight shed 50 feet by 286 feet, with concrete floors, corrugated iron roof, and rolling steel doors. Adjoining the freight shed was an unenclosed concrete platform 65 feet by 215 feet. There was also a team track loading dock, 20 feet by 80 feet, with a 10-ton pillar crane for heavy lifting. (Deseret Evening News, December 16, 1911)
Demolition of the old freight depot began in April 1911. (Ogden Standard, April 15, 1911)
Bob McKeen wrote on May 4, 2020:
Ogden's OUR&D freight station was extremely difficult to photograph, due to 24th Street Viaduct. Until the east end was rebuilt in the late 1960s, it dropped down to street level much sooner and presented major clearance issues for the east side of Wall Avenue. It almost literally touched the roof of the freight station and created enormous photographic problems. In addition, the viaduct and surrounding buildings made it difficult for sunlight to reach the depot's east (street) side, creating huge challenges with the contrast.
Unbeknown to most people, right next to the depot was a small, nondescript building with a vault, which SP used to store its most valuable documents. After the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire, which somehow spared SP's archives, the company decided to store those papers elsewhere and chose Ogden as its corporate repository.
Beginning in late May 1972, and extending through August, the OUR&D freight depot was demolished. There were numerous, almost daily ads in the classified section throughout the period, placed by the demolition contractor, offering to sell a wide variety of office equipment and furniture, lighting fixtures, wood paneling and stair railings, then all manner of construction materials, including wood lumber, pipes, used brick and window lintels. (Ogden Standard Examiner, May 24, 1972; extending through August 2, 1972)