Great Salt Lake Crossing

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This page was last updated on February 19, 2019.

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Notes by Bob Burton (760 West 3500 North, Ogden, Utah, 801-782-4359). Used during talk given at annual convention of Railway & Locomotive Historical Society at Ogden, Utah, on May 9, 1997. Notes transcribed from hand-written, with minor editng, by Don Strack, May 1998.

1903 Ogden-Lucin Cutoff

Lake level raised 10.3 feet from 1850 to 1869.

Lake was at highest level when Central Pacific was built in 1869.

Under the Act of 1862, Central Pacific received $25,000 in land grant bonds for each mile built.

No consideration was given to build across the lake. Much of the flat territory west of the lake was covered with mud.

In 1873, the lake level began to decline. By 1900..

The railroad had already reduced the miles between Reno and Lucin by 310 miles by making some line changes.

Considered among other changes the Lucin Cutoff, which meant crossing the Great Salt Lake. It would reduce grades, curves, and 42 miles of track.

First piling driven on August 21, 1902.

Last piling driving on October 26, 1903.

Top tie elevation was 4218.25 feet, 4.15 feet above 1869 level

Embankments were at 4213.25 feet

38,000 piles, 80 to 130 feet long

1,019 bents, with five to seven piles per bent

Nineteen pile drivers

3,000 men working

To save $214,000 per year in 1902 money

Fill from Lakeside, called the Rambo Fill, 5.1 miles

Saline Fill was 2.5 miles, Bagley Fill was 7.3 miles

In a letter dated 1909, and again in 1913, William Hood advocated a trestle to replace the the fills all the way. He estimated the cost to be $104,294.08 per mile.

Great Salt Lake Causeway

In about 1950 to 1953, studies were done evaluating trestle conditions. The company decided that everything above the pile caps would have to be replaced within seven years. The 50-year old piling would have to be replaced in 25 to 30 years, and possibly at the same time, the entire trestle would have to be replaced.

Deck renewal would require 18,500,000 board feet of timber, plus 30,000 feet of piling. This included the stringers, which were 8 inches by 18 inches by 30 feet, and located 11 wide on single track.

Trains were getting heavier, along with heavier axle loads. Speed was becoming a big factor. Costs were estimated to be $28 to $30 million.

Alternate types of construction were considered, including concrete.

The railroad made the decision to build an earth fill, situated 1500 feet north of the existing trestle so as not to disturb [current operations].

Contract let to Morrison Knudsen in 1956 for $49 million. (show film, Morrison Knudsen's "Mariners With Hardhats") The indestructible causeway was built and completed in 1959.

In 1959, the railroad had its first failure, due to settlement. The whole fill settled one foot during the first year. The railroad constantly had a work train dumping rock, just like what was stated in William Hood's 1909 letter.

1980s Flooding

Average inflow was 3.0 million acre-feet; evaporation was 3.0 million acre-feet.

In 1982 the inflow was 4.3 acre-feet; in 1983 the inflow was 7.5 million acre-feet; in 1984 the inflow was 9.1 million acre-feet, and in 1985 the inflow was 6.2 million acre-feet.

1,200 boxcars were placed along the causeway's north side to act as a sea wall.

Separating rock into "armor stone" (one ton and up, and 3 feet and up) and under layer (1 to 3 feet, reject all under 1 foot. Crushed rock used for ballast.

Armor stone over boxcars now