Hollday-Cottonwood Street Cars

This page was last updated on December 22, 2023.

(Return to the Salt Lake City streetcars index page)

The following comes from "Holladay-Cottonwood Places and Faces" (1976), edited by Stephen L. Carr

Pages 48-51

Holladay residents must have felt proud, indeed, when the town was considered important enough to become the southeastern terminus of the streetcar system. The Utah Light and Traction Co., which was the result of the merger of the Utah Light and Railway Co. and several smaller streetcar companies in Salt Lake City, extended its lines out from the city north as far as Centerville, Davis County, and southward to Murray and Sandy on State Street, and south along 11th East, Highland Drive to 33rd South, then in 1912 to 48th South and up 48th to the center of Holladay. End of track was directly in front of the Harper-Bowthorpe blacksmith shop where a streetcar bench sat under large, spreading black locust trees. Here the operator climbed out, pulled down the rear trolley pole, extended the front one and reversed the operation. A row of poplar trees ran down along the north side of 48th South which had to be removed for track laying. And in the wet, boggy spring, numerous people took to walking the rails, aided by a long stick, to keep out of the muddy road, there being no pavement or sidewalk.

The early streetcars were designed to be operated by a motorman, with a conductor taking fares and calling out stops. Students by the hundreds rode the cars from Holladay to 33rd South, where they hopped off and walked from Highland Drive down to Granite High School on 5th East.

Almost everyone still around who was a teen-ager in the 1920's remembers the Halloween pranks, when the boys greased the rails up on 48th South. The motorman had to really use a lot of sand, just like in the middle of winter, to pull up that last bit of grade. Another after dark trick was to run a rope from one power pole to another, under the trolley wire, so that when the car came along, the trolley pole was pulled off the wire. Then on the return trip, the same thing would happen again. Such was the life in the 20's.

The streetcar was definitely the fastest and best method of getting into Sugar House or downtown. The only trouble was, if you missed the 9 o'clock p.m. car, which was the last one to Holladay, the remaining ones till midnight ran only to 33rd South and Highland Drive, and it was a fair jaunt from there to home. That was the test of serious intentions, when a suitor was dating a city gal and had to decide whether to spend longer with her and walk home or to cut it off early and ride all the way.

In this period, even though Holladay was tied governmentally to Murray, such as with the post office, fire station and other County agencies, economically it was more closely associated with Sugar House. This was partially due to the numerous coal yards there. The Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad brought coal up from Carbon County and distributed it to these yards; then folks from all over the southeast part of the County came to Sugar House for their winter fuel. The winter supply at this time was typically two ton of coal, plus two barrels of kerosene for lighting. The streetcar line added to this dependence; many Holladay people went only as far as Sugar House on the trolley to do their shopping. Many advertisements in the Irving school newspapers, yearbooks and elsewhere in Holladay were from Sugar House merchants who knew where their customers were. It is too bad Mary Casto had to have lived several decades earlier. In the 1870-80's, once a week she made the long trip on foot to Sugar House, with a week's worth of eggs in a basket to sell.

In 1928-29 the streetcar tracks were taken up between Holladay and 33rd South, and a bus took passengers from the end of track to Holladay. This was like the way buses took riders from the terminals at Murray to Sandy and Midvale, and from North Salt Lake to Bountiful and Centerville, during the gradual phase-out of the streetcar system. Rail trolley operations ended in Salt Lake City for good in 1942.

Although the streetcar was the only railroad that Holladay could claim, there was a plan in the 1890's to build a steam railroad line through the Holladay-Cottonwood region. The Salt Lake and Fort Douglas Railway, built and operated by Brigham Young's son, John, had been designed to run along Highland Drive to 39th South, then along the levee of the Jordan and Salt Lake Canal to where the canal crosses Big Cottonwood Creek, then through the cottonwoods west of the creek, up past Knudsen's grist mill and the paper mill, supplying them with freight transportation, and then into Big Cottonwood Canyon. Another branch had been planned to extend from Holladay to Draper. A depot had even been plotted about where the Oliver T. Jensen home is on the southwest comer of Viewmont and 48th South. These grandiose ideas never got much past 33rd South, as John Young turned his energies toward the silver at Park City about the same time. For several years, till about 1894, the track dead-ended at Murphy's Lane [at about 1440 East and 3600 South, where Mill Creek passes under the Jordan and Salt Lake canal, just west of Highland Drive]. Although it was a freight road, people could ride the caboose into Salt Lake City for a quarter. Later, the Interstate Brick Co. plant was located at 33rd South and 11th East, and the south several blocks of the track were tom up and relaid down to the plant.