Oregon Short Line Railway (OSLRy) (1881-1889)

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Union Pacific's Subsidiary in Utah

This page was last updated on July 7, 2016.

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Oregon Short Line & Utah Northern Railway (1889-1897)

Oregon Short Line Railroad (1897-1936) (leased to UP in 1936)


Oregon Short Line Railroad (OSL) and its predecessor companies operated all UP lines in Idaho, Montana, and northern Utah.

OSL was incorporated in February 1897 as a reorganization of Oregon Short Line & Utah Northern Railway, in receivership since October 1893.

Oregon Short Line & Utah Northern Railway had been incorporated on August 19, 1889 as a consolidation of the original 1881 Oregon Short Line Railway and six other railroads operating in Utah and Idaho.

The original OSL Railway began construction in July 1881 at a connection with UP at Granger, Wyoming and was completed across southern Idaho to Huntington, Oregon by November 1884.

All OSL lines in Utah were purchased from predecessor companies.

OSL (and later OSL&UN) operated the Oregon Railway & Navigation Company under lease between January 1887 and October 1893.


General timeline for route completion (westward - Granger, Wyoming to Huntington, Oregon):

The OSL Ry was incorporated under the general laws of the Territory of Wyoming on April 14, 1881, and by Act of Congress on August 2, 1882, it was made a railway corporation in the territories of Utah, Idaho, and Oregon.

April 14, 1881
The Oregon Short Line Railway was incorporated in Wyoming. Construction of the line began in May at a connection with Union Pacific at Granger, Wyoming. The tracks were completed to Montpelier, Idaho on August 5, 1882 and to Pocatello during the fall of the same year. The tracks between McCammon, Idaho and Pocatello were used jointly with the Utah & Northern by laying a third rail along side the narrow-gauge U&N rails. (OSL corporate history)

(Trottman, p. 180, says that Oregon Short Line Railway was chartered by an act of Congress.)

July 11, 1881
E. E. Calvin drove the first spike on the Oregon Short Line Railway at Granger, Wyoming: "Special to the Tribune - Granger, Wyoming, July 11 - Track laying on the Oregon Short Line began at this point today. The first spike was driven by E. E. Calvin, operator at Granger." (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, July 12, 1881)

(Read more about Granger, Wyoming)

(Edgar E. Calvin was later vice president and general manager of Oregon Short Line Railroad, replacing W. H. Bancroft in that position in 1914. He was named Union Pacific president in May 1916, a position he held until his mandatory retirement at age 70 in 1928.) (New York Times, May 31, 1916; Maury Klein, Union Pacific, 1894-1969, page 246)

(Read more about W. H. Bancroft)

July 16, 1882
Construction of the Oregon Short Line Railway reached the border of Idaho Territory. (Pocatello Idaho State Journal, September 14, 1969)

July 24, 1882
Construction of the Oregon Short Line Railway reached Montpelier, Idaho Territory. (Pocatello Idaho State Journal, September 14, 1969)

August 2, 1882
Oregon Short Line Railway was approved by an act of the United States Congress as being a railroad corporation in the territories of Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming, with the same rights and privileges allowed it by its Articles of Incorporation as filed in the Territory of Wyoming. (OSL corporate history)

October 11, 1882
The Oregon Short Line is about completed between Granger and McCammon; the line north to Pocatello has not yet had the third rail added to it. (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, October 11, 1882)

October 17, 1882
The Oregon Short Line track running some 45 miles west of Pocatello, built in advance of the arrival of the standard gauge line, was built to narrow gauge, and is now about to be widened to the standard. (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, October 17, 1882)

November 1882
At the time that ten locomotives were "sold" to OSLRY by Union Pacific In November 1882, the OSL was operating from Granger, Wyoming, to American Falls, Idaho, including its connection with Utah & Northern between McCammon and Pocatello.

November 1882
OSL purchased ten locomotives from Union Pacific, for a total price of $103,500.00. The OSL numbers were 1-6, 9, 10 (4-4-0s; $9,500 each; total $76,000.00) and 7 and 8 (4-6-0s; $13,750 each; total $27,500.00). (Pacific Railway Commission hearings, Part 9, Volume 8, page 5294)

December 14, 1882
The Oregon Short Line has issued its first timetable. (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, December 14, 1882)

December 21, 1882
The Pullman sleeper 'Oriole' is in service on the O. S. L. (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, December 21, 1882)

January 1, 1883
The O.S.L. runs on the U&N, McCammon to Pocatello, about 22 miles. (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, January 1, 1883)

February 23, 1883
"The Oregon Short Line passenger coaches are beginning to arrive." (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, February 23, 1883)

March 10, 1883
"The station at Shoshone, the present terminus of the Oregon Short Line railroad, and the junction of the Wood River branch, was opened today for all business connected with the road." (Salt Lake Evening Chronicle, March 10, 1883; City Gleanings)

March 14, 1883
An item says that the first timetable on the Oregon Short Line (the old original company) was in effect on March 14, 1883, covering Granger to Shoshone only. (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, November 4, 1899)

September 17, 1883
Oregon Short Line began running trains to Caldwell. (Chicago Tribune, September 18, 1883, "yesterday")

The OSL had been completed to and through Nampa less than a week before, with Nampa simply being a station on the mainline. Nampa was not mentioned as an important point on OSL until September 1886 when it was shown in a newspaper item as being the connection for a branch to Boise. (Idaho Statesman, September 9, 1886)

The following comes from Thornton Waite's article about Nampa in The Streamliner, published by Union Pacific Historical Society (Volume 17, Number 1):

A section house and signs were erected at the site, and by 1884 there was a water tower, a telegraph, and possibly a small building used for a railroad depot. The train servicing facilities were located at Caldwell, nine miles to the west, and travelers to and from Boise would ride the stage from Boise City to Kuna depot, ten miles east of Nampa.

October 28, 1883
"Ten more new engines..." ordered for the Oregon Short Line. (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, October 28, 1883)

November 1883
OSL received its first locomotives built specifically for the road, numbered as OSLRy 30-35; the previous 29 locomotives, numbered as OSLRy 1-29 were transferred from Union Pacific during 1882 and 1883.

November 11, 1884
ORy&N completed to Huntington, Oregon, and a connection with OSL; opened for traffic on December 1, 1884 (Asay, page 42)

Huntington is just inside Oregon, 2.25 miles west of the Idaho-Oregon line. OSLRy built the large bridge that allowed it to cross the Snake River, which forms the line between Idaho and Oregon.

November 20, 1884
OSL completed to Huntington, Oregon. (OSL corporate history for ICC, page 25)

November 25, 1884
Last spike ceremony for OSL and ORy&N at Huntington, Oregon was on November 25, 1884. Present were officials of both OSL and ORy&N, along with members of the press and local citizens. (Salt Lake Tribune, November 30, 1884).

February 13, 1886
Depot and other buildings at Montpelier, Idaho, burned to the ground. (Ogden Herald, February 13, 1886)

January 1, 1887
In Pocatello on the OSL, the U. P. built a new depot, two stories, 50x100, cost of $10,945; the Pacific Hotel was raised one floor, and other improvements made $6,000 spent there; six tenement houses built at cost of $6,508; a storehouse of 30x75 cost $1,500. (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, January 1, 1887)

February 6, 1887
The Oregon Short Line has just received the new steam snow plow, referred to some weeks ago in the Tribune, when ordered from Paterson, New Jersey. (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, February 6, 1887)

September 4, 1887
Idaho Central Railway was completed between Nampa and Boise. The Oregon Short Line Railway had reached Nampa in mid September 1883, having completed the line to Mountain Home [55 miles east of Nampa] on August 5, 1883, and Caldwell [9 miles west of Nampa] on September 25, 1883. Nampa became the terminus for the Idaho Central line to Boise.

August 27, 1888
OSL's Pocatello freight office and sheds burned, at about 2:00am this date; a total loss. As there was no wind, no other buildings burned. (The Utah Journal, Logan, August 27, 1888)

July 27, 1889
Oregon Short Line Railway was part of the consolidation that formed Oregon Short Line & Utah Northern Railway.

Oregon Short Line & Utah Northern Railway was organized by merging the following companies: Utah & Northern Railway, the Utah Central Railway, the Utah & Nevada Railway, the Salt Lake & Western Railway, and the Ogden & Syracuse Railway (all in Utah), the Oregon Short Line Railway and Idaho Central Railway (both in Idaho), and the unbuilt Nevada Pacific Railway in Nevada. (OSL corporate history)

The lease of ORy&N to OSLRy (dated January 1, 1887) continued after the consolidation that formed OSL&UN.


OSLRy - OSL&UN - OSL Locomotives

Burning Coal On The Oregon Short Line -- Brief comments about burning coal on the OSL. Initially written in answer to an email question.

More Information

Wikipedia entry for Oregon Short Line Railroad

Klein, Maury. Union Pacific, Birth of a Railroad, 1862-1893 (Doubleday & Company, 1987)

Klein, Maury. Union Pacific, The Rebirth, 1894-1969 (Doubleday, 1989)

Trottman, Nelson. History of the Union Pacific (Augustus M. Kelley, 1923, reprinted 1966)

Oregon Short Line Railroad Company. Corporate History of Oregon Short Line Railroad Company, As of June 30th, 1916