Utah Parks Company

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In 1923, the Union Pacific Railroad opened a branch line from Lund, Utah, on its Salt Lake City-Los Angeles main line, to Cedar City, with the goal of promoting train travel to Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon in southern Utah, as well as the north rim of the Grand Canyon.

During the summer months, Union Pacific trains 309 and 310 ran between Salt Lake City and Cedar City, carrying through Pullman sleepers off the Los Angeles Limited.

About the same time the spur was built, UP formed a subsidiary bus and hotel management company, the Utah Parks Company, which built hotel facilities and offered tours of the three parks through a concession agreement with the National Park Service. From the Cedar City depot, Utah Parks Co. took vacationers on escorted "All-Expense" tours in a fleet of buses with rollback tops.

Union Pacific advertised Utah's national parks in public timetables, travel brochures, and nationwide magazines. "Never before have you enjoyed a vacation trip which was so free from care and travel details!" boasted a brochure from 1931. Many of the railroads well-publicized ads featured full-color interpretations of Zion and Bryce, as well as Yellowstone's Old Faithful Geyser.

Union Pacific also sponsored tours to Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park, and Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone was reached from the end of the railroad's branch to West Yellowstone, Montana, where passengers enjoyed a meal at the railroad's dining lodge, located at the park's western entrance. Grand Teton was reached from the end of the railroad's branch to Victor, Idaho.

In the 1920s and 30s, Union Pacific and partner Chicago & North Western produced beautifully illustrated travel books entitled Summer Tours. Those vacation books were some of the first to feature full-page color maps and photos. Escorted package tours ranging from eight to fourteen days offered travelers the chance to visit parks, wilderness areas, and cities throughout the West, the Pacific Northwest, and Alaska. In 1937, an all-expense, 14-day C&NW-UP tour of California cost as little as $211. "So promise yourself this vacation treat - and go this summer," urged the brochure.

Union Pacific ended passenger service to Cedar City in 1958, no longer able to compete with the publicly-funded highways that carried family cars to the once-inaccessible parks. Unable to find a buyer for its subsidiary, UP donated the Utah Parks tour operation and facilities to the National Park Service in 1972. (part from Classic Trains magazine, July 2001)

The cabins at Zion Lodge in Zion National Park were restored in 1998 to their original 1920s appearance, including their fixtures and furniture, replacing the renovations that were put in place under National Parks Service management during the 1970s. The Zion Lodge resort and cabins were owned by the National Park Service and were being operated by Amfac Parks and Resorts Company of Denver. (New York Times, May 24, 1998)

The following comes from "The Development of Zion National Park" by Wayne K. Hinton, Utah Historical Quarterly, Issue 68, Fall 2000:

During 1923 and 1924 the Union Pacific Company and its subsidiary Utah Parks Company spent $1,713,000 for improvements directly or indirectly related to park development. A thirty-five-mile railroad from Lund to Cedar City was completed in 1923. A modern passenger station cost another $75,000, and the purchase and completion of Hotel El Escalante in Cedar City cost $265,000. A lodge and forty-six cabins were constructed at Zion, and an associated water system. A bus garage in Cedar City and forty eleven-passenger auto-stages bought to convey visitors to Bryce, Cedar Breaks, the North Rim, Pipe Springs, and Zion. National advertising expenses for 1923 to 1924 were $100,000 for ads in the Saturday Evening Post, Literary Digest, and other national magazines, periodicals, and newspapers, and for the publication of an elaborately illustrated booklet on Zion.

Despite the investments, or maybe because of them, Park Service officials increasingly criticized the Union Pacific's role at Zion. They complained that the railroad looked upon private motorists as pests. Because of its tie to the railroad, the Utah Parks Company advertised only for railroad traffic, and it discriminated in housing accommodations and dining reservations against visitors who came independent of Utah Parks Company bus tours.

In fact, the railroad did not advertise at all in California because ads there would tend to attract only private motorists rather than rail passengers. It seemed impossible to jar railroad officers from their shortsighted attitude and get them to accept the viewpoint that money spent by motorists was as good as that spent by rail passengers. There was hope on the part of Park Service administrators that a "divorce" might sever the Utah Parks Company from any direct relationship to the railroad. This, however, did not happen, and the company continued to concentrate solely on building passenger traffic for the Union Pacific. For Park Service officials there was entirely "too much railroad" in Utah Parks Company management for its own good.

Over the next forty years the association between Park Service and Union Pacific officials deteriorated further. By 1960 the independence afforded to travelers by automobile cut into railroad passenger travel and bus tours significantly. Social and economic changes led the Utah Parks Company in 1969 to begin an attempt to sell their concessioner contract, but Congress would not agree to a sale until 1972.

The following comes from the description of the Utah Parks Company Collection, at Brigham Young University (MSS 533):

The Utah Parks Company, a subsidiary of the Union Pacific Railroad Company was officially incorporated in 1923. C.R. Gray, the president of the Union Pacific Railroad Company, served as the company's first director. Through a series of agreements, leases and contracts, the Utah Parks company became a major factor in the development of the tourist industry at Zion, Bryce and Grand Canyon National Parks and Cedar Breaks National Monument. The company developed and operated the transportation facilities at these national parks. The transportation facilities included the operation of the railroad services between the parks as well as the tour buses within each park. The Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad Line, also controlled by the Union Pacific Railroad, played a major part in the development of the transportation facilities.

Upon the resignation of C.R. Gray as director in 1932, W.R. Jeffers, the executive vice president of the Union Pacific System, was appointed director. he served until 1945 when Mr. Ashby began his tenure as president.

As the Utah Parks Company experienced growth in the tourist trade, it became necessary to appoint a manager to take direct control of the operations. In 1957, A.E. Stoddard, the president of Union Pacific and director of the Utah Parks Company, appointed Fred Warner as the first manager. He was succeeded in 1960 when T.E. Murray became manager.

By the late 1960's, efforts were underway to sell or donate the Utah Parks Company. Several organizations were considered such as the General Host Corporation and the Up With People Organization. It wasn't until 1974 that the formal donation was made and accepted by the United State Government. J.C. Kenefick, president of Union Pacific, made the final arrangement.

From Frommer's Review, 2007:

This handsome lodging facility is a wonderful place to stay, but the main draw is, as they say, location, location, location. Built in 1925 by the Union Pacific Railroad, the original Zion Lodge was destroyed by fire in 1966, then rebuilt the following year, and restored to its historic appearance in 1991. The only lodging within the park boundaries, Zion Lodge offers several types of accommodations. Situated in a valley with spectacular views of the park's rock cliffs, the charming and genuinely historic cabins are our first choice here because they seem to perfectly fit the national park ambiance. Each cabin has a private porch, stone (gas-burning) fireplace, two double beds, and pine board walls. The comfortable motel units are good for those who prefer more modern accommodations, with two queen-size beds, a private porch or balcony, and all the usual amenities except televisions. Rollaways and cribs are available in the motel rooms but not the cabins. The motel suites, very plush and spacious, have one king-size bed, a separate sitting room with a queen-size hide-a-bed, and a refrigerator.

Ranger programs are offered in the lodge auditorium during the summer. A gift shop sells everything from postcards and T-shirts to top quality silver-and-turquoise American Indian jewelry. The lodge fills quickly during the summer, so make reservations as far in advance as possible.

From Union Pacific, The Rebirth, 1894-1969, by Maury Klein

[page 267] The Union Pacific, proclaimed the Deseret News, was entering "on a new phase of its history as one of the country's great transportation agencies by paralleling its railroad lines with bus service." By 1931 the company had taken off passenger trains totaling nearly 2.3 million miles a year. It was running 10,216 miles of bus line and had created a new subsidiary, Union Pacific Stages of California, to handle the lines radiating from the new depot at East Los Angeles. In addition, the Utah Parks Company operated sixty-five buses linking the railhead at Cedar City, Utah, to several nearby national parks. (Klein notes: Deseret news, July 31, 1929; Railway Age, Volume 87, pages 322, 1534, Volume 88, pages 534, 1298, 1544, Volume 89, pages 212, 421, Volume 91, pages 296-298; Wall Street Journal, March 22 and May 8, 1930; UP Executive Committee minutes, July 8, 1930)

[pages 329-331] For those who came by train, the answer was to offer package tours relieving travelers of all responsibility for details that got in the way of their sightseeing. Gradually the Union Pacific moved from merely carrying vacationers into the larger business of arranging their trips and operating the resorts they visited. The extent of the company's involvement varied from using private contractors at Yellowstone to a mixed operation in the Utah Parks to complete ownership at Sun Valley. In each case the object was to make the tourist a captive audience of the railroad and its facilities in a pleasant, entertaining way. By providing services itself, the Union Pacific could avoid putting its reputation at the mercy of private contractors.

The Utah Parks operation evolved along these lines. Southern Utah and northern Arizona held a treasure trove of scenic wonders: Zion Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Cedar Breaks, Kaibab forest, and the north rim of the Grand Canyon. By 1920 Grand Canyon and Zion had become national parks and the National Park Service had been established. Gray visited the region in July 1922 and saw at once the possibilities for a tourist operation. If the right facilities were provided, all these wonders of nature could be combined in a single package. Some locals had already set up crude camps at Zion, Bryce, and the north rim; they could be worked with, but much more was needed. By autumn the company had decided on a major development program. (Klein notes: Union Pacific Magazine, January 1922 and November 1922; Deseret News, October 16, 1922)

As a first step, Gray had a thirty-three mile branch built on the Los Angeles & Salt Lake from Lund to Cedar City. Completed in June 1923, the line opened new territory for agriculture and iron mining as well as bringing travelers to the doorstep of scenic wonders. Gray persuaded local interests in Cedar City to join in erecting a new hotel for the tourist trade. New roads between the attractions were needed along with lodges at the sites and car or bus service. In March 1923 the company formed a new subsidiary, Utah Parks, to handle the operation. Three months later Utah Parks signed a contract with the Interior Department for installing facilities at Zion. Plans were made to build hotels at Zion, Bryce, and the north rim, camps at other sites, lunch counters, and concession stands. (Klein notes: Salt Lake Telegram, March 15, 1923; Utah Parks Company minutes, March 26, 1923; Agreement between Utah Parks Company and E. C. Finney, June 9, 1923; Traffic Department Circular on Lund to Cedar City Branch, June 15, 1923; Salt Lake Tribune, October 11, 1923)

None of these improvements came easy in the wilderness. Bryce needed a pipeline for water before anything could be done. No maintained roads existed between Cedar City and Bryce, and only a rough road reached Zion or Cedar Breaks. The first lodge and cabin facilities went up at Bryce and Zion in 1924 and were added to in succeeding years as business increased. During the winter of 1927 Utah Parks won the concession for the north rim from the government and by June 1928 had erected a central lodge, seventy cabins, power and pumping plants, a garage, and other facilities at Bright Angel Point. (Klein notes: George H. Smith memoranda, Nov. 26 and Dec. 19, 1923, UPO; Robert L. Judd to Smith, Jan. 7, 1924, UPO; Smith to H. M. Adams, Jan. 8, 1924, UPO; Gray to Adams and Calvin, Apr. 21, 1924, UPO; Railway Age, 77:769, 80:456, 82:1981, 85:19-20; Salt Lake Tribune, Dec. 17, 1926, June 7, 1927; Adams to Gray, Jan. 8, 1927, UPO; Gray to Seger, Jan. 10, 1927, UPO; Press release, Feb. 17, 1927, UPO; Smith to Gray, Feb. 16, 1927, UPO; Gray to Smith, Feb. 23 and May 21, 1927, UPO.)

To get the facilities ready, construction went right through the winter as convoys of four-cylinder trucks with high wheels, called "iron horses" by their drivers, bumped over frozen semi-roads behind a rotary plow following a trail of boards nailed to trees to show where the road was. To get heavy machinery over the vertical cliffs of Bright Angel Canyon, a cable tram line was transported from an abandoned mine and rigged by men with steel nerves along fifteen wooden towers built down the steep cliffs. When finished the cable was three miles long. All the machinery for the pump and power station were lowered into the canyon this way. The power lines were strung by two linemen sent in from California. Both arrived by mule, one tied to the animal because he was dead drunk. (Klein notes: George A. Croft, "Establishment of North Rim Facilities," 3-5, UPO.)

About 125 men toiled through the harsh winter and muddy spring to get the north rim ready for tourists. Some brought their families with them. A school was run in a lumber building heated by a wood stove, with classes taught by the wife of a stonemason who was later denied a salary by the state of Arizona because she was not certified. Most lived in tents with wood floors and ate in a large mess tent much as the original construction crews on the railroad had done. At north rim the past sprung to life with a vividness the workers would long remember. For their remarkable feat the masons and carpenters got eighty-five cents an hour, the truck drivers seventy-five cents, and the laborers fifty cents, with nothing extra for overtime. (Klein notes: George A. Croft, "Establishment of North Rim Facilities,", 4-6; Smith to H. C. Mann, Nov. 5, 1928, UPO.)

For three more summers work continued on new buildings. In September 1932 a fire destroyed the main lodge and two cabins. The lodge was not rebuilt until 1936, but the tourist trade continued during its absence. Utah Parks offered a variety of packages topped by a six-day 489-mile motor bus tour of all the sights. There were also side trips for those with the stamina and the wallet to include them. The hardy could even buy a ticket for viewing Grand Canyon by plane, a service begun by other parties in 1929. As a scenic wonder, the Utah Parks itinerary offered a spectacle matched by few places on the continent. Like Yellowstone and Sun Valley, it did a thriving business until the war came along. Nevertheless, the Union Pacific gained no profit from its tourist business beyond a vast amount of favorable promotion and publicity. (Klein notes: WSJ, Sept. 3, 1932; Railway Age, 93:374, 100:259, 101:161, 104:386; NY Times, Feb. 23, 1936; Smith memorandum, July 21, 1937, UPO; W. J. Larsen to Smith, Sept. 30, 1941, UPO; Smith to Larsen, Oct. 4, 1941, UPO.)

[pages 491, 492] Pat Rogers, whose geniality held the Sun Valley style together, had grumbled for years at the abuse heaped on him by railway officers. As the deficits climbed, no one realized more than Rogers that he was the wrong man to impose economy on the operation. In 1952 he begged Stoddard to let him go back to managing the Utah Parks. Stoddard did so and replaced him at Sun Valley with Winston McCrea. A year after Rogers left, Steve Hannagan died. (Klein notes: Taylor, Sun Valley, 149-92; Oppenheimer and Poore, Sun Valley, 168-73; Jeffers to Charske, Dec. 1, 1945, UPN; Ashby to Charske, Jan. 3, 1946, UPO; Rogers to Stoddard, Mar. 1 and Apr. 1, 1952, UPO; Stoddard to Rogers, Mar. 28, 1952, UPO; Stoddard to McCrea et al., Mar. 28, 1952, UPO.)

The next decade saw a very different tone at the resort. McCrea economized at every turn. Tom Murray was brought over to take charge of the food service. A cafeteria was installed at the Challenger Inn, and other services were reduced. The cafeteria in particular offended Averell, who had opposed the idea back in 1946, but it was more efficient and many of the guests preferred it to the long waiting lines. By the late 1950s Sun Valley was running down. At the Challenger Inn, noted Murray, "they were still sleeping on the same mattresses that they put in the building when they built it." (Klein notes: Taylor, Sun Valley, 229; Averell Harriman to Charske, July 24, 1946, UPN; Murray interview, 9, 34.)

The more passenger traffic dwindled, the less sense Sun Valley made for the Union Pacific as a national billboard or anything else. Stoddard liked Sun Valley but didn't want to spend money on it; he couldn't go there without being besieged with requests for improvements. By the early 1960s the place was, in Dorice Taylor's phrase, "patches on patches." A publicist at the resort, Taylor knew the handwriting was on the wall when she received a new map of the Union Pacific system that didn't even include Sun Valley. (Klein notes: Taylor, Sun Valley, 243-45.)

In 1963 the Union Pacific had the Janss Corporation, which operated several resorts, inspect Sun Valley with the idea of forming a new company in which the railroad would be a 49 percent partner in an expanded facility with a new hotel and condominium cottages. The lawyers found legal problems with this arrangement, however, and the board balked at the price tag of $6 million for the face lift. Instead, it decided to sell Janss the property outright in October 3964. (Klein notes; Taylor, Sun Valley, 243-45; Victor H. Palmieri to Stoddard, Dec. 27, 1963, UPO; F. J. Melia to Stoddard, Jan. 6, 1964, UPO; Roland Harriman to Averell Harriman, Aug. 6, 1964, UPN; Salt Lake Tribune, Oct. 7, 1964; WSJ, Oct. 7, 1964.)

The same rationale applied to the Utah Parks, even though that operation differed from Sun Valley in several respects. It was tied into an elaborate tours program run entirely by the railroad, and it involved a contract with the Department of the Interior for operating the park facilities. But it too bled cash; the El Escalante Hotel, for example, had its best year ever in 1941 and still lost $14,000. Never had the business made a profit. Despite those losses, Pat Rogers recommended that the government contract be renewed when it expired at the end of 1942. (Klein notes: Rogers to Jeffers, Oct. 8, 1942, UPO; Rogers to Ashby, Nov. 12, 1942, UPO.)

Ashby disagreed. He wanted to sell or lease the park facilities, arguing that "so far as advertising value is concerned the parks have served their purpose . . . we would get just as much benefit from them if they were operated by someone else." A deal was struck with the government to contract on a yearly basis for the war's duration. By 1945 even Rogers was eager to lease the El Escalante, but Jeffers doubted any takers could be found. Nothing was done. (Klein notes: Ashby to Newton B. Drury, Dec. 3, 1942, UPO; Drury to Ashby, Dec. 17, 1942, UPO; Jeffers to Harold L. Ickes, Dec. 26, 1942, UPO; Ashby to Jeffers, Apr. 15, 1943, UPO; Rogers to Ashby, May 18, 1943, UPO; Ashby to Rogers, May 21, 1943, UPO; Salt Lake Tribune, Sept. 30, 1945; Rogers to Jeffers, Nov. 19, 1945, UPO; Jeffers to Ashby, Nov. 27, 1945, UPO; Omaha World-Herald, Jan. 14, 1946.)

After the war, government dawdling over a new contract dragged on for years and so exasperated Ashby that in 1948 he announced the Union Pacific would pull out of the parks. Ashby's move sparked a political storm over rumors that the government planned to take over the concessions in all the national parks. Caught by a barrage of bad press just before the Republican convention, the Interior Department hurriedly came to terms on a new contract. (Klein notes: Ashby, to J. A. Krug, May 21, 1948, UPN; Krug to Ashby, May 26, 1948, UPN; Salt Lake Tribune, May 26, 1948; Charske to Ashby, May 27 and June 29, 1948, UPN; Ashby to Charske, May 27 and May 28, 1948, UPN; Daggett Harvey to Ashby et al., June 15, 1948, UPN; Rogers to Ashby, June 21, 1948, UPN; Salt Lake Telegram, July 7, 1948; E. G. Smith to Ashby, Oct. 26, 1948, UPN.)

New terms did nothing to solve the basic dilemma. The Utah Parks, like Sun Valley, did not pay except as a form of advertising for the railroad. But passenger traffic was dwindling; a growing proportion of the clientele came to the parks by car instead of rail. In 1952, for example, only 22 percent of the occupants at Zion, 20 percent at Bryce, and 27 percent at Grand Canyon came by rail. In effect the railroad was subsidizing the vacations of automobile travelers as part of its contribution to the Utah economy. (Klein notes: Rogers to Stoddard, Oct. 22, 1952, UPO.)

Management and staffing problems plagued the operation as well. Pat Rogers stayed on as manager until 1957. His replacement was a disaster who inflicted more damage than an earthquake that occurred in August 1959; both he and his assistant had drinking problems. After they embarrassed the company with their behavior at a dedication ceremony in 1960, the versatile Tom Murray was brought down from Sun Valley to take charge of the parks. The change took place in a manner typical of the way the railroad did things. Murray got a call from Elgin Hicks, who said he wanted Murray to go down with him to straighten out some trouble in Utah. It was July 10, the height of the season, but Murray hopped a plane to Salt Lake, where he joined Hicks on a business car. (Klein notes: Stoddard notice, May 1, 1957, UPO; OMN to L. J. Tracy, Aug. 18, 1959, UPN; Stoddard to Lovett, Aug. 19, 1959, UPN; Tracy memorandum, Aug. 26, 1959, UPN; Murray interview, 9-12.)

When they got to Cedar City, Hicks told Murray to wait on the car while he went to see the manager. A few minutes later he returned and took Murray into the office. "This is Tom Murray," Hicks said curtly to the manager. "You get your hat and go home." The assistant was also fired on the spot. In this abrupt manner Murray learned he had a new job. He had been to the parks exactly once before. Hicks waltzed him through the facilities--a day or two at Zion, the same at Grand Canyon, and one at Bryce. Then back to Cedar City, where Hicks climbed on his car and was gone, leaving Murray in charge of seven hundred employees. (Klein notes: Murray interview, 9-15; G. R. Shideler to F. M. Perrine, July 8, 1960, UPO; R. A. Fimmel to Perrine, July 11, 1960, UPO; Stoddard notice, July 11, 1960, UPO; Rulon Iverson to Stoddard, July 16, 1960, UPO; Hicks to Stoddard, July 18, 1960, UPO; Murray to Stoddard, July 18, 1960, UPO; Conrad L. Wirth, Aug. 29, 1960, UPO.)

This was probably the most decisive thing Hicks ever did, and it solved the problem. Murray did a splendid job under trying conditions, but the basic weakness remained. Sutton ran some figures in 1957 showing that the Union Pacific had swallowed a net loss of $3.5 million since the parks opened in 1923. Small wonder that Stoddard was eager to find someone to take the whole operation off the company's hands. Unlike Sun Valley, however, no willing buyer stepped forward. Not until 1967, when passenger traffic was nearly extinct, did the Union Pacific find a potential buyer in General Host. (Klein notes: Sutton to Stoddard, Jan. 20, 1957, UPO; James J. Murray to William J. McDonald, Jan. 15, 1968, UPO.)

The deal was announced in January 1968, subject only to obtaining an extension of the concession for the parks from the government. But the National Park Service imposed terms for the latter that ultimately killed the deal. Other interested buyers also balked at the government demand that large sums be invested in modernizing facilities. Unable to get past this obstacle, the Union Pacific finally donated its facilities to the Park Service in 1972. (Klein notes: Press release, Jan. 26, 1968, UPO; Omaha World-Herald, Jan. 30, 1968; E. H. Bailey to George B. Hartog, Jr., Mar. 15, 1968, UPO; How to Bailey, Apr. 21, 1968, UPO; Murray to Bailey, Apr. 22, 1968, UPO; Bailey to Barnett, Apr. 26, 1968, UPO; Bailey to James J. Murray, May 3, 1968, UPO; Idaho State Journal, May 28, 1969; Sutton memorandum, Sept. 23, 1969, UPN; Harlan L. Bill to Bailey, Oct. 24, 1969, UPN; AOM to Bailey, May 19, 1970, UPO; J. P. Deasey to John C. Kenefick, Mar. 10, 1971, UPO; Kenefick to James H. Evans, Mar. 11, 1971, UPO; Kenefick to George C. Fleharty, Mar. 11, 1971, UPO; W. S. Cook to Barnett, Sept. 17, 1971, UPO; Ogden Standard-Examiner, Mar. 15, 1972; WSJ, Mar. 20, 1972.)


Zions Canyon National Monument created.

A private auto-stage company, Wylie Way Company, started transporting UP passengers from Lund to Cedar City and beyond to the scenic attractions of southern Utah.

July 1922
UP president Carl Gray admitted that UP was considering a branch line from Lund to Zions Canyon. (Deseret News)

October 18, 1922
LA&SL received ICC approval to construct the 32.5-mile Cedar City Branch. To be completed by December 31, 1923. (ICC Finance Docket 2527)

The Parry Brothers had started their Utah-Arizona Parks Transportation Company in 1917, in conjunction with W. W. Wylie's National Park Transportation System and Camping Company. In 1923, Utah Parks Co. acquired part of the two companies' operation, and the remainder in 1927.

The Parry operation had originally used White autobus touring cars, which carried 11 to 13 passengers. In 1925, the Utah Parks Company purchased a new fleet of buses, with retractable canvas tops, similar to those used at the other national parks.

March 23, 1923
Utah Parks Company incorporated in Utah.

March 29, 1923
Union Pacific Railroad organized Utah Parks Company as a subsidiary of the railroad. The company was incorporated in Utah. A separate organization was needed to satisfy the concerns of National Park Service that a railroad would not have a monopoly over both transportation services and lodging services in national parks.

June 15, 1923
The last rail was laid on Union Pacific's Cedar City Branch, connecting the mainline at Lund to Cedar City, a distance of 37 miles. The line was officially opened on June 26, 1923, and the first regularly scheduled passenger trains began running on the line on July 2nd of that year. ("Cedar City Branch And The Utah Parks Company", by Thornton Waite)

June 26, 1923
UP's Cedar City Branch was officially opened, including a ceremony presided over by U. S. President Warren G. Harding, who arrived by special train. Harding died on August 2, 1923. (Signor, LA&SL, page 94)

May 15, 1925
UP started its auto-stage tours of Bryce Canyon, Zions Canyon, and Cedar Breaks. (Signor, LA&SL, page 94)

September 20, 1925
Due to flood conditions along Meadow Valley Wash in southeastern Nevada, a northbound train of 118 Pullman passengers bound for Cedar City and a tour by Utah Parks Company, were de-trained at Moapa, passengers and baggage loaded into a caravan of 14 identical Utah Park Co. buses, and taken 152 miles to Cedar City, where a new set of Pullman cars awaited them. Upon arrival at Cedar City, the staff of the El Escalante Hotel received them in fine fashion. (Washington County News, September 24, 1925)

Union Pacific's Utah Parks Company began operating the facilities at Grand Canyon National Park, and took over the interests of Utah & Grand Canyon Transportation Company, the bus company that was operating the bus service between Union Pacific's passenger trains at Cedar City and Cedar Breaks National Monument, Bryce Canyon National Monument, Zion's Canyon National Park, and Grand Canyon National Park. The bus company had begun the service in 1923. (Poor's, 1929, p. 1052)

(Union Pacific changed the name of the bus company to Union Pacific Stage Company.)

February 25, 1927
Gronway and Chauncey Parry, owners and controlling stockholders of Utah Parks Company, has sold that company to Union Pacific Railroad. The sale included the company franchise within the national parks, the equipment and garages. The purchase price was reported as being $150,000. (Iron County Record, February 25, 1927)

1928 Season
During the 1928 season, which ended on September 30th, a total of 30,016 persons visited Zion National Park, a new record. During the 1927 season, the total was 24,303, also a record. During the 1928 season, a total 7,532 private autos arrived with 25,031 persons. Also during 1928, Union Pacific Stages brought 4,940 persons into the park, compared to 3,053 during 1927. Although the season ended on September 30th, the Zion Lodge (owned and operated by Utah Parks Co.) was to remain open until October 15th. The park itself remained open year around for use by campers. (Parowan Times, October 3, 1928)

October 1930
Union Pacific was operating Trains 3 and 4 between Salt Lake City and Lund, and Trains 103 and 104 between Lund and Cedar City. In October 1930 the Public Utilities Commission approved the road's application to discontinue all four trains and only operate passenger train service to Cedar City during the tourist season. During the off-season the service was to be provided using motor buses of the Union Pacific Stages. (Public Service Commission of Utah, case 1197)

September 2, 1932
A fire destroyed the main lodge building of the Grand Canyon Lodge of Utah Parks Co. (Iron County Record, September 10, 1936)

September 10, 1936
A fire destroyed the Men's Dormitory building of the Grand Canyon Lodge of Utah Parks Co. It had been used as the headquarters for the hotel and dining room since a fire destroyed the main lodge in September 1932. Throughout the summer, there had been crews working to rebuild the main lodge building. (Iron County Record, September 10, 1936)

July 1941
Utah Parks Company received two GM PG2903 Parlor Coaches (gasoline-fueled, 29-seat), numbered as Utah Parks 20-22, GM serials 102224-102226.

November 1946
Utah Parks Company received three GM PG2903 Parlor Coaches, numbered as Utah Parks 30-32, GM serials 116877-116879.

December 1946
Utah Parks Company received five GM PG2904 Parlor Coaches, numbered as Utah Parks 24-26, 28, 29, GM serials 117065-117069.

1956 Season
The "Inn" facilities of Utah Parks Co. at Zion, Bryce and Grand canyons opened on May 15th. The "Lodges" opened on June 10th, and closed on September 12th. The "Inns" were to close on October 15th. Utah Parks Co. employed 850 persons during the 1956 season, 75 percent of which were students from Utah high schools and colleges. (Iron County Record, September 20, 1956)

January 29, 1968
Union Pacific Railroad and General Host Corp. announced the purchase of Utah Parks Co. by General Host. In this initial "sale," General Host was to acquire all the shares of Utah Parks in exchange for equal value in General Host common stock. (Deseret News, January 29, 1968)

(These negotiations, which were three-way between Union Pacific, General Host, and National Park Service, apparently continued for at least two years, without success.)

September 3, 1968
General Host Corp. announced "today" that it had purchased the facilities of Utah Parks Company at Zion, Bryce and Grand Canyon national parks, and Cedar Breaks National Monument. The announcement came during a press conference held at the Utah state capital building in Salt Lake City. The announcement of the pending purchase came at the first of the year [1968] but transfer of ownership was subject to negotiations of the concessions with National Park Service. General Host already operated facilities in Yellowstone National Park, and Everglades National Park in Florida, as well as manufacturing and marketing bakery goods under the Van de Kamp and Eddy's brand names. General Host stated that by 1971 they would be investing $2 million to rehabilitate that Utah Parks facilities. (Deseret News, September 3, 1968)

June 24, 1969
The National park Service asked for a one-year extension in the concession contracts between itself and Utah Parks Co. There had been "difficulties" in the negotiations for General Host to purchase Utah Parks Co. (Salt Lake Tribune, June 24, 1969)

May 1, 1971
Union Pacific stopped operating its City of Los Angeles passenger trains through the Lund station as of May 1, 1971. Amtrak did not operate a replacement for UP's City of Los Angeles train.

The following comes from the March 1972 issue of the UP INFO employee newsletter.

After nearly 50 years in the tourist business Union Pacific has turned over all of its concession properties in four national parks to the United States of America and certain of its properties and facilities at Cedar City and Kanab, Utah, to the National Park Foundation.

UP will donate to the United States all of the facilities and equipment owned by subsidiary, Utah Parks Company, including the lodges, inns, cabins, service station and curio shop facilities in Zion , Bryce Canyon and Grand Canyon (North Rim) National Parks, and the lodge and cabins in Cedar Breaks National Monument.

In addition , UP will donate to the National Park Foundation the laundry at Kanab, Utah, certain real property at Cedar City, Utah, and the bus and automotive fleets used for guided tours of the national parks.

The donation is valued at more than $2 million.

UP has operated facilities in the national parks in Utah and Arizona since 1923 when it built a rail spur line from Lund to Cedar City, Utah, and organized the Utah Parks Company. That same year, UP acquired a bus transportation route from Cedar City to Zion National Park as well as a tourist camp in the park.

In 1926, UP established daily bus service to Zion, the north rim of Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon. A year later UP began construction of lodge and cabin facilities at Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon. Utah Parks Company has continued to operate bus tours and facilities at the four national parks since that time.

Under the terms of the donation, Utah Parks Company will operate the facilities for the National Parks Service through 1972.

March 13, 1972
Union Pacific donated all of the Utah Parks Company facilities to National Park Service, and NPS accepted the facilities as a gift on Monday March 13, 1972. The facilities were valued at more than $2 million. Union Pacific president John C. Kenefick stated that Union Pacific would donate to the federal government all of the facilities and equipment owned by its subsidiary Utah Parks Company, including lodges, inns, cabins, service station and curio shop facilities in Zion, Bryce Canyon and Grand Canyon (North Rim) national parks, and the lodge and cabins in Cedar Breaks National Monument. Union Pacific also donated the laundry at Kanab, certain real property at Cedar City and the bus and automobile fleets used for guided tours in the national parks. (Salt Lake Tribune, March 14, 1972; Deseret News, March 14, 1972)

(More research is needed to determine the disposition of the buses of Utah Parks Co. after this donation by Union Pacific.)

Union Pacific, The National Park Route

(Mirrored without permission from "Railroads And The National Parks at 100" by John Kelley, in Trains magazine, August 2016, Volume 76, Number 8, page 42-47)

As early as 1884, Union Pacific explored the possibility of building a branch line into Yellowstone Park. At that time access to Yellowstone for UP passengers was via the Oregon Short Line (Union Pacific's subsidiary in Oregon, Montana, and northern Utah) at a station in Monida, Mont., with transfer to a time-consuming and strenuous stagecoach ride to the park. However, travel over the Oregon Short Line was not as expedient as on NP's route from Livingston to the park's North Entrance.

It is interesting to note that both UP and NP might have combined passenger operations to Yellowstone Park in 1887, during the tenure of Charles Francis Adams Jr., president of Union Pacific from 1884 to 1890. At that time, T.F. Oakes, NP's vice president (and its president from 1888 to 1893) asked Adams to buy $100,000 worth of stock in the Yellowstone Park Association to build three more park hotels. Oakes suggested to Adams that it would be "better to share in a very large business than to have a monopoly of a small business," but the jointly owned hotels and combined passenger service never happened. Adams was tempted, the idea was good, but the timing was wrong due to UP's ongoing expansion projects, which were draining company finances.

However, in 1905, while on a stagecoach ride through Yellowstone Park, UP President E.H. Harriman was so impressed with the area's natural beauty that he authorized the Oregon Short Line to survey and set up estimates for construction of a rail line to the park. The Yellowstone Park Railroad Co. was incorporated Sept. 12, 1905, and authorized to build a line to Yellowstone National Park that became part of the UP Yellowstone Branch, and also to Victor, which became the Teton Valley Branch. The railroad reached the western edge of Yellowstone National Park in fall 1907. UP provided service at two entrances to the park, the West Entrance and South Entrance, with passenger service starting the following year on June 11, 1908. Train service to Victor with bus connections to the South Entrance began Feb. 26, 1929, coinciding with the opening of Grand Teton National Park.

UP also invested in modern facilities at West Yellowstone, including a passenger depot built of natural rocks that opened in 1909. In 1922, UP built a separate building west of the depot to store passenger luggage during the busy summer travel season. And in 1925, UP architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood designed a large dining lodge at the park with capacity to feed 300 people. UP promoted the slogan "National Park Route since at that point it served several national parks in the West.

By the early 1920s, NP and UP were fierce rivals for passengers to Yellowstone National Park. Both roads creatively promoted their park service through colorful travel posters, brochures, public timetables, and national magazines, such as Life, Look, and the Saturday Evening Post. Many brochures featured travelers seated in dome cars, while booklets offered cutaway diagrams of Pullman upper and lower berths, roomettes, double bedrooms, and compartment sleeping accommodations. Other images showed passengers enjoying delicious meals in the dining car. Both roads operated special trains to the Western parks as well as extra sections of regular scheduled trains.

On June 26, 1923, UP opened the Cedar City, Utah, branch from Lund, Utah, on its Salt Lake City-Los Angeles route, with the goal of promoting train travel to Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon in southern Utah, as well as the north rim of the Grand Canyon. UP's 1925 public timetable listed two local trains to Cedar City from Lund. The trains allowed morning and afternoon connections from the main line at Lund with UP trains including the Yellowstone Special, Los Angeles Limited, and Continental Limited. UP also formed a subsidiary bus and hotel management company, the Utah Parks Co., in March 1923, which built hotels and offered tours of the three parks through a concession agreement with the National Park Service.

From the Cedar City depot, Utah Parks Co. took vacationers on escorted, all-expense paid tours in buses with rollback tops. "Never before have you enjoyed a vacation trip which was so free from care and travel details," boasted a brochure from 1931. Many of the railroad's well-publicized posters featured full-color interpretations of Zion and Bryce, as well as Yellowstone's Old Faithful Geyser. Between 1923 and 1960, UP successfully used Yellowstone bears in cartoon-like advertising. One of the ads featured a group of bears holding the historic Union Pacific shield with the words "All lined up for 1923," UP and partner Chicago & North Western produced beautifully illustrated travel books entitled "Summer Tours." Those vacation books were some of the first to feature full-page color maps and photos. Escorted package tours, ranging from eight to 14 days, offered travelers the chance to visit parks, wilderness areas, and cities throughout the West, the Pacific Northwest, and Alaska.

Yellowstone Park Railroad Company

(The following comes from the Oregon Short Line Railroad corporate history, completed in 1916 at the request of the ICC)

1. Incorporation and Organization.

Yellowstone Park Railroad Company was incorporated under the general laws of the State of Idaho. Its Articles of Incorporation are dated September 12th, 1905, and were filed with the Secretary of State of Idaho September 14th, 1905. The date of the organization of the company is October 4th, 1905.

2. (a) Termini and Description.

This railroad was from St. Anthony, Idaho, through Ashton, Idaho, to Yellowstone, Montana, 70.36 miles, with a branch under course of construction from Ashton, Idaho, to Driggs, Idaho, 37.7 miles, making a total of 107.73 miles; 60.86 miles of the main line and all or the branch were located within Idaho and the remainder of the main line, 9.5 miles, was in Montana.

2. (b) Construction.

Construction of the line between St. Anthony, Idaho, and Yellowstone, Montana, was begun October 3rd, 1905, and completed in the Fail of 1909. Grading for the branch from Ashton to Driggs was started at Ashton by Yellowstone Park Railroad Company on September 23rd, 1910, and subsequent to October 31st, 1910, the work of constructing this branch was continued and completed by Oregon Short Line Railroad Company.

3. Operation.

That part from St. Anthony to Ingling, Idaho, of the line from St. Anthony to Yellowstone was turned over to Oregon Short Line Railroad Company for operation, June 10th, 1906. On July 1st, 1906, the Yellowstone Park Railroad Company leased its railroad property to Oregon Short Line Railroad Company. The remainder of the line was turned over to the Oregon Short Line Railroad Company for operation as follows: Ingling to Warm River, Idaho, July 6th, 1908, and Warm River, Idaho, to Yellowstone, Montana, June 1st, 1909. On October 31st, 1910, the Yellowstone Park Railroad Company conveyed its entire railroad property by deed of sale to the Oregon Short Line Railroad Company.

More Information

Utah Parks Company Wikipedia Article

"Summer Tours and Western Travel" -- On-line article from the Classic Trains web site, dated July 2001; includes information about all of the western railroads' efforts at promoting rail travel to the national parks.

"The Cedar City Branch and The Utah Parks Company" by Thornton Waite, The Streamliner, Volume 12, Number 3, Summer 1998