Emigration Canyon Railroad

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This page was last updated on November 3, 2019.

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July 4, 1907
The Emigration Canyon Railroad made its first run. A letter to the editor expressed displeasure that the first excursion ran only to the Wagener Brewery, instead of the rumored full run of eight miles. The letter also asked that a no-beer day be investigated, at least for runs made on Sunday. (Inter-Mountain Republican, July 7, 1907)

October 25, 1907
The Emigration Canyon Railroad is being built, with most of the roadbed prepared. Rails will start to be laid "in a few days" with the road being completed within six months. Judge Young had owned stone quarries in Red Butte Canyon for more than forty years, along with a right of way across the millitary resevation to allow access to the quarries. The government traded (date???) Young's ownership in the quarries for land for what is now Federal Heights, and a right of way along the south side of the military reservation for purposes of a steam or electric railway into Emigration Canyon. Judge Young sold (date???) the Federal Heights land, but retained the right of way along the south side. "A few days ago" Judge Young purchased property at Fifth South and Thirteenth East as the site of a rock depot and passenger station. (Salt Lake Telegram, October 25, 1907)

May 29, 1909
"On account of the delayed shipment of our new cars from the East, there will be no service to Emigration Canyon Memorial Day." (Deseret News, May 29, 1909)

February 22, 1917
A special meeting of 150 residents and owners of summer cottages in the canyon was held to determine the future of the Emigration Canyon Railroad, following the announcement a month earlier by LeGrand Young that the railroad would no longer be operated, due to an annual loss of $7,000.00. Judge Young also attended the meeting. These same residents later organized the Emigration Canyon Improvement Company to formally protest the abandonment of the railroad, stating that when they had purchased their properties they had been assured that the railroad would continue to be operated. (Deseret News February 23, 1917, includes a list of names of those who attended)

March 19, 1917
Both LeGrand Young, president of the railroad, and Fred Wey, manager of Pinecrest Inn, made public statements about the possibility of Utah Light & Traction purchasing the Emigration Canyon Railroad, which had earlier announced that trains would not be running for the 1917 season. (Deseret News, March 19, 1917)

April 23, 1917
The Utah Public Utilities Commission held its first hearing concerning the abandonment fo Emigration Canyon Railroad. (Deseret News April 20, 1917)

June 1, 1917
The Public Utilities Commission held hearings on two days (May 31st and June 1st) considering the abandonment of the Emigration Canyon Railroad. Under cross examination by the lawyer for the Improvement company, Judge Yound stated that during 1915, the railroad carried 59,810 passengers (8,243 on passes), and during 1916 it carried 57,503 passengers (4,083 on passes). The Improvement company intiminated that it was the duty of the railroad to continue to operate the railroad without consideration of payments to shareholders or bondholders, as long as the operating expenses were being covered. (Deseret News, June 1, 1917)

June 13, 1917
A mass meeting was held at the Commercial Club in Salt Lake City to consider the future of the Emigration Canyon Railroad. (Deseret News, June 13, 1917)

June 20, 1917
The residents of Emigration Canyon petitioned the Salt Lake City Commission to purchase, for $3,000.00, the roadbed of the Emigration Canyon Railroad between Thirteenth East and the mouth of the canyon, if it were to be abandoned. But since the city already had a right of way from the federal government for a wagon road alongside the railroad, the commission would not take any action on the petition. (Deseret News June 20, 1917; June 26, 1917)

August 2, 1917
The Emigration Canyon Improvement Company withdrew its protest against the abandonment of the Emigration Canyon Railroad. The railroad company would not tear up its tracks, but would instead sell its right of way and equipment to an eastern corporation that may continue its operation. (Deseret News, August 2, 1917)

The following is taken from Utah Public Service Commission Case No. 1, Emigration Canyon Railroad Abandonment, approved August 20, 1917.

To cease operating and dismantle its railroad, located in Emigration canyon.

Operating at a loss of $5,000 to $8,000 per year, with a deficit of $18,000 per year to pay the taxes and the interest on the bonds. The bondholders are willing to allow the company to cease operations. In 1908 the company issued three-hundred $1,000 bonds; these were superseded in 1909 by a single $300,000 bond.

The company was organized on April 24, 1907 by LeGrand Young, and all stock was either owned or controlled by him. Construction was finished in the fall of 1907 and operation began in 1908. A franchise was granted for operation in Salt Lake City on February 5, 1908. A franchise was granted for operation in Emigration canyon by Salt Lake County on April 9, 1910. The railroad's depot was located at 1337 East 500 South.

The road was built to transport sandstone as a building material. Almost immediately, concrete became a strong competitor, causing the sandstone quarries to close, forcing the railroad to depend entirely on passenger traffic. The freight traffic was mostly stone for building purposes, including rubble stone and blocking ("ashler") stone. Starting in 1909 the stone business fell off at least 75 percent. In 1916 only about 100 cords (a container 4x4x8 feet, 128 cubic feet) of building stone was used in Salt Lake City, compared to over 7,000 cords of stone used in the city in 1906 and 1907. In 1916 the railroad did not haul a single car of stone, due to lack of demand.

Protested by the Emigration Canyon Improvement Company and the National Real Estate & Improvement Company, stating that their property located in the canyon would lose value if the railroad was allowed to discontinue its operation.

Protested by Salt Lake City Corporation, based on the public good.

Notice of intent to cease operations was published in the Herald–Republican and Deseret Evening News on April 12, 1917.

August 3, 1917
The Utah Public Utilities Commission gave its approval for the abandonment and removal of the Emigration Canyon Railroad. Company officials stated that wrecking crews would "begin tearing up the tracks and removing its equipment early next week." (Deseret News, August 4, 1917).

September 20, 1990
A historical marker commemorating the Emigration Canyon Railroad was placed at the mouth of Emigration Canyon, on the plaza just east of the entrance to Hogle Zoo. The marker was placed by the Canyon Rim Chapter of the Sons of Utah Pioneers. (Deseret News, September 21, 1990)

Pinecrest Inn

Pinecrest Inn was built in 1913 by Charles N. Strevell and James H. Paterson, on land donated by LeGrande Young, who had built the Emigration Canyon Railroad in 1907. Young's interest was to increase passenger traffic on his railroad, allowing city residents to escape the heat and congestion of Salt Lake City. But after the railroad was shut down in 1917, the inn struggled to survive without a direct railroad connection the the city. Purchased in 1919 as a retreat by the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City, and later by the LDS church, the inn was leased in 1947 to George B. Christenson with hopes to renovate and reopen as a commercial venture. But the lease was not successful due to restrictions on the sale of beer and liquor, and in 1951 the LDS church decided to demolish the building.

June 21, 1913
The Pincrest Inn was being rushed to completion in time for opening on July 4th. (Deseret News, June 21, 1913)

June 11, 1919
Pinecrest Inn was purchased by the Catholic church, as a summer home for the Sisters of the Holy Cross. The purchase was by the Right Reverend Bishop Joseph S. Glass, from A. Fred Wey, owner of the inn. The inn was built "seven years ago" by the National Real Estate Company, an was sold to the hotel company two years later. The building had 60 rooms, half with private baths, and an 18 by 100 feet porch along its east side. It was the most popular resort in the Salt Lake City area, until the tracks of the rialroad were removed. (Deseret News, June 12, 1919, "yesterday")

The following comes from Eileen Hallet Stone's series in the Salt Lake Tribune, May 12 and 24, and June 17, 2013:

Young pinned his hopes on tourism, increased passenger traffic and a possible reprieve for his struggling railroad. He also donated free transportation of building supplies, workers and employees. Pinecrest Inn was designed by Salt Lake architect Frank Winder Moore as an outdoor resort with the conveniences of a modern home equipped with steam heat, electric lights, telephone and running water. Its substantial structure contained 75 rooms (25 with baths), spacious dining and living rooms, a commercial kitchen, stone fireplace, large ballroom, meeting rooms and 112-foot porch overlooking the canyon.

In 1919, Pinecrest Inn changed ownership. Purchased by Bishop Joseph Glass of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City, it was converted into a summer retreat for the Sisters of the Holy Cross. It then was acquired by the LDS Church and was rented out as a winter resort, summer inn, restaurant, nurses' training center and refuge for children suffering from polio. In 1947, [George B.] Christenson negotiated a lease with the LDS Church to restore the inn to its pristine quality.

The following comes from the Deseret News, July 3, 2006:

The Swiss chalet-style Pinecrest Inn, built in 1913, served as a hotel, nuns' retreat, polio training center, LDS Church girls' camp and a hotel again before being dismantled in 1949. The rubble caught fire two years later, igniting rumors the inn had burned down.

The Pinecrest Inn, boasting cross-country skiing, tobogganing and skating, was touted as a winter resort to rival St. Moritz, Switzerland, in 1921.

U.S. Sen. Reed Smoot of Utah in 1927 offered President Calvin Coolidge the Pinecrest Inn as a summer White House. Coolidge visited Salt Lake City that year but neither accepted nor rejected the offer.

In May 1921, Howard Spencer was granted permission by the Utah Public Utilities Commission to operate an automobile stage service between Salt Lake City and the Pinecrest Inn. Spencer already owned 37 passenger cars and had operated a similar service between Salt Lake City and Tooele for the past two years. (Utah Public Utilities Commission, Case 421, decided on May 25, 1921)


An examination of Sanborn Fire Insurance maps (Salt Lake City, 1911, sheet 279) shows that the offices of Emigration Canyon Railroad were located at 1333 East 5th South, including a waiting room across the street on the south side of 5th South, at 1338 East 5th South, as the route turned from 5th (500) South onto its private right-of-way at about 1340 East.

The right of way proceeded south from 5th (500) South along 1340 East between 5th South and 7th South, along the western edge of Mount Olivit cemetery.

A short remanant of the right-of-way for the 5th South yards still exists as a street along the western edge of the UofU stadium parking lot. Another remanant remains as a vacant lot directly south, along the western edge of Mount Olivit cemetery.

Sunnyside Avenue

The street known as Sunnyside Avenue, with a general alignment between 8th South and 9th South, east of 12th East, was in place as early as June 1908 when an address along the street was mentioned in an article in the June 5, 1908 issue of the Salt Lake Herald.

In November 1910, the Salt Lake City school board asked that Sunnyside Avenue be vacated between 12th East and 13th East to allow the construction of East High School. (Salt Lake Herald, November 4, 1910)

July 1919
Sunnyside Avenue was completed along the route of the abandoned Emigration Canyon Railroad, "The streets to be improved are E. Fifth South and Sunnyside avenue. Both lead directly to the canyon, the latter being along the route of the old railroad line." (Salt Lake Herald, July 24, 1919; upon the occasion of residents of Emigration Canyon complaining to both the Salt Lake County Commission, and the Salt Lake City Commission concerning the deplorable condition of the roads leading to the canyon.)

In 1921, the city water department was to construct two 10,000 gallon settling tanks at the mouth of Emigration Canyon, to prevent debris from the conduit from Big Cottonwood Creek, from entering the conduit being built along Sunnyside Avenue.

In 1931, Mr. and Mrs. James A. Hogle donated land at the mouth of Emigration Canyon. Hogle Zoo officially opened on August 1, 1931.

In October 1931, a resident of Diestel Road, where it meets Sunnyside Avenue, complained about the dangerous curve in Sunnyside Avenue where it meets 17th East. Obviously, today Sunnyside is perfectly straight between 14th East and Hogle Zoo, so a re-alignment apparently took place.

In October 1932, the city budgeted $50,000 to pave Sunnyside Avenue between 13th East and the zoo. But by May 1940, the street had still not yet been paved. At that time, there were plans afoot concerning the War Department not cooperating in the construction of the "Parleys Canyon Cutoff" by not allowing the new road to cross the military reservation. The federal government wanted the new road to divert along the south and west sides of the reservation, to 5th South. The cutoff is now today's Foothill Drive.

In November 1951 work began on the new road north from Foothill Blvd. and 21st East, north along 21st East and across Sunnyside Avenue on a curving alignment across the Fort Douglas reservation and avoiding the soon-to-be completed Veterans Hospital, to a connection with 5th South. The new road was completed and opened for public use on October 1, 1952, and was designated as Alternate U. S. 40.

Equipment Listings

Equipment Roster -- A listing of Emigration Canyon Railroad equipment.


Emigration Canyon Railroad -- Map of Emigration Canyon Railroad, lifted from "Interurbans of Utah", page 5.

Emigration Canyon Railroad -- A Google Map of the electric railroad east of Salt Lake City in Emigration Canyon, operated 1907-1917.


Emigration Canyon Railroad Photos

More Information

Emigration Canyon Railroad, Swett -- An excerpt from Ira Swett's "Interurbans of Utah".

Emigration Canyon Railroad, Quinby -- The scanned text of a descriptive article by E. J. Quinby, published in ERA Headlights.

Wagener Brewery -- Information about the Wagener brewery at the mouth of Emigration Canyon, served by Salt Lake & Fort Douglas (1888-1897), then by Emigration Canyon Railroad (1907-1914).