Ogden Street Railroads

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This page was last updated on July 23, 2013.

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Ogden City Railway (1883-1891) -- Information about the first street railway in Ogden, powered first by mules, then by very small steam locomotives, known as "dummies."

Ogden City Street Railway (1891-1900) -- Information about the company that was reorganized from the Ogden City Railway, with new purpose to refurbish and electrify the old company; later became Ogden Rapid Transit Company.

Ogden Rapid Transit Company (1900-1914) -- Information about the street railway in Ogden that was owned by the Eccles interests; became part of Ogden, Logan & Idaho Railway in 1914.

(Ogden's street cars were operated by Ogden, Logan & Idaho Railway from 1914 to 1918, then by Utah Idaho Central Railroad from 1918 to 1920.)

Utah Rapid Transit Company (1920-1935) -- Information about the company to took over the street cars routes in Ogden from Utah Idaho Central Railroad; street car service ended in 1935 and the company was sold to Ogden Transit Company, which ran the buses in Ogden until Utah Transit Authority started in 1974.

Ogden Transit Company (1935-1974) -- Information about Ogden's bus service after 1935, taken from Motor Coach Age magazine.

Ogden & Hot Springs Railroad (1889-1903) -- Information about the steam-operated line between Ogden north city limits, and Hot Springs.

Ogden & Northwestern Railway (1903-1911) -- Information about the Eccles-owned company that bought the Ogden & Hot Springs line; sold to Ogden Rapid Transit in 1911 and became part of the electric railroad north from Ogden to Brigham City, and which later became part of the Ogden, Logan & Idaho interurban line between Ogden and Cache Valley.

Utah Idaho Central (1918-1947) -- Information about the electric interurban railroad that connected Ogden with Logan and Cache Valley; Ogden street cars sold to Utah Rapid Transit in 1920.

Ogden Street Railways -- A history of Ogden's electric railroads, as previous presented in the book "Ogden Rails."


Street railroads started in Ogden in 1883 with the formation of the Ogden City Railway on August 23, 1883, to build a mule-powered rail line in Fourth and Fifth streets (today's Twenty-fourth and Twenty-fifth streets) from Wall Street east to the city limits. Another line was to intersect the first two at Main Street (later Washington Avenue, then Washington Boulevard) and extend from the south limits to the north limits of the city, which were then at the Ogden River - for a total of five miles of street railway. (Ogden City Railway incorporation records, State of Utah, index 176 and 4332)

By late 1888, this company had completed only two miles of track and owned only a few cars and mules. In late 1888 it was purchased by investors, led by Will R. Swan, who also owned the Swan Land & Livestock Co. The new owners expanded the system within a year to 10 miles, operating it with steam-powered "motors" (also known as "dummies"), and "a great number of cars, horses, and mules." The line also included operations to the Hot Springs health resort, northwest of Ogden, over the line of the newly organized Ogden & Hot Springs Railroad and Health Resort Co., both the resort and the railroad being owned by the same Swan interests. This line ran along Washington Avenue to North Ogden, then west to Hot Springs.

In addition to the steam dummies, Ogden City Railway, in July 1890, purchased a small Shay locomotive, an unusual design of steam locomotive with a geared drive train that allowed it to travel over uneven streets and turn the sharp corners found on typical street railways. The Shay was sold in January 1891 to the Oregon Lumber Co. (owned by David Eccles), likely to raise needed cash since the company was in bankruptcy. The locomotive was later sold to the Salt Lake & Mercur Railroad in October 1894. The SL&M used it as its number 1, operating a mountain mining railroad that crossed the backbone of the Oquirrh Mountains in western Utah County. After SL&M shut down in 1918, the little locomotive was sold, and ended its career working for the Mowry Lumber Co. in Glenwood, Oregon. (Koch, The Shay Locomotive - Titan of the Timber, World Press, Chicago, 1971)

That Electric War

The street car lines in Ogden were electrified in September 1891, almost a year after the effort was first announced. But that announcement came in response to competition.

In August 1890, a company known as the Henderson-Brinker Street Railway asked for a franchise from Ogden City to build and operate an electric railway on the streets of Ogden. Immediately, Ogden City Railway protested before the city council, saying that they were providing day-to-day service with their steam motors and the business was not sufficient for a second company. The council disagreed and approved the second company's request. Ogden City Railway asked for reconsideration, with numerous supporters and local businessmen in attendance. The council refused to reconsider, and Ogden City Railway sued for an injunction against both the council and the Henderson-Brinker company, and lost.

What followed was "That Electric War" that pitted Ogden City Railway against the city council and the Henderson-Brinker company. With the approval of the franchise, the directors of the Ogden City Railway said that their company was worthless, and turned it over to the trustee and bondholders, Jarvis-Conklin Mortgage Trust Company of New York City. After taking possession, Jarvis-Conklin became very active in the management of the company. The Jarvis-Conklin group was comprised of investors from Kansas City, Omaha, and Sioux City, Iowa, who were looking to start an electrical generating enterprise, and needed a street railway to invest in and electrify. (Arrington, Eccles, pp. 232, 233)

On the night of November 2, 1890, a Sunday, they tried to block the tracklaying crews of the Henderson-Brinker company from crossing the existing company's tracks at Washington Avenue and Twenty-Fifth Street. The new company immediately sought a local judge, and a restraining order was issued while the court reviewed a claim that Ogden City Railway owed First National Bank for a promissory note in the amount of $5,000. The U. S. Marshal was on hand to serve the order, as well as the mayor, city attorney, and the entire police force, and about 2,000 spectators. It must have been quite the show while the U. S. Marshal saw that the motors and equipment were moved out of the way, and work progressed, after a stipulation that no work be done on the Sabbath. Everyone waited a couple hours until Midnight, and work resumed.

The drama withered away as the Henderson-Brinker crews got to work, laying about three blocks of tracks along Twenty-Fifth Street, to the intersection with Wall Avenue. Ogden City Railway exercised its franchise and built tracks along Twenty-Fourth Street, to block the new company's access to that street, one block north.

Within ten days, the Henderson-Brinker company began grading for its tracks along Wall Avenue, north to the location of its planned electric power plant, located on the Ogden River. On November 28, 1890, the Ogden Electric Railway was organized to take over the interests of the Henderson-Brinker company, with H. H. Henderson and J. Brinker as two of its officers.

On December 19, 1890, Ogden City Railway was placed in financial receivership, claiming that it was losing $30 to $40 per day, and that it would take $25,000 to bring its equipment up to modern standards, and another $75,000 to convert its railway to electric power. The company was sold at auction for a reported $80,000, the amount of the bond owed to Jarvis-Conklin, and a reorganized company named Ogden City Street Railway was created to get the financing needed to convert to electric power.

The new Ogden City Street Railway was organized on March 6, 1891, for the purpose of operating a street railway "along, upon and through the streets and public thoroughfares of Ogden City, and along, over, and upon the public highways of Weber County." The company soon made preparations to electrify its newly acquired system, with the work to be completed by September 1891. Jarvis-Conklin continued to control the company's destiny.

In January 1890, work had started installing poles and overhead wires, and continued under the new company. Progress was made along all of the existing street car routes, and the improvements were completed in mid August. The first electric car ran on September 25, 1891, after waiting for the completion of a new power plant to generate electrical power.

What happened to the Henderson-Brinker company, later known as Ogden Electric Railway? Apparently, not much. After the dramatic first days, the company seems to have had difficulty finding financial backers to build its power plant, and to continue with the construction of its car lines. In June 1893, as Ogden City progressed with the paving of Twenty-Fifth Street, the tracks of the Ogden Electric Railway were torn out because the company could not pay to have the space between its tracks paved.

Jarvis-Conklin continued in the daily management of the Ogden City Street Railway, but over the following years, the condition of the tracks and equipment began to deteriorate. In December 1895, the parent company was reorganized to settle its financial difficulties, and the new company, North American Trust Company, continued to show even less interest in Ogden's street railways.

Ogden Rapid Transit

By 1899, Ogden residents David Eccles and Thomas Dee became concerned about the condition of their city's deteriorating street railway and offered to purchase the company from its Midwestern owners. In May 1900, Eccles and Dee organized Ogden Rapid Transit Company to acquire and operate the properties of the Ogden City Street Railway Co. At the time, Ogden City Street Railway was operating only two cars - one on Washington Avenue and the other on 25th Street. The company's other cars were not fit for service. At midnight on Saturday, May 19, 1900, the Ogden Rapid Transit Co. took over the operation of the former Ogden City Street Railway.

In April 1900, a new franchise for street railways was issued to a group of Ogden residents that included David Eccles and his associates. On May 16, 1900, the Ogden Rapid Transit Company was organized and took over the defunct Ogden City Street Railway. On March 24, 1904, after all the financial and corporate matters were taken care of, Ogden Rapid Transit formally purchased all of the assets and interests of Ogden City Street Railway.

The Ogden Rapid Transit Co. was an Eccles company. David Eccles, head of the Eccles family and one of the wealthiest men in Utah, was the founder and heaviest investor. Throughout the history of Ogden Rapid Transit, and the later Ogden, Logan & Idaho Railway (after 1918, the Utah Idaho Central Railway), the name Eccles was never missing from the board of directors. Ogden Rapid Transit rapidly put the streetcar lines into first-class condition. The main line was along Washington Avenue, which in July 1900 was double-tracked between 19th and 23rd streets. A branch was built to Glenwood Park, and later extended up into Ogden Canyon.

Ogden Rapid Transit continued to grow over the years, including taking over the street car line north along Washington Avenue from Ogden to North Ogden, then west through Pleasant View to the resort at Hot Springs. Expansion continued and numerous improvements were made. Ogden Rapid Transit completed an electric interurban railroad from Hot Springs to Brigham City. The same owners and officers had completed a similar street railway system in Cache Valley, known as Logan Rapid Transit. In May 1914, the two companies were merged into the Ogden, Logan & Idaho Railway, serving as a fully developed all-electric railroad that provided rail service to all points between Ogden and Preston, Idaho, north of Logan. In 1918, the Ogden Logan & Idaho Railway changed its name to Utah Idaho Central Railroad, which continued to offer railroad service to the region until it ceased operations on February 16, 1947.

Ogden's Shay

A small Shay locomotive was delivered to Ogden City Railway in July 1890, as part of its overall effort to upgrade its steam-powered street car service. But the sudden distraction of the change to electric-powered street cars forced a change that included an auction to sell the interests of Ogden City Railway in order to reorganize as an all-electric Ogden City Street Railway. The steam-powered Shay locomotive was sold in January 1891 to Ogden resident David Eccles' Oregon Lumber Company, and was moved to one of that lumber company's locations in northeast Oregon. Eccles had organized his Oregon Lumber Company in 1889, with a major portion of its business being to furnish railroad ties to Union Pacific and its subsidiary companies as these companies continued their rapid expansion throughout the West.

The Ogden City Railway's Shay locomotive, Lima construction no. 295, remained in Oregon from 1891 until 1894. In 1894 it returned to Utah, having been sold to Salt Lake & Mercur Railroad as that company's first locomotive.

(Read more about the Shay locomotives used in Utah)


Chronology histories of Ogden City Railway, Ogden City Street Railway, and Ogden Rapid Transit Company