Salt Lake & Western Railway (1881-1889)

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This page was last updated on November 18, 2014.

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Controlled by UP

Incorporated - May 30, 1881

Construction started - summer 1881

First train on June 10, 1882

Included with others to form Oregon Short Line & Utah Northern Railway on July 27, 1889

Became UP's Fairfield Branch.

Robert Edwards (co-author of Utah Ghost Rails, 1989) told the author on February 28, 1979 that at one time, UP operated a passenger train from Salt Lake City to Lehi, and on to Los Angeles, via the Fairfield Branch.


From Cutler (north of Lehi) on Utah Southern, west and southwest to Five Mile Pass, the south to Boulter Summit and Tintic Mining District.


Topliff to Boulter, 1927

Five Mile Pass to Topliff, 1938

Cutler to Five Mile Pass, 1952

Stations (UP Fairfield Branch):

At Cutler (ex Lehi Junction) there was an enginehouse, coal bins, and ash pit. Just to the west was Lehi Manufacturing and Building Company (later General Refactories).

At the crossing with Rio Grande Western (later Mesa siding), note in ICC valuation drawing, "Salt Lake & Western R.R. paid $3,458.70 cost of raising grade and constructing bridge for R.G.W. Ry., verbal agreement, 1900."

Testimony of W. W. Riter

W. W. Riter testified at the Pacific Railway Commission hearings at Salt Lake City on 20 July, and on 21 July 1887 at his office in Salt Lake City due to the books of the SL&W being too "voluminous" to bring to the commission, so the commission went to his office. (Serial Set 2506, pages 2194, 2195, 2198, 2199, 2200) (done on March 3, 1982)

W. W. Riter built the Salt Lake & Western for Union Pacific. (page 2194)

Union Pacific furnished iron, fishplates, spikes, bolts, etc., from the East. (page 2194)

Union Pacific cash to pay for the construction, including grading and ties. (page 2195)

W. W. Riter was Superintendent of Salt Lake & Western since May 1881, also Superintendent of narrow-gauge Utah & Nevada. (page 2198)

Union Pacific furnished money and materials. (page 2198)

Salt Lake & Western was organized to build to California, to meet with company of same name in Nevada. Riter surveyed line to Mono Lake in California. (page 2199)

Several miles of grading was done beyond present terminus, at place called "Tintic", with a four mile branch built up to "Cedar City". (page 2199)

Length of Salt Lake & Western was "a few feet short of 58 miles". (page 2199)

$34,859.30 spent for equipment. (page 2199)

Standard gauge. (page 2199)

Four mile branch built to "Cedar City" with second hand iron rail from Utah Central. (page 2200)

Construction of Salt Lake & Western began on May 31, 1881. (page 2200)

Salt Lake & Western mainline, from Lehi Junction to Tintic, was completed on July 1, 1882. (page 2200)


May 30, 1881
Salt Lake & Western Railway incorporated to build a line from Lehi Junction, on the Utah Southern, to the Utah/Nevada territory line near the 40th parallel. (OSL corporate history) Union Pacific also organized a separate Salt Lake & Western Railway in both California and Nevada, to serve as the method of building a line to San Francisco in competition with Central Pacific. In March 1882, because of the poor financial outlook, Union Pacific postponed the expansion of the SL&W into California. (Reeder, pp. 361-363)

(Remember that Lehi Junction had been the planned starting point of the defunct Lehi & Tintic Railroad of 1872.)

May 31, 1881
Salt Lake & Western began construction, at Lehi Junction. (Riter, Pacific Railway Commission hearings, p. 2200)

16 October 1881
Several hundred men are at work at the junction of the Salt Lake & Western and the Utah Central, about 2-1/2 miles north of Lehi, leveling ground for the depot, etc., and laying track westward. A large quantity of iron is on the ground now, and more arriving all the time. (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, 16 October 1881)

25 May 1882
"The Salt Lake & Western is having a combined passenger and baggage car [built] at Evanston for use on the road." Note that the page was torn, and "[built]" is guessed at, but seems appropriate. (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, 25 May 1882)

28 May 1882
The Salt Lake & Western is to be opened to public travel on Wednesday, 1 June 1882, between Lehi (Junction) and Boulder (Boulder), present western terminus, about 44 miles in all. (Salt Lake Daily Herald, 28 May 1882)

June 24, 1882
Salt Lake & Western tracks completed to "Mammoth" smelters. (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, October 25, 1882, "last night") (The Mammoth smelters were at Tintic, sometimes called "Tintic Mills".) The line was completed to Tintic, 53.77 miles from Lehi Junction. Operation began on June 10th. (OSL corporate history) In the July 1889 Pacific Railway Commission hearings, W. W. Riter stated that the road was completed on July 1. Union Pacific had furnished the cash to pay for the grading and ties and also furnished all of the rail and other track materials needed for construction of the road. (Riter, Pacific Railway Commission hearings, p. 2200)

25 June 1882
The Salt Lake & Western track was completed to the Mammoth smelters, in Tintic, last night; will be the end of the line for now. (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, 25 June 1882)

15 November 1882
Salt Lake & Western has received a new locomotive, No 1, from the Taunton Locomotive Works, Massachusetts. (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, 15 November 1882)

27 November 1882
Railroad Racket: "Salt Lake & Western engine No. 1 came in for repairs Saturday night and returned Sunday evening." (Salt Lake Evening Chronicle, 27 November 1882)

1 February 1883
"Returned to Evanston." "For the past ten days a borrowed Union Pacific locomotive has been at work on the road between Lehi Junction and Tintic, helping ... with their rush of freight. Last evening, this locomotive, ... came up to the city, and this morning followed the 7 o'clock north-bound passenger to Ogden, on the way back to Evanston." (Salt Lake Evening Chronicle, 1 February 1883)

13 February 1883
Railroad Chat: "Another locomotive, intended for use on the Salt Lake & Western Railroad, passed south over the Utah Central to Lehi Junction this afternoon. The S. L.& W. is doing a large freight business,..." (Salt Lake Evening Chronicle, 13 February 1883)

August 9, 1883
Salt Lake & Western was extended three miles northeast to Silver City. (Ogden Herald, August 9, 1883)

In the 1887 Pacific Railway Commission hearings W. W. Riter testified that a 3.94-mile branch was built from Ironton, about three miles north of Tintic, to Silver City (called Cedar City at the time), using second-hand iron rail from the original Utah Central of 1870. (Riter, Pacific Railway Commission hearings, p. 2200)

July 27, 1889
Oregon Short Line & Utah Northern Railway is organized by merging the 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)


(View the Salt Lake & Western steam locomotive roster)

More Information

Corporate Information -- Information about the corporate organization of Salt Lake & Western Railway

Reeder -- Information about Salt Lake & Western Railway from Clarence Reeder's manuscript

UP's Tintic Branches and Shay Locomotives -- An article about mining and railroads in the Tintic Mining District, the destination of Salt Lake & Western Railway

LA&SL Fairfield Branch -- Summary information for the later years of Salt Lake & Western Railway.