Salt Lake Terminal Company

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(Salt Lake Terminal Company Index Page)

Taken from "Interurbans of Utah" by Ira Swett, pages 66-69

A familiar feature of the business area of many American cities was the interurban station. Usually the structure was large and quite impressive -- signifying by its size the importance of the interurban. In Salt Lake City there was one of the finest interurban depots in the land. It stood at the corner of South Temple and West Temple Streets (opposite the Tabernacle) and served as the joint terminal of the city's two major interurbans: Bamberger and SL&U.

The union interurban station project was a logical solution to the problem of a satisfactory Zion terminus for the two roads. Simon Bamberger and W. C. Orem were quick to realize the economies and greater pubic convenience inherent in a joint depot.

As result, The Salt Lake Terminal Company was incorporated on November 29, 1913, in Utah for the purpose of furnishing terminal facilities for both freight and passenger business for the Bamberger (SL&O) and Orem (SL&U) companies. The capital stock, which was authorized to be $1,000,000, actually amounted to $650,000 -- which was owned 50 percent by each company.

The SLTC's property consisted of about two miles of trackage plus the passenger and freight stations. Trackage consisted of 4-1/2 blocks of double track and 2 blocks of single track extending on First West Street from a point north of South Temple Street (at which point it connected with the SL&O) to 6th South Street (where it connected with the SL&U). The passenger terminal covered an area of 90,000 square feet, upon which was erected in 1923 the $250,000 building. The freight station was constructed on the west side of First West Street between Third South and Fourth South on a site originally purchased for a joint car house.

It is interesting to note that several efforts wore made to construct the joint passenger station prior to 1923; unfavorable business conditions caused delay and this in turn brought about revisions of plans for the building -- so that the final structure when it was built incorporated ideas evolved over a period of ten years.

Before launching into a description of the resultant structure, let us examine a bit of the history of interurban passenger stations in Salt Lake City:

Oddly enough, it was the Orem Road which took the lead in the passenger terminal project. On December 5, 1912, newspapers said that Orem interests had quietly secured a site for an ornate station on First West Street between Third South and Fourth South (later this site became the freight terminal) in an interview that day, Mr. Orem stated that his company would erect a passenger station which would "be a credit to the community -- however, we have been too busy trying to rush our road to completion to give much thought to our terminals."

At that time, SL&O trains terminated at Third West and South Temple Streets, rather far from the business center. Simon Bamberger must have lost little time in reaching an understanding with Mr. Orem, for one month later the two interests, acting in concert., purchased most of the block bounded by West Temple, Third South, First West and Pierpont Streets for a consideration of almost $300,000. However, the key lot at the corner of Pierpont and West Temple was refused except at what the interurban magnates considered to be an exorbitant price. For approximately three years efforts were made to purchase the lot, during which time purchases of possible Station sites were announced at other locations in the central area, notably on Second South between West Temple and First West Streets and on upper Main Street between South Temple and First West. It was during this period that the SLTC was incorporated.

On December 24, 1913, Bamberger and Orem announced that they had decided to build a $100,000 car barn on the First West site, to have a frontage of 90 feet and a depth of 320 feet. This structure would have a capacity of sixty cars, would be of brick and steel, and would employ 25 workmen. On the same day, Bamberger announced the purchase of the necessary land to permit him to reach First West Street from Third West Street via private way. On First West his tracks would turn south and proceed direct to the proposed barn. Further confusion was added to the passenger terminal site when it was announced at this same time that a $1 million depot would be erected on the west side of First West between Second and Third South Streets. Bamberger's chief engineer was instructed to begin drawing plans for the joint barn -- and there the matter ends; the barns were never built, and Salt Lake had the distinction of being an interurban center without an interurban car house.

Two days later the Pierpont Street site was apparently back in favor, for in an attempt to secure a franchise over that street, Bamberger and Orem announced it would be their policy to open their joint depot to all interurban lines in the city of Salt Lake; this affected the Emigration Canyon Railroad and the Saltair line, which was contemplating electrification if it could obtain a downtown terminal. The franchise on First West Street was duly granted, along with a franchise on Pierpont Street to West Temple; all was clear for the construction of a depot on the Pierpont site except for the acquisition of the sole piece of property which was yet being withheld.

Haste was essential for the SL&U; it was rapidly completing its line to Provo and planned to open with gasoline cars on or about February 1, 1914. Orem decided to go ahead on his own and get a station of sorts which could be used until SLTC could decide on its site. Orem selected the southeast corner of Broadway (Third South) and First West -- upon which was hastily erected SL&U's first Salt Lake passenger depot. The building was of corrugated iron and contained the usual facilities for passengers and employees. This temporary station entered service on Monday, March 23, 1914, coincident with the opening of the SL&U as far as American Fork.

The unsettled condition of the financial market brought about by the war in Europe caused the two roads to postpone construction of a joint terminal "for a year" -- and in the meantime Bamberger's men linked up his tracks with the SL&U in late 1914 and both roads thereupon used the SL&U's temporary station.

The struggle between forces urging the "uptown" location near Temple Square and the "downtown" site on Pierpont Street waxed ever hotter. Examination of the chronicles of those days leaves little room to doubt that the Pierpont location would have been the victor had it not been for the troublesome matter of the one holdout property owner; a condemnation suit was prepared but was left unfiled -- and then the Mormon Church in an impressive exercise of its power, tipped the scale in favor of the "uptown" area.

The Church, of course, favored the site occupied by the Valley House. It was felt that by locating the interurban terminal adjacent to Temple Square, the needs of both worshipers and business people would be most satisfactorily met. Perhaps more tangible inducements were included -- at any rate, the Valley House site was chosen and land already purchased by the interurban companies downtown was utilized otherwise. 90,000 square feet of land at the southwest corner of West and South Temple Streets passed into the ownership of the Salt Lake Terminal Company and work began immediately on remodeling a structure to the west of the Valley House on South Temple Street which was to serve as the temporary terminal for the next seven years. Thus the corner was left open for the ultimate project: the permanent terminal.

On September 25, 1916, this temporary passenger terminal entered service. It was fitted "with every convenience for the traveling public" -- including concrete ramps to the four-track train yard at the rear. The trackage then constructed was to remain intact until 1947, altered only slightly when in 1923 the permanent building cut some off all four tracks. A small car maintenance shed was constructed by Bamberger for its cars, while Orem was to find its needs met by simple stub tracks. The temporary terminal contained waiting rooms, ticket office, restaurant, offices, lavatories, news stand, all on the street level -- while at the track level there was a large room for express and baggage.

1923 was a good year for electric railways and Bamberger and Orem reflected this prosperity by constructing their permanent passenger terminal on the Valley House site. The two-story-and-basement L-shaped structure of concrete and brick took shape rapidly. October 4th, 1923, saw the formal opening with all officials of the two roads, from Governor Bamberger and Orem down to the janitors being pressed into service as guides and ushers as the general public inspected all parts of the bright new terminal. The $300,000 cost of the structure was evident in the marble and tile finish of the 125 by 42 two-story waiting room and ticket office which occupied the central portion of the main floor. It was surrounded by stores including a restaurant, a drug store, and others. The second floor was divided into offices, including those of the traffic and operating departments of the two railroads. At long last the interurbans had an appropriate home in Zion.

The terms of the agreement under which the two Interurban companies undertook to operate the Terminal Company are pertinent. The Terminal Company was operated by SL&U and Bamberger under a fifty-year lease which was to run until December 31, 1993. Under this lease, the two interurbans agreed to pay (50-50) a sum sufficient to cover taxes and insurance. In addition, on a prorate basis counting the number of wheels operated by the terminal company (known as wheelage), the two operating companies agreed to pay annually to the Terminal Company a sum equivalent to all operating expenses, maintenance, and depreciation, and a 6 percent return on the appraised valuation of the entire property of the Terminal Company used for terminal facilities. Terminal Company employees numbered about forty.

The new Terminal was quick to win favor and its large waiting room was busy at all waking hours. Year after year the rumble of SL&U and Bamberger passenger trains was heard in the yard out back, with now and then a visiting train from the UIC present to lend additional color. Up through the Twenties the Terminal returned net annual earnings of about 142,000. The Depression changed the picture in 1931 and thereafter the Terminal Company skated on thin ice financially. World War Two and Bamberger's busses brought new life blood into the big structure, but the demise of the SL&U in 1946 threw the whole load onto Bamberger, which got SL&U's half of the SLTC for $1 at the salvage sale. 1947 was the year of decision, and Bamberger decided to remodel the Terminal yard to accommodate buses also.

While plans were being drawn up to remodel the train yard to accommodate busses, the entire Terminal building and yard was sold to the Greyhound bus organization. In a letter to your editor dated December 23, 1947, Mr. Julian Bamberger said:

"We have sold the Salt Lake Terminal Passenger Depot and the adjoining property to the Interstate Transit Lines, which is a subsidiary of the Union Pacific bus operation. They will spend $100,000 or more to reconstruct the depot, including a concourse to take care of 18 busses which will be on the street level, whereas the Bamberger cars will continue to occupy the lower level. The remodeled depot will accommodate the operations of the Interstate and Greyhound busses, and also will handle the Bamberger busses as well as those of several other local bus lines. We understand that the plans will include other important changes in the building, including the re-establishment of a cafe, which was in operation when this building was originally constructed, the providing of an archway passage for the passengers desiring to go directly from the waiting room to the bus concourse, greatly expanded toilet facilities for both men and women to accommodate the long distance passengers, a rather extensive arrangement for the handling of baggage and parcels, and an enlarged ticket office to take care of the new long distance bus passengers. The work is being done by Interstate Transit Lines."

Overland Greyhound Lines spent more than $200,000 in remodeling the Terminal. As it now exists, the Terminal encompasses a complete shopping center, a Post House, restaurant seating 128, barber shop, tailor shop, drug store and news stand. The Terminal is air-conditioned and the interior has been modernized using a blue-stone composite material. Expensive rest rooms finished in tile and equipped with showers are located in the basement. The remodeled Terminal is able to serve a passenger load of more than a million persons annually, with 16 busses and two electric trains able to load simultaneously. About 200 busses daily moved through the Terminal in 1949.

The new bus concourse occupied the site of the two southernmost tracks and was at a much higher level. Two tracks remained for trains and were in use up until abandonment of rail passenger service. The subsequent sale of Bamberger's bus subsidiary removed the last physical evidence of the two Interurban companies from public view, although one may, even today see the name "Bamberger" on the door of an office on the second floor of the Terminal. The northern most track has been kept to deliver coal and freight to the building.

From Salt Lake Tribune, June 22, 1913:

Select Terminal for Electric Roads
$40,000 Depot Will Be Constructed

Orem and Bamberger Lines
Announce Location for
Union Depot.

After months of negotiations and the consideration of numerous proposed sites, the interurban roads, which include the Orem line running from Salt Lake to Provo, and the Bamberger line, running from Salt Lake to Ogden, have at last determined upon a site for a union station in this city.

The entrance to the new station will be erected just west of the Dooly block on West Second South street. It will have a frontage of sixty feet on Second South street, and will run back 135 feet. It will be an up-to-date structure in every respect, and will cost $40,000.

The Orem company and Senator Bamberger, owner of the Bamberger line to Ogden, have recently bought a large amount of property between Pierpont street and Second South street. In fact, the two companies own practically all of the property on the north side of Pierpont street, running north to Second South street, with the exception of the Dooly block and one or two other pieces. The property recently acquired will give the interurban companies all the that they require for depot purposes, and also places them within easy reach of the center of the city. The Orem line will come up First West street from Twelfth South, and run into the terminal, while the Bamberger line will run easterly through the block between North Temple and South Temple, and then run south on First West street until the terminal point is reached.

Both lines will enter the terminal block on First West street immediately south of the Smith-Bailey Drug Company building. In starting out each road will back into First West street on to a 'Y'. The Second South street entrance will be used for passengers only, the lobby extending back to the tracks of the several roads which will use the terminal.

The cars of the two companies will be cleaned and renovated on a piece of property owned by the allied interests and lying between Third and Fourth South streets, and First and Second West streets. The car barns of the company will later be built in this block

Under the agreement with the city, the Saltair line also will be allowed to run into the terminal, when it is electrified. This, however, is a matter for future consideration.

The announcement of the selection of a site for the union station for the interurban lines will be received with satisfaction by the people of the city, in view of the fact that the matter has been held up for months. The sites considered were the livery stable in the rear of the Cullen Hotel, a site back of the building occupied by Heber J. Grant & Co., on upper Main street, site on the old Valley house corner, and a site on Pierpont street, between West Temple and First West streets.

From Deseret News, Saturday, August 15, 1914:


Following the formal celebration of the opening of the new Salt Lake and Utah Interurban line and its completion to Provo, the Orem and Bamberger interests today permit the publication of the picture of the new joint terminal for this city. The station, the time for the building of which has not yet been decided upon, will be in keeping with modern station construction in Salt Lake, and will be one of the finest Interurban stations in the entire west.

Despite conflicting rumors that there is a possibility that the new joint terminal may be located in the block bounded by Main, West Temple, Second and Third South streets, on the block just north, or the one to the south of that block, definite announcement was made yesterday by Senator Simon Bamberger that it would be built on the west side of West Temple street, between Pierpont street and the Peery hotel, the south wall line being only 15 feet from the hotel.

The station will cost approximately $200,000, from which it may be assumed that it will be in every way modern and complete. It is to measure 165 feet long, facing on West Temple street, and 100 feet deep to the concourse, from which the cars will be reached. According to present intention the L-structure will be of brick and concrete, with terra cotta decorations and tile floors, and will be equipped with the latest conveniences and accommodations for the traveling public and the office needs of the two companies. In addition to the big waiting room, to measure 82 by 61 feet, there will be men's smoking room 16-1/2 by 24 feet, and a women's waiting room of the same dimensions, a public service corridor 7-1/2 by 36 feet in size, a baggage room 36 by 65 feet, the ticket office, the toilets and three stores, each 31 by 38 feet, all on the ground floor. The two upper stories will be used for the offices of the two companies.

Although definite decision has not been made as to when the building will be erected the Orem and Bamberger people announce that it may not be commenced for two or three years, as they expect to use their present terminal at Third South and First West streets as long as possible, and until financial conditions more favorable. While both interests already feel the need of the big station, they are inclined to operate on a plan as economical as possible for the present.

The accompanying cut of the station shows the east front facing on West Temple street, and as concrete blocks and brick with terra cotta trimmings. While the interior plans now ready may be somewhat changed before the actual building is commenced, the exterior has been definitely decided upon. The portion of the structure extending above the main building shows the glass roof of the main waiting room.