Union Pacific's Syracuse (Utah) Branch
This page was last updated on September 26, 2003
(portions also used in "The Community of Syracuse, 1820 to 1995", Centennial Edition, Syracuse Historical Commission, Syracuse, Utah, 1994, pages 63, 64, 98, 99)
Union Pacific's Syracuse Branch was built in 1887 as the Ogden and Syracuse Railway. Construction of the new branchline began at Syracuse Junction (later called Clearfield) in January 1887 and was completed in July to the shore of the Great Salt Lake. The company was organized in January 1887 but was not incorporated until March 1887, while the branch was under construction. The company was fully controlled by Union Pacific, with 1,890 of the 2,000 shares being held by the President of Union Pacific, Charles Adams. Daniel C. Adams of Salt Lake City held one of the other ten shares. The other nine shares were held by Union Pacific employees in Salt Lake City, Omaha, or Boston. At the time many community leaders were complaining of the lack of local control of the railroads. In order to get more public support Union Pacific organized many local roads to build its branchlines, and the Ogden and Syracuse line was one of them.
Parts of the Ogden and Syracuse Railway were built on property purchased from John R. Barnes. John R. Barnes bought the land from Union Pacific in March 1878 and sold it to the Ogden and Syracuse Railway in March 1887. Union Pacific originally owned most of the the land in Syracuse because it was within twenty miles of the transcontinental railroad completed down Weber Canyon to Ogden and was included in Union Pacific's 1869 land grant.
On July 31, 1889, less than two years after the Ogden and Syracuse was completed, Union Pacific consolidated all of its interests in Utah and Idaho. The new company was called the Oregon Short Line and Utah Northern and included the Ogden and Syracuse Railway. The Oregon Short Line and Utah Northern Railway later became the Oregon Short Line Railroad (the "OSL"), and the former Ogden and Syracuse Railway became Union Pacific's Syracuse Branch.
The entire 5.85 miles of the Syracuse Branch was reclassified from a formal branch, to siding tracks. Service west of Syracuse Junction (later Clearfield) was on an irregular basis, as needed. Customers included the cannery of the Syracuse Canning Company at Barnes, and the several beet dumps that were served during the two-week beet campaign in October of each year. (Union Pacific 1902 annual report)
There was never a depot at Syracuse, or at any other point along the Syracuse Branch. The only business for the branchline were the cannery of the Syracuse Canning Co., the beet dumps, and salt works and bathing resort located on the shores of the lake. By 1906 both the salt works and the bathing resort at Syracuse had failed. The siding called Syracuse was moved east from the lake shore, to the northeast corner of present day 4500 West and 1700 South and in March 1906 the tracks from the new Syracuse siding to the end of the branch on the lake shore were taken up, including the wye tracks that were used to turn the trains around. The new siding called Syracuse was later the location of one of Layton Sugar Company's beet dumps.
(The abandoned wye and other portion of the old Syracuse Branch is on the property of the author's father-in-law. The author and his extended family have a special interest in the Syracuse and north Davis County because their ancestors helped to settle the area in the 1850s-1870s. The author assisted in the completion of a comprehensive local history of the Syracuse area, with research during 1988-1990 into the canneries, beet dumps, and sugar factories of northwest Davis County and southwest Weber County leading to continued research into the sugar and canning industries in Utah.)
Interstate Sugar Company bought property on UP's Syracuse Branch, at 2000 West, adjacent to Layton Sugar's beet dump at Barnes, built at the same time. (Davis County Book of Abstracts 4, p.93, and Book of Deeds 1‑D, p.450)
The two and a half miles of track between Barnes, at 2000 West, and Syracuse, at 4500 West, was retired and removed in August 1955. At the same time the railroad sold much of the property to the adjacent landowners.
The Kaysville Canning Company sold 5.2 acres at Barnes (the entire site of the former cannery) to C. H. Dredge Company. (Davis County Book of Abstracts A, p. 205, and Book 4, p.91)
The remaining portion of the Syracuse Branch west of the Freeport Center to Barnes was abandoned and removed. (MP 2.182 to MP 2.45; 0.268 miles, including the grade crossing at 2000 West) (Union Pacific Law Department internal documents)
The Steed Spur connected with the Syracuse Branch at the siding called Steed, which was located where the branch crossed 3000 West, at about 1500 South. The spur ran northwest for almost two miles along the top of the bluff to the West Point Road (300 North). The spur was built and owned by the Layton Sugar Company to serve their beet dump on the West Point Road. The beet dump was built on one and a half acres of land that the sugar company had purchased from James Patterson in April 1921.
The date when the spur was built is not known, but in September 1928 the sugar company purchased a fifty foot easement from the Steed and Wilcox families. The easement was to be used solely for the sugar company's spur track, which may have already been built by that time. The actual date for when the tracks were removed is not known. The easement was perpetual as long as it was used for the spur track, and reverted to the families upon removal of the track.
Layton Sugar Company had a beet dump at West Point, served by UP's West Point Spur which connected with the Syracuse Branch at Steed Spur, located on the east side of the crossing of present-day 3000 West, where 3000 West meets the Bluff Road. Steed Spur was also where Layton Sugar Company had a beet dump and a beet pulp pit. The West Point Spur ran north for 1.8 miles along the top of the bluff, paralleling today's Bluff Road, to Layton Sugar's beet dump located on the south side of the West Point Road (300 North), where that road drops down off of the bluff to its intersection with Bluff Road. The "bluff" as mentioned here is an historic shore line for the Great Salt Lake and is about 12 to 15 feet high.
The West Point Spur was only used during the annual sugar beet campaign. Oak Wilcox remembers hearing the flanges of the cars squeal as the train moved slowly along the old Spur. (Interview with Oak Wilcox, Syracuse, Utah, May 1990) No construction date or retirement date is known for the West Point Spur; the 50-foot easement for the spur was purchased by the Layton Sugar Company from the Steed and Wilcox families, the adjacent farmers, in September 1928, but the recording of the sale states that the spur was already in place. The recording also shows that the easement was perpetual, until the spur was removed, at which time the easement reverted to the families. (Davis County Book of Abstracts 4, p.89, Book of Agreements H, p.449)
The exact date for the construction of the beet dump at Steed is unknown, but the 1.5 acres of land for the dump was purchased by Layton Sugar Company in April 1921 from James Patterson, the adjacent farmer. (Davis County Book of Abstracts 4, p.83, Book of Deeds 1‑F, p.18) The siding at Steed Spur was retired in December 1946. At that time the beet dump there was removed and the farmers forced to take their beets to the beet dump on 2000 West.
The process of extracting sugar from sugar beets leaves the pulp of the sugar beets as an end by-product. Beet pulp was sold by the sugar companies back to the farmers for use as cattle feed. Cattle really liked this stuff, most likely because quite a bit of sweetness remained in the pulp. One of the largest beet pulp dumps (or pits) in Davis County was located at Steed Spur in Syracuse. With the closing of Steed Spur, and the abandonment of the western part of UP's Syracuse Branch, the farmers had to truck the beet pulp from the sugar factory at Layton.
Oak Wilcox remembers hearing the flanges of the cars squeal as the train moved slowly along the track during the annual beet campaign, which was the only time of the year that the spur was used. The siding at Steed was removed in December 1946. At that time the beet dump there was removed and the farmers were forced to take their beets to the beet dump on 2000 West, at the Union Pacific siding called Barnes.
Steed Spur was located at Steed Station, mile post 3.2 on the Syracuse Branch. Steed Station was retired on December 4, 1946. This date is also the likely date for the removal of the West Point Spur and the beet dump and beet pulp pit at Steed. The Syracuse Branch still exists today (July 1994), ending at the station called Barnes, at mile post 2.1. That portion of the branch between Barnes and Syracuse, at mile post 4.7, was retired in August 1955.