Historians agree that the driving of the golden spike marking the completion of the transcontinental railroad at Promontory Summit, Utah, on 10 May 1869 was one of the most important events in United States history, as it was also in Utah history. In fact, 1869 is considered to be a benchmark year in Utah history--the pioneer era coming to an end with the coming of the railroad.
Brigham Young, as community leader and president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, foresaw the impact that the coming of the railroad would have and wanted the transcontinental rail line built through Salt Lake City. He was aware of the role that a railroad could play in tying a community together as well as connecting a region with the outside world. After representatives of both the Central Pacific and the Union Pacific met with him and explained the difficulty and extra expense of a route through Salt Lake City, Young accepted the decision and helped wherever he could to speed the completion of the project, including arranging for the use of local contractors for the construction of the tracks across the territory.
The Union Pacific was the first of the major railroad companies to successfully build within Utah's borders, connecting with the Central Pacific tracks at Promontory in 1869. Twenty years later, Union Pacific had become the largest railroad company in the territory. In 1889 the Union Pacific consolidated the control of its interests in Utah and Idaho through the organization of the Oregon Short Line and Utah Northern Railway.
In 1893, however, Union Pacific was forced into bankruptcy along with its subsidiary railroad companies. The Oregon Short Line emerged from bankruptcy in 1897 as an independent company, and the reorganized Union Pacific emerged from bankruptcy in 1898. The former Oregon Short Line had controlled much of the traffic that the Union Pacific depended on, and the new situation was no different. Within two years, the new Oregon Short Line was again under the full control of the reorganized Union Pacific.
The Union Pacific lines west from Evanston, Wyoming, down Weber Canyon to Ogden follow the original Union Pacific route into Utah. The Oregon Short Line routes in Utah included the Union Pacific lines between Salt Lake City and Ogden, as well as the lines north of Ogden. The lines operated by the Union Pacific south and west of Salt Lake City were originally those of the Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad, which completed its route to Los Angeles in 1905. Instead of building a new route through Utah, in 1903 the Los Angeles and Salt Lake purchased the former Utah and Pacific Railroad line between Milford and the Nevada state line, that was completed in 1899. The new company also purchased the former Utah Central/Utah Southern line between Salt Lake City and Milford, completed in 1880. Both lines were purchased from the Oregon Short Line Railroad, which had purchased the Utah and Pacific line in 1901.
Also included in this 1903 sale was the Oregon Short Line's new standard-gauge line west of Salt Lake City, called the Leamington Cut-off. Completed in 1903, the new line ran west from Salt Lake City and then south through Tooele before it connected with the former Utah Southern route at Lynndyl. The new line roughly paralleled the former narrow-gauge Utah Western Railway, completed in 1877 between Salt Lake City and a point just north of Stockton called Terminus. Union Pacific gained control of the Utah Western in 1881 and reorganized the company as the Utah and Nevada Railway.
The Union Pacific RR is the major player in the railroad business today in Utah. They own most of the railroad track in the state. BNSF has trackage rights from east to west as part of the merger deal of UP and SP. The UP Web Site has a lot of information on its history and a timeline. A click on the icons at the top will lead you there.
Last Update 01/28/01
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