OGDEN area residents loved their Ogden Canyon enough to warrant a railroad there. And, at one time it was hoped the rails there would access Utah’s “summer capitol,” had that suggested building been built.
An electric railroad trolley from Ogden to Huntsville opened in July of 1915.
A partial Ogden Canyon railroad had already been operating to the Hermitage Resort since 1909, since the canyon and its resorts were viewed as great possible revenue producers.
For almost a quarter of a century, this electrified rail line offered reliable transportation into Ogden Canyon and for 17 of those years it traveled from the Ogden Depot to Huntsville, by way of Eden.
There was no Pineview Dam in those days to detour around, but the line required five steel bridges. It was also quite the engineering marvel, having to hug the canyon walls through the “Narrows” in the lower canyon and rock cliffs further up the canyon – some up to 100 feet high – had to be removed for rail construction.
Just three rugged miles of railway construction in Ogden Canyon cost $100,000 (that’s the equivalent of $2.4 million in 2014 dollar value). Concrete and steel helped hold the rail grade in place, often running next to the wagon road in the canyon.
According to the Standard-Examiner, some 100 men were employed constructing the line in 1912.
There were also complicated right of way issues to deal with.
By July of 1912, the Standard on July 18 reported that the Ogden Rapid Transit Company had decided to change its route in the upper canyon. Instead of following the south side of the river, it switched to the north side – even though that meant abandoning some of the old line and conducting new surveys.
“This is one of the most important trolley line extensions undertaken …” the Standard reported. “This opening of Ogden Valley to beet culture and more intensive cultivation in every way, promises to build up a much larger farming population, which directly must benefit the city. It will not be many years when beets, hay, grain and dairy products will be shipped to Ogden by the trainload,” the 1912 story concluded.
Early on, Simon Bamberger, who owned the Bamberger railroad (and who would later become Utah’s fourth governor) and who also owned the Heritage, desired a rail line to his resort.
Ogden Rapid Transit wanted such a line too and had the much earlier start, but for a time, both railroads were creating separate grades in Ogden Canyon. Eventually Bamberger withdrew and his section of completed grade became part of the public road though Ogden Canyon.
The trolley line carried some 7,000 passengers during the fourth of July holiday of 1910.
By May of 1913 and through the warm weather season, the Trolley to the Hermitage offered cars once an hour. The first car left Ogden at 10:30 a.m. and the last one at 7:30 p.m.
The first trolley cars used carried 46 passengers and had both smoking compartments and toilets.
Besides high hopes for farming and shipping with the trolley line, there was also an effort afoot in 1911-1912 to try and convince the State of Utah to have a “summer capitol” in beautiful Ogden Valley, about three miles southeast of Huntsville.
Of course, that never happened, but the Ogden Rapid Transit Company was prepared to extend its trolley line there.
P.L . Orth, secretary of the Huntsville Improvement Club, was pushing the summer capitol drive and declared in a Feb. 28, 1912 Standard story that, “Huntsville no longer sleeps.”
Orth also wanted to utilize warm spring waters in the valley to encourage more development there.
Back to the trolley line -- By 1913, several trolleys used were modified to be open roof observation cars.
The line also weathered lots of snowslides over the years. For example, the Standard on Feb. 18, 1926 reported that three avalanches had buried the tracks in Ogden Canyon. It took almost two full days to clear the tracks and restore full service again.
However, it wasn’t snow or even the advent of the automobile that doomed the Ogden Canyon line. It was the severe flooding in the canyon during 1932 that badly damaged the tracks.
In September of 1932, regulatory approval was given to halt rail service and remove the tracks. Buses and trucks now used the canyon highway to compensate for the lack of a trolley.
The old rails in the upper section were removed during 1934, when Pineview Dam construction began. The rails in Ogden Canyon were initially used to transport material to build Pineview. Then, they too were removed to end the era of iron rails in Ogden Canyon.
-Some source material came from utahrails.net, by Don Strack.
(-Originally published on Sept. 20, 2014 in the Ogden Standard-Examiner.)
-NOTE: The author, Lynn Arave, is available to speak to groups, clubs, classes or other organizations about Utah history at no charge. He can be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org