Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Forerunner to FrontRunner: Bamberger Rail Line, S.L. to Ogden

                                                                          Photo by Roger Arave

By Lynn Arave

BEFORE today's  FrontRunner, there was the Bamberger Railroad Line ...
FrontRunner opened on April 26, 2008, after three years of construction (and added more stops in 2012).
The Bamberger basically followed today's I-15 corridor and ran for more than 60 years until 1952, when the popularity of the automobile put it out of business.
After a 56-year gap, FrontRunner came long.
Below is the story of the Bamberger railroad, forerunner of FrontRunner.
The Bamberger Railroad, a 36-mile light rail system, connected Salt Lake City and Ogden with more than 30 major stops until the last car ran in September 1952. 
While the Bamberger wasn't the only trolley transportation system in Utah, it was the first and the most successful. (A 66-mile, Salt Lake to Payson trolley system operated from 1916 to 1946 and there was a "Saltair" line, too.) 
Simon Bamberger, a successful Utah businessman and later the governor, received the first shipment of light rail, near the Union Pacific Railroad Station in Salt Lake City, in 1891. Existing railroads were concerned with through traffic, not with serving small communities as Bamberger was.
The line's original name was the Great Salt Lake and Hot Springs Railway. Not until 1917 was the name changed to the Bamberger Electric Railroad. The line converted from steam power to electricity in 1910, ushering in the "Trolley" era.
Line construction reached Farmington in 1895 and that's when Bamberger purchased the old buildings at Lake Shore Resort and moved them east to a swampy area he turned into a recreational paradise - Lagoon. Free admission to Lagoon was given to all railroad users. Lagoon stimulated railroad use - especially during the summer.
Davis was the only high school in the county while the Bamberger operated, and students used to ride the railroad before school buses were purchased. An extra dozen rail cars were needed to take students to Davis High, and these cars were stored in Kaysville until needed again at the end of the school day. The school district paid the railroad for the students' transportation.
Other steady passengers on the railway were employees of the Davis County School District, the Farmington Courthouse, the Kaysville Brick Co. and Miller Floral. "Hop the Bamberger" was the familiar term used in conjunction with the orange and cream colored cars.

The rail line reached Kaysville in 1903, Layton in 1904, Sunset in 1905 and Ogden in 1908.
The Depression hurt the railroad's business, but it survived. It also lived through the flood of 1923 that wiped out the line through Farmington and Centerville.
World War II was a boon to the Bamberger. The line had exclusive service to Hill Field, (Hill Air Force Base), increasing its passenger service threefold and its freight load by eight times. Passenger service in 1945 was the company's highest with revenues jumping from $413,000 in 1939 to $2 million in 1945.
Normal Bamberger passenger service had been from 6 a.m. to midnight, but the war necessitated service around the clock. Tickets could be purchased by several methods, destination to destination, or by the mile.
According to research by the Kaysville-Layton Historical Society, some passengers used to joke "The Bamberger went 100 mph - 90 up and down and 10 forward."
NOTE: Some of the old track rails for the Bamberger still existed along portions of Ogden's Wall Avenue, well into the 1970s.
Where you could board the Bamberger
Main stops along the Bamberger:
- Ogden, Lincoln Avenue, just north of 24th Street
- Cozydale, 4400 S. 1500 West
- Roy, near 4800 South
- Sunset, 1800 North, just east of I-15
- Arsenal, 1300 North, just east of I-15
- Clearfield, 700 South, east of I-15
- Robbins," 2200 North, I-15, Layton
- Allen, 1000 North, I-15, Layton
- Davis High School, Kaysville
- Lagoon, Farmington
- Glover's Lane, Farmington
- Chase Lane, Centerville
- Centerville, 400 S. 150 West
- Thomas, 100 N. Center, Bountiful
- Bountiful, 200 W. 200 South
- Parkin, 800 N. U-89, North Salt Lake
- Cleverly, 700 N. U-89, North Salt Lake
- Odell, 450 N. U-89, North Salt Lake
- Everett, 1455 N. 700 West, Salt Lake County
- Salt Lake Depot, West Temple and South Temple, on present-day Abravanel Hall site
SOURCES:, by Don Strack and personal interviews.

(-Distilled from a Deseret News article by Lynn Arave on March 27, 1994.)

-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:  

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