Tuesday, April 30, 2019


In less than two weeks, May 10, 2019 marks the sesquicentennial of the joining of the Union Pacific Railroad and the Central Pacific Railroad at Promontory Summit north of the Great Salt Lake in Utah. It is sometimes known as the Golden Spike, or Last Spike, ceremony. I will be featuring details of the first transcontinental railroad in my next few blog posts. 

Locomotive in from the Ogden, Utah, Union Station
Why Ogden?  Ogden was the closest sizable city to the Golden Spike location at Promontory Summit, Utah, where the First Transcontinental Railroad was joined on May 10, 1869. Since one of my great-grandfathers, Edwin Brown, was hired to work for the Union Pacific Railroad once it reached Utah, I have been interested in this event in history for some time. He was present at the original Golden Spike ceremony. Believe me, each time I find a new photograph taken at that event, I scour the faces standing off to the side hoping to see someone who looks like him.

In 2014, I went on vacation for the better part of three weeks. No writing or blogging, only sight-seeing and picture-taking. I lost 200-400 images from my camera, but between my camera and cell phone I still saved 1,800 plus images to my computer. The ones I have about the joining of the Transcontinental Railroad at Promontory Summit come not from the site itself -- those were among the lost -- but from the museum that is part of the Union Station museum in Ogden, Utah.

The name Union Station was commonly given to train stations where tracks and facilities were shared by two or more railway companies. The station is currently home to the Utah State Railroad Museum.

Ogden Union Station today
Charles Trentelman, a member of the Union Station Foundation Board of Directors said. "The railroads changed Ogden from a sleepy agricultural backwater to a bustling transportation and manufacturing hub, the railroads funneled everything they did through this station," he noted.  "Agriculture, business, manufacturing, and tourism all flowed through the Union Station and it was critical to the locals that the station reflect the aspiration of the community for growth and development".

Mural depicting the building of the Central Pacific Railroad

On March 8, 1869, the Union Pacific came to Ogden on its way to Promontory Summit to meet the Central Pacific, thus completing the transcontinental rail line. Four cities near this location, Corrine, Promontory, Uintah, and Ogden, competed with each other for the opportunity to house the train station that would be the junction for railroad travel in the Intermountain West.

Mural depicting the building of the Union Pacific Railroad
Promontory and Uintah lacked the necessary resources to house the Station. Corinne and Ogden competed for many years for the "Junction City" title, until Brigham Young donated several hundred acres of land to the two railroads on the condition that they build the yards and station in west Ogden. 

Interior of Ogden Union Station lobby
Although Union Station no longer serves as a railway hub, it remains a cultural hub due to the museums located at the Station. A museum since 1978, is actually the third version train depot in town and was dedicated on November 22, 1924.  The stations two predecessors set the stage for today's structure.  

The first train station in Odgen-from the Ogden Union Station display
The first train station in Ogden was a small, two-story wooden frame building on the banks of the Weber River, which opened in 1860. The facility quickly became inadequate so the Union and the Central Pacific combined forces in 1889 to build a much larger Union Station, of brick and a center clock tower. 

Old Rio Grande Caboose in front of Ogden Union Station
This small building was also the facility for the narrow gauge Utah Central Railroad (later Oregon Short Line) and the narrow gauge Rio Grande Western (later Denver & Rio Grande Western). Local newspapers complained about, among other things, the quarter mile of wood boardwalk required to traverse the swampy ground to reach the station. In response to these worries the Union Pacific and Central Pacific organized the jointly-owned Ogden Union Railway & Depot Co. (OUR&D) to oversee the construction and management of a new Union Station. 

1891 Drawing of Ogden Union Railway Station
A new structure, considerably larger than the old and constructed of brick, was built, and dedicated on December 31 in 1889. The dedication attracted around 6,000 people. It served the community for several decades. It was designed in the Romanesque Revival style, with a large clock tower in the center. This building, in addition to serving the needs of the railroad, also contained 33 hotel rooms as well as a restaurant, barbershop, and other conveniences for the enjoyment of the traveler.

This station included 33 hotel rooms, a restaurant and even a barbershop.  This station worked well for over three decades.  In 1920, some $11,000 was spent re-papering, painting, and roofing the building.  An underground walkway to separate the tracks to the west was also built.  On February 13, 1923, one of the hotel rooms caught fire and quickly spread to the rest of the station.  No one was killed, or injured, but the Station had to be gutted, with only fragile walls and the clock left standing.  Since the station walls had not been leveled, the Ogden Union Railway & Depot Company, which owned the building, thought they could just restore what was there before including the clock tower. But soon after a stone fell off the clock tower and instantly killed a railroad clerk.  This accident, as well as pleading from City officials for a new building prompted railroad officials to start over with a new design.

Some of the images and information were first published on my own Trails & Rails blog under Robyn Echols. Zina Abbott is my pen name for writing American historical romance. 

Speaking of which, I, writing as Zina Abbott, recently published a book set in Utah. Although it does not involve the Transcontinental Railroad directly, the nearest rail connection to the locality in the series, The Widows of Wildcat Ridge, is in Evanston, Wyoming. My book, Diantha, is now available on Amazon in ebook format, and will soon be available in print. Please CLICK HERE to access the book description and purchase link.

To learn more about the series, The Widows of Wildcat Ridge, and the coming series by many of the same favorite authors, plus some new favorite authors, please join the reader group. CLICK HERE.



1 comment:

  1. Your post was so interesting, Zina. I hope to visit the Golden Spike National Historical Park later this year, although sorry to say I won't make the sesquicentennial celebration.


Thank you for visiting Sweethearts of the West! We are very sad to require comment moderation now due to the actions of a few spam comments. Thank you for your patience.