Salt Lake, Garfield and Western Railway

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Salt Lake, Garfield & Western
Reporting mark SLGW
Locale Utah
Dates of operation 1891–Present
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Length 10 miles, plus 5.23 miles secondary track
Headquarters 1201 West North Temple Salt Lake City, UT

The Salt Lake, Garfield & Western Railway, also known as the Saltair Route, is a short line railroad based out of Salt Lake City, Utah. Originally incorporated as a resort railroad, it now provides switching services to industries in the Salt Lake City area.


The Saltair Resort in 1900

The Saltair Railway was incorporated on September 6, 1891, with the express purpose of tapping the tourist market found in the resorts on the shores of the Great Salt Lake. It was purchased by the Salt Lake & Los Angeles Railroad in April 1892, and later reorganized as the Salt Lake & Los Angeles Railway on June 4 of the same year. Grading to the Saltair Beach was completed three days earlier on June 1. For the first few years of its existence the SL&LA used the Rio Grande Western Salt Lake City depot until its own facilities were completed in 1895.

On June 8, 1893, the Saltair Resort was officially opened. Saltair was owned by Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, but was later transferred to the railroad.[1] For many years was the line's biggest source of revenue.

The railroad set aside $300,000 in bonds to electrify operations in 1916, a project that was completed in 1919. By 1918 the railroad was reorganized again, this time as the Salt Lake, Garfield & Western, with the intent to build to the copper smelters at that city, and provide faster freight and commuter services to that industry.[1] Unfortunately, the Utah PSC denied the line from building a diamond across the tracks of the Western Pacific, Bingham & Garfield, and Los Angeles & Salt Lake Railroads at Garfield, which prevented it from building west to Garfield itself. The Garfield Station was then built approximately one mile from the town itself. The expected freight revenues never emerged, and operations on the Garfield branch ended in 1930.[2]

In addition to the freight generated from the Garfield Smelters, the SLG&W also hauled salt from its connection with the Inland Railway (a stub-line owning a single 0-6-0 locomotive and no cars). On June 19, 1900, two freight cars burned at the salt ponds on account of salt workers leaving a lit candle in the wooden cars after they quit for the day.[3]

The railroad's profits were derived mostly from the tourist traffic, with 12-16 car trains leaving to Saltair ever 45 minutes, and likewise Saltair depended on the Great Salt Lake for patronage. in 1933, the lake reached its lowest recorded levels, stranding the resort from the waterline. To make up for the loss of patronage due to the low water levels, a roller coaster was constructed, as well as a short railroad from the pavilion to the water using gasoline-powered speeders to carry patrons across the brine flat. in 1955, a fire consumed the bath houses; in 1957 the roller coaster burned as well. The resort finally closed in 1959, and the Salt Lake, Garfield & Western ceased passenger operations.[1]

The first diesel on the line was purchased in 1951, and was a GE 44-tonner.[1] In July 1954 a head-on collision caused the railroad to lease a GE centercab diesel from U.S. Steel, marking the final end of electric operations on the Salt Lake, Garfield & Western.[3]

Current operations[edit]

The SLG&W provides connections with both Union Pacific and BNSF from their yard across from the Utah State Fairgrounds on North Temple Street in Salt Lake City. Commodities vary from frozen juices to waste oil.[4] Occasionally, the line will pull a passenger special using passenger cars owned by the Promontory Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society.[1]

Motive power[edit]

SLG&W D.S.9, an ex-Union Pacific SW10

The first locomotive, a Rhode Island Locomotive Works 4-4-0, was delivered on May 24, 1892, and was tested by the Rio Grande Western before being placed into revenue service. Numbered 1, it weighed 45 tons, had 17X24-inch cylinders, and 62-inch drivers. A second identical locomotive, numbered 2, was received in April of the following year. A third locomotive, also a 4-4-0 but built by the Pittsburgh Locomotive Works, was delivered in 1906. No. 1 was retired in 1919, and Nos. 2 and 3 were retired in 1921. Until electrification, the SL&LA owned only these three locomotives. During times of peak business, the SL&LA leased passenger locomotives from the Rio Grande Western and the Oregon Short Line to facilitate the operation of extra trains.[5]

The only electric freight locomotive was No. 401, former Salt Lake & Utah 104, purchased in 1946. A total of six powered McGuire-Cummings interurban cars were delivered in 1918, which were also used to haul freight. Two of the MucGuire-Cummings cars, when operated in Multiple Unit, could pull 40 fully loaded boxcars. The electric equipment ran ona charge of 1500 volts, delivered via single-suspension double-line poles.[2]

A total of eleven diesel locomotives were owned by the SLG&W, starting with D.S. 1 purchased in December 1951. Currently the line owns only two locomotives, D.S. 9 and 10, both ex-Union Pacific SW10 locomotives. In addition, motor car MC-3, built by American Car & Foundry and purchased by the SLG&W in 1951, was used to supplement the diesel-powered passenger trains. This car was later sold to the California Western and is still in operation.[3]

Surviving equipment[edit]

  • MC-3 survives on the California Western as M300.[3]
  • DS-2, a GE 44-tonner, is on display at the Western Railway Museum in California.
  • Two open-air excursion cars are owned by the Utah State Railroad Museum in Ogden, Utah.
  • One open-air car is on display at the Heber Valley Railroad.
  • Boxcar 100, originally used to store animal hides, resides at the Heber Valley Railroad.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Carr, Stephen L. (1989). Utah Ghost Rails. Salt Lake City, Utah: Western Epics. 
  2. ^ a b Swett, Ira (1974). Interurbans of Utah. Cerritos, California: Interurbans Special. 
  3. ^ a b c d Strack, Don. "Salt Lake, Garfield & Western Railway". Retrieved 8 April 2011. 
  4. ^ "Salt Lake Garfield & Western Company". Retrieved 11 April 2011. 
  5. ^ Gould, William John Gilbert (1995). My Life on the Mountain Railroads. Utah State University Press.