Lucin Cutoff

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Southern Pacific Railroad:
Ogden-Lucin Cut-Off Trestle
Lucin Cutoff aerial.jpg
Aerial view of the Lucin Cutoff trestle
before removal. The 1950s causeway
is to the right of the trestle.
Lucin Cutoff is located in Utah
Lucin Cutoff
Lucin Cutoff is located in the United States
Lucin Cutoff
Nearest cityOgden, Utah
Coordinates41°13′0″N 112°41′40″W / 41.21667°N 112.69444°W / 41.21667; -112.69444Coordinates: 41°13′0″N 112°41′40″W / 41.21667°N 112.69444°W / 41.21667; -112.69444
Area143 acres (58 ha)
ArchitectWilliam Hood
NRHP reference No.72001257 [1]
Significant dates
Added to NRHPApril 14, 1972
Removed from NRHPOctober 23, 2018

The Lucin Cutoff is a 102-mile (164 km) railroad line in Utah, United States that runs from Ogden to its namesake in Lucin. The most prominent feature of the cutoff was a twelve-mile-long (19 km) railroad trestle crossing the Great Salt Lake, which was in use from 1904 until the late 1950s, when it was replaced by an earthen causeway.

The cutoff was originally built by the Southern Pacific Railroad as a means of shortening the First transcontinental railroad. Today the cutoff is owned and operated by the Union Pacific Railroad as a significant part of the Lakeside Subdivision, which runs from Ogden to Wells, Nevada, and is one of the many subdivisions of the Overland Route. Due to the obstruction of water flow caused by the Lucin Cutoff, the Great Salt Lake appears to be different colors in aerial photographs; water north of the Cutoff appears red or brown, while water south of the Cutoff is more green.


Original construction[edit]

Lucin Cutoff (1903) compared to earlier Promontory Branch (1869). Drawn by Anan Raymond, 1981.

Built by the Southern Pacific Company (SP) between February 1902 and March 1904, the cutoff bypassed the original Central Pacific Railroad route through Promontory Summit where the golden spike was driven in 1869. By going west across the lake from Ogden to Lucin, it cut 44 miles (71 km) off the original route and also significantly decreased curvature and grades. Built under the direction of SP chief engineer William Hood, a team of 3,000 SP workers worked seven days a week to build the line.

When the line opened, it included short causeways extending from the western shore of the lake and the edge of Promontory Point, connected with a nearly twelve-mile-long (19 km) wooden trestle. The cutoff also included a causeway which spanned Bear River Bay from the eastern shore of the lake to Promontory Point. This section included a 600-foot-long (180 m) trestle to allow Bear River water to flow into the lake.

The line included a rail station called
Mid Lake, which was in the middle
of the Great Salt Lake.

By 1908, five passenger trains and seven freight trains were using the Lucin Cutoff in each direction daily. In 1942, the original track between Lucin and Corinne, Utah was removed, including the remaining spikes on Promontory Point, and the scrap metal was donated to the war effort.[2]

In late 1944, the Cutoff was the site of a train wreck in which 48 people were killed. A westbound mail express train ran into the back of a slower moving passenger train in thick fog.[3][4][5]

Trestle replacement[edit]

The trestle was functionally replaced in the late 1950s with a parallel dirt and rock causeway built under contract by Morrison-Knudsen of Boise, Idaho. The trestle remained in limited use alongside the causeway until roughly 1975.[6] The railroad eventually sold salvage rights to the trestle and Cannon Structures, Inc., through its Trestlewood division, began to dismantle it in the early 1990s. Trestlewood continues to market and sell the salvaged trestle wood.[7]

Openings in the causeway[edit]

The causeway prevented lake water from flowing as freely as the open trestle had, and to help mitigate effects, two culverts were included in the original causeway construction. The culverts allowed for boat traffic and a limited amount of water to flow from the lake's southern arm (where surrounding freshwater rivers emptied into the lake) into the lake's northern arm.

In the early 1980s, Utah experienced heavy flooding, and much of the extra water along the Wasatch Front flowed into the Great Salt Lake. This resulted in the lake experiencing historic high water levels and flooding nearby landowners. To aid the two culverts in channeling water to the northern arm, the State of Utah constructed a 300-foot-long (90 m) bridge at the western end of the causeway. The state breached the causeway under the new bridge on August 1, 1984, allowing pent-up water from the southern arm to flow into the northern arm.[8]

The continual slow sinking of the causeway has on occasion required more material to raise its height above the lake level. During the flooding of the 1980s, this buildup included placing 1,430 surplus railcars along the northern edge of the causeway and filling them with rock to act as gabions (this feature is known as the "Boxcar Seawall.")[9]

In March 2011, Union Pacific Railroad (UP) requested permission to close the two 1950s-era culverts because of damage related to age and a sinking of the causeway into the lake bed; the two culverts were closed in 2012 and 2013. To mitigate the effects, the railroad was required to build a bridge and breach the causeway under that bridge. Construction of a 180-foot-long (55 m) bridge was completed in fall 2016, although the railroad agreed to delay opening the breach for a few months, due to environmental and water level concerns.[10] The causeway was breached beneath the 180-foot bridge on December 1, 2016.[11] Since the opening of the causeway the level of the water in the arms of the lake has begun to equalize. As of April 30, 2017, the level of the lake in the northern arm is within a foot of the southern arm.[12]

Due to the Southwestern North American megadrought, the amount of fresh water flowing into the southern arm of the lake had dropped significantly enough that, during the summer of 2022, a 4-foot-high (1.2 m) berm was constructed in the breach beneath the 2016 bridge. This berm slows the flow of saltier water from the northern arm of the lake into the southern arm, as the increased salinity was beginning to have effects on the ecology of the southern part of the lake. Even though the lake's elevation in the southern part remained slightly higher than the northern part, the saltier water in the northern arm (which is denser and heavier) was able to push along the bottom of the breach into the southern arm of the lake.[13][14]

Great Salt Lake Causeway Map
2016 Map of the Cutoff as it crosses the Great Salt Lake (Includes past and present features).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. March 13, 2009.
  2. ^ "Lucin Cutoff Opens - Timeline - Union Pacific 150th Anniversary - - Union Pacific 150th Anniversary -". Archived from the original on 2013-04-29.
  3. ^ Ford, George W. (January 1, 1945). "Train wreck toll set at 48". Deseret News. (Salt Lake City, Utah). p. 1.
  4. ^ "Bodies of forty-eight taken from train wreck". Spokane Daily Chronicle. (Washington). Associated Press. January 1, 1945. p. 1.
  5. ^ "Crews clearing debris after 50 killed in wreck". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). United Press. January 1, 1945. p. 1.
  6. ^ Arave, Lynn (December 8, 1993). "Aging trestle vanishing from view". Deseret News. (Salt Lake City, Utah). p. D7.
  7. ^ "Lucin Cutoff Railroad Trestle: Salvage". Trestlewood. Retrieved November 27, 2016. The trestle was given new life in the early 1990s. In March of 1993, Cannon Structures, Inc. obtained salvage rights to the trestle from T.C. Taylor Co., Ltd., which had previously acquired these rights from Southern Pacific. Cannon soon thereafter established its Trestlewood Division, through which it has been salvaging, remanufacturing, and marketing the wood from the trestle ever since.
  8. ^ Bauman, Joseph; Thompson, Jan (August 1, 1984). "Pent-up lake flows into saltier north arm". Deseret News. Salt Lake City. Retrieved November 26, 2016.
  9. ^ Davis, Jim (January 2015). "Glad You Asked: What is the Boxcar Seawall". Survey Notes. 47 (1): 8–9. Retrieved December 24, 2016.
  10. ^ Penrod, Emma (September 24, 2016). "Union Pacific agrees to delay breach of Great Salt Lake causeway". Salt Lake Tribune. Salt Lake City. Retrieved 26 November 2016.
  11. ^ Larsen, Leia (December 13, 2016). "Changes in Great Salt Lake under observation after causeway breach". Standard Examiner. Ogden, Utah. Retrieved December 16, 2016.
  12. ^ "USGS Surface-Water Daily Data for the Nation". Retrieved 2017-04-30.
  13. ^ Winn, Kayla (September 22, 2022). "Record salinity levels forces Great Salt Lake Causeway Berm to be raised 4 feet". KUTV. Salt Lake City. Retrieved September 25, 2022.
  14. ^ Carter, Williams (September 23, 2022). "Utah raises Great Salt Lake berm in effort to stop salinity levels from harming ecosystem". KSL-TV. Salt Lake City. Retrieved September 25, 2022.

External links[edit]