Becoming an Interurban - The Formation of the Ogden, Logan and Idaho Railway Company (O.L.I.)

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At the beginning of 1915, the managers of the O.L.I. once again changed course and decided to settle on the Collinston Route from Brigham City, around the Wellsville Mountains, and into Mendon for the connection between Ogden and Logan. This is reported in the article “Collinston Route Chosen by Directors” from the Logan Republican.
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(University of Utah, J. Willard Marriott Library, Utah Digital Newspapers, https://newspapers.lib.utah.edu/ark:/87278/s6c54jq6/4804788)

The O.R.T. and L.R.T. merged on October 17, 1914, into a new corporation: the Ogden, Logan and Idaho Railway Company (O.L.I.).[1] Construction projects for the extension and expansion of former O.R.T. and L.R.T. lines were planned and would ultimately require a year to complete before the O.L.I. would operate at its height. The first step in forming the O.L.I. required a long connection between Ogden and Logan. Initially the O.L.I. Board of Directors planning this line were faced with three different possible options for the route and construction. The routes to be considered consisted of the following:

    1. A forty-five-mile route through Ogden Canyon, over the divide, and connecting Huntsville to Logan by way of Hyrum.
    2. A forty-eight-mile route through Brigham City, Mantua, and into Cache Valley following the present route of U.S. Highway 89.
    3. A sixty-four-mile route from Brigham City north to Collinston, over the Collinston Divide, through the Bear River Canyon, and into cities such as Mendon and Wellsville before connecting to Logan.[2]

They determined that the third option would provide greater access to agricultural areas, larger populations, and would be cheaper to construct because of the existence of a railroad grade that had been previously constructed, used, and abandoned by the Utah Northern Railroad. Following this decision, construction commenced and the first train traveled between Ogden and Logan in October 1915.[3]

A steam engine delivers dirt and gravel for the construction of O.L.I. tracks over the Collinston Divide, 1916
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(University of Utah, J. Willard Marriott Digital Library, Classified Photograph Collection, Utah-Idaho Central Railroad p.1, https://collections.lib.utah.edu/ark:/87278/s60r9xwb)

Meanwhile, on the northern end of the L.R.T., plans were made to extend the line into southern Idaho. Ambrious Larsen, a resident of Cove, Utah, was a member of the construction crew working for the Utah Construction Company as they built this stretch of track. He described his role on the project: “Well, they [were] grading, you see, and this here Utah Construction Company had the contract to build this UIC Railroad. When they [came] into this territory, they had to have cement to build their bridges, and we hauled the gravel for the bridges over our High Creek and over the Union Pacific Railroad and then over Cub River.”

He then explained that he worked eight hours each day at a rate of four dollars per day. When asked if those wages were good comparatively, he said that “it was at that time. It was the regular pay. The county paid that . . . when we worked on the roads, scraping, when there was no gravel on the roads when we used to grade them up with dirt.”[4] The extent of the route, following this construction, would reach Preston, Idaho. In all, the length of the O.L.I. reached ninety-six miles between Ogden and Preston and covered a total of 127 miles including the city streetcar lines.[5]

A 1916 map of the interurban lines existing in Utah, their connections, and their relationships to major railroads such as the Union Pacific and Central Pacific Railroads. This map demonstrates the exciting new ability of Utah citizens to travel throughout the state by railroad, with the potential to connect to national railways and travel across the United States.
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(Utah State University, Merrill-Cazier Library, Special Collections & Archives, Interurban Lines of Utah and Idaho: Ogden, Logan, & Idaho Ry.: Salt Lake & Ogden Ry.: Salt Lake & Utah R.R. MAP 50-27)

The completion of the O.L.I. brought great opportunities for citizens in southern Idaho and Cache Valley. In Ogden, a connection with the Bamberger Electric Railroad made it possible for people to travel from Preston to Salt Lake City. Additional lines in Salt Lake City allowed for further travel to areas in southern, western, and eastern Utah as well as the ability to travel into neighboring states and connect with long-distance trains reaching both coasts of the country. In 1915 this would have been a revolutionary opportunity for many. Automobiles were untrustworthy and inconsistent, while traveling in a horse-drawn carriage would have required much more time and many more resources for such distances.[6] In spite of these improvements, the journey did require nearly five hours to complete. With sixteen trains traveling both ways each day, the O.L.I. became a popular means of transportation in northern Utah.[7] This popularity, and the new name of the railroad, would be short lived.

Images of the Construction and Operation of the O.L.I. in Cache Valley and Beyond

[1] Sorensen, “The Utah Idaho Central Railroad,” 148.
[2] Swett, 76.
[3] Carr, 23–26.
[4] Ambrious T. Larsen, interview by Craig Fuller, November 6, 1974, Life and History of Ambrious Larsen: An Oral History Interview by Craig Fuller, Cove, UT, 1–3.
[5] Carr, 26.
[6] Shaw, 2.
[7] Swett, 76.