The Interurban in Providence

The Providence Station used by the Logan Rapid Transit Company; Ogden, Logan and Idaho Railway Company; and the Utah-Idaho Central Railroad
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(Providence Historic Preservation Commission)

Unlike the stations in most other communities on the route of the Utah-Idaho Central, Providence’s station no longer stands. However, a small collection of records kept in the station have survived and provide a limited image of the operations of the U.I.C. in Providence. An index of the contents held in Special Collections & Archives within Merrill-Cazier Library at Utah State University can be viewed by following the link on the summary page. Despite water and other damage that have affected the state of the collection, the surviving records tell the story of Providence’s relationship with the U.I.C. and how it likely influenced the lives of those who lived and worked in Providence from 1913 to 1947. The Providence Station collection comprises only a short, one-year period of time from 1918 to 1919. Nevertheless, the documents bring the station to life by documenting the travel locations of those leaving and arriving in Providence. They demonstrate the economic connection between businesses in Providence, such as Theurer Brothers General Merchandise Store, and the operations of the railroad, some showing business connections as far as Omaha, Nebraska.[5] They also show the role of Providence Station in following and maintaining the requirements and standards enforced by the United States Railroad Association as it implemented tariffs and as its station agent ensured the efficient and proper operation of the U.I.C. within the community of Providence. Though the records are limited, it is evident that Providence contributed to the growth and development of the U.I.C. during its existence in Cache Valley.

A U.I.C. train in Providence, Utah
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(Providence Historic Preservation Commission)

In addition to his memories of visiting Lagoon,[8] Hoyt Kelley mentioned the economic value of the Utah-Idaho Central and its relationship with the local Amalgamated Sugar Company in shipping sugar beets as well as shipping rock from the Providence Limestone Quarry, which was owned and operated by Amalgamated. Kelley’s views on the end of the railroad are similar to many who fondly remember its service and the benefits it provided: “It’s sad that they don’t have it. Those right of ways were sold and taken over by the farmers and they never established them again . . . all the people that wanted to go anywhere went [with the train] too. It was a great little asset to have, but apparently when they started to use the other railway more it was a bigger railroad and it had bigger cars and so on and then automobiles came in and buses and just didn’t make it as [practical] . . . You could get on that thing and go to Salt Lake. You’d have half a day doing it. It’s too bad they lose things like that.”[9]

A railroad worker inspects U.I.C. engine #506 in Providence
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(Providence Historic Preservation Commission)

For those who were younger during the operation of the railroad, the U.I.C. was not as influential or emotionally connected as those who did ride the train. However, such individuals as Ivan Christensen also found a way to use the railroad, even being too young to ride it: “The experience I had with the Interurban Railroad, driving cows down there we’d flatten our pennies. We’d put them on the railroad track and then hide and then the train came by. My brothers rode it to school and I walked the tracks a number of times to go to picture shows but the train went out before I was big enough to ride it or use it. The older people would ride it to Logan or to high school but I never did. I just used it to mash pennies.”[10]

A U.I.C. engine and car stopped at Providence in the winter
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(Providence Historic Preservation Commission)

A final story of the railroad from Marie Olsen perhaps demonstrates the greatest connection between the U.I.C.’s operations, the reality of everyday life, and the emotions of individuals using the train:

“We lived a half a block from the railroad station down here on this main street, Second West . . . The train station was over a block on this corner. I was about ten years of age. I would go every week to take my violin lesson to Logan. I would have ten cents to buy my ticket and ten cents to buy my ticket coming home. This time I went and took my violin lesson and then when I came back to the train station in Logan I bought my ticket. It was dark and it was cold and I was waiting in the train station and my ticket fell behind the heater. I didn’t have any more money, I couldn’t call anybody. I tried to get it out with some gum on a pencil. It wouldn’t come. Here came the train and I thought, ‘What am I going to do? I’ve got to get home.’ So I climbed on the train without a ticket and hid behind a big fat lady. I thought, ‘Wonderful! Now I’m Ok, now I’ll get home.’ This fat lady put her skirt around me because she could tell I was kind of cold. I just hid back there and I thought, ‘Oh, I’m safe.’ The trouble was that when we got to Providence, the train didn’t stop because nobody had bought a ticket. So I kept going through the train station. The tracks were right along here. So it kept going and I thought, ‘What am I going to do?’ Millville was the next town. I think we were about here and I think I told the conductor, ‘I’ve got to get off.’ He looked at me and he said, ‘Where are you going?’ and I jumped off the train. I had my violin and I had to walk all the way back home. It was dark and I was scared to death. Every time I would go a little bit faster, these footsteps would be behind me. Well, it was me. Then the dogs were barking and it took me forever to get home. When I got down there, the big Zollinger home is on the west side of the street, and I knew then I was getting close. Then I could smell the pea vinery. I knew if I go a half a block more there will be the train station. I dashed home and I thought, ‘I’m never going to play that stupid violin again.’ But I did, I kept playing.”[11]

U.I.C. engine #602 in Providence
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(Providence Historic Preservation Commission)

Providence’s early connections to the U.I.C. brought permanent change to the community. Through its operation and service, the railroad contributed to the growth and development of the town, its businesses, and its individuals who worked for and dreamed of a better future for the city. On the other hand, the community of Providence also contributed to the expansion of the U.I.C. and its years of operation. The tracks, engines, whistles, and even the station itself may have disappeared, but the memory of the train and its impact continues to live on within the community of Providence, Utah.

A Selection of Records from Providence Station

[1] Referring to both the Ogden, Logan and Idaho Railway Company (O.L.I.) and the Utah-Idaho Central Railroad Company (U.I.C.).
[2] “Electric Line to Providence,” Logan Republican, May 17, 1913, Utah Digital Newspapers, https://newspapers.lib.utah.edu/ark:/87278/s60p1xs8/4747371.
[3] “All-Aboard for Providence! Railroad Celebration Tonight,” Logan Republican, May 20, 1913, Utah Digital Newspapers, https://newspapers.lib.utah.edu/ark:/87278/s6gf1s7c/4735415.
[4] “All-Aboard for Providence! Railroad Celebration Tonight,” Logan Republican.
[5] Ogden, Logan and Idaho/Utah-Idaho Central Shipping Orders, Utah-Idaho Central Railroad, archived within Utah Idaho Central Railway Providence Station records, 1918–1919, box 2, folder 1, Special Collections & Archives, Utah State University, Logan, Utah.
[6] See page 10, “A Railroad for the People - Serving the Community,” for Marie Olsen and Seth Alder’s memories of traveling to school on the U.I.C.
[7] Alder, http://providenceuthistory.com/providence-history/oral-histories/seth-alder/.
[8] Also see page 10.
[9] Kelley, http://providenceuthistory.com/providence-history/oral-histories/hoyt-kelley/.
[10] Ivan Christensen, interview by Rachel Gianni, June 9, 2006, Providence City Oral History Project, 2005–2008, Providence City, Utah. http://providenceuthistory.com/providence-history/oral-histories/ivan-christensen/.
[11] Olsen, http://providenceuthistory.com/providence-history/oral-histories/marie-olsen/.