Transportaton and Public Utilities
Being so far from the markets and with the production of crops and demands for manufactured goods and supplies, the necessity for railroad transportation became urgent and the settlers began to interest themselves in such projects. As early as 1854, a memorial was addressed to Congress by the Territorial Legislature urging the construction of an overland railroad. In 1860 a second memorial was presented for the same purpose. When the time did come for the advent of the railroad none rejoiced more that the people of Utah. They were for the most part too poor to subscribe money but many supplies from their lands or their labor were cheerfully furnished.
In May 1868 a contract was made between Brigham Young and the Superintendent of Construction of the Union Pacific Company for the grading and other work on the proposed railroad between the head of Echo Canyon and a western terminus to be decided later. The contract amounted to about one million dollars and gave employment to five or six hundred men and they were to be paid as the work progressed. The later part of the agreement, however, was not kept although all the contracts for grading were faithfully executed.
When the last tie had been placed which connected the Central Pacific with the Union Pacific and the continent was linked by the first railroad, more than forth [sic] miles of grading had been done by the people and $1,250,000.00 was owing the men by the two railroad companies.
John Taylor, Joseph A. Young and John Sharp went east and pressed their claims so vigorously that as the company did not have funds on hand, it turned over rolling stock and equipment worth $600,000.00 in payment. In May 1869, ground was broken for the construction of the Utah Central Railroad between Ogden and Salt Lake City. This was a home enterprise and was built mainly from the rolling stock and equipment transferred from the Union Pacific Company.
In May 1871, ground was broken at Salt Lake City for the construction of the Utah Southern Central. This line was to extend to Provo and other points in southern Utah. Later this company was incorporated with the Utah Central.
The Utah Northern Railway Company was decidedly a home enterprise like the Utah Central and Southern Railway companies. Its builders were people of Utah and the people became the stockholders for their labor in the construction of the road. The company was organized August 23rd, 1871 with John W. Young as president and William B. Preston as vice-president and assistant superintendent. In less than one month after the organization of the company, ground was broken at Brigham City and the first rail was laid at Brigham Junction March 29th, 1872. The road was completed to Logan January 31st, 1873, and to Franklin, Idaho, in May, 1874.
The funds for building the railroad were raised with much difficulty among the people and after operating the line at a loss for several years, it was sold at a great sacrifice to the Union Pacific Company.
The arrival of the first train over the Utah Northern into Logan was the occasion of great excitement, enjoyment and real satisfaction for the people. They had patiently waited for years for the railroad and had built it with their own hard labor and limited means. No wonder it was a great day for Logan and Cache Valley. A successful future and rapid development for Cache Valley seemed assured.
The railroad was a narrow gauge (three foot) and entered the Valley about where the present line of the Interurban Railway does and went to Mendon and then across the Valley to Logan over the same route which was later traveled by the Oregon Short Line.
The first train into the Valley was piloted by Charley Paul of Logan, as the engineer. It was a small engine with only four drive wheels and weighed about 7,000 pounds. It was called the John W., after John W. Young, the president of the company. When the train arrived on the west side of the summit coming towards Cache Valley, it could not make the grade and all hands, including many of the younger men and boys from Logan who could not wait for the arrival and had in advance to see the train, helped to push the train over the summit. Practically all the people of the Valley and Logan were gathered at the end of Center Street where the present Oregon Short Line Depot is, to witness the coming of the first train.
There was much shouting and excitement when the train arrived. The little engine had several flat cars and the management ordered that ties be placed on the cars and that the people be given a ride down to Logan River and back. Many had to help the engine pull the load.
On the line, four other engines were operated with six drive wheels each and they were named the Utah, Idaho, Logan and Franklin. Some of the engineers were George I. Farness, Mark Fletcher and Evans Jones, Mr. Williams King, the present steward at the court house, was among the first fireman on the road.
Brigham Young's speech on this topic in Logan, 28 June 1873.