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history of union station


On March 8, 1869, the first Union Pacific engine steamed into the city on the heels of tracklayers on their way to Promontory and eventual joining with the Central Pacific. Ogden’s romance with the railroading began.  Four cities, Corinne, Promontory, Uintah, and Ogden, competed with each other for the right be the junction for railroad travel in the Intermountain West. After quickly disqualifying the others, Corinne and Ogden continued the competition for the “Junction City” title until Brigham Young donated several hundred acres of land to the two railroads demanding that they build the yards and station in Ogden.

The first station, built in 1869, was a two-story wooden frame building painted fire-engine red built on a mud flat on the banks of the Weber River. The building soon became inadequate, being also the facility for the narrow gauge Utah Central Railroad (later Oregon Short Line) and the narrow gauge Rio Grande Western (later Denver & Rio Grande Western). Locals complained about the quarter mile of wood boardwalk required to traverse the swampy ground to reach the station.

In 1889, Union Pacific and Central Pacific Railroad Companies organized the jointly-owned Ogden Union Railway & Depot Co. to oversee the construction and management of a new Union Station.  It was considerably larger, two stories, and constructed of brick.  Designed in the Romanesque style, with a large clock tower in the center, this building served the needs of the railroad, contained 33 hotel rooms a restaurant, barbershop and other conveniences needed by the traveler.

In 1923, a hotel room in the depot caught fire.  Fire quickly spread throughout the building. When the blaze was finally controlled the depot had received serious damage. The walls and clock tower were standing but in a fragile state. No deaths or injuries occurred.  Workers returned to work despite the condition of the building.  When a stone from the clock tower fell and killed a railroad clerk, the building was condemned.Rather than build to the former design, John and Donald Parkinson, architects of the Caliente, Nevada, and Kelso, California, stations proposed a new design.

Completed in 1924, the architecture of the new building is Spanish Colonial Revival style.  With the corner stone laid on November 22, 1924, the new Station was ready for occupancy.  The community celebrated with speeches and photographs. One photograph, showing thirteen young women pulling the first train to arrive at the Station by ribbons, made its way into the La Domenica del Corriere, an Italian newspaper in Milan, with the headline “Curious American Custom.” Southern Pacific Railroad (originally Central Pacific) and the Ogden Union Railway & Depot Co. occupied the upstairs north side of the building and the south side housed the Union Pacific Telegraph Department offices. The ceiling of the Grand Lobby, taking up the center portion of the building, has a height of 56 feet. In 1945-46, the massive beams in the Lobby ceiling received a faux wood grain painted by artisans. Of special note are the two drinking fountains on either end of the Grand Lobby. In 1977, with the demise of passenger service, Ogden City received a 50 year lease from Union Pacific for the Union Station building with the plan to use the building for museums. Renovations began. At the dedication ceremony in 1978, Union Pacific brought the famous UP 8444 at the head of a special passenger train from Cheyenne, to the new museums. In 1988 the State of Utah designated the Union Station as the Utah State Railroad Museum.

In 1980 muralists Edward Laning came to Ogden to personally oversee the installation of his two 50’ by 12’ murals in the Grand Lobby. The northern side depicts the Union Pacific company coming from Omaha, Nebraska and the southern side depicts the Central Pacific coming from Sacramento, California. The National Academy of Design of New York City granted $100,000 to Union Station for Mr. Laning’s commission (Laning painted the Ellis Island murals in 1935). The murals are oil on Belgian linen canvas done in the artist’s studio in New York City and then shipped to Ogden. This was the last mural painted by Laning before his death in 1981.
The Station now houses Utah State Railroad Museum, John M. Browning Firearms Museum, Browning-Kimball Classic Car Museum, the Wattis Dumke Model Railroad, Eccles Rail Center, three fine arts galleries and Warren’s Train Shop, Union Grill Restaurant, the U.S. Forest Service Information, and the Union Station Library. It hosts many conventions, weddings, banquets and events other events such as the Annual Hostlers Model Railroad Festival, Ogden Marathon Expo, craft and bridal fairs and birthday parties in the Ginger Wallace Birthday Caboose.
Thanks to Wikipedia, Lee Witten, Roberta Beverly, Charles Trentelman and Diana Azevedo

Permanent link to this article: http://theunionstation.org/museums/library/history-of-union-station/