Denver and Rio Grande Western Railway completed its narrow-gauge line
between Colorado and Salt Lake City in March 1883; it was extended to
Ogden two months later. The company was reorganized in 1889 as the Rio
Grande Western Railway to enable it to finance the conversion of its
line from narrow gauge to standard gauge. In 1901 the Rio Grand Western
came under the control of the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad in Colorado.
The original Denver and Rio Grande Western, after 1884, and the Rio
Grande Western after 1889, were independent railroads until 1901. In
the seventeen years that the two companies were independent, they succeeded
in completing a network of branch lines that put them in direct competition
with the Union Pacific in the state of Utah. In addition, the Rio Grande
also had a virtual monopoly on the movement of coal out of the state.
Western Pacific Railway started construction in 1906 and was completed
between Salt Lake City and Oakland, California, in 1909. The company
was controlled by the same people who controlled the Rio Grande, and
its line was completed as a Pacific Coast extension of the Denver and
Rio Grande tracks. In 1908 the Denver and Rio Grande consolidated its
various branch lines and subsidiary companies in Utah and Colorado,
including the Rio Grande Western, to finance the completion of the Western
Pacific line. The route was completed west from Salt Lake City around
the south end of the Great Salt Lake, continuing due west across the
salt desert to the Nevada line at Wendover. Rio Grande lost control
of the Western Pacific in 1916, with the latter railroad company remaining
independent until it was merged with the Union Pacific in 1982, giving
Union Pacific direct access to the ports of Oakland and San Francisco.
Southern Pacific came into the state by leasing the original line of
the Central Pacific. Although most of the Southern Pacific's line in
Utah is located west of the Great Salt Lake, that part of the railroad
which crosses the lake is unique in the nation. In 1903 the Southern
Pacific completed one of the longest railroad trestles ever built when
it constructed a new line across the north arm of the Great Salt Lake.
In 1959 the trestle was replaced by an earthen fill dirt causeway. In
1988 the Southern Pacific and the Denver and Rio Grande Western merged,
forming the fifth largest rail system in the nation.