The railroad reached Salina on 20 June 1891. The first train arrived six days later, bringing the mechanized age to the town of 300 people. That same year, Salina was incorporated as a town and, as the end of the rail line, soon became the shipping point between surrounding counties and points north. Small businesses and the population both mushroomed. A newspaper, the Central Utah Press, was started, and a city hall with library and an eight-room elementary schoolhouse were built. The many saloons, boarding houses, and dancehalls, however, gave the town a reputation as a "sinful place."
The first fifty years of the twentieth century saw considerable polishing of the "rough diamond." Electrical and telephone service were introduced, a bank was established, and a high school and municipal waterworks were built. In 1913 Salina was incorporated as a city and Josiah F. Martin, Jr., was elected its first mayor. During the 1920s, U.S. Highway 89 was paved through Salina, one block of Main Street was paved, and sidewalks and gutters were built on many streets shaded by trees. Streetlights were installed and a new high school was built. Salina elected the first female mayor in Utah, Miss Stena Scorup, who served from 1922 to 1924.