Facebook Twitter



Have you ever wondered about old tree-and-brush-covered railroad grades at the sides of roads? Or parts of rails showing through pavements of streets?

If so, Stephen L. Carr and Robert W. Edwards have written a book for you.The book is "Utah Ghost Rails," an interesting, informative and readable compilation of histories of railroad lines that once ran though Utah.

The authors, who define a ghost railroad as one that has run the course of its existence, chronicle the rise and fall of these railroads from the time they opened until they were bought out or abandoned.

The major focus, the authors say, is to outline briefly the history of railways no longer in existence and relate them to the railroad history of Utah. The authors parallel this book with a companion volume, "Historical Guide to Utah's Ghost Towns," in helping the reader understand why the lines were built in the first place and their role in the state's economy.

The book is divided into six sections titled: Northern Utah, North Central Utah, Central Utah, Southwestern Utah, South Central Utah and Eastern Utah. Another section covers steam locomotives on display in Utah.

The photographs should bring back memories to those who rode these lines, and the photos blend in nicely with the text. Many of the maps are copied from U.S. Geological Survey maps, which are well-known for their excellent detail. The maps are reproduced in scales that make the locations and routes of these lines easily recognizable.

This book also should whet the appetite for exploring some of these abandoned lines. One of this writer's favorites is the Salt Lake & Utah, which ran west of Redwood Road from 3100 South to about 12700 South. And along with the Bamberger Railroad, they are rights of way the Utah Transit Authority would love to have today for light-rail projects.

The authors lead off with the Promontory railroads and the Union Pacific and Central Pacific - fitting because of the historical significance of the Golden Spike ceremony that linked the East and West coasts by rail.

Just as heavy-rail, interurban and mining lines are covered, so, too, is the Salt Lake streetcar system. This 13-page section is one of the best this writer has seen of the Salt Lake streetcar operations.

Another rail line that piques the curiosity is the Interstate Brick Co. operation that branched off from the Denver & Rio Grande Western's former Parleys Canyon line just west of Highland Drive. Many longtime residents of the area southwest of Sugarhouse Park might remember this line, which ran roughly along 1100 East to the brick plant at 3100 South, with another spur running eastward to the clay pit. For those reading pre-1970s maps of Salt Lake City that show these rail lines, the book provides excellent background information on the lines' significance.

The authors spent considerable time compiling this book, and their effort shows. One much-appreciated feature is the care in which the authors relate these lines to present-day events. For instance, many Wasatch Front readers might be surprised to learn how close they live to - and in some cases right on - former rights of way.

The only suggested improvements are a Utah map showing the locations of these lines and shadow boxes in each section showing the opening date(s) or year(s), the mileage and abandonment dates.

But these are small criticisms. This book will be an asset to the libraries of anyone who rode or was familiar with these lines as well as local history buffs, rail fans, researchers, and those just wanting to explore.