Gould Control and Aftermath: 1901 To Present
In 1901, the Union Pacific Railroad gained control of the Southern Pacific Railroad, which owned the Central Pacific Railway, the portion of the First Transcontinental Railroad west of Ogden. Searching for another route to the Pacific, Gould incorporated the Castle Valley Railway as a cutoff from the RGW's main line near Farnham to the Marysvale Branch at Salina and beyond to the under-construction San Pedro, Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad (Salt Lake Route) at Milford. However, the Union Pacific gained control of the Salt Lake Route in mid-1903, forcing Gould to construct an entirely new line to California. The financing of the Western Pacific Railway (WP) would take almost all the revenues of the MP, D&RG, and RGW, leaving very little for maintenance, let alone improvements. The D&RG and RGW, operated as a single system since 1901, were merged as the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad on July 31, 1908, finally combining the two halves of the Denver-Ogden line into one railroad company.
Improvement of the standard-gauge main line through Utah to relieve congestion had begun in 1898, when the RGW added a second track to the steep 4% grade to Tucker on the west side of Soldier Summit. The shallower east-side grade was similarly doubled to Colton in 1906, and further to Kyune and from Castle Gate to Helper in 1909. Construction began on a new low-grade line west of the summit in 1912, when the D&RG added a track between Detour (the west end of the realignment) and Thistle. The new line, with a double hairpin curve, was completed the next year, as was a second track between Kyune and Castle Gate, completing a double-track line between Thistle and Helper, with a maximum grade of 2.4% on the east slope and 2.0% on the west. Local competition arrived in 1912, when the United States Smelting, Refining and Mining Company, which owned coal mines southwest of Price, organized the Utah Railway (originally the Utah Coal Railway). U.S. Smelting objected to the D&RG's charging of higher freight rates due to the mines' location on a branch line, and began to build its own line over Soldier Summit into the Utah Valley. The two companies reached an agreement in November 1913, where the D&RG would operate the Utah Railway between a junction near Castle Gate and the mines, and the unfinished line between Thistle and Provo would be completed as a second track. This arrangement began with the completion of the road in 1914, and the D&RG now had a double-track line between Provo and Helper. Three years later, the Utah Railway began independent operations between the mines and Provo under a reciprocal trackage rights arrangement that has persisted to the present, where each company allows the other to use its half of the double-track line.
The WP was completed in 1910, but its construction had given the D&RG enormous debts. After periods of ownership by Eastern bankers, the courts appointed two local trustees in 1935. The system was slowly rebuilt into a profitable enterprise, and in 1947 it was reorganized as the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad. After buying the Southern Pacific Transportation Company in 1988 and adopting the latter's name, the D&RGW became part of the Union Pacific Railroad in 1996.
With the level of the Great Salt Lake rising in the mid-1980s, the D&RGW and UP came to a trackage rights agreement, where the D&RGW would use the UP's higher line between Salt Lake City and Ogden, and in exchange the UP could use the D&RGW between Salt Lake City and Provo, a better-designed route than the UP's. The majority of the ex-D&RGW north of Salt Lake City is now the Denver and Rio Grande Western Rail Trail, while the UP has sold its Sharp Subdivision north of Provo to the Utah Transit Authority, which operates the Sandy/Salt Lake light rail line and contracts with the Salt Lake City Southern Railroad for freight.
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