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Oregon Short Line


Oregon Short Line, 1880-Photo from the Utah State Historical Society


The Oregon Short Line Railway was organized on April 14, 1881. The line started from the Union Pacific main line in Granger, Wyoming and reached Montpelier on August 5, 1882 (Pat Wilde history gives the date as July 24, 1882) and then to McCammon in the fall of 1882.  Union Pacific Railroad goes through Salt Lake City to Promontory Point where the Golden Spike was driven but all of Idaho to Portland needed railroad service and this is why the Oregon Short Line was built.

Survey crews explored proposed routes in the summer of 1880.  During the 10 years after the Oregon Short Line Railroad reached Montpelier, the population jumped from 299 in1870 to 1,174, twice the population of Paris which was then 502.  In 1881 Ed Burgoyne, Joseph Phelps and John Cozzens took the first local contract to build a road bed through the slough south of Montpelier.  Burgoyne deeded a 200 foot right of way through Montpelier.  In 1882 additional lands were sold for shops, a round house, yard office and depot.

On Sep 26, 1882 the first railroad depot was built on the north side of Washington street and was made of wood frame.  The present depot is on the south side.  Eventually depots were built at Pegram, Border, Dingle, Georgetown and at Paris and Ovid for the Ping Pong.  The coming of the railroad divided Montpelier into "Mormon" or uptown and "Gentile Town" or down town.  A fence running north and south on Eight street became a dividing line between the original settlement at the bas of "M" hill and the railroad town that developed along the rails.  Each part of the divide developed its own schools and business district.  The two sides didn't unite until 1891, nine years after the arrival of the train.

In 1904 a brick round house was built containing 15 stalls.  In 1905 a 40 X 60 foot machine shop was built adjacent to the round house.  more than 600 engines were serviced and repaired per month in the shops.  In 1907 efforts to get a branch line to Paris and other west communities was requested and construction began in 1911.  In 1914 the Ping Pong opened.

The Montpelier Examiner, June 10, 1910


President J R Shepherd and Senator Wm L Rich of Paris, met with the directors of the Montpelier Commercial Club last Monday night to talk over the proposed railroad between Montpelier and Paris.

The situation at present, as stated by President Shepherd, is about as follows: The Oregon Short Line Railroad Company, through Bancroft has given the Paris people assurance that the branch to that town will be constructed and trains operating on it within two years from the time deeds to the right of way are turned over to the railroad company.

The Montpelier Examiner, August 5, 1910


E A Burrell, G C Gray and Chas E Harris spent Wednesday in Salt Lake in conference with General Superintendent Mason of the Oregon Short Line, regarding the erection the proposed new passenger station and freight depot in Montpelier.

Messrs. Burrell and Harris returned yesterday morning.  Mr. Gray remaining in Salt Lake to look after some personal business.

The Montpelier Examiner, February 10, 1911

A Short Line bridge gang of 15 men arrived the first of the week to begin construction the culverts and bridges on the Montpelier Paris branch.

Most of the material for the bridge over Bear River will be hauled out from town by teams. The foreman of the gang stated that he expected to have the bridge and culverts all completed in two months.

The Montpelier Examiner, October 13, 1911

On account of the Bear Lake County Fair at Paris next week, the Short Line will run special trains on the Paris branch Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.   The trains will leave Montpelier promptly at noon each day and returning will leave Paris at 6pm.  The fair will be 40 cents for the round trip.

The Montpelier Examiner, June 14, 1912

Last Thursday afternoon Oregon Short Line officials who were out on their second annual get acquainted tour, visited Montpelier and Paris.

The Montpelier Citizens had just one question to put to Mr. Manson and that was "When are we going to get that new depot?"  In reply Mr. Manson said that he could not tell just when the work on the depot would begin, but that the appropriation of the $20,000 station was included in the Short Line budge for the year beginning July 1, 1912.

At 2 o'clock the special train went to Paris.  At the depot there, the officials were met by a large committee of citizens and taken in carriages to the Fielding Academy where they were enabled to get a fine view of the beautiful valley.

Returning from the academy, a short meeting was held in the tabernacle.  Wm L Rich, president of the Paris Commercial club presided.  When asked regarding the probable extension of the Paris branch on south to the lake, Mr. Mason gave the welcome assurance that the matter was under serious consideration by the Short Line officials.

The Montpelier Examiner, September 27, 1912

The first of this week four of the popular firemen on the First District were "hit on the head with a soft hammer."  In other words they passed examinations which entitled them to manipulate the throttle and wear the badge of an engineer.  The lucky ones are L H Berka, M R Day, Frank Preston and C A Cochran.

While the "boys" are all deserving of their promotions, the change came a little sooner than they anticipated, due to the immense freight traffic on the Short Line at this time.  Shipments of fruit and stock are especially heavy now and it is keeping the officials jumping to get the traffic over the road, and there is enough business in sight to keep things humming for the next three months or more.

The rush of business also necessitated the promotion of three of the old First District brakeman and Fred Bergman, Jim Ryan and Roy Phelps are now on the conductor's extra board.

The Montpelier Examiner, February 14, 1913

There is a rumor going the rounds that the Short Line when it gets to double tracking out of Montpelier, will push the Paris branch on down to Fish Haven or Garden City.  It is said that the right of way will not cost the company a cent, but will be donated by those living along the proposed line.

The incomes from the Paris branch could be made many times greater by the extension of this road for say 12 miles further, thus tapping the rich sections around Bloomington, St Charles, Fish Haven and Garden City.  It would open up one of the finest summer resorts in the world, as well as make available the great ice crop of Bear Lake that now goes to waste every year.

The Montpelier Examiner April 11, 1913

Last week the Short Line suffered several severe washouts to its roadbed, one of the worst being between Fossil and Sage, where the roadbed was undermined for some 10 miles.

By hard work on the part of a big crew of men, the track was put in shape by Friday so that trains could pass over, after being tied up for four days.  However, just as this section was ready for trains, and while No 17 was running into this city Friday evening, word came that a portion of one of the bridges near Novene had gone out and traffic was once again brought to a standstill on the Second district.

The railroad continued through the years as the biggest employers of the county.  It brought jobs and wealth, transported supplies and men for WW II.  Early passengers rode east to Green River and there to Salt Lake.  They could go west to on the Portland Rose #17 to Pocatello, the coast or to Logan Utah.  The trip to Logan was often called the "Honeymoon Special" because people got married in the LDS Logan Temple after riding the train there.

The trainmen from Montpelier took the trains east to Green River and back about 100 miles.  The early steam engines were slower and needed fuel and water often so the train crews were changed every 100 miles.  Railroad men from Pocatello brought the trains to Montpelier and back to Pocatello, but if a layover was required stayed in boarding rooms, apartments or the Burgoyne Hotel.  They brought money to merchants.

In 1971 the Central Train Control came into being and railroad men had to choose to move either to Pocatello or Green River.  The town is now half the size it once was.


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