Union Station – Ogden Utah. Photo: Shaun Nelson

The home of The Golden Spike Chapter of the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society is the Ogden Union Station.

Located on the west end of 25th Street on Wall Avenue is the historic Union Station. Originally built in 1869, and rebuilt after a fire in 1924, the station was a central point in railroad operations, earning Ogden the nickname “Junction City.”

Located in the Union Station is the Utah Station Railroad Museum. With exhibits, artifacts and interactive displays for children and railfans.

Outside is the Spencer S. & Dolores Doré Eccles Rail Center. Featuring historic locomotives, switch engines, box cars, and cabooses.

The Golden Spike Chapter of the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society has partnered with the Union Station to perform cosmetic restoration, repair, and inspection of the museum pieces in the Eccles Rail Center.

October 2015 – Cosmetic Restoration of the Rio Grande 5371

This project has gotten a good deal of internet attention. There seems to be a strong emotional interest in this locomotive, and with good reason – it was the last unpatched, unpainted D&RGW locomotive to run on former Rio Grande rails. The SD40T-2 number 5371 has gotten a facelift this past year due to the efforts of Derrick and Kerry Klarr, brothers with a long track record of quality volunteer work and private preservation.

With a grant from the National Railway Historical Society, they collected parts to restore the front end of the locomotive to its as-built appearance. This includes class lights and a gyralight. The ditch lights were removed and the nose striping repainted.

Work ended in November 2015 due to snow but will continue in the spring season this year. The snowplow still needs to be replaced and the pilot repainted. Depending on how far the grant can be stretched, or how much is donated, there are tentative (but not sure) plans to repaint the entire locomotive.

August 2013 – New Life for the Gandy Dancer

For years a bright red handcar was the centerpiece of the Utah State Railroad Museum’s maintenance-of-way exhibit. The replica, built in the 1980s for racing events, hadn’t been used since the early 1990s, but recently was taken as a traveling exhibit to the Evanston Roundhouse Festival in Evanston, Wyoming. Now it has become the official traveling ambassador for the museum, and with the Golden Spike Chapter helping, has become a new way to experience railroading history. Below are two videos, the top being at the Utah State Railroad Museum and the bottom being at the Evanston event taken by Lee Witten. An inexpensive and removable horn was added for safety, but beyond that improvement it provides a neat representation of railroad travel before the internal combustion engine.

The plan is to not only travel, but to utilize it at special events such as National Train Day (when speeder rides were offered this past year) and during the regular Weber County RAMP-sponsored free museum days. A plan is in place to expand this concept to include the museum’s own Fairmont speeders and eventually even one of the smaller locomotives in the collection.

January 2013 – Utah State Railroad Museum Update on Security

The ball is rolling now, folks. Recently an agreement between the Union Station Foundation (operators of the USRRM) and Scott Pitman was signed, making Scott the contractor for large restoration projects such as rebuilding the Saltair open cars, or repainting the 1969 Golden Spike Centennial display car in the museum’s collection. Scott has extensive experience restoring vintage automobiles, and as a fireman at Golden Spike National Historic Site. One of his first projects was to fix the fence surrounding the Eccles Rail Center. That’s right, after months of debate and meetings money was set aside to fix the gaps in the fence to prevent people from sneaking in from the back. The front will be left open, but since it faces Wall Avenue and is well lighted it was decided to leave it alone for the time being.

The good news about this is that there have been no more cases of new broken windows for the past few months! The Golden Spike Chapter finished boarding over the already broken ones, and Scott is currently collecting money to purchase new glass to replace the damaged panes.

To combat the problem of visitors climbing on roofs and walkways and leaving every imaginable unsecured hatch open, Lee Witten produced signs that are attached to the grab irons of the locomotives with u-bolts, which are then locked on the ends to prevent people from just unscrewing them. As far as we’ve observed these have been effective in keeping most people off of the equipment, although as in any public operation, there are always those who will disobey a sign just for the heck of it.

August 2012 – More Equipment Security

Ogden City and the Ogden Police Department are moving forward towards installing cameras that will be tied into the Ogden security camera system, to catch vandalism while it happens. In addition, approval has been made to repair the fence along the back and side, which is very much in need of patching.

All of the broken windows have now been boarded over, and approval has been given also to purchase replacement glass to fix the damage.

The 833 hasn’t been forgotten either. A few months ago vandals knocked down the rear storm wall of the cab, and the Golden Spike Chapter removed it completely to repair the hinges and door which were badly rusted. Work on the wall and door has progressed quickly, but in the meantime, plywood has been placed over the large opening to keep people out of the cab.

April 2012 – Broken Windows

A rash of vandalism and break-ins involving the equipment collection of the Utah State Railroad Museum prompted the Golden Spike Chapter, two years ago, to step up to the task of maintaining the collection for the museum.

Under the direction of Bob Geier about twenty years ago, an acquisitions binge occurred that left the museum with many incredible historic pieces, but with no way to repair, restore, or maintain them. When Bob left from the directorship and the Union Station Foundation took over building operations from Ogden City, the equipment was neglected due to lack of funds and manpower as the non-profit organization struggled to keep the buildings (ranging from 100 to 80 years old this year) open and in repair, and the museum grounds became known locally as an extension of the homeless shelter just one block south.

Over the years parts were stolen, equipment burned (three Utah-Idaho Central interurban cars were lost that way), and of course, windows broken. Now, with the Foundation settled into the system of operating the museum, interest has been directed back to the trains. Still no money to spend, of course, but movement has been made in that direction and the Golden Spike Chapter is providing the labor to help secure the museum’s collection.

Thus, a strategy has been developed to temporarily secure the collection, and hopefully prevent future vandalism. This strategy is three-fold:

1. Lock the equipment. Over the years, vandals and curious museum visitors broke open almost every door on every locomotive and caboose. These doors stayed open, and invited criminal activity, not to mention giving a bad image to the museum. To solve this problem, each door was chained and padlocked where possible. Over 48 new padlocks have been applied since this program was instituted. In addition, broken windows are boarded over until replacement glass can be obtained. Where padlocks are not feasible, such as on OWR&N 900061 (rotary snowplow), expanded-metal screens have been applied that will keep people out yet allow visitors to see inside.

2. Keep it clean. With the years spent open, many of the locomotive cabs and cabooses are filthy, with dust, dirt, and garbage. A weekend was spent to sweep out all visible cabs and cars, which definitely looked much better. The grounds are not neglected, either, and garbage must be regularly collected as all the litter in Ogden seems to collect along the fence of the Eccles Rail Center after every windstorm.

3. Post the rules. Every museum has specific rules to protect their collections and protect their visitors. In the past, there were no rules, and the equipment collection was viewed by many as just a giant playground. Many acts of vandalism were later found to be accidents caused by people jumping from the roof of one caboose to another, a dangerous act needless to say. Thus, several points must be made and emphasized: No climbing above the walkways, and all cabs and cars are closed to the public without a guide, no matter what the circumstances. As such, signs have been made and placed in the windows of the cars clearly stating that the public is not permitted to enter the cars without an accompanying docent. This strategy seems to be the most effective, apart from padlocks.

The implementation of this strategy, since its beginning until now, appears to have reinforced the Broken Window Theory – in effect, making the museum look like someone cares has stopped the most prevalent acts of vandalism. Of course, it won’t stop the more nefarious criminals, as has been seen with the rising number of incidents across the country where museums are robbed of thousands of dollars of brass and copper. But working on securing the museum has improved its image, as some visitors have remarked that it is looking much better than a decade ago.

April 2011 – Graffiti Removal

For his Eagle project, a local Boy Scout and his troop removed graffiti from the equipment. Whatever they were using, it did a good job. No trace of the graffiti- and the body paint wasn’t damaged at all. Thanks, Josh!

2001 – 2003: Rescue and Restoration of a WWII Hospital Car

A previous chairman of the Golden Spike Chapter R&LHS, Mike Burdett, was looking around the war surplus yard at Smith and Edwards Army surplus store north of Ogden, Utah. Among the items were two rail cars being used for storage of items such as boxes of nuts and bolts. Burdett noticed that one of these cars was a former hospital car. He did some research and decided this had great historical value and would make a great project for our Chapter to restore it.

Negotiations with Smith and Edwards resulted in one of the owners, Bert N. Smith, to donate the car. Burdett was able to obtain sufficient funds from the Swanson Foundation and Deal Foundation to pay for the removal and transport of the hospital car to a restoration facility.

Nelson Intermountain Crane Co. performed the operation illustrated by the photos in the gallery. September 18, 2001 was the date that the rail car was lifted from the ground after 40 years sitting in the Smith and Edwards storage yard. (Refer to the 2001 newsletter Volume 5 – Issue 5 for details of this operation.)

The car was transported about 5 miles down 1900 west from Smith and Edwards to Ryan’s Rail Car Repair Facility. Earlier two sets of trucks provided by Durbano Rail Construction Co. were positioned on a section of track and the hospital car was lowered on them.

Restoration began which involved pouring a new concrete floor inside the car. Priming the outside and painting in army green. The windows were replaced, and prototypical lettering and the Red Cross symbol was applied. (Refer to the 2002 newsletters Volume 6, issues 3, 4, 5, 6)

The car was moved on rail to the Union Station’s Eccles Rail Center where interior restoration work continued. Walls were scrubbed, examples of the hospital beds were installed, and window blinds were remanufactured (Refer to 2003 newsletter Volume 7 – Issue 1)

The completed hospital car was presented to the Union Station and is now part of its permanent collection. A ramp was built by the museum so that tours inside the car could be provided to visitors.