The Rise and Fall of the Galloping Goose
When a system of trolley cars built in the early twentieth century earns from former riders the affectionate nickname, “The Galloping Goose,” it’s clear some good stories are in the offing. For instance, Venice Andrews told me that the trolley line passed right by her Logan home in the 1930s when she was newly married. “It shook the house so bad,” she said, “that it finally shook the chimney down.” Supporting Venice’s story was Lewiston's Clyde Littledike’s judgement of its overall configuration. “There was no relationship,” he said, “between the undercarriage rolling along the tracks and the cars above.”
Leona Lundstrom, who rode the car weekly from her home in Lewiston to a Preston dentist as a child during the early 1940s, spoke of the rhythmic swaying from side to side. “It could make you seasick,” she said. A teacher in Preston, who rode the line daily from her home in Logan, tells of a major earthquake during one trip of which she was completely unaware until she got off the train and heard about it from her colleagues in school. That didn’t surprise Renée Karren. “Riding in that thing,” she said flatly, “was an earthquake all by itself.”
Bob Lindhardt of Preston rode it regularly as a child on visits to the Ogden home of his grandparents. “It was a rough ride, all right” he said, “it shook every which way – up and down, side to side.” He described one trip during which the train jumped the tracks on a stretch between Beaver Dam and Mendon. The passengers and crew got out and surveyed the damage – ties broken to pieces, tracks split apart. “The funny thing was,” Bob said, “we didn’t even realize the car was running along off the tracks until the conductor stopped and told us about it.”
“And man, it was slow,” put it Alan Shaw, who made the interminable trip between Brigham City and Ogden as a child. “But it’s a good thing it was slow,” he added, “otherwise it wouldn’t have stayed on the tracks at all.”
How did a line named “The Logan Rapid Transit Company” when it was first incorporated in 1910 evolve into “The Galloping Goose?” Well, a lack of proper maintenance was the biggest problem, and that in turn stemmed from the plummeting profits of rail lines in general as the first half of the twentieth century progressed.
At its beginning in 1910, a public transit system looked to be extraordinarily profitable to Utah businessman, David Eccles. And it was clearly something that was needed in the valley. So Mr. Eccles formed a group of financiers to request a franchise for an electric trolley, utilizing Logan’s new source of electric power on the Logan River.
South Cache High School Students boarding the UIC trolley near the school.
After the franchise was granted, an initial capital outlay of $1 million built a two-mile, narrow-gauge line from the Oregon Short line depot on Logan’s 600 West, that traveled up through Center, Main, and 400 North Streets to the Utah Agricultural College (now Utah State University). In 1912, the line was extended south to Providence and north to Hyde Park and Smithfield. Passengers during this time were made up mostly of college and public school students.
The line used self-propelled cars – manned by one conductor each – which were powered by electricity supplied through an overhead wire. A flexible, wand-like device called a “trolley” on the roof extended from its rolling contact with the wire above down to the streetcar’s electrical system – hence the name “trolley car.” Therefore, constructing grades, laying tracks, and manufacturing cars were not the only expense involved in creating a new trolley system; the additional poles, overhead wires, and electrical system added to the total outlay – and to the cost of maintenance. Moreover, some of the scattered stations needed to be equipped with booster systems to extend the Logan Canyon power along the lines as they were added.
When David Eccles died suddenly in 1912, the company’s management shifted to David’s son, Marriner and, under his leadership, the group began a major building and consolidation effort. The first step was to link Logan Rapid Transit with Ogden Rapid Transit – the latter another Eccles company which operated a trolley car system in Ogden. Then a new track was built on the abandoned Oregon Short Line’s narrow gauge grade, linking Collinston, the Bear River Gorge, and Wellsville to the existing line. By 1915, the line extended to Preston, Idaho, and the total route covered some eighty miles with sixteen trains a day traveling from Ogden to Preston – a five hour trip, one way. The name was also changed at that time to the Ogden, Logan, and Idaho Railway Company.
A connection in Ogden with the Bamberger line made it possible for passengers from Preston, Idaho, to travel all the way to Salt Lake City. This would have been a long ride indeed – on lightly padded seats, with the cars perhaps already exhibiting some of the shaking, swaying, and rattling for which they would become justly famous. It could well have been better, though, than the same trip by horse and buggy, or even in the few, often untrustworthy automobiles available at that time. This was back in 1915, after all.
By 1919 the company had again expanded to include a line from Lewiston’s sugar company (now Presto Products) on the east side of Lewiston, to Kent, Quinney, and Thaine on the west – a trio of the many sugar beet dumps for area farmers (sketch below right). At this time, the line’s name made its final change to the Utah-Idaho Central Railroad Company (UIC) – the name it kept until its last run in March of 1947.
As mention of the sugar beet business indicates, passengers weren’t the line’s only source of revenue. From its 1910 beginnings, the company had always carried agricultural products in separate freight cars – some of them under steam. In fact, this part of its revenue became increasingly significant in the line’s survival as privately owned automobiles and the company’s own buses cut into the trolley’s passenger business during the next few decades..
During World War I, while farmers expanded both their acreage and their store of equipment to plant and harvest, business was brisk as the line hauled agricultural products to Ogden’s train terminals and brought machinery back. The export market for agricultural products in war-torn Europe was especially strong at this time.
The slump in demand at the end of the war was inevitable, however, and a disaster for farmers over their heads in debt for land and equipment. The situation was worsened by a tariff war brought on by our own government’s shutting down of cheap imports from overseas which in turn led to retaliation by overseas markets. The result was an almost complete drying up of exports to these markets from farmers in the United States. The resulting agricultural depression of the 1920s affected all areas touching upon the farmers’ fortunes and the UIC was not exempt.
In an effort to pull out of the sink of operating and maintenance costs, parts of the line were sold or discontinued and, in 1924, buses were substituted on various trolley routes, mainly to forestall other companies competing with the line for the valley’s business. The local Logan line was one of those discontinued in favor of buses. Maintenance on the remaining trolley lines was cut to the bare minimum. Nothing helped. The company went into receivership in 1926.
Down, but not out, the ailing UIC was reorganized, bonds were sold, and profits were realized by the company in 1927 and 1928. But things had no sooner begun looking up when the stock market crashed in October of 1929 and the company nose-dived again into another spiral of debt.
The UIC trolley stopped at the Mendon, Utah, depot in the mid 1930s
By 1939, the company went once more into receivership, though a loan from the federal government’s Reconstruction Finance Corporation and a low- interest bond issue allowed the line to survive for a few more years. But the end was near. Long haul lines – such as the Union Pacific – that could offer direct routes to points outside the valley and the state, increasingly cut into the smaller line’s freight business, as did the use of heavy trucks. At the same time, the continuing encroachment of private automobiles and buses drove passenger revenue below even minimum maintenance costs. The decision was made by the trustees, finally and reluctantly, to go out of business. This was in December of 1946.
On March 18, 1947, the line made a ceremonial last run in the form of Car No. 51, from the Ogden station to Preston and back, sounding its mournful whistle at every stop. The interurban trolley car, along its uneven track, was to shake, rattle, and jolt no longer.
But aside from personal recollections there are many reminders of the Valley’s Galloping Goose. The book, Utah Ghost Rails, describes grades which can still be seen, one of which passes over Collinston Summit and down into Mendon – the grade, mentioned earlier, that was originally built for the Utah Northern Railroad in 1871 and recycled for Cache Valley’s trolley cars. A grade stopping short of Highway 91 between Wellsville and Hyrum and continuing on the other side is also discernible.
Remnants can be seen of the Quinney Branch grade running south of Lewiston and crossing the Bear River. The grade can be clearly seen in the field on the right traveling east at about 1200 East and Main on the outskirts of Trenton. The “Old Black Bridge,” mentioned in the book as visible from that spot, is gone now but its foundations are still there.. The spur to Quinney can be seen in Amalga – the main grade is about a half mile west of the highway. There is also a discernible grade on the east side of Lewiston.
Aside from its ghostly grades, the company’s consolidations brought the construction of substantial brick station houses at points along the route.
The Smithfield depot (now First Security Bank), circa 1918, with three gentlemen outside. Sources say that one is possibly Martin Roskelley. Does anyone recognize the others?
Smithfield’s station house, on the northwest corner of Main and Center Streets is now a branch of the First Security Corporation. Clyde Littledike tells me this building also served as a booster station for the electric line; the old insulators can still be seen on the east side of the bank building.
Among others still standing are Wellsville’s station, now housing the offices of dentist J. Thomas Smith, and Richmond’s station, on the corner of State Highway 91 and Richmond’s Main Street, shown below. This building at one time held a laundry and the trolley’s schedule could still be seen there, hanging on the wall. (This building was refurbished in early 1999 as an antique shop.)
Richmond Depot in the 190s. Note the station master's laundry drying to the right.
Lewiston’s old station house stands on the east side of North Main in the 100 block between two late-model homes. Ed and Wilma Wilson had made the living quarters behind this station their home for many years before moving into their present place nearby. Shortly before his death, Ed Wilson presented the “Lewiston” sign and other station keepsakes to Lewiston City. They can be seen in the Club Room adjacent to the Lewiston City Library.
Long used for storage by the Wilsons, the solidly built brick building itself is now being restored and enlarged into a home by Coby Bergeson. His work was featured in a Tribune article on historic station houses on January 18 of this year, and can be read on http://www.sltrib.com in the archive section (but without the many pictures, alas) and in its entirety in the newspaper section of USU’s Merrill Library.
Most of those interviewed for this piece had used the line as youngsters traveling to North or South Cache High Schools, and had constitutions and skeletal structures hardy enough to handle all the teeth-rattling vibration. So their memories, though colorful, were for the most part affectionate. Richmond’s Helen Mauchley remembers running for the trolley car almost every morning (“I was on a hair-trigger schedule at the time.”), and the rackety ride as well. “But I never had any trouble with it,” she told me, “It was fun to ride.”
"Galloping Goose" cartoon
by Melanie Shaw
Photos of South Cache High School Students boarding the UIC trolley near the school, the UIC trolley at Mendon, the Smithfield depot circa 1918, and the Richmond Depot in the 1940s, all by courtesy of the USU Special Collections.