The Ogden Rapid Transit Company (O.R.T.)

Matthew S. Browning, Ogden City Mayor, 1900-1901<br />
M. S. Browning as mayor of Ogden, Utah, 1900–1901

(Utah Division of Archives and Records Service, Utah State Archives, Ogden [Utah] City Recorder Mayors Photographs, Series 27746, Box 1, Folder 3, Matthew S. Browning [1900–1901] http://images.archives.utah.gov/cdm/singleitem/collection/27746/id/17/rec/13)

On May 16, 1900, the Ogden Rapid Transit Company (O.R.T.) was incorporated and began its operations in Ogden, Utah. The main purpose for its establishment and organization was to acquire, operate, and improve the equipment and property of the Ogden Electric Railway Company (O.E.R.). The O.E.R. only operated two trolley cars at the time, with the remainder out of service. David Eccles was the main investor in the O.R.T. along with his business partner, M. S. Browning, adding it to a growing number of companies within the Eccles Corporation. They quickly updated and repaired the system, creating a modernized and quality mode of transportation for both passengers and freight in the Ogden area.[1]

O.R.T. Engine #206 Delivered to Ogden, Utah, 1912<br />
O.R.T. engine #206 being delivered to Ogden, Utah, on June 11, 1912
[Click image to view full-size photo]

(University of Utah, J. Willard Marriott Digital Library, Special Collections, Multimedia Archives, Utah Railroads Photograph Collection P0820, image 74, https://collections.lib.utah.edu/details?id=942894&page=2&q=P0820+Utah+Railroads+Photograph+Collection)

Eccles made sure to extend the O.R.T. lines into the Ogden Canyon in 1909, providing service to a resort known as The Hermitage as well as to his hometown of Huntsville by 1915.[2] This route was very expensive to construct and some considered it one of the few business mistakes that Eccles ever made.[3] This decision was made in response to another businessman, Simon Bamberger, who owned The Hermitage and began surveying for construction of his own line through the canyon. He already had a connection to Ogden from Salt Lake and thought it would be wise to connect to his resort as well.[4] Eccles rushed his team to complete the line before Bamberger and ultimately won the contest. To get an idea of the cost, one three-mile section of the canyon line cost $100,000.[5] At its height, the O.R.T. comprised twenty-four miles of city track lines, in addition to the ten-mile extension to Huntsville and other branches to Plain City, Warren, and other areas of North Ogden.[6]

J.W. Bailey to Becker Brewing and Malting Company, Outstanding Account Balance, 1911<br />
A letter from the O.R.T. to the Becker Brewing and Malting Company in Ogden, Utah, regarding payment for shipping services. This 1911 letter indicates the early relationship of Becker Brewing with the O.R.T., which would continue.
[Click image to view full document]

(Utah State University, Merrill-Cazier Library, Special Collections & Archives, Becker Brewing and Malting Company records, 1893–1954 CAINE MSS 31, Series 2, Box 13, Folder 8, Item 1)

The inner-city lines mainly operated for the use of passenger transportation. The branch lines to outside cities focused more on freight, though the lines to Warren, Plain City, and Huntsville also served children who traveled to Ogden for school.[7] The O.R.T. did bring initial profit for Eccles. Philip Sorensen, a historian of the Utah-Idaho Central Railroad, wrote that “success greeted the Ogden Rapid Transit Company in its first years of operation and determined David Eccles to build a similar system in Cache Valley.”[8] This became a reality in 1910 when he established the Logan Rapid Transit Company in Logan, Utah.

[1] Swett, 70.
[2] Stephen L. Carr and Robert W. Edwards, Utah Ghost Rails (Salt Lake City, UT: Western Epics, 1989), 21–22.
[3] Sorensen, A Corporate and Financial History of the Utah Idaho Central Railroad, 40.
[4] Carr, 22.
[5] Swett, 72.
[6] Swett, 70–74.
[7] Carr, 22.
[8] Philip Sorensen, “The Utah Idaho Central Railroad,” Utah Historical Quarterly 27, (1959): 146.