The Bamberger Railway – Davis County’s original mode of transportationFeb 08, 2024 02:22PM ● By Braden Nelsen
Simon Bamberger, founder of the Bamberger Railroad, also served as the governor of Utah from 1917 to 1921. Photo from the Harris and Ewing Collection, LOC, public domain
DAVIS COUNTY—There was a time in the not-so-distant past in which the majority of people across the developed world traveled by rail. It was as common, if not more so than air travel today. The story of this particular railroad, however, may come as a surprise to many, and the face of Davis County has changed significantly since its start in 1891.
The Bamberger Railroad got its start as the Great Salt Lake & Hot Springs Railway, building a rail line that would extend from Salt Lake City to the now-destroyed Becks Hot Springs (where the quarry and oil refinery north of the city stand now). Simon Bamberger wasn’t satisfied with a rail line to one relaxation destination, however.
A successful mining magnate, Bamberger used his considerable funds to purchase land in Farmington, which he turned into Lagoon, a somewhat grander version of the smaller Lake Park: a lakeside resort on the Great Salt Lake that had lost popularity. Still, Bamberger wasn’t done yet.
The Great Salt Lake and Hot Springs Railway soon extended and by 1896, it was renamed as the Salt Lake and Ogden Railway, finally reaching the railroad hub of Ogden in 1908. That wouldn’t be the last of its name changes, however, nor of its fluctuating fortunes.
Electricity was sweeping the nation by storm, and everything it seemed was to be run by the phenomenon. Bamberger soon made the necessary changes, and soon after reaching Ogden, the newly dubbed “Bamberger Electric Railroad” began running electric trains from Salt Lake to Ogden and back, with stops all through Davis County.
This success would be relatively short-lived, however, when in the 1930s, the Great Depression caused the company to declare bankruptcy. With the lines and equipment still in place, the “Bamberger Railroad” was reborn, two years before the start of World War II.
The Bamberger’s fortunes seemed to turn around during the Second World War. The United States Military had a great need for trains to move immense amounts of cargo and personnel all over the country. The Bamberger participated in this transportation, which would have been immensely helpful in connecting Fort Douglas, with the newly opened Hill Field.
Unfortunately, with the dearth of business following the war, the Bamberger soon shut its doors, and in the late 50s, closed its doors and operations for good. While this may have lessened the crime in Ogden (fewer passengers means fewer potential victims), it did mean fewer transportation options for the citizens of Davis County. It wouldn’t be until the arrival of the FrontRunner by UTA that a dedicated, daily operating railway would return for passengers in Davis County. More information on the Bamberger and other Utah railways can be found at https://utahrails.net/utahrails/bamberger.php.