Part 2 of our look back at Union Pacific during the early years of the Port of Long Beach comes in this history written by John Bromley, the director of historic programs at the Union Pacific Railroad Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Mr. Bromley and the museum were kind enough to share this account with us as well as the wonderful photos you can find here.
Union Pacific’s entry into Long Beach was made possible by the formation of the Los Angeles Terminal Railway Co. on January 2, 1891, through consolidation of several small railroads in the Los Angeles, Glendale and Pasadena area. The Los Angeles Terminal then acquired right-of-way to Long Beach from the bankrupt Los Angeles and Ocean Railroad.
The railroad was opened to Long Beach on November 7, 1891. The next year the railroad purchased portions of the Rancho San Pedro known as Rattlesnake Island (later renamed Terminal Island).
Initially passenger service was the primary business of the Terminal Railway, serving the resort and summer homes properties at Long Beach and along Terminal Island.
The Terminal Railway soon began to dream of building a link to Salt Lake City for a new transcontinental railroad. Potential investors, however, were uninterested, afraid such a line would hurt their holdings in Southern Pacific and the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe. But the Terminal Railway did convince “Copper King” William A. Clark of Montana that it would be profitable.
On August 21, 1900 the Los Angeles Terminal Railway announced that Clark had acquired an interest in the company and would build a line to Salt Lake City. The San Pedro, Los Angeles & Salt Lake Railroad was incorporated on March 20, 1901, with the Terminal Railway as a part.
Ending the battle with Union Pacific’s E. H. Harriman who opposed the new line, Clark agreed on July 9, 1902 to sell one-half interest in SPLA&SL to Harriman for joint control of the line. The railroad was completed on January 20, 1905 with a brief ceremony at the joining of the rails 34 miles west of Las Vegas.
The new railroad adopted the slogan as the “Salt Lake Route” advertising the attractions of Southern California, including its beaches.
On August 25, 1916 the name of the railroad was shortened to the Los Angeles & Salt Lake Railroad. On April 27, 1921, an agreement was reached with Clark where Union Pacific purchased the remaining stock held by Clark.
The line from Los Angeles initially ran through mostly open country side to Long Beach where it turned west and ran down Ocean Boulevard through the downtown area to a bridge over the Los Angeles River that connected Long Beach with Terminal Island. Rapid growth in the region soon made the bucolic arrangement burdensome and in 1923 UP announced plans for a freight cutoff to the harbor district to bypass the downtown street running. Delayed by controversy over the proposed alignments, the cutoff was finally started in 1931 and ready by late 1932.
The use of the name Los Angeles & Salt Lake disappeared from the public view in the 1930s, although it still existed as a legal entity. It was formally merged into the Union Pacific Railroad on January 1, 1988.
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