The areas of South Morgan and North Morgan were first settled in 1960-61, and were incorporated into Morgan City in 1868. Morgan’s business district had it origins along Young Street and State Street in South Morgan. Some of these first businesses included a mercantile and blacksmith shop. Although the business district was in South Morgan the main route into the area was located on the northeast side of Weber River. This created a dangerous situation to receive merchandise and supplies from out of the area. It was very hazardous to cross the river, especially in Spring prior to the first bridge over the river.
In 1862 -1866 the vision of a Transcontinental Railroad was made possible by the Pacific Railroad Acts created by the United States Congress. These Acts provided western land grants to the railroad companies and authorized issuing government bonds to constructed the railroad across the continent. The land on which Como is located was part of this Act granting ownership of the land to UPRR Co. The Union Pacific Railroad Company began construction in Omaha, Nebraska heading West, to eventually meet up with the Central Pacific Railroad at Promontory in 1869.
The approved route west traversed down upper Weber Canyon, through Morgan City and Morgan County exiting from the lower section of Weber Canyon at Devil’s Gate. This massive construction project provided employment for the area residents who were experiencing one of their worst years since entering the valley. Few if any crops could be harvested since the invading hordes of grasshoppers had literally wiped out the majority of the pioneer’s plantings. Farmers were employed to help built the grade for the tracks and also construct the tunnels, providing wages to support their families during the difficult time.
In 1868-69 many of the businesses in South Morgan relocated next to the track for the convenience the railroad provided to receive and ship merchandise for their establishments. This created Morgan’s unique Commercial Street with business only located on one side of the street.
Morgan was fortunate to have several stations located in the county. Stations were at Devil’s Slide, Morgan City and Peterson. A very small station was located at Strawberry for a short time. The stations at the other three sites were passenger, as well as freight stations and operated for many years. They were the hubs of the communities.
The first station in Morgan City was constructed soon after the the railroad grade was first built through the city. From information provided by Dr. Bradley W. Richards a station was built in the 1890’s. However, we know trains did stop and provide services here beginning with the first train in 1869.
In circa 1906 a more substantial frame station was built across the track from the Heiner Brother’s Hotel on Commercial Street. There was still only one track through the county. This made it difficult for trains going both east and west at the same time. One train would have to be delayed and wait in a siding for the other to pass by before it could continue on its journey. In 1926 this situation changed when Union Pacific did a major construction project. A second grade with track was laid parallel to the first line. This is referred to as double-tracked. One track for East-bound trains and the other for West-bound trains.
Until 1926, 100 North Street continued northeast and went over the railroad tracks. In 1926 the new station was built at this site eliminating the crossing. Two overpasses were also built. One on State Street and an additional overpass just east of the business district. These overpasses eliminated the necessity of traffic crossing the tracks. It was a great safety improvement for Morgan residents.
The Salt Lake City-based construction company of Ryberg-Sorenson, Inc built the brick station at a cost of $13,601. The architectural style is considered Spanish Colonial Revival. From 1915 through 1935 this architecture was popular in the state. According to the book “Mountains Conquered” the total cost of all the work in Morgan amounted to $70,581.00.
When the new passenger station was completed the previous station was converted to an all-freight station. Over the decades it was also used for storage and rented to local merchants. The Valley Implement stored much of their inventory within its walls. The depot was demolished in the fall of 2008.
Information from the National Register Nominations describes the interior of the station is composed of three major rooms; the public waiting room, the station agent’s office and the baggage area. The original interior is mostly intact. There are three original brass-footed wooden benches, with a pattern of square cutouts in the top back for warm air to rise from the enclosed radiators, are in the small lobby.” The ticket window also remains intact. There have been very few alterations to the original structure. The unique Union Pacific Shield of polychrome remains located on the exterior, over the windows on the street side of the building. It reminds us that the station was part of the original overland route.
Morgan should be complimented for the care given to this building over the past 85 years. Following the retirement of F.M. Castle, the last full-time station agent in Morgan, the station was closed August 30, 1977. The building continued to be used as a headquarters for railroad activities between Park City and Morgan until it was closed completely in 1982. The station was then donated to Morgan City Corporation.
The Union Pacific Station was used briefly for the Economic Development Corporation of Morgan and a small information center. It has also been used as an office for the City Building Inspector. Local City officials have a few ideas for the future use of the historic building. It is a local landmark and a part of Morgan’s great heritage.
For those readers who still get excited at the sight of a large black steam locomotive, with bellows of white steam raising from its smoke stack as it passes through Morgan, watch for the 844 Steam Engine on Sunday November 27th after 8 AM.
Written November 21, 2011 by Linda H. Smith for the Morgan County News
Please bring in any old photos you may have of Morgan and it’s history to The Morgan County Historical Society, located at the back of the Morgan County Library.