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For this series we will follow Southern Pacific trackage from east of Reno, NV to Winnemucca and then follow the paired trackage with the Western Pacific to Wells. We will chase a train across the salt flats near the Great Salt Lake and finally catch a couple double stack trains at a little outpost called Modena in southern Utah.
The Central Pacific (later SP) reached Reno in June 1868 and in just eleven months reached the Union Pacific line at Promontory. The site of the golden spike was bypassed when the SP completed the Lucin cutoff in 1904. From 1906 through the 20s, the SP added a second mainline over Donner Pass and to portions of the railroad in Nevada and Utah that had long grades. In 1914 the SP completed 23 miles of new section of double track and added 38 miles of semaphore signals between Sparks, NV and Truckee, CA. The SP and WP had operated their parallel trackage between Wells and Winnemucca (178 miles) in a directional fashion on occasion during WWI. In 1924, the two railroads entered into a formal agreement to operate westbound on the SP and eastbounds on the WP. Signals had already been installed on the SP between 1906 and 1910. WP installed 102 US&S one arm lower quadrant semaphore signals in 1925. These old style B semaphore signals on the WP between Alazon and Weso were converted to searchlight signals: Weso to Elko 129 miles in 1952 and Alazon and Elko 48 miles in 1953. The WP installed US&S CTC Gerlach, NV to Weso 97 miles in 1951. The next CTC segment from Alazon to Wendover was completed in early 1952. The CTC installation between Wendover to Salt Lake City was completed in 1953. This concluded an eight year WP program of signal and CTC installation. The CTC controls were changed to Wabco in 1974. The dispatchers office in Sacramento was shut down in March 1991 with dispatchers transferred to Omaha. See the map below the links to get a better idea where we are going on the former Western Pacific.
The Southern Pacific completed the installation of CTC between Vista (east of Sparks, NV) and Massie (east of Hazen) 43.5 miles in August 1944. The US&S machine controlled 29 power switches. It completed the installation of CTC from Bridge Siding across the Great Salt Lake cut-off to Lemay (52.8 miles) in May 1945. The CTC machine was at Ogden 30 miles away. The SP replaced semaphore with color light signals from Truckee to Lawton, NV 29 miles in 1945. And in 1946, It removed 42 semaphore signals, converted 50 to color light and added 20 new with color light signals between Massie and Perth 48 miles. In 1957 SP rebuilt the interlocking at Weso, NV with two US&S switches and 4 signals and the interlocking at Alazon, NV with two US&S switches and 3 signals. It completed CTC from Moor to Valley Pass in 1958 to control 4 switches and 36 signals. It began added CTC from Massie to Perth 47 miles in 1958. Work was completed in 1959 after installing 11 power switches and 46 signals. The CTC machine was in Ogden. At the eastern end of the division SP also installed CTC from Tresend to Bridge 12 miles with three switches and 21 signals in 1959. It installed CTC Weso to Rose Creek in 1970. The Western Pacific completed the installation of US&S CTC across its single track sections of Nevada between 1949 and 1952. The Wendover to Salt Lake City segment was completed in 1953. In 1964 SP moved all of the dispatchers in Ogden to Roseville. The new Roseville dispatch center opened in the Fall of 1989. It combined the dispatcher offices from Eugene, Tucson, and Los Angeles. The system used Digital Traffic Control (DigiCon) computer systems. The railroad removed the second track between Rose Creek and Perth and installed CTC in 1996.
To give you a better idea of what railroading was like in the early 1920s, here is an excerpt from the September 1921 Southern Pacific Bulletin. The SP set a new record by operating the heaviest train to ever enter Ogden when Extra 3209 East came in with 76 perishables and 28 manifest loads, 4,631 tons at 4,680 feet long. This train was the consolidation of three trains. It operated from Monticello, NV to Ogden (121 miles) in seven hours and 40 minutes. This was considered an average time on the road.
All pictures in this series are on disks 28, 29 and 30. You can purchase a disk and printout any of the pictures for your own use to dress up your train room or add color to a house that just cries out for more train pictures.