Visiting the Utah State Railroad Museum
The Utah State Railroad Museum at Union Station in Ogden, Utah is one of the best places to see big locomotives in the United States. In this week’s Time to Model™ article, we’re taking a closer look at the museum and its collection of massive motive power which includes a GTEL 8,500HP “Big Blow” Turbine.
Ogden Union Station is home to the Utah State Railroad Museum, the Spencer S. Eccles Rail Center, the John M. Browning Firearms Museum, Utah Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, and the Browning-Kimball Classic Car Museum. An art gallery is set up every month to display paintings, sculptures, and more from local artists. In addition, the Myra Powell Gallery features traveling exhibits and the station’s permanent art collection which is proudly displayed on the inside. The on-site Research Library has a large collection of historic photographs from the Ogden area as well as paper documents available for the public’s access.
The land for the station and rail yard was donated by Brigham Young to the Union Pacific Railroad. Young was the leader of the Mormon Church at the time and saw the great benefit of having the railroad build at Ogden. Union Station is actually the third train station in Ogden City, with the first opening in 1869 at the arrival of the Transcontinental Railroad, the second in 1889, and the present-day structure in 1924. It was built as a result of a fire at the first Union Station. The current station is of Spanish Colonial Revival design and was built on the foundation of the original structure. It includes 56ft high ceilings with large hanging light fixtures, along with painted murals showing the construction of the railroad.
As the railroad industry saw a decline in passenger service in the two decades following WWII, the future of Oden Union Station was hanging in the balance. Local residents began to propose plans to turn the station into a museum surrounding the centennial celebration of the golden spike ceremony in 1969. In May of 1971, Amtrak took over passenger operations in Utah and also acquired the station. Shortly thereafter, plans to transform the station into a museum were taken seriously. Ownership of the station was transferred to Ogden City in 1977 by way of a 50-year lease. As a result, renovations were made to house the museum. One year later, the museum officially opened with Union Pacific FEF-3 #8444 arriving with a special train from Cheyenne, WY to celebrate the grand opening. The railroad donated a steam derrick and a rotary snowplow, which were the last two steam-powered pieces of equipment on the roster.
Over the next decade, more vintage railroad equipment and locomotives would be donated by UP including a DD40X, the largest diesel locomotive ever-built by EMD. By 1988, the museum was designated as the State’s official railroad museum. This designation brought further growth to Ogden Union Station. In 1999, the museum acquired its largest steam locomotive: UP #838. It was originally donated to Salt Lake City in 1972. When it was transferred to Ogden Union Station, it became the largest steam locomotive ever moved by semi-truck in the United States. #838 is very similar to UP #844, with only a few minor differences in design.
The museum owns several other steam locomotives, diesels, and freight cars – but perhaps the most treasured piece in the collection is GTEL 8,500HP “Big Blow” Turbine #26. The locomotive was donated to Ogden City in the late 1970s after being stored for nearly a decade in Cheyenne, Wyoming. It is one of only two such examples in preservation, with the other three unit set being displayed at the Illinois Railway Museum. #26 was recently cosmetically restored with a fresh coat of Armour Yellow paint. It now looks just as it did when delivered to the UP in the early 1960s. ScaleTrains.com is offering #26 in our latest run of Museum Quality™ HO Scale “Big Blow” Turbines. Click here to learn more about the model.
For those wanting to visit the Utah State Railroad Museum, you can learn more about their hours of operation and exhibits by visiting Ogden City’s website. We highly recommend stopping by during your next visit to the Salt Lake City area.