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Southern Pacific Railroad:
Ogden-Lucin Cut-Off Trestle
Lucin Cutoff aerial.jpg
Aerial view of the Lucin Cutoff trestle
before removal. The 1950s causeway
is to the right of the trestle.
Lucin Cutoff is located in Utah
Lucin Cutoff
Location in Utah
Lucin Cutoff is located in the United States
Lucin Cutoff
Location in the United States
Nearest city Ogden, Utah
Area 143 acres (58 ha)
Built 1902–1904
Architect William Hood
NRHP reference No. 72001257
Quick facts for kids
Significant dates
Added to NRHP April 14, 1972
Removed from NRHP October 23, 2018

The Lucin Cutoff is a 102-mile (164 km) railroad line in the western United States in Utah which runs from Ogden to its namesake in Lucin. The most prominent feature of the cutoff was a twelve-mile-long (19 km) long railroad trestle crossing the Great Salt Lake; in use from 1904 until the late 1950s, when it was replaced by a rock and dirt causeway.

The cutoff was originally built by the Southern Pacific Railroad as a means of shortening the First Transcontinental Railroad. Today the cutoff is owned and operated by the Union Pacific Railroad as a significant part of the Lakeside Subdivision, which runs from Ogden to Wells, Nevada, and is one of the many subdivisions of the Overland Route. Due to the obstruction of waterflow caused by the Lucin Cutoff, the Great Salt Lake appears to be different colors in aerial photographs; water north of the Cutoff appears brown, while water south of the Cutoff is more green.


Original construction

The Promontory Branch from "Rails East to Promontory" (Raymond and Fike), pg 37
Lucin Cutoff (1903) compared to earlier Promontory Branch (1869). Drawn by Aran Raymond, 1981.

Built by the Southern Pacific Company (SP) between February 1902 and March 1904, the cutoff bypassed the original Central Pacific Railroad route through Promontory Summit where the Golden spike was driven in 1869. By going west across the lake from Ogden to Lucin, it cut 44 miles (71 km) off the original route and also significantly decreased curvature and grades. Built under the direction of SP chief engineer William Hood, a team of 3,000 SP workers worked seven days a week to build the line.

When the line opened, it included short causeways extending from the western shore of the lake and the edge of Promontory Point, connected with a nearly twelve-mile-long (19 km) wooden trestle. The cutoff also included a causeway which spanned Bear River Bay from the eastern shore of the lake to Promontory Point. This section included a 600-foot-long (180 m) trestle to allow Bear River water to flow into the lake.

Mid Lake Station Great Salt Lake Souithern Pacific Railroad
The line included a rail station called
Mid Lake, which was in the middle
of the Great Salt Lake.

By 1908, five passenger trains and seven freight trains were using the Lucin Cutoff in each direction daily. In 1942, the original line was removed between Lucin and Corinne, Utah — with the last Promontory spikes pulled up and the scrap metal donated to the war effort.

In late 1944, the cutoff was the site of a train wreck in which 48 people were killed. A westbound freight train ran into the back of a slower moving passenger train in thick fog.

Trestle replacement

The trestle was functionally replaced in the late 1950s with a parallel dirt and rock causeway built under contract by Morrison Knudsen of Boise, Idaho. The trestle remained in limited use alongside the causeway, until about 1975. The railroad eventually sold salvage rights to the trestle and Cannon Structures, Inc., through its Trestlewood division, began to dismantle it in the early 1990s. Trestlewood continues to market and sell the salvaged trestle wood.

Openings in the causeway

The causeway prevented lake water from flowing as freely as the open trestle had, and to help mitigate effects two culverts were included in the original causeway construction. The culverts allowed for boat traffic, and a limited amount of water to flow from the lake's southern arm (where surrounding freshwater rivers emptied into the lake) into the lake's northern arm.

In the early 1980s, Utah experienced heavy flooding, and much of the extra water along the Wasatch Front flowed into the Great Salt Lake. This resulted in the lake experiencing historic high water levels and flooding nearby landowners. To aid the two culverts in channeling water to the northern arm, the State of Utah constructed a 300-foot-long (90 m) bridge at the western end of the causeway. The state breached the causeway under the new bridge on August 1, 1984, allowing pent-up water from the southern arm to flow into the northern arm.

The continual slow sinking of the causeway has on occasion required more material to raise its height above the lake level. During the flooding of the 1980s, this buildup included placing 1,430 surplus railcars along the northern edge of the causeway and filling them with rock to act as gabions (this feature is known as the "Boxcar Seawall.")

In March 2011, Union Pacific Railroad (UP), the railroad was required to build a bridge and breach the causeway under that bridge. Construction of a 180-foot-long (55 m) bridge was completed in fall 2016, although the railroad agreed to delay opening the breach for a few months, due to environmental and water level concerns. The causeway was breached beneath the 180-foot bridge on December 1, 2016. Since the opening of the causeway the level of the water in the arms of the lake have begun to equalize. As of April 30, 2017, the level of the lake in the northern arm is within a foot of the southern arm.

Great Salt Lake Causeway Map
2016 Map of the Cutoff as it crosses the Great Salt Lake (Includes past and present features).
  • Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) No. UT-13, "Southern Pacific Railroad, Ogden-Lucin Cutoff Trestle, Spanning Great Salt Lake, Brigham City, Box Elder County, UT", 42 photos, 2 color transparencies, 5 measured drawings, 12 data pages, 4 photo caption pages
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