Stopover in Salt Lake City, 1940

In May 1940, my relatives had a few hours in Salt Lake City between trains. They had come from Denver via the Royal Gorge on the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad (often shortened to ‘the Rio Grande’) and would leave the same day on the Western Pacific, on an overnight train through Nevada to California.

Arrival at Salt Lake City

I’m sure they took the Western Pacific because it was the only railroad that went west from Salt Lake City. The competing Southern Pacific went through Ogden, Utah, thirty-some miles further north.

My father at the Rose Garden in Salt Lake City

I don’t know if the train they took to California had a name, but I do know that it was not called the ‘California Zephyr’, because trains by that name did not start running until nine years later. In 1940, the Western Pacific had a train called the ‘Exposition Flyer’, which was introduced the year before to take people to the World’s Fair in San Francisco, so perhaps that was the one they took.

Utah’s Statehouse and Rose garden

But on the way to San Francisco, they first wanted to visit Yosemite National Park, which probably meant changing trains at Stockton and again at Merced, California.

Salt Lake City’s water reservoir

For some reason, my father took this photo of Salt Lake City’s water reservoir, perhaps to show that the city had enough water despite being in a desert.

For comparison, I tried googling this and found that Salt Lake City now (in 2023) has several fresh-water reservoirs, some full and some not, but the outlook is that the city will run out of fresh water by 2040.

As for salt water, the Great Salt Lake has been shrinking rapidly. It lost two-thirds of its surface area between 1987 and 2023. (U.S. Geological Survey, quoted by Bloomberg.)

My father’s photos in this post are from 1940. I wrote the text in 2023.

See also: Royal Gorge, Colorado, 1940 and Yosemite National Park, 1940.

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