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“…our rail business…has increased about 100 percent…” From the rails to the trails…National Parks and western railroads.

In a July 1929 letter to Stephen Mather, William Basinger, Passenger Traffic Manager of the Union Pacific System wrote in part: “The Parks in Southern Utah are proving very popular and our rail business this year has increased about 100 percent over last year…Our lodges are all doing a good business…Everyone recognizes the great work you have done in the promotion of these enterprises…”


For the first third of the twentieth century, there was unmistakable synergy between the western National Parks and the railroads.   The rails furthered the Parks’ popularity and the Parks’ furthered the railroads’ profitability.


In his 1926 Report to the Secretary of the Interior, Stephen Mather included the fact that more visitors to the Grand Canyon’s South Rim came by rail (65,501) than by car (63,631).


From the same report, Horace Albright, the Superintendent at Yellowstone commented on “distinguished” visitors including “the presidents of the Union Pacific, Great Northern, Northern Pacific, Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul, and New York Central Railroads.”


In addition to the Basinger letter, the Bancroft Library archives contain correspondence to Stephen Mather from Walter Bartnett, Past President of the Western Pacific, and later general counsel; Frederic Delano, Past President of both the Wheeling and Lake Erie Railroad and Chicago, Indianapolis, & Louisville Railway; Percy Eustis, passenger traffic manager of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad; Carl Gray, President of Great Northern (1912-1914) and Union Pacific (1920-1937); Hale Holden, President, Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad (1920-1929) and Chairman of the Board of Southern Pacific Railroad (1932-1939), and William Storey, President of the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway.


A brief excerpt from the letter from Carl Gray…


“…Every Union Pacific man, and particularly the writer, has a warm place in his heart for you, and we have thoroughly enjoyed our work together, which I have been proud to believe was constructive, in the best sense…”


And from a letter by Frederic Delano, which had nothing to do with railroading, but rather a health cure sought by his nephew, the future President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt…


“If I were your doctor, the first thing I would do would be to get you out to some good place like Glenwood Springs where you could take it easy and take the baths and cure there; or, if you are willing to try it, go to Warm Springs, Georgia, where my nephew Franklin Roosevelt is developing a cure for infantile paralysis, arthritis, and the like…”



It is obvious that, even in the company of such accomplished railmen, there was no better bridge builder than the first Director of the National Parks, Stephen Tyng Mather.


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