Railroad History Tour

Add To Bucket List

Cedar City Walks

All aboard! Rail travel proved pivotal for Cedar City, bringing Hollywood to town for southern Utah’s vast landscapes as backdrops to film and as a jumping-off point for visitors enjoying Southwest’s national parks, Learn how the railroad led Cedar City to become America’s “Gateway to the National Parks” by clicking here.


This Cedar City Walk begins and ends at the Frontier Homestead State Park (635 N Main Street) | Trip Distance: .75 miles 

Southern Pacific Train Car | Frontier Homestead State Park | 635 North Main Street


The caboose provided the train crew with shelter and working space while they threw switches and inspected for problems such as shifting loads, overheated axle bearings, and dragging equipment. The conductor used the caboose for filling out various forms and reports. On longer trips, the caboose provided living quarters. Caboose 4618 was manufactured by Pacific Car and Foundry in 1978 and delivered to Southern Pacific. In its heyday, Southern Pacific operated nearly 14,000 miles of track covering various routes stretching from Tennessee to California. The body of Caboose 4618 was painted in mineral red with the bay window ends and the end walls in daylight orange, both traditional Southern Pacific colors. Cabooses in the SP system were designated C-XX-X. The “C” stood for caboose, the “XX” denoted the axle load in tons, and the final “X” represented the class, type, or design. Caboose 4618 is a C-50-7. Power for the caboose was provided by a small electrical generator mounted on the lead truck. This caboose was purchased from a California rail yard in 2005 by George Lutterman. In April 2013 it was donated to Frontier Homestead State Park and moved in partnership with Iron County, Union Pacific, Construction Steel, Inc., and Gilbert Development, Inc.

Utah Parks Company Bus Garage | Rainbow Sign & Banner | 451 North Main Street


In the early days of National Park tourism, visitors rode buses to the parks from Cedar City, Utah after a thirty-five-mile railroad spur off the mainline from Lund was finished in 1923. These long buses featured convertible tops, which provided for much better viewing of the park’s spectacular scenery. During the mid-1920s, the Union Pacific and the Utah Parks Company built a bus garage in Cedar City to house and maintain forty 11-passenger buses purchased to take tourists on a tour of what became known as “The Grand Circle,” which included Bryce Canyon, Cedar Breaks, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Pipe Springs, and Zion National Park.

Original Rail Crossing Sign & Mining Car | Best Western Plus (near Post Office) | 255 North Main Street 


During a recent upgrade to the Best Western Plus hotel, the owners wanted to pay homage to the history of the location as depot and passenger area for the Union Pacific rail line spur into Cedar City. The rail crossing sign is the original sign for the property preserved for generations to enjoy. The mining car was used in the iron mines west of Cedar City, which was also served by the railroad in shipping the raw ore to northern Utah.

Union Pacific Depot | 200 North Main Street


Immediately after the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad across Utah in 1869, the Utah Central Railroad began to stretch to the south. Every extension of rail shortened wagon travel and shipping into the region, however, tracks didn’t cross into Iron County until 1905 and the spur in Cedar City wasn’t completed until 1923 (celebrated by a visit from President Warren G Harding and his wife on June 27, 1923). Railroads proved pivotal for Iron County. Freight trains were able to haul more raw materials than ever before, increasing profits for local mining companies. Hollywood came to Cedar City by train as well, thanks to brothers Gronway, Chauncey and Whitney Parry. Cedar City also marketed itself (and continues to do so today) as the “Gateway to the National Parks” and became the jumping-off point for national park tour groups brought in by the Union Pacific owned Utah Parks Company (UPC). The UPC provided meals, transportation, and entertainment for the guests, commonly referred to as “dudes.” The “Grand Circle” Tour took the “dudes” to Zion National Park, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, and Cedar Breaks. Today, the historic Depot houses a restaurant, bakery, and an antique store.


Learn more here. 

Main Street Park | 200 North Main Street 


The park was established in 1886 and originally known as Liberty Park. The Liberty Flagpole in the center of the park was built by the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers and is considered to be one of the tallest historic flagpoles in the West. The first City Hall was located on the southwest corner of the park but was later torn down to make way for park improvements. After World War II, the grounds became a makeshift campground for National Park visitors traveling by automobile rather than train. Nowadays, the park serves as the hub of historic downtown and hosts many events each year including the Midsummer Renaissance Faire, July 4th and 24th Celebration, Pioneer Day, and July Jamboree.

El Escalante Hotel | Once stood at 200 North 200 West 


Supported by the Cedar City Chamber of Commerce and designed by Randall Jones in 1919, the El Escalante hotel, located conveniently across from the railroad depot became the answer. Construction began under the direction of city leaders with locally made brick and soon the hotel was purchased by Union Pacific to accommodate tourists to the nearby Utah parks. In 1923, the hotel began hosting thousands of visitors a year, including movie stars and President Warren G. Harding. Not only did the El Escalante serve as a hotel, but also as community event space, dorms for pilot trainees during WWII, and as the anchor of the north end of Main Street for nearly 50 years. With the decline in rail travel, the hotel was sold to the city in the late 1950s. In August of 1971, it was sold to a private enterprise and was demolished.


Learn more here. 

Utah Parks Commissary | Cedar Post Pawn Shop | 221 North 100 West 


This building served as the headquarters for the UPC. All supplies, reservations, accounting, maintenance, and hiring for the UPC was coordinated through this office. Supplies for the various operations were shipped to the commissary by train and sent to the Parks by truck. Four to five hundred dollars of merchandise was sent to the UPC locations three times a week – Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. The building was equipped with a large freight elevator that moved canned goods and bulk supplies down to and up from the basement. There were large refrigerators for the meat, which was sliced to order by the butcher on site. The building also housed a large humidor for tobacco products and large shelves for concession items. The commissary staff controlled nearly every UPC field operation.

Rail Road Workers’ Housing


As you walk down this portion of 100 West, you see a nice row of houses. This section of town was developed to help house the many workers of the Union Pacific Railroad and their subsidiary company Utah Parks Company.

Stay in the Loop