The Forerunner of Frontrunner: Provo-to-SLC trains Began in 1912
The Utah Transit Authority feels justly proud of its FrontRunner train which provides mass transportation to people along the Wasatch Front.
This form of transit is nothing new to Provo. Old-timers remember that such a system of transportation once existed in the Valley. Its official name was the Salt Lake and Utah Railroad, but most people called it the Orem Electric or the Orem Inter-Urban.
Interest in an electric railroad line connecting Utah Valley with Salt Lake Valley began in the 1890s. However, it was not until 1912 that Walter C Orem, for whom the city of Orem is named, provided the necessary experience and financing to establish a successful electric railway line.
Instead of laying tracks along the outskirts of town like the steam powered railroads did, the Orem Inter-Urban built its tracks right through nearly every town in Utah Valley from Lehi to Spanish Fork. This made the new railroad more convenient to commuters. The swinging, swaying motion of the passenger cars led to the train’s nickname, “Leaping Lena.”
In Provo, the new rails ran right down Center Street in 1914, and the company built its station at 100 West Center. The Inter-Urban also operated a short lived street railroad in Provo. Its first stretch of tracks ran from the mainline railroad tracks at 600 South up University Avenue to Brigham Young University on 500 North. This unprofitable line operated only a few years.
Many people used the Orem Inter-Urban to travel to Salt Lake City for work, shopping, and cultural events. By 1940, however, the railroads’s infrastructure and equipment began to fail. Soon the number of riders declined when World War II ended and automobiles became more readily available and highways were improved. On March 1, 1946, the Salt Lake and Utah Railroad ceased operating and workmen began removing its rails.