The Saltair Railway was incorporated on September 6, 1891 with its initial rail line running westward from Salt Lake City to the Saltair Resort on the shores of the Great Salt Lake to accommodate the local residents and tourists that would be flocking to the resort, which officially opened on June 8,1893. During the first half of the 20th century he resort proved to be a hugely popular recreation destination for residents of Salt Lake City, and became railway’s largest source of revenue with trains of 12-16 passenger cars departing to (and returned from) Saltair every 45 minutes. The line not only carried passengers to Saltair, but it also became a conduit for freight to the mines at Garfield, Utah in the Oquirrh Mountains west of Salt Lake, as well as the Morton Salt processing facility located on the shores of the Great Salt Lake.
In April of 1892 the Saltair Railway was renamed the Salt Lake & Los Angeles Railroad, because its owners at the time, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (which also owned the Saltair resort), wanted to extend the line westward and southward to Los Angeles. In 1895 the SLLA Railway opened its main facility at 1201 W. South Temple, which is still in use today. In later years, the Saltair resort and the SLLA Railway was acquired by the Snow family, and in the early 1960s, the Railroad was acquired by the Hogle family.
For its first quarter century of its operations, the SLGW was a steam engine line, but in 1916 the railway began the process of electrifying the railroad, a project that was completed in 1919. The Garfield station was built by SLGW approximately one mile from the the town of Garfield so it could serve the copper smelters in the western valley and provided faster freight and commuter services for the growing copper industry in that area. The line continued service on the Garfield branch until the 1930’s, but for decades afterward provided service for Morton Salt and other industrial customers from Salt Lake City to the shores of the Great Salt Lake.
In the 1920s, the Great Salt Lake began to steadily recede and in 1933 it reached its lowest recorded level in recorded history, stranding the Saltair Beach Resort from the waterline. As the century progressed the attendance number decreased steadily, so in order to make up for the loss of patronage due to the low water levels, a roller coaster was constructed and SLGW built a short rail line from the pavilion using gasoline-powered speeders to carry patrons across the ½ mile of newly exposed brine flat to the water.
As World War II approached, attendance continued to decline, until the resort eventually shut down to maintain the war effort. After the war ended and the resort reopened it faced many obstacles: in 1955 a fire consumed the bath houses and in 1957 the roller coaster burned down. The resort finally closed for good in 1959, and the Salt Lake Garfield & Western Railway ceased passenger operations, focusing entirely on short line rail services for freight customers.
In 1951 the line purchased its first GE 44-tonner diesel, and four short years later a head-on collision forced the railroad to lease a GE centercab diesel from U.S Steel to continue its operations. This marked the end of electric operations on the Salt Lake Garfield & Western.
Today the railroad continues to haul freight along its 16 miles of track to rail-served warehouses with additional sidings for railcar storage, transloading, rail railcar cleaning and other rail-related services.