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Aired Wednesday May 28th, 2008 at 9:00 pm
At a time when steam was king and the passenger rail car brought the world to its doorstep, it was said you couldn't go anywhere without coming through Ogden, Utah. On May 10, 1869, the United States was linked by the first transcontinental railroad. A trip across the continent was cut from four months to just seven days and a new era of overland transportation began.
Weeks after the joining of the rails at Promontory, Utah, the transfer point between the Union Pacific and Central Pacific was moved to Ogden, Utah. Overnight, the small farming community became the two companies' official "Junction City" and no traveling passenger would cross the country by rail without stopping in Ogden.
Ogden: Junction City of the West, airing on KUED on May 28 at 9 p.m., tells the remarkable story of the influence the railroad and its millions of traveling passengers had on Ogden. The spectacular evolution in transportation ushered in a period of remarkable growth and a cultural diversity and commerce that endlessly streamed through Ogden's Union Station and the legendary 25th Street, forever to change its place in history. With rare photos and film, the documentary is narrated by Phil Riesen. Young filmmaker Issac Goeckeritz produced the documentary, saying "I realized I was touching the past by telling this story. It's much more than a railroad documentary -- it's the story of how the railroad affected and impacted so many lives."
On the afternoon of May 21, 1869, The Deseret News, wrote, "The railroad is going to make a great change in affairs here. And our people should prepare themselves for the alteration which appears inevitable." Parley L. Williams was a free mason and elected Grand Orator the year the station was built. Williams took great pride in the train station, referring to the depot as the "pride of Ogden," saying that the train station represented "the cathedrals of the West," as quoted during that time in Ogden's daily newspaper, known then as The Ogden Standard.
Williams was Grand Orator in 1888, and delivered the address at the laying of the cornerstone of the old Union Depot of Ogden, November 5 of that year, telling spectators that "you are situated on the world's highway." Williams was present 36 years later when the box was taken from that cornerstone after the building was destroyed by fire.
The idea for the documentary gradually grew after Goeckeritz visited the Utah Railroad Museum in Ogden, and struck up a conversation with museum volunteer Grant Gibson. "He started telling me stories about all the famous people he met years ago while working for the railroad, recalling the time the train stopped so that Elvis could sign autographs for fans hoping to catch a glimpse of him as the train traveled through Ogden. He shared stories about Frank Sinatra, walking Eleanore Roosevelt up the notorious 25th Street, and a well-known performer who was thrown off the train for being intoxicated. I started thinking that there was a lot of history here that needed to be captured while there were still people living in Ogden who could share their stories," Goeckeritz said.
"I didn't know a lot about the railroad's impact on Ogden when I began my research," Goeckeritz explained, adding that over a three-year period, he interviewed about a dozen people who had a direct involvement with the railroad, most of whom had worked for the railroad from the 1930s through the 1960s. "Their stories brought that era alive for me. It was a wonderful experience," said Goeckeritz, who was not even 23 when he began the project.
Filmmaker and Weber State University student Issac Goeckeritz has been praised by Academy Award-winning director Kieth Merrill for his work Michael: The Story of a Shaken Baby and called a filmmaker beyond his years. His commitment to identify, research and preserve inspirational stories and the desire to better the human character has won him the respect and admiration of a diverse group of organizations and individuals. These include ESPN, HBO, Habitat for Humanity, The Massachusetts Homestead for Homeless Veterans, The Christa McAuliffe Space Education Center, The United Way, The National Parks Service, United Families International, Globous Relief Fund, Reach the Children, Weber State University, The Ogden Union Station Museum and The Cathedral of the Madeleine.
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