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Bingham-Copperfield Vehicular Tunnel

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This page was last updated on September 13, 2019.

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Overview

In February 1939, the Bingham-Copperfield vehicular tunnel opened, connecting the town of Bingham with the town of Copperfield. The new tunnel allowed the county road to to be moved from its route along the east side of the developing open pit mine, and Utah Copper to continue its mine expansion. Utah Copper paid for the construction of the vehicular tunnel.

The tunnel underground route curved to the east, on an alignment that was meant to avoid any future interference with Utah Copper's mine expansion.

Traffic in the tunnel was one-way, controlled by "electric eye" that in turn controlled electric traffic signals. Flag men communicating by telephone were used regularly when the traffic lights were not working properly.

The tunnel was closed to the public in October 1956 when the observation point was moved to the northwest rim of the mine. The tunnel remained open to residents of Copperfield.

In August 1960, after the last residents moved from Copperfield two years before, Salt Lake County abandoned the tunnel as a county road, and the tunnel became a private road of Kennecott Copper.

The vehicular tunnel was finally closed to all traffic in mid 1973, and the Bingham portal was buried in July 1973 as part of the pushback of the northeast rim of the pit, which in-turn changed the configuration and track layout of the 6190 rail yard.

Photos

Post Card photo of the Bingham portal

Post Card photo of the Copperfield portal

Photo of the Bingham portal being buried in July 1973 (from the Brad Allen Collection)

Timeline

February 25, 1937
Utah Copper offered $600,000 for Ohio Copper's property in Bingham Canyon. Utah Copper needed the surface for expansion of its open pit mine, and a portion of the underground workings for the proposed vehicular tunnel between Bingham and Copperfield. The vehicular tunnel would allow Utah Copper to close the county road at the bottom of Bingham Canyon. (Deseret News, February 25, 1937)

March 31, 1937
Utah Construction Company had begun construction of a new vehicular tunnel between Bingham and Copperfield. The work was paid for by Utah Copper Company, at the same time that Utah Copper bought the surface rights and a portion of the underground workings of Ohio Copper. (Utah Copper Company Chronology, citing the book "Power In The Copper Industry" by R. J. Corfield, Volume 1, March 1940; see also, Bingham Bulletin, March 26, 1937 and April 16, 1937)

February 13, 1938
Contractor crews made a perfect hole-through on the vehicular tunnel between Bingham and Copperfield. (Utah Copper Company Chronology, citing the "Mines Annual Report, 1938")

December 26, 1938
The Bingham-Copperfield vehicular tunnel was completed. (Utah Copper Company Chronology, citing internal company documents)

February 4, 1939
Copperfield vehicular tunnel was opened for traffic. The tunnel, 7,000 feet long, had been completed in December 1938 and was built at a cost of $1.4 Million. The tunnel rose from 6,100 feet elevation at Bingham to 6,600 feet at Copperfield, at a 6.4 percent grade. The old county highway in the bottom of the canyon was closed and the tunnel was deeded to Salt Lake County as its replacement. The tunnel was used by about 850 cars that first day and could accommodate 1,100 cars per day. Utah Copper began immediately to fill across the old county road, connecting the east and west sides of 'C' Level. (Utah Copper Company Chronology, citing the "Mines Annual Report, 1938")

By mid February 1939, Utah Copper started a fill that would connect the east and west sides of C-Level, across the old county highway. Auto traffic was now using the new Copperfield vehicular tunnel. (Kennecott Historical Index)

At the same time, the U. S. District Court granted Utah Copper's request that the new tunnel be disconnected from Bingham City, and turned over to Salt Lake County ownership and maintenance. (Bingham Bulletin, January 20, 1939)

1941
The second visitor observation point for the public to view the mine was built in 1941 and was located in Copperfield at the upper end of the vehicular tunnel completed in 1939. The observation point was reached by way of the vehicular tunnel from Bingham, which curved into the mountain to avoid the slowly expanding pit operations.

October 8, 1956
The observation point at Copperfield was closed in October 1956. Over 1.5 million visitors had seen the pit from the Copperfield location since it was completed "some 15 years ago." (circa 1941). The Bingham-Copperfield tunnel remained open for local residents. (Bingham Bulletin, October 5, 1956)

April 22, 1960
The Salt Lake County Commission voted on a resolution to turn the Bingham-Copperfield tunnel over to Kennecott as a private road. A survey over a recent 14-hour period showed that the tunnel was used by 300 cars, carrying 1,200 men, of which 1,195 were Kennecott employees, and the remaining five were employees of another mining company. Kennecott had requested that the county complete some needed repairs on the road through the tunnel. (Bingham Bulletin, April 22, 1960)

August 10, 1960
The Bingham-Copperfield tunnel was abandoned by Salt Lake County, and became a private road for exclusive use by Kennecott and its employees and contractors. (Bingham Bulletin, August 12, 1960, as voted on "Wednesday" at the commission meeting.)

July-August 1973
The vehicular tunnel was finally closed to all traffic in mid 1973, and the Bingham portal was buried in July 1973 as part of the pushback of the northeast rim of the mine, which in-turn changed the configuration and track layout of the 6190 rail yard. (Kennescope magazine, July-August 1973, courtesy of Tim Dumas)

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