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Bingham Canyon Railroads And Steam Shovels

(from The Salt Lake Mining Review, Volume 13, Number 14, October 30, 1911, Page 18)

At the regular monthly meeting of the Utah Society of Engineers, H. C. Goodrich, chief engineer of the Utah Copper Company, presented the following interesting paper on railroad building and steam shovel operations at Bingham, Utah:

With the early history of the Bingham camp some of you gentlemen are more familiar than I am. Some time in the 80s the Bingham & Camp Floyd constructed a narrow gauge railroad so that ores from this camp could be delivered to the smelters, then in the valley.

The railroad was constructed on a four per cent grade and extended into Bingham Canyon as far up as the grade would allow. From this point a survey was projected, using seven and one-half per cent grades, which is the average grade of Bingham Canyon from the present Denver & Rio Grande depot to the United States Mining company's house at the mouth of Bear Gulch. A horse tram line was constructed on this survey, accommodating the Starless, Utah Copper, United States, Commercial, and other mines. Along about 1890 the narrow gauge railroad from the valley to Bingham Canyon was rebuilt to a broad gauge line.

I first visited Bingham Canyon in 1900. This was the first time I had ever seen freight transported as it was on the horse tram. A string of twenty or more mules and horses would haul up the small ore cars to their several destinations. The drivers would tie strings of these horses together, tail to head, and turn them loose down the wagon road in the bottom of the canyon. The drivers would then get on the loaded ore cars, running them down the grade by gravity to the loading station, where the railroad would pick up the ores for the smelter. The horses and mules would be on hand for another haul up the hill.

First Standard Gauge

I was sent to this camp by the Rio Grande Western Railway company to reconstruct the horse tram into a railroad. The instructions were to follow the horse tram as near as possible, using maximum seven and one-half per cent grades and forty degree curves, which was done. This railroad was constructed from the Rio Grande Western depot to the Commercial mine in 1900-1901. The track was laid to the Commercial mine in the spring of 1901. This was the first standard gauge railroad that was built up to the mines in Bingham Canyon.

It is necessary to use a special type of engine for these grades and curves, the one most commonly used being the Shay. In 1903 a branch line was built up Carr Fork to the Yampa mine and later extended to the Boston Consolidated ore bin, which company at that time was mining sulphide ores. About this time the Utah Copper company began building a mill of 800 tons capacity at. Copperton, and other mines were actively engaged in producing ores.

I am going into these details in order to show you gentlemen that the style of railroad originally built for the handling of the Commercial mine ore was not able to handle the tonnage later turned out by the various mines. United States company, the Highland Boy and Yampa company had to construct aerial tram lines down to the main railroad in order to get their product to market. The Utah Copper company, Commercial, and other mines were not able to dispose of the ore they were mining on account of the limited capacity of this road. It is an expensive railroad to operate, and while probably better than a horse tram, one should hesitate before adopting it to handle freight over.

Prophecy Fulfilled

There was a remark made to me in the fall of 1900 that I would like to repeat now. We were standing at the old Rogers mill, that was situated about the center of the Utah Copper property, when the gentleman with me said: "Goodrich, you will see the day when that hill will be moved with steam shovels." About six years later I saw the first steam shovel start at the Boston Consolidated mine.

The Utah Copper company in trying to protect their output at different times, made surveys for a railroad on lighter gradients and curvature from their mine to the mill at Copperton. These plans finally culminated in an entirely new location for their mill and of a capacity a great deal larger. The location of the Magna plant and its output, you are all familiar with. This radical change in the location of the mill and its large tonnage necessitated a low grade railroad with light curvature which must be built right into the ore body. The Boston Consolidated were trying out several plans for their property, finally locating their mill in the Garfield district, which necessitated handling of this tonnage over the new line.

The Denver & Rio Grande Railroad company, formerly the Rio Grande Western Railway company, started the location and construction of this railroad in the spring of 1905. I had the pleasure of having charge of the construction of this line from the Utah Copper mine in Bingham Canyon to the American Smelting & Refining company's plant at Garfield. In order to handle the construction material at the mills, it was deemed advisable to start the work of building the railroad to the mills first, while the location at the Bingham end was in progress. This construction work was completed in November, 1905. During this time several plans had been under consideration for the Bingham end and extended surveys had been made. Finally a plan was adopted using two and one-half per cent compensated grade and sixteen degree maximum curves. This line was completed on January 2nd, 1907, when the first train was run over the new line to the Utah Copper mine.

In describing the operations at the Utah Copper mine, I will confine myself to the steam shovel operations and railroad construction only. Prior to my connection with the company, it had been decided that this ore could be extracted more economically and a larger saving could be made by using steam shovels. The ore body lies in one large deposit, covered with capping from 40 to 200 feet thick. The problem is to remove the capping from the ore and deposit it on ground away from the ore body, and remove the ore to the railroad yards below.

Steam Shovel Work

These operations at present extend vertically from elevation 6,340 to elevation 7,840, or 1,500 feet. All of this territory was not at that time embraced within the Utah Copper company's property, but plans were being formulated on a broad plane to handle the property economically. Owing to the steep canyon that is thickly populated, it was found, on account of the expensive railroad construction, that the economical height of the steam shovel benches should not be to exceed seventy-five feet. This has proven to be correct and wherever it has been found possible the levels have been made a lesser height.

The steam shovels and attendant locomotives are operated by steam. The machine shops are located at convenient points. It is necessary to place coal and other supplies at each steam shovel level and bring the equipment to the machine shop at more or less frequent intervals.

The ore body near the surface lies in folds, so that in the removal of the capping there are times when thousands of tons of ore are loaded as it is uncovered and projects out towards the steam shovel level. These are some of the important features that went toward deciding on railroad connections to the different railroad connections to the different steam shovel levels. It certainly makes the most flexible arrangement to be had. Owing to experience that had been had with the steep grade, heavy curvature railroad, and our own experience during the first operations, it was decided to build these permanent tracks on four per cent compensated grades and sixteen degree maximum curves, with as few of the heavier curves as possible. These are the tracks that are in course of construction now to the upper levels and located on the Carr Fork side of the property.

I wish to make a comparison now of the handling of ore over the new lines as compared with handling it over the old lines. The new way we use the small saddle tank, dinky locomotive with a small crew of cheaper labor. This locomotive handles 240 tons of ore at ten miles per hour over these grades. The old way was to use Shay engines, a standard crew, all expensive labor, handling 150 tons at five miles per hour. You can draw your own conclusions. As I have explained before, the steam shovel benches are at a maximum of seventy-five feet high. These levels extend from the main level at "A" at elevation 6340, in alphabetical order to letter "U.,' Each level is connected into this system of railroads, so that coal and other supplies can be delivered to each steam shovel level, and are removed from these levels whenever encountered by the steam shovels.

Methods of Blasting

There are four ways of breaking the rock employed at the steam shovels; by the gopher method, keystone holes, toe holes and lot holes. Where there is plenty of room a gopher hole is driven into the face of the level, forty or fifty feet, and a tee driven, making two pots for the powder. Then a sufficient amount is put in to break the rock. This method breaks the largest amount of material. The keystones are used to strip the ore and also to break the rock where the room is limited. The toe holes are driven along the base of the level, keeping it in good line and allowing the steam shovels to work closer to the bench. The pot holes are for breaking loose rock off of face of levels and aiding in the stripping of the ore.

In addition to this, gangs of men are constantly employed breaking down the loose rock that does not come freely. This work saves a lot of labor and expense, as sometimes a very small rock keeps up thousands of tons of rock above it. FF black powder and 60 per cent Monobel is used on this work. The present equipment used in steam shovel operations at the Utah Copper mine is as follows: Twenty-five steam shovels, 53 locomotives, 408 cars, and are moving approximately three-quarters of a million yards of material a month.

The Bingham & Garfield railway, extending from the Bingham district to the mills and smelter at Garfield, was first worked on during 1908, and completed in April, 1911. This railroad is a low-grade line, having 2 1/2 per cent compensated grades and eight degrees maximum curves, with the exception of the Dry Fork crossing, where two ten degree curves are used. The power that is used for the freight service is the Mallet type of locomotive, which hauls forty empty cars up the grade at twelve miles per hour. These cars are all sixty-ton capacity, making 2,400 tons of ore moved each trip.

The characteristics of construction on this line were the three large steel via-ducts crossing Carr Fork, Markham and Dry forks, and 4,800 feet of tunnels. There was an enormous amount of work done during the thirteen months that was taken to complete this line - 1,750,000 cubic yards of material was handled, 12,000 cubic yards of concrete was placed, 1,400 lineal feet of tunnel was driven. Carr Fork bridge, 680 feet long, 225 feet high; Dry Fork bridge, 670 feet long, 188 feet high. One mile of this road cost over a half a million dollars.

Bingham Canyon now has better railroad facilities than any other mining camp I know of. This system of roads will accommodate any probable future developments, and has ample capacity to handle the tonnage of the camp, and can assure all of the mines of sure and constant handling of the product in the future.