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D&RGW Cane Creek Branch

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This page was last updated on April 5, 2019.

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Overview

More Information

(View a Google map of the Cane Creek Branch)

(Read more about moving the Moab tailings)

Timeline

May 30, 1959
As plans were being made to develop the huge potash deposits at Cane Creek, C. H. Hobbs, secretary of the Delhi-Taylor Oil Corp., of Dallas, Texas, owner of the several mineral leases in the region, which were actually oil leases, stated that the company hoped to work with Texas Gulf Sulphur, of Houston, Texas, or with Duval Sulphur and Potash Co., also of Houston, to create a separate joint company to develop the extensive potash resources. He also stated that this new joint company would build a $20 million to $23 million potash mine and processing plant at Cane Creek in the canyon of the Colorado river. "The processed potash would be skip-hoisted to Bartlett Mesa above the proposed mine. It would then be hauled by railroad some 50-plus miles to a point on the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad Co.'s main line at Green River, Emery County." (Salt Lake Tribune, May 30, 1959)

(Bartlett Mesa, officially known as Bartlett Flat, is about 1800 feet higher than the site where the potash plant was eventually built, on the Colorado river at 4000 feet elevation. Bartlett Flat is the access leading to Dead Horse Point State Park. Brendel on the D&RGW is at 4908 feet elevation, and the north portal of the current 1.3 mile long Bootlegger canyon tunnel is at 4205 feet elevation. The south portal of the tunnel is at 4121 feet.)

May 24, 1960
Negotiations were underway between D&RGW and Texas Gulf Sulphur for the construction of a 30-mile railroad spur into the Dead Horse Point area, to be built from Brendel on the D&RGW main line, 22-1/2 miles east of Green River, Utah. (Salt Lake Tribune, May 24, 1960)

August 5, 1960
"Applications are already in preparation for acquisition of right-of-way for a railroad connecting Bartlett Mesa, above the mining area, with Brendel, a station on the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad about 10 miles east of Crescent Junction." (Salt Lake Tribune, August 5, 1960)

August 6, 1960
Studies were under way to determine if the production shaft and processing plant should be located on top of Bartlett Mesa, or at the bottom of the gorge adjacent to the Colorado river. The river location would require a shaft 3000 deep to mine the potash, and if the production shaft and plant was located on Bartlett Mesa to allow access to a railroad spur, an additional 1400 feet of shaft would be needed. (Salt Lake Tribune, August 6, 1960)

September 27, 1960
Texas Gulf Sulphur Company announced that it would spend $20 million to $30 million to develop potash deposits in Utah. The announcement came after the company had completed a series of deep exploration wells (more than 9,000 feet) to determine the extent of the potash deposits. (New York Times, September 27, 1960)

November 9, 1960
"The Rio Grande is extremely pleased that the Texas Gulf Sulphur Co. has seen fit to go ahead with this venture. We are proud to join them in providing first-class railroad service to assist in the development of the project." G. B. Aydelott, President of the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad Co., Denver. (Salt Lake Tribune, November 9, 1960)

January 27, 1961
By late January 1961, the location of the potash plant, and the route of the rail spur had been decided. "Rio Grande to Furnish Rail, Own Spur -- The Rio Grande will furnish the rail and hardware on the line and own the spur. A 1-1/2 mile tunnel will have to be driven as the spur traverses its way along the banks of the Colorado river. The Rio Grande is expected by mid 1961 to its contracting on the 38-mile spur." (Salt Lake Tribune, January 27, 1961)

February 2, 1961
"Denver and Rio Grande Western railroad has announced plans to build a forty-mile, five million dollar track to Cane Creek from their main line near Crescent Junction. The company estimates that it will gain 15,000 carloads of additional rail traffic when the project is completed. The line will require 7,885 tons of steel. Approximately one million dollars in rail and track and accessories are almost certain to be ordered from Colorado Fuel and Iron mills at Pueblo. Three survey crews began work this week to prepare specifications for the line, which will reportedly entail a 7,100 foot tunnel. March should see completion of the survey." (Moab Times Independent, February 2, 1961)

February 20, 1961
Initial construction started on the potash plant and mine for Texas Gulf Sulphur company. The plant will be built by Stearns-Roger Manufacturing company, which specializes in this type of industrial plant.

March 24, 1961
D&RGW announced that all agreements were in place to build its Cane Creek spur to directly serve the soon to be constructed Texas Gulf Sulphur potash processing plant. The following comes from the March 24, 1961 issue of the Salt Lake Tribune newspaper:

Texas Gulf Sulphur mine and beatification plant will employ up to-500 persons and has a projected initial capacity of 8,000 tons of ore daily. This capacity will be expanded to 12,000 tons. The Rio Grande estimated that between 70 and 100 cars will be loaded daily with muriate of potash from the plant. This plant, because of the high-grade ore reserve at Cane Creek, is destined to become the single largest producer of muriate of potash in the western hemisphere.

Texas Gulf Sulphur is expected to announce within the next few weeks the selection of contractor on driving of a 2,800 feet deep, 22-foot, circular, concrete-lined production and ventilation shaft which will open the Cane Creek reserve. Several thousand feet of station-cutting, drifting, cross-cutting and conveyor belt installation may also be involved in this contract.

The Rio Grande is expected to contract out the grade preparation work and tunneling on its new industrial spur. Completion of the railroad line, potash mine and beatification plant is expected in late 1962.

June 29, 1961
Site preparation and excavation work began at the site of the potash plant at Cane Creek. (Moab Times Independent, June 29, 1961)

July 16, 1961
To supply rail for the Cane Creek Branch, D&RGW replaced 30 miles of its main line tracks between Brendel and Cisco to the east, with new rails that was 136 pounds to the yard. The rail removed from the main line track, at 112 and 115 pounds per yard, was relaid on the new branch. The following description of the new Cane Creek Branch comes from the July 16, 1961 issue of the Salt Lake Tribune newspaper:

The largest railroad construction project to be undertaken in Utah in the past 40 years will be energized in final days of July, it was announced Saturday (July 15, 1961).

This project involves the laying of 30.69 miles of "industrial spur" from Crescent Junction, Grand County, down Moab Canyon to the 25 million dollar potash mine and mill of Texas Gulf Sulphur Co. at Cane Creek in the gorge of the Colorado River.

The Potash line will follow the east side of Moab Canyon, maintaining about a one per cent grade. Two miles south of Seven Mile, the line will cross U.S. 160 via an underpass.

It will move southwesterly in grade along the west wall of Moab Canyon to within about 1.8 miles of the bluffs above Bootlegger Canyon, which eventually opens onto the banks of the Colorado River.

A 7,000-foot, 16-by-24-foot tunnel will be driven into Bootlegger Canyon from this westerly section cf Moab Canyon. Some 2,800 feet of this tunnel will be on a one-degree curve and the remainder on tangent (straight line). A continuous grade of 1.2 per cent will be maintained through the tunnel.

Rock from the tunnel will be used as ballast for the railroad line down Bootlegger Canyon. At the mouth of this canyon, the track will cut through a local feature known as "Dome Rock." Considerable blasting through sandstone will be required to drive this 800-foot cut with walls more than 100 feet in height. This is one of several "cuts" the spur will traverse.

Between Gold Bar and Dry Canyon, the railroad will parallel a new paved section of the state secondary system now under construction by W. W. Clyde Co., Springville. The remaining section of highway into the potash plant area will be paved surface and a part of the Grand County road system.

Eventually, this road will provide a new access to the Dead Horse Point scenic area -- an area now only approachable by a gravel road off U.S. 160, which has "washboard" difficulties at time.

Volcanic ash will be used as ballast for the first 16 miles of the potash spur. The remaining portions of the line will employ "precious metals slag" as ballast.

Utah's "newest railroad" line will be completed prior to start of operations of the Texas Gulf Sulphur plant in late 1962.

Initially, some 70 cars of muriate of potash will move daily over the spur. But there will be a marked increase in traffic as the big mine gears to output of between 8,000 and 11,000 tons of ore daily.

July 20, 1961
The road along the west side of the Colorado river was closed due to construction. Construction crews and contractors traveling to the plant site at Cane Creek were being ferried by boat along the river, or using a trail down to the site from Dead Horse Point. Within a month, an access road was built from the plateau open area near Dead Horse Point, down Long Canyon, directly to the construction site of the potash plant. (Moab Times Independent, July 20, 1961; August 17, 1961)

July 27, 1961
Morrison Knudsen was awarded the contract for the construction of D&RGW's Cane Creek Branch. M-K was the successful bidder of 30 contracting companies that submitted bids to the railroad. (Salt Lake Tribune, July 27, 1961)

August 14, 1961
A brief ground breaking ceremony was held by D&RGW and M-K officials, along with Moab and Texas Gulf Sulphur officials for the start of construction of the Cane Creek Branch. The ground breaking was held at 3:30 p.m. on Monday August 14th, on the Moab side of the planned tunnel, overlooking the Moab valley. (Moab Times Independent, August 17, 1961)

May 13, 1962
Texas Gulf Sulphur had sunk its 22-foot diameter mine shaft about half way to its planned 2800-foot depth. The D&RGW tunnel had reached 5200 feet of its planned 7200-foot length. Work on the tunnel was progressing north to south, from the Moab end, with the outlet to be in Bootlegger canyon. All bridges had been completed on the rail line, and about 12 miles of track had been laid. Work on the deep cut in Moab canyon was progressing. (Salt Lake Tribune, May 13, 1962)

June 17, 1962
The deep cut taking the D&RGW Cane Creek Branch through Moab canyon was reported as being 120 feet deep, 120 feet wide, and 7000 feet long, and was to be completed by August 1st. Material removed from the cut was being used as fill on the portion of the rail line between the south end of the cut, and the approximately 4.5 miles of line to north end of the tunnel. There was also extensive additional cut-and-fill work being done along those 4.5 miles. (Salt Lake Tribune, June 17, 1962)

June 26, 1962
"Morrison-Knudsen Co. Inc., has 'holed through' on a 7,059-foot tunnel from Moab Canyon to the head of Bootlegger Canyon on the 30 million-dollar Texas Gulf Sulphur Co. Cane Creek potash project. The firm has a five-million-dollar contract from the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad for driving and lining the, tunnel on the 39-mile 'industrial spur' of the railroad from Crescent Junction to Cane Creek." (Salt Lake Tribune, June 26, 1962)

September 20, 1962
Morrison Knudsen finished the D&RGW Cane Creek spur. D&RGW's own track crews laid the track. The Texas Gulf Sulphur mine shaft had reached 1,953 feet, headed for the final 2,800 feet in depth. (Salt Lake Tribune, September 20, 1962)

February 27, 1963
D&RGW received ICC approval to use "Potash" as the name of the station at the end of its 30-mile rail spur serving the Texas Gulf Sulphur company's potash mine and plant. The station had its own agent to receive and ship railroad traffic presented to it. In accordance with ICC rules, the major purpose was use the station name as the originating point for shipments of potash. (Provo Daily Herald, February 27, 1963)

June 26, 1964
Harrison International, the prime contractor for the construction of the potash processing plant, and for the development of the mine (including shafts, drifts and cross-cuts) would, in about 30 days, turn over the mine and plant to Texas Gulf Sulphur company and production would begin. (Salt Lake Tribune, June 26, 1964)

April 27, 1972
Texas Gulf Sulphur Company changed its name to Texasgulf, Incorporated. (New York Times, March 23, 1972)

March 1974
"From January 1, 1965 through July 5, 1970, the very difficult potash ore body of Texasgulf Inc. near Moab, Ut. was mined by conventional methods. The mine was gassy, the temperature was high and structural conditions within the mine made extraction unsafe and impractical. Tests and studied were completed and indicated that solution mining, with solar evaporation would be a good and profitable remedy. Corporate approval came in July 1970, and the underground mine was shutdown on July 5, 1970. Conversion to solution mining included a pumping system to pump water into and out of the mine, and pump the resulting brine solution to existing and greatly expanded evaporation ponds. All machinery had to be removed from the mine and the mine made ready to fill the 340 miles of tunnels with approximately 750 million gal of water. For this purpose, a drilling program consisting of 12 holes into predetermined locations in the mined-out workings was started in October 1970 and completed in January 1971. Brine from the mine was first pumped into the evaporation ponds on June 30, 1971. Plant startup was on March 1, 1972 and production has continued since that time." (Mining Congress Journal, March 1974)

1985
The Moab mine and plant were operated by Texasgulf Chemicals Company, a division of Texasgulf, Inc. (company letterhead dated 1985)

March 8, 1988
Texasgulf Chemicals company transferred the Moab mine and processing plant to Moab Salt, Inc., a separate subsidiary of Texasgulf, Inc. (Documents on file with Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining)

1995
The assets of Texasgulf, Inc. were acquired by Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan, which operated the Moab mine and plant as PCS Potash Moab.

January 25, 2000
All of the stock and ownership of Moab Salt, Inc., was sold by PCS Phosphate Company, Inc., to Intrepid Oil & Gas, LLC. The mine and plant continued to be operated by Moab Salt, Inc. (Documents on file with Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining)

February 2000
In February 2000, Intrepid Mining LLC purchased all of the common stock of Moab Salt, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of PCS, Inc. in Canada. (Documents on file with Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining)

June 28, 2001
The Moab mine and plant were being operated by Moab Salt LLC, a division of Intrepid Mining LLC. (Documents on file with Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining)

January 2007
The operating company was changed to Intrepid Potash Moab LLC. (Documents on file with Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining)

More Information

(Read more about D&RGW's Cane Creek Branch at D&RGW.net)

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