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D&RGW Marysvale Branch

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This page was last updated on May 24, 2019.

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Marysvale Branch Stations

D&RGW Marysvale Branch -- A Google Map of D&RGW's Marysvale Branch, built in 1891 and abandoned in 1984.

Overview

The Rio Grande Western completed their line into San Pete Valley by building south from Thistle to Ephraim in December 1890, and to Manti the following May. The Rio Grande Western line between Thistle and Manti was built as three-foot narrow gauge. During July 1891 the entire line between Thistle and Manti was converted to standard gauge. The Rio Grande Western had converted its mainline between Colorado and Ogden the previous November, matching the Denver and Rio Grande's standard gauge route to Denver.

The Rio Grande Western saw a need to extend its line further south into the Sanpete region. The railroad had exhausted its financial resources to convert from narrow gauge to standard gauge, so in May 1891 the Sevier Railway was organized by Rio Grande interests to extend the Rio Grande Western line south from Manti to Parowan, with a branch east up Salina Canyon from Salina, over the divide and across the San Rafael region to a connection with Rio Grande Western's line at Green River. Construction was to be completed using standard gauge.

By June 1891 the line had been completed as far as Salina, with service starting on July 1, 1891. Also during July 1891 Rio Grande Western's narrow gauge route from Thistle to Manti was converted to standard gauge, making the route south from Thistle to Salina fully standard gauged. In 1896 the Sevier Railway was completed to Sevier and in 1900 it reached what would become the southern terminal at Marysvale.

Timeline

Abrerviated timeline:

Surveys from Thistle to Manti (60 miles) were started in September 1889 and completed in November 1889.

Thistle to Fairview laid as narrow gauge in 1890; converted to standard gauge in 1891.

December 13, 1890
RGW's narrow gauge line south from Thistle to Ephraim was completed. (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, December 13, 1890)

(LeMassena, on page 89, says that this line was between Thistle and Manti.)

December 13, 1890
The R.G.W. line to Ephraim (Sevier Valley branch) opens today. (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, December 13, 1890)

May 6, 1891
Sevier Railway was incorporated by RGW interests to build from Manti, and a connection with the RGW from Thistle, south to Parowan by way of Salina and Marysvale, with branches to the gypsum beds near Salina, to the Clear Creek coal lands west of Marysvale, and east up Salina Canyon, through Castle Valley, to a connection with the RGW near Green River Station. (Utah corporation index 909, 4355)

Manti to Salina (25.5 miles) was surveyed in May and June 1891.

July 15, 1891
The San Pete Division, between Thistle and Manti was changed to standard gauge on a single day. (Poor's, 1892, p. 543)

July 16, 1891
Sevier Branch from Manti to Salina was changed to standard gauge on a single day. (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, July 16, 1891)

The line from Salina to Belknap (40 miles) was completed in 1896.

January 3, 1900
"'We expect to have the grade through from Belknap to Marysvale by March,' said Henry Roylance, Jr. at the Cullen yesterday. 'There isn't heavy rock cutting to be done on the way, and on Wednesday of next week we expect to explode 200 kegs of powder in a seventy-foot cut, dislodging 4000 cubic yards of stone. This will make something of a disturbance, and be worth seeing.'" (Salt Lake Tribune, January 3, 1900)

February 20, 1900
Grading from Belknap to Marysvale line, R.G.W., is nearly completed. (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, February 20, 1900)

(At time time, in February 1900, the Dalton mine, and other nearby mines, were being very successful mining gold and silver from deposits in Bullion canyon, just west of Marysvale, and needed cheap transportation.)

(Also, a large deposit of Fuller's Earth, three to twelve feet thick and 300 feet wide and of unknown length had been discovered near Elsinore, seven miles south of Richfield. The deposit only needed to be loaded directly into rail cars for shipment. Fuller's Earth is a soapy clay material used mostly in the scouring and cleaning of wool.)

February 15, 1900
RGW was advertising scheduled daily passenger trains to Marysvale. (Salt Lake Mining Review, February 15, 1900)

March 3, 1900
"Marysvale, March 3. -- Every one is anxious for the road to reach here. Then we expect quite a boom in business and real estate. The grading is nearly completed, bridge timbers are being piled up at Belknap, thousands of ties are floating down river, and there is every indication of the road being completed soon, which will be a great benefit to this community. All freight for this place, as well as for the southern country has to be hauled from Elsinore." (Salt Lake Tribune, March 14, 1900)

May 8, 1900
Belknap is shown in an RGW advertisement as the southern terminal for Train No. 10, the daily passenger train between Salt Lake City and points south, including Lehi, Provo, and Manti, which indicates that Marysvale has not yet been reached. (Salt Lake Tribune, May 8, 1900)

June 24, 1900
The RGW will relay the rail taken from the Park City narrow gauge on the extension from Belknap to Marysvale, starting July 4th. Grade was finished to Marysvale some time ago, and the bridges were completed last night, now just waiting for rail. (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, June 24, 1900)

August 13, 1900
Tracklaying south from Belknap to Marysvale began on August 13, 1900. If all goes well, track will be completed in two weeks and the "terminal sheds and turntable" would be moved from Belknap to Marysvale. (Salt Lake Tribune, August 14, 1900, "yesterday")

August 24, 1900
"Laying Track to Marysvale. -- Tracklaying on the Marysvale extension of the Rio Grande Western is progressing nicely. About four miles are already down below Belknap. The extra rail of the Utah Central has all been taken up between Salt Lake and Barclays and is being sent to Belknap as quickly as possible." (Salt Lake Tribune, August 24, 1900) (Utah Central is RGW's line between Salt Lake City and Park City, by way of Parleys Canyon, having been converted from narrow gauge to standard gauge on July 29th.)

The RGW line to Marysvale was completed in late August or early September 1900. The weekly time cards for the RGW daily passenger train between Salt Lake City and Sevier valley, Trains 9 (northbound) and 10 (southbound), showed Belknap as the southern terminus on September 2nd, and Marysvale as the southern terminus on September 9th. (Salt Lake Tribune, September 2, 1900; September 9, 1900)

September 7, 1900
"Cars A and B of the Rio Grande Western were attached to No. 8 yesterday. In the party were Messrs. Dodge, Welby, Green, Yard and others, who arrive at Marysvale today. The special from Springville tied up at Manti last night." (Salt Lake Tribune, September 7, 1900)

September 9, 1900
"Train No. 10, Rio Grande Western, runs through to Marysvale today." The station at Belknap was moved six miles north to Sevier. (Salt Lake Tribune, September 9, 1900)

September 9, 1900
D&RG operated the first passenger train into Marysvale. (Richfield Reaper, January 21, 1987)

October 1900
Sevier Valley Railway completed line from Salina to Marysvale. (Wilson, p. 97)

(LeMassena, p. 109, says that RGW completed six miles of standard gauge from Belknap to Marysvale in 1900.)

August 1916
The D&RGW Marysvale Branch was extended about 1/2 mile south, to the newly completed potash reduction mill being built by the Florence Mining and Milling company. The mill was being built to process the mining company's reserves of Alunite, a combination mineral of potash and aluminum oxide. The construction of the spur extension was paid for by the mining company.

(Read more about the Alunite mining and milling at Marysvale)

June 10, 1941
D&RGW received Utah Public Utilities Commission approval to close the agency station at Fairview, on the Marysvale Branch. (Utah Public Service Commission case 2454)

June 1949
The few available photographs show either a T-29 4-6-0 or a P-44 4-6-2 steam locomotive with a short train of three or four heavyweight cars. It was apparently referred to as the "Sanpete Hay Burner." The June 1949 timetable still listed trains 11 and 12 to Marysvale with an air-conditioned coach and also bus service. (Steve Seguine, email dated March 5, 2001)

There was a later report that the last passenger train left Richfield in 1947, with 4-6-2 no. 803 as the motive power.

August 27, 1949
Passenger service on the Marysvale Branch ended. (Ephraim Enterprise, May 8, 1969, "Your Heritage and You")

The last passenger train arrived at Marysvale on Saturday August 27, 1949 at 9:15 a.m. The last train departed Marysvale also on Saturday, at 12:45 p. m. About 30 people were on hand to see the last train depart. (Salt Lake Tribune, August 28, 1949)

According to D&RGW Salt Lake Division employee timetable No. 117, dated December 4, 1938, it was Trains 11 and 12 that operated on the Marysvale Branch:

  • Train 12 left Salt Lake City at 2:15 am and arrived at Thistle at 4;05 am; then left Thistle at 4:30 am and arrived at Marysvale at 9:30 am;
  • Train 11 left Marysvale at 12:45 pm and arrived at Thistle at 5:50 pm; departed Thistle at 5:55 pm and arrived at Salt Lake City at 7:45 pm.

Train 11 operated ahead of Train No. 1, The Scenic Limited, from Thistle to Roper, where No. 1 passed No. 11, with No. 11 arriving at Salt Lake City just after No. 1.

According to the 1955 employee timetable, there were wye tracks on the Marysvale Branch at Marysvale, Richfield, Salina, Manti, Ephraim, and Oak Creek. Steve Seguine remembered that the old Conoco building at the eastern edge of Marysvale was along the west tail of the wye.

In 1963 D&RGW operated the last freight train to Marysvale. (Richfield Reaper, January 21, 1987)

In 1967 there was a deposit of clay at the White Horse mine that was being developed by the Alunite Company.

The 1968 Engineering Department Condensed Profile for the Marysvale Branch showed wyes at the Moroni Spur Junction (mp 52.8), Manti (mp 60.3) and Salina (mp 86.4).

February 5, 1970
D&RGW applied to the Utah Public Service Commission for approval to close the agency station at Marysvale. The depot itself was closed on December 9, 1963. The building itself was demolished in February 1964, and the Marysvale agent worked out of an office in downtown Marysvale. During the uranium boom of the early 1950s, the numerous mines in the area had loaded thousands of carloads of ore for shipment to out-of-state uranium mills. The last passenger train had left Marysvale on August 27, 1947. (Richfield Reaper, February 5, 1970)

During 1977, Southern Utah Fuel was trucking coal from its mine in Salina canyon, to a coal terminal on the D&RGW railroad at Salina. The Salina coal terminal was loading 3,750 tons daily, into fifty 75-ton hopper cars. (Coal Age magazine December 1977, page 72)

According to a bit in the October 1982 issue of Coal Age magazine, the loadout at Spearmint (between Gunnison and Axtell) was used exclusively by Consol Energy (Consolidation Coal Co.) to load coal trucked from its Emery mine, which it had purchased in 1975. They were also trucking coal to a loadout at Mohrland. The same mine is today [2018] known as the Emery Deep mine, with Consol as the owner until 2016. Consol sold it to Bronco Energy LLC, and Bronco trucks their coal to the Savage Coal Terminal. Bronco also owns the closed Horizon mine in Gordon Creek (on the site of the old Consumers Mutual mine), and the closed loadout at Wildcat.

After Thistle, 1983

D&RGW's Marysvale Branch was out of service after April 1983 Thistle slide; ICC approved formal abandonment in August 1986 and rails and ties were removed starting in September 1986, and completed by spring 1987.

(Read about the end of the Marysvale Branch; from the Richfield Reaper newspaper, January 21, 1987)

April 15, 1983
The D&RGW mainline at Thistle, Utah, in Spanish Fork canyon, was closed by a mud slide.

The Thistle mud slide forced the closure of the 132-mile Marysvale Branch. Although there were proposals in 1985 and 1986 to restore service, the Marysvale Branch was formally abandoned in August 1986, and the tracks were removed in late 1986 through early 1987.

June 21, 1985
The Utah State Office of Community and Economic Development was in negotiations with D&RGW to purchase the abandoned Marysvale Branch, 132 miles long, for a reported price of $621,000. The railroad's asking price exceeded $1 million. The state would then lease the state-owned rail line to a consortium of central Utah businesses to operate the line. There were 20 shippers in Sanpete and Sevier counties that had been using rail transportation to ship and receive their freight by rail. The federal Interstate Commerce Commission had approved the request by D&RGW to abandon the line. The railroad had testified in the ICC hearings that it would cost $14 million to restore rail service, quite a bit more than the state's estimate of $5 to $7 million. The administrative judge for the ICC had given the state 30 days to file its proposal, which the state had filed on June 3rd. The state had allocated $5 million to fund state-wide economic development projects, and this project to restore rail service to central Utah would take all of that funding, which was upsetting to other state officials. (Salt Lake Tribune, June 21, 1985)

February 1986
When approached by the State of Utah concerning a purchase price for its Marysvale Branch, D&RGW quoted a price that the state felt was too high. The matter was referred to an administrative judge for arbitration. The judge decided on a fair price of $621,660 for the entire branch. When the plan was presented to the ICC for approval, the ICC raised the price to $1,383,000. One of the organizations interested in operating the line under lease from the state was the Sanpete Sevier Railroad. (Pacific Rail News, Issue 267, February 1986, p.6, from a clipping from the Richfield Reaper, via Ken Ardinger)

March 21, 1986
D&RGW and the State of Utah agreed on a sale price of $1.3 million for the state to purchase the 132-mile Marysvale Branch. The state's initial offer had been $675,000. The state then planned to turn around and sell the branch line to a private operator, following a five-year sale limitation placed on the state by the federal ICC. (Deseret News, March 21, 1986)

March 22, 1986
The state completed a formal option to purchase the Marysvale Branch for $1.3 million, on the condition that it find a buyer by June 30th. If a buyer was not found by June 30th, then D&RGW could act to abandon the line, following the approval it had already received from the federal ICC. (Salt Lake Tribune, March 22, 1986)

June 5, 1986
After meeting with potential buyers, the state was still without a real offer to buy the Marysvale Branch for $1.3 million. Three offers had been received, but none included a check for $1.3 million, which the state required to meet the June 3th deadline. In fact, none of the offers included a full repayment of the state's purchase price, which was a requirement set by the state legislature. Another meeting was scheduled for June 17th, to accommodate investors that were out of the country. These investors were proposing a new company to be called Sanpete and Sevier Railroad, which would operate the rail line between Thistle and Richfield, including a coal loading station at Salina that would be moved from its current location at Levan. But there was a Catch-22 situation in that the coal company (Southern Utah Fuel company; SUFCO) would not sign a long term haulage contract without the new railroad being firmly in place and ready to haul coal, and the railroad could not obtain funding to build renovate and rebuild the line without a long term contract from the coal company. The deadline of June 30th was still firmly in place. (Deseret News, June 5, 1986; Salt Lake Tribune, June 5, 1986)

June 18, 1986
Following a meeting on June 17th, there were still no fully-funded offers to buy the rail line from the state. Each of the offers had asked that the state provide the rail line as part of a lease/purchase agreement, with one of the offers being to have the state guarantee the needed rail shipping customers, in return for a guaranteed $130,000 annual payment until the line was paid for (after 10 years). Another offer included a $1,383,196 purchase price by the Sanpete and Sevier Railroad, with the Governor himself arranging for commitments from shippers along the rail line. In addition, the railroad after it was purchased from D&RGW, would be exempt from state and local property taxes and other assessments for a period of five years. This last offer was from the Sanpete and Sevier Railroad, and would expire on July 2nd. (Deseret News, June 18, 1986)

August 5, 1986
After advertising nationally, the state received five offers to buy the Marysvale Branch, but none fit the short-term and restrictive requirements set by the governor's committee, i.e., full repayment of the $1.3 million set aside by the state legislature. D&RGW itself had already received bids to salvage the line. Utah Governor Bangerter had personally telephoned D&RGW president William Holtman to tell him of the failure of the state to find a "viable" buyer, after the state's "extensive efforts," to which Holtman remarked that D&RGW would start salvage operations immediately. (Deseret News, August 5, 1986; Salt Lake Tribune, August 5, 1986)

August 31, 1986
The following comes from the August 31, 1986 issue of the Salt Lake Tribune newspaper:

This past week, D&RGW sold the line that runs from Spanish Fork Canyon through Sanpete and Sevier Counties to A & K Railroad Materials Inc. for about $1.1 million.

The state, citing the railroad's government-granted monopoly status-because of the operating authority given by the Interstate Commerce Commission, tried to force D&RGW to reopen the line through administrative fiat.

But after hearings before the ICC, the federal agency ruled D&RGW had the right to abandon the line. It did give the state the opportunity to purchase the line before anyone else could bid on it, however, and it said if Utah officials were willing to pay the determined market value of $1.3 million for the line, the state could be the proud new owner of a railroad.

Utah did exercise that option last spring, using a special allocation granted by the Utah Legislature to buy the line on the condition it could find an alternate buyer to take the railroad off its hands.

Several proposed railroad companies expressed an interest, including a central Utah consortium of businessmen and government leaders hoping to form a railroad company to once again serve their industries, and a non-profit organization out of Colorado Springs that wanted to use the materials to build a railroad in Africa to ship donated food from the coast to drought-stricken inner-continent villages in Ethiopia.

But nobody could meet the specific requirements of the sale — the $1.3 million price to get the state off the hook and the promise that a rail service would be reopened in central Utah — so after several extensions on the deadline that were granted by D&RGW, the state finally had to admit defeat at the end of July and turn the line back to the railroad.

D&RGW told Utah officials if they could find a buyer to reopen the line before it completed its own bidding process, it would still go along with the Utah plan so beleaguered central Utah could still have a railroad. That didn't happen and A & K Railroad Materials won the bid.

"The main thing is they guaranteed the money up front," said John Walker, chief counsel for D&RGW in Denver. "The second thing is they agreed to have the job completed (the railroad line extracted) within 540 days.

late August 1986
D&RGW received formal permission by ICC to abandon the Marysvale Branch. The 132 mile branch was severed due to the April 1983 Thistle slide. There had been much interest by the state of Utah and local business people to reopen the branch, but D&RGW had figured that it would cost $15 million to reconstruct the branch and reconnect it to its relocated mainline. Between 1896 and 1900, the branch had originated some coal traffic at Spearmint. In later years, most of the traffic had been in-bound grain destined for Moroni Spur, 52.8 miles south of Thistle. Most of this grain was turkey feed bound for large turkey farms at Moroni, and which originated at the Cargill elevator at North Yard in Denver. Since the Thistle slide, the grain had been sent to spur tracks at the Spanish Fork sugar works (10 miles south of Provo on the Tintic Branch) where it was trucked to Moroni. (CTC Board, December 1986, page 16)

late 1986 through early 1987
Ties and rails on D&RGW's Marysvale Branch were removed between September 1986 and spring 1987 by contractor A&K Salvage. After the work was completed, there were large stacks of ties stored at Salina. (James Belmont, message posted to Trainorders.com on June 5, 2003)

March 22, 1987
Following the formal abandonment, and removal of the track, D&RGW relinquished its right-of-way on those portions that were on federal land. Other parts were sold or relinquished to adjacent land owners, including the two counties and the cities located on the line. Many adjacent farmers and ranchers installed fences across the cleared right-of-way and started grazing their cattle. Following the Thistle slide, D&RGW stopped paying property taxes to the two counties, and in March 1987, the counties sued to collect the back taxes for 1984 and 1985. (Deseret News, March 22, 1987)

April 6, 1988
A&K Railroad Materials had purchased salvage rights to the rail and track material of D&RGW's Marysvale Branch for $1.1 million, with a 540-day deadline to have the material removed. That deadline was March 1, 1988, and A&K finished its work by the deadline. A&K sold some of the track material locally, including the crushed slag that had been used as ballast, varying between 8 and 10 inches deep. One company in Manti purchased a mile of ballast and sold it from their own material yard. Ephriam City bought several miles of ballast for use in street repairs. (Deseret News, April 6, 1988)

(View a 15-page PDF compiled from newspaper articles, 1985-1986)

Marysvale Alunite Mill

The foundations and ruins of an abandoned mill are located today about a mile southeast of Marysvale, and are situated at the very end of D&RGW's abandoned Marysvale Branch. Research indicates that these ruins date from 1916, and were originally the alunite reduction mill of the Florence Mining and Milling Company.

(The foundations and ruins are *not* those of the Bullion gold mill or smelter. After being processed by reduction mills directly at the mines, all ore from the gold mines in Bullion canyon were shipped to the smelters in Salt Lake City.)

A second Alunite mill was located about 4.5 miles southwest of of the Marysvale mill, at what is now the ghost town of Alunite, near the mouth of Cottonwood Creek canyon. This second site was the mill of the Mineral Products Corp., organized in 1915 by American Fertilizer company, an affiliate of Armour Packing company.

(Read more about the Alunite mining and milling at Marysvale)

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