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Gordon Creek Coal Mines

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This page was last updated on April 9, 2015.

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(This is a work in progress; research continues.)


The coal mines and railroad service (originally known as the National Coal Railway) in Gordon Creek Canyon.

Coal was first mined in the Gordon Creek district as early as 1907 by W. C. Brooker and five others on 1,000 acres of the Sheya Ranch, where two coal seams of seven feet each showed at the surface. (Coal Index: Eastern Utah Advocate, September 19, 1907, p. 3)

National Coal Railway

(also Helper Western Railway)

On July 2, 1909 the Helper Western Railway was incorporated, having been organized on June 24th. The proposed route of the new company was from a point on the D&RG that was two miles south of Helper, then northwest for approximately fifteen miles to a point in the center of Section 17 in Township 13 South and Range 8 East, a point on the north fork of Gordon Creek. The company's organizers included John F. Williamson of Salt Lake City and George W. Higgans of Clinton, Indiana, along with C. C. Crandall and H. B. Tirrall of Provo, and Joseph A. Thorne and William McKenzie of Springville. (Utah corporation, index number 7779)

The proposed survey of the Helper Western Railway was approved by the U. S. Land Office in late December 1910. (Eastern Utah Advocate, December 22, 1910)

In mid July 1912 National Fuel Company filed a $450,000 mortgage to begin the development of its coal lands, and to build the Helper Western Railroad. (Eastern Utah Advocate, July 18, 1912)

On March 25, 1912 the Helper Western filed an amendment to its corporation papers that allowed it to have a joint agreement with the National Fuel Company. The name of the Helper Western was changed to the National Coal Railway on July 16, 1920 and amended its intended route to include a three-mile branch along the south fork of Gordon Creek and a one-mile branch along Coal Creek, from where Coal Creek joined with Gordon Creek. F. A. Sweet was shown as the president. (Utah corporation, index number 7779)

On January 2, 1920 the National Coal Company was organized to purchase the property and interests of the National Fuel Company, and to finance the construction of the Helper Western Railway. (Utah corporation, index number 14229)

In a July 1925 amendment to allow an increase of its stock shares, the shareholders of the railroad company were shown as Great Western Coal Mines Company (4,960 shares), Frank F. Lahut (Latuda?) (4,900 shares), National Coal Company (3,550 shares), Sweet Coal Company (3,100 shares), Union Coal Company (2,910 shares), and F. A. Sweet (2,410 shares). Another 350 shares were owned by C. N. Sweet, T. Sato, Consumers Mutual Coal Company, George A. Storrs, D. E. Jenkins, C. N. Strevell, George S. Payne, and C. T. Worley. (Utah corporation, index number 7779)

The Gordon Creek Coal Company was incorporated during mid July 1920 by Norman W. Lacey, of Los Angeles, president, F. A. Hutchens, vice president, and V. R. Hutchens, secretary. (News Advocate, July 15, 1920, "was incorporated this week")

George A. Storrs (formerly with Jesse Knight's Spring Canyon company) organized the Gordon Creek Coal Company in May 1921. The mine was located eight miles up Gordon Creek Canyon. (Coal Index: The Sun, May 27, 1921, p. 2)

Five months later Storrs organized the Great Western Coal Company, which included plans for a railroad up Gordon Creek Canyon. (Coal Index: The Sun, October 14, 1921, p. 6)

Prior to the completion of the National Coal Railway in 1925, the coal from the Gordon Creek mines was loaded onto Utah Railway cars at a loading platform constructed at Wildcat Siding. (Public Service Commission of Utah, case 2750, "K. L. Storrs")

In 1925, one of the coal companies which had an interest in National Coal Railway, and which had mines located in Gordon Creek canyon, employed sixty men and twenty wagons to ship its coal from its mine, nine miles to the Utah Railway. Another coal company shipped its coal seven miles using twelve men and wagons for loading into the cars of Utah Railway. (99 ICC 570)

The coal companies interested in the construction of the National Coal Railway included: Great Western Coal Company (Heber C. Jex), National Coal Company (F. A. Sweet), Consumers Mutual Coal Company (Donald E. Jenkins), Sweet Coal Company (C. N. Sweet), and Union Coal Company (C. N. Strevell). All but the Gordon Creek company were involved in the construction, management, and later sale of the line to Utah Railway. The railroad company in its application for the construction of its line stated that it could not finance its construction into Helper as originally considered, but would be able to finance its construction to a connection with the Utah Railway. The application was approved on August 14, 1925, knowing that the new railroad would most likely not be profitable, but at least self supporting, and that the Utah Railway intended to purchase the line from the coal companies for the cost of its construction. (99 ICC 570)

Arthur E. Gibson, one of the organizers of the Consumers Mutual coal mine, stated in his history of the Gordon Creek district that George A. Storrs organized his Great Western Coal Mines and began selling shares. Some of the money raised was used to begin construction of a railroad from Wildcat Siding on the Utah Railway to the mines. In 1924 Utah Railway suggested that they would build the new railroad, provided that each mine operator contributed their share of the expense. At about the same time, the Sweet Coal Company, the National Coal Company, and the Consumers Mutual Coal Company were organized and put up the needed cash to build the railroad. Each of these mines were located within a mile of each other and together made up a good sized coal mining camp. (Gibson: Gordon Creek, pp. 241,242)

Construction of the National Coal Railway began in August 1921 and continued sporadically until 1925. (Utah Railway: Manual, p. 24)

(Early portions of construction on the National Coal Railway consisted mainly of grading cuts and fills for a wagon road located along the possible route for a railroad.)

"The railroad was constructed over a period of years between 1922 and 1926 by the National Coal Railway which was owned and organized by five coal companies preparing to produce coal in the so called Gordon Creek mining area." (Utah Railway: Engineer's Report, 1951, National Coal Railway Branch, sheet 1)

The construction of the National Coal Railway was approved by the Public Service Commission of Utah, case number 750, on March 12, 1925. (Utah Railway: Manual, p. 24)

Rail laying by Utah Railway, under contract to the National company, began on July 6, 1925 and operation by Utah Railway commenced on September 18, 1925. The first coal was shipped on November 9, 1925. (Utah Railway: Manual, p. 24)

An agreement for the sale of the National Coal Railway to the Utah Railway was signed on December 17, 1925. The transaction was approved by the Utah Public Service Commission, case number 857, on January 7, 1926, and by the Interstate Commerce Commission, docket numbers 5294 and 5295, on March 11, 1926. On March 11, 1926 Utah Railway took over formal operation and ownership of the National company. (Utah Railway: Manual, p. 24)

(The National company remained in existence for a number of years as a subsidiary of Utah Railway, and during this time the National company was leased for operation to the Utah company.)

The National Coal Railway constructed an 8.9 mile standard gauge railroad from a point on the Utah Railway known as National Junction, at Utah Railway engineering station 753+19. The new railroad was built up Gorley Canyon and the north fork of Gordon Creek. The railroad was ready for operation at the time of the proposed lease and sale to Utah Railway on January 6, 1926. The Coal Creek Branch was not yet built but was contemplated to be complete before January 1, 1931. (Public Service Commission of Utah, case 857, pp. 3,8)

The railroad officially disassociated itself from the National Coal Company in November 1936, and by the time that the corporation was formally dissolved in July 1954, all of the stock shares were owned by Utah Railway. (Utah corporation, index number 7779)

The National Branch was retired and dismantled in 1954. (Utah Railway: Engineer's Report, 1951, handwritten note on National Coal Railway Branch, sheet 1)

Gordon Creek Coal Company

Prior to the passage of the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920, George A. Storrs secured a lease on the land which was known as the Gordon Creek mine. (Gibson: Gordon Creek, p. 241)

There were three Gordon Creek Coal Companies. The first, Utah corporation number 14529, was incorporated on July 12, 1920. This corporation became the Sweet Coal Company on March 20, 1925. The second, number 17158, was incorporated on October 24, 1925. This second company was "revoked" on April 4, 1932. The third was number 20917 and was incorporated on January 23, 1934. This third company was "revoked" on May 6, 1941. (Utah corporation records)

Great Western Coal Company

Great Western Coal Mines Company was incorporated on October 21, 1921. This corporation was "revoked" on April 20, 1936. (Utah corporation, index number 15138)

Coal shipments of the Great Western Coal Mines Company from the Great Western mine began in December 1924, being hauled by wagon to Wildcat Siding on the Utah Railway. Shipments via the National Coal Railway began in March 1926. (Utah Railway: Coal Mines)

There was also a Great Western Mines, Incorporated, incorporated on November 10, 1925. This mining company may have been a metal mine rather than a coal company. (Utah corporation, index number 17184)

Great Western Coal Company was located at Coal City and by February 1926, the company was in bankruptcy. (Coal Index: The Sun, February 26, 1926)

Coal City was originally to be called "The Great Western", but by the time that the townsite had been laid out and approved by the Carbon County Commission, on August 21, 1921, that name had become Coal City. The town's notoriety was enhanced in 1923 and 1924 when Jack Dempsey apparently came regularly to train for his fights. (Madsen, p. 34)

Coal City in Gordon Creek was originally to be called "Dempsey City" after potential investor Jack Dempsey. The town's name became Coal City after Dempsey decided not to invest. The adjacent coal mine was Great Western Coal Company, on 1,600 acres. (Coal Index: The Sun, February 29, 1924, p. 8)

George A. Storrs was indicted for mail fraud by soliciting through the U. S. Mail investment in bonds for the townsite on Gordon Creek. Storrs was president of Great Western Coal Company. (Coal Index: The Sun, November 7, 1924, p. 6)

By late December 1926, Storrs had been cleared of the charges. (Coal Index: The Sun, December 17, 1926, p. 4)

During late February 1926, Great Western in bankruptcy. (Coal Index: The Sun, February 26, 1926, p. 8)

Operations of Great Western Coal Mines Company discontinued in December 1926, resumed in October 1928, and discontinued again in December 1928. Property in possession of Federal Land Bank of Berkeley, California from 1931. Property not developed to economical production, and production was always limited, with shipments being on a very small scale. (Utah Railway: Coal Mines)

Operations of Great Western mine taken over by Atlas Utah Coal Company, in conjunction with its operations of the Gordon Creek mine. (Utah Railway: Coal Mines)

(The map of the National Coal Railway as completed in 1925 shows Great Western Coal mines at a completely different location than near Coal City. The map shows the Great Western lands as being south of the National Coal property.)

National Coal Company

An early prospector in the National area was a man by the name of Williamson in 1908. The property was developed by Fred Sweet. (Madsen, p. 46)

Prior to the passage of the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920, F. A. Sweet secured a block of coal lands in Gordon Creek canyon. (Gibson: Gordon Creek, p. 241)

Coal shipments from the National mine began in August 1927. (Utah Railway: Coal Mines)

F. A. Sweet resigned as president of National Coal Company in early 1935 due to ill health. Replaced by C. D. Craddock. (Coal Index: Sun Advocate, January 17, 1935, p. 10)

Operations at the National mine were discontinued on July 23, 1938. National Coal Company sold under foreclosure on December 2, 1938, to the Reconstruction Finance Corporation. The tipple was dismantled and machinery and trackage removed and sold in March 1940. (Utah Railway: Coal Mines)

The remaining physical assets of the National Coal Company was sold in May 1940 by the Reconstruction Finance Corporation to Carl Nyman. (Utah Railway: Coal Mines)

National coal mine sold to Carl Nyman of Price in June 1940. Operations to begin in late September. A new tipple was built. (Coal Index: Sun Advocate, October 3, 1940, p. 5)

A new 540 foot long spur, with nine car capacity, from Utah Railway's National Branch was completed on November 9, 1940. Coal shipments resumed on November 12, 1940. (Utah Railway: Coal Mines)

The coal mine at National was still known as the National mine in 1948. (Gibson: Gordon Creek, p. 241)

Consumers Mutual Coal Company

Prior to the passage of the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920, Arthur E. Gibson secured 1,480 acres that was operated as the Consumers mine. (Gibson: Gordon Creek, p. 241)

There was a Consumers Fuel Company incorporated on December 27, 1911. This may have been a reorganization of an earlier company with the same name, or the renaming of another company, incorporated on May 11, 1911. (Utah corporation, index number 8991)

There was also a Consumers Coal Company, incorporated on July 16, 1934. This corporation was involuntarily dissolved on May 2, 1946. (Utah corporation, index number 21077)

During the winter of 1921-1922, Arthur E. Gibson began the development of a seven foot seam of coal he had discovered and had analyzed in 1920. He hired men to work the new mine and during that winter they were able to mine thirty-four carloads of coal, which they hauled down Gordon Creek canyon by wagon to be loaded into cars at Utah Railway's Wildcat siding. (Madsen, p. 36)

In 1924 the Consumers Mutual Coal Company began development of its mine in Gordon Creek canyon. (Carr: Towns, p. 81)

Consumers Mutual Coal Company was organized by Donald Jenkins and J. Tracy Wootten, with Jenkins was president, Gibson as vice president, and Wootten was secretary-treasurer. Further development of the mine was delayed until E. J. Radditz became interested and funding became available to build the needed railroad bridge and tipple facilities. The town adjacent to the mine was originally called Gibson, but the name was later changed to Consumers. The coal company later became the Blue Blaze Coal Company, using the trade name "Blue Blaze Coal", formerly used by the Consumers Mutual company. (Madsen, p. 36)

Consumers Mutual Coal Company was incorporated on February 16, 1924, and became the Blue Blaze Coal Company on September 21, 1927. (Utah corporation, index number 16190)

Coal shipments by Consumers Mutual Coal Company from the Consumers mine began in February 1925, being hauled by wagon to Wildcat Siding on the Utah Railway. Shipments by rail over the National Coal Railway began in November 1925. (Utah Railway: Coal Mines)

In late 1925, the Consumers Mutual Coal Company contracted with Allen & Garcia of Chicago to build their tipple, which served two mines on the east fork of Gordon Creek. (Coal Index: The Sun, January 8, 1926, p. 1)

In April 1926 Consumers Mutual Coal Company announced that it would build a steel bridge to connect its two mines on each side of the canyon. The bridge was to be built by American Bridge Company, with a capacity to hold two Utah Railway Mallets and sixty loaded cars. The cost was to be about $60,000.00. Morrison Knudsen had the contract for the grading work for the rail yard, and for the concrete work for base of the trestle and the abutments of the bridge. (Salt Lake Mining Review, April 30, 1926, p. 18)

The tipple of the Consumers Mutual Coal Company was completed in about November 1926. Construction of the new tipple was contracted to Pittsburgh Boiler & Machine Company of Pittsburgh, Kansas, with an estimated completion date of August 1, 1926. It was said to be one of the biggest and most modern coal producing plants in the West. The bridge built across the canyon was double track and was eighty feet high, and was built in order to get the railroad tracks of the National Coal Railway right up to the mouth of the company's two mines, which opened onto the tipple from each side of the gulch. The gulch was spanned by the tipple structure. The construction of the large bridge did away with the need to construct a long surface tramway to transfer the mined coal from the mine opening down the mountainside to the tipple at the railroad level, such as found at practically all the Utah mines. The Consumers mine was the first in the state to use conveyor belt haulage to move the coal from the mine opening to the tipple, doing away with trains of mine cars moving between the mine and the tipple. The elimination of a surface tramway at Consumers was expected to reduce costs considerably. The new tipple separated coal into five different grades, and the five tipple tracks allowed all five sizes to be immediately loaded into waiting railroad cars. At the time, it was the only five-track loading tipple in the state. While the tipple was under construction, the coal company was shipping six to eight carloads per day over the National Coal Railway. The company's trade name for its coal was "Blue Blaze Coal". (Salt Lake Mining Review, March 30, 1926, p. 15; December 15, 1926, p. 18)

The Consumers Mutual Coal Company was succeeded by the Blue Blaze Coal Company on September 10, 1927. Rail shipments continued. (Utah Railway: Coal Mines)

Operations by the Blue Blaze Coal Company at the Consumers mine were discontinued on January 31, 1938, at which time the company entered receivership. (Utah Railway: Coal Mines)

By February 1938, the Blue Blaze Coal Company at Consumers was in receivership, with the mine closed and not likely to reopen. (Coal Index: Sun Advocate, February 17, 1938, p. 1)

Walker Bank & Trust was the lending bank and in March 1938 sued for the full amount of money due, from a trust indenture of $1,233,000 in bonds. (Coal Index: Sun Advocate, March 24, 1938, p. 13)

The property of the Blue Blaze Coal Company was sold under foreclosure to the bondholders on July 11, 1938. (Utah Railway: Coal Mines; Salt Lake Telegram, July 9, 1938)

The property of Blue Blaze Coal Company was sold at auction on August 25, 1939. (Salt Lake Telegram, August 12, 1939; Coal Index: Sun Advocate, August 3, 1939, p. 1)

Operations of the Consumers mine by the MacGowan Coal Company began on October 12, 1939. Terry MacGowan was the owner. (Utah Railway: Coal Mines)

The MacGowan Coal Company was operating the Consumers No. 3 mine during early 1945. (Coal Index: Sun Advocate, March 1, 1945, p. 9)

In 1951 the National Coal Company was operating both the Consumers mine and the National mine. (D&RGW: Traffic Circular 36-E, p. 86)

(How and when did the Consumers Mine become the Horizon Mine?)

As the Horizon Mine: Coal mining began in 1924 in this area of the North Fork of Gordon Creek when the Consumer Mutual Coal Company was organized, and opened an underground coal mine in the Consumer's Canyon. This operation continued into the 1940s. The Horizon Mine, which was owned by Horizon Mining, LLC, received its mining permit in October 1996. This permit was transferred to Lodestar Energy in 1999. Lodestar filed for Chapter 11 on March 30, 2001 and Chapter 7 on July 15, 2003. Lodestar transferred the permit to Hidden Splendor Resources, Inc. in 2003. Mining commenced and is currently operating. A federal lease was approved in 2005. Room and pillar mining methods are used in the Castlegate 'A' Seam and the Hiawatha Seam. The Horizon Mine is currently operating and produced 286,000 tons in 2005. (Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining, permit C0070020) (link)

Sweet Coal Company

Prior to the passage of the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920, Will Sweet secured a lease on coal land that was the location of the Sweet mine. (Gibson: Gordon Creek, p. 241)

Sweet Coal Company was changed from the Gordon Creek Coal Company on March 20, 1925. The Gordon Creek Coal Company, the first of three corporations with that name, was incorporated on July 12, 1920. (Utah corporation, index number 14509)

No operations were conducted by the Gordon Creek Coal Company prior to its becoming the Sweet Coal Company. (Utah Railway: Coal Mines)

Coal shipments by Sweet Coal Company from the Sweet mine began in January 1926. (Utah Railway: Coal Mines)

Sweet mine in Gordon Creek canyon began production in September 1926, producing 500 tons per day. (Coal Index: The Sun, December 31, 1926, p. 2)

Sweet mine closed by March 1941, and in possession of county for non-payment of taxes. (Coal Index: Sun Advocate, March 27, 1941, p. 5)

Sweet Coal Company entered receivership on March 26, 1940, mine property leased by receiver to Hudson Coal Company on March 1, 1941. Shipments resumed on March 31, 1941. All assets of Sweet Coal Company sold by receiver to Hudson Coal Company on October 22, 1942. (Utah Railway: Coal Mines)

Sweet mine being worked by Hudson Coal Company. (Coal Index: Sun Advocate, February 21, 1946, p. 4)

In 1951 the Sweet mine at Union was being operated by the Hudson Coal Company. The same company also operated the Maple Creek mine at Maple Creek in Spring Canyon. (D&RGW: Traffic Circular 36-E, p.)

Union Coal Company

(at Union)

March 10, 1911
Union Coal Company was incorporated at Provo, to "own and operate coal mines, build and operate railroads, etc. It takes over as a basis of capitalization, 900 acres of coal land near Castle Gate, into which a railroad will be constructed from Helper." (Carbon County News, March 10, 1911; Salt Lake Mining Review, March 15, 1911; Eastern Utah Advocate, March 30, 1911).

October 4, 1923
A new Union Coal Company was organized and incorporated. Principal owner was C. N. Strevell of Salt Lake City, who owned 498,000 of the initail 500,000 shares. (Salt Lake Mining Review, October 15, 1923)

December 30, 1923
Union Coal Company won the bid from the U. S. land office for the lease 1120 acres of coal land in Gordon Creek Canyon. (Salt Lake Mining Review, December 30, 1923)

Property originally owned, but not operated, by Union Coal Company. Leased, then sold in 1928, to Gordon Creek Coal Company (not the same as the predecessor of the Sweet Coal Company). (Utah Railway: Coal Mines)

January 10, 1927
Gordon Creek Coal Company leased the property of Union Coal Company, in Gordon Creek Canyon, comprising 1600 acres of coal land, together with tipple, rights to the railroad yards, all water rights, along with a store, a butcher shop, a picture house, and utilities. the lease took effect on January 10, 1927, a full year before it was filed with Carbon County. The lease agreement allowed the Gordon Creek company to begin immediate operations. (News Advocate, January 13, 1928)

Coal shipments began in November 1927, by the Gordon Creek Coal Company. (Utah Railway: Coal Mines)

September 8, 1932
The property of Gordon Creek Coal Company was to be sold to the highest bidder on the steps of the Carbon County courthouse, in accordance with an order of the federal District Court dated July 30, 1932, resulting from a suit brought by Columbia Trust Company, and M. H. Lewis & Company. (News Advocate, August 4, 1932)

The property was in primitive stages of development, with shipments being about two to three car loads per week. Mining activity was sporadic, and mining was done by various different individuals after the Gordon Creek Coal Company's receivership in June 1930. Shipments were made from November 1927 to July 1, 1930, then November 19, 1936 to January 16, 1937, then September 23, 1937 to March 1938. Mining activity discontinued in March 1938. (Utah Railway: Coal Mines)

Atlas Utah Coal Company operated the Gordon Creek mine from February 1939, along with its operation of the Great Western mine. Infrequent shipments resumed in January 1940. Operations discontinued in November 1942. (Utah Railway: Coal Mines)

Limited operations Gordon Creek mine resumed by Utah Coal Company. Shipments resumed in November 1942, then discontinued on February 6, 1944. Utah Coal Company was incorporated in Utah on May 2, 1942, for the purposes of development of the old Gordon Creek Coal Company. (Utah Railway: Coal Mines)

Gordon Creek mine being worked by Utah Coal Leasing Company. (Coal Index: Sun Advocate, February 21, 1946, p. 4)

In 1951 the Gordon Creek mine at Union was being operated by the Western Chemical & Refining Company. (D&RGW: Traffic Circular 36-E, p. 86)

Miscellaneous Information

In 1928 four retired boxcar bodies were moved from Martin to National for use as section material sheds. In 1937 an old caboose body, Outfit Car 06, formerly caboose number 50, was placed at Union for use by section laborers. All of the bodies still existed at their locations in 1951. (Utah Railway: Engineer's Report, 1951; Utah Railway: Manual, equipment lists)

During late 1943, Utah Railway was moving three loaded trains a week off of the National Branch. During the winter months there was a train a day, with helpers. (Utah Public Utilities Commission, case 2750, "K. L. Storrs")

The coal property in Gordon Creek canyon was mined during 1975 by the Swisher Coal Company. (Sun Advocate & Helper Journal, Special Edition, January 2, 1975, p. 6)

Mining began in the North Fork of Gordon Creek in the early 1920s. Swisher Coal Company opened the Swisher No.1 mine in 1967 on the south side of Bryner Canyon. Swisher Coal Company was purchased by General Exploration in 1974, and was subsequently sold to Beaver Creek Coal Company (a subsidiary of ARCO) in January 1980, which eventually changed its name to Mountain Coal Company. Swisher operated Gordon Creek No. 2, No. 7 and No. 8. Mining ended in November 1990, and reclamation began the fall of 1995, and was completed in November 1998. (part from Utah Oil Gas & Mining; Permit C0070016)


National Coal Railway -- A Google Map of Utah Railway's National Branch, built in 1925, abandoned in 1954.