This page was last updated on November 19, 2013.
(This is a work in progress; research continues.)
Wildcat is a passing siding on Utah Railway, located at the mouth of Gordon Creek Canyon, about five miles southwest of Helper, Utah. Wildcat was used in the early and mid 1920s as a loading site for the early coal mines in Gordon Creek Canyon, until the National Coal Railway was built in 1925 to directly serve those mines.
National Coal Railway became a subsidiary of Utah Railway in 1926, and Utah Railway took full ownership in 1936. At that time, it became Utah Railway's National Branch. The branch was abandoned and dismantled in 1954.
Wildcat Siding remained in place throughout the period that coal was being shipped from the Gordon Creek mines, 1925 to 1954, as a location to store loaded and empty rail cars as part of normal operations of Utah Railway, and in later years Wildcat continued to be used as part of Utah Railway operations.
The coal mines in Gordon Creek continued to be operated on an irregular basis, and the coal was hauled by truck down to Wildcat Siding where they were dumped directly into open coal hopper cars. The immediate area around Wildcat Siding is relatively flat and became the site for Swisher Coal Company to use front-end loaders to transload from coal piles into rail cars located on the rail siding.
When Intermountain Power Agency began construction of their Intermountain Power Project coal-fired electrical generation plant near Delta, Utah, they also began arranging for a steady supply of coal that could be used by the plant, about 12,000 tons per day. Several contracts were signed with coal mining companies to ensure a continuing supply of coal, which was to be transported by unit coal trains from points on D&RGW and Utah Railway, over Soldier Summit to Provo, then south by Union Pacific to the IPP plant near Delta. (Read more about IPP.)
Three large coal loadouts were constructed to serve these IPP unit coal trains. First was the already existing C. V. Spur, south of Price. The second was a new flood loader on Utah Railway for the Star Point mine (formerly the Wattis mine), which went into service in January 1986. The third site was a new flood loader at Wildcat, also on Utah Railway, that started operations in April 1985. (Read more about C. V. Spur.) (Read more about the Star Point mine.)
According to the Utah Division of Oil Gas and Mining, the Wildcat Loadout, situated on 100 acres near Helper, Utah, became active in April 1985.
The facility crushes, screens, and sorts coal hauled from the Centennial Mine, operated by Andalex Resources, Inc., and the Crandall Canyon Mine operated by Genwal Resources, Inc. This facility is designed to handle up to 5 million tons of coal annually.
In August 2003, Wildcat, Utah, was the only remaining active loadout on Utah Railway rails. Once at Wildcat the engines pull through the loader and loading begins. When all cars have been loaded, the power cuts off of the train, runs back around it and recouples to what used to be the last car. Then they run back to Martin yard where mid train, or "swing" helpers are added. Normally this is a six unit set. Then the train leaves Martin, regains UP rails at Utah Ry. Junction and begins the climb to Soldier Summit. In my opinion this is one of the finest sights and sounds in western railroading as 10 units struggle to get a 15,000 ton train up the hill. It happens every day and is in plain sight from the highway. Trains from Wildcat are bound for the huge IPP power plant near Delta, Utah. This generating plant is mostly owned by the Los Angeles Dept. of Water and Power. (Dick Ebright, August 2003)
May 16, 2011
Andalex Resources sold the Wildcat loadout to Intermountain Power Agency on May 16, 2011. (Utah Division of Oil, Gas & Mining files)
"Intermountain Power Agency has acquired all the necessary approvals, licenses, rights-of-way, and permits at both state and federal levels to conduct coal storage and loading operations on the plan area. The facility is designed to handle loading and crushing activities up to 5.5 million tons per year."
During Spring 2015, the last unit coal train to load at Wildcat was reported. (Matt Paulson, reported to Rails Through The Wasatch on Facebook)
April 7, 2015
"There is no activity at this site, with the exception of some oil transloading on the west side. Coal is being stockpiled at the rate of one truck per day (from the Rhino Energy / Bear Canyon Mine). It is anticipated that one more train will be shipped from Wildcat to the IPA generation station at Delta, Utah." (Utah Division of Oil, Gas & Mining files)
May 12, 2015
"The site remains idle; bulk oil transloading is occurring on the west side of the railroad tracks." (Utah Division of Oil, Gas & Mining files)
"As of 11/12/15 the Utah Ry. oil loading operation at Wildcat is suspended. Martin yard totally empty and not a single tank car at Wildcat. Loadout crew still working and expect to resume loading oil, but no firm date to do so. Utah Ry. hasn't loaded a coal train at Wildcat since April 2015!" (Dick Ebright, message posted to Trainorders.com, December 16, 2015)
October 26, 2017
"The Wildcat Loadout was vandalized since the last inspection (September 21, 2017). Copper wiring was stripped out of conduit and electrical equipment. It is estimated the cost of one million dollars to repair equipment and make the facility operational." (Utah Division of Oil, Gas & Mining files)
Utah Division of Oil Gas and Mining, Permit files -- Documents going back to October 30, 1986, when DOGM assumed jurisdiction over the site. (Most of the data presented concerns environmental and wildlife issues, but there is a very small amount of history of the operation itself.)