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Wildcat Loadout

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This page was last updated on January 22, 2019.

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

Overview

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.

(Read more about the coal mines in Gordon Creek Canyon.)

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 began development of the mine, which became the Consumers Mutual mine and hired men to work the new mine. 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. ("A Brief History of Carbon County." Board of Education, Carbon County School District. Price, Utah. 1930)

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.

Swisher Coal (East Side)

1967
Swisher Coal Company founder Ura Swisher opened the Swisher No.1 mine in 1967 on the south side of Bryner Canyon, at the western end of the North Fork of Gordon Creek canyon, west of the site of the former Consumers Mutual mine. (Documents on file at the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining; Permit C0070016)

(The coal was trucked down Gordon Creek canyon along what was known as Consumers Road, to where the road crossed Utah Railway, where a loadout was built. The earliest loadout was simply using a small front-end loader to load directly into rail cars placed on Utah Railway's Wildcat siding. Later, a coal storage pile and a conveyor system was added, as well as coal crushers and screens to prepare the coal for the needs of various customers.)

(View a photo of the early coal storage piles and loading conveyors at Wildcat; taken from Doelling's Coal Fields of Central Utah, Volume 3, published in 1972, page 224)

April 3, 1971
A fire at the Swisher Coal's railroad loading tipple shut down the operations of both the mine and the loading facility. The fire destroyed the conveyor belting used as part of the conveyor systems. The Swisher coal mine was located in the western end of the North Fork of Gordon Creek canyon, west of the site of the former Consumers-Mutual mine. About 75 percent of the mine's output was shipped by railroad. (Salt Lake Tribune, April 4, 1971; Helper Journal, April 8, 1971, "Saturday")

June 19, 1975
Swisher Coal Co. was incorporated in the State of Utah.

September 3, 1975
Swisher Coal company was sold to General Exploration company of Dallas, Texas. The Swisher coal mine was producing about 250,000 tons per year. The General Exploration company also had mines in Huntington canyon in Utah, and other mines in Ohio and Kentucky. (Helper Journal, September 3, 1975)

July 1978
General Exploration Company announced that its subsidiary, Swisher Coal Company, would build a new preparation plant and a unit-train loading facility, and will add a third mine (two are already operating) in order to produce 1.5 million tons per year of coal. The plans called for the new 400 tons per hour preparation plant to be completed by early 1979. The existing preparation plant at Wildcat would remain in operation to serve Swisher's local and spot market customers. (Coal Age magazine, July 1978, page 152)

Beginning in September 1979, Beaver Creek Coal moved its coal loading facilities to C. V. Spur and reduced its use of the original Swisher loadout at Wildcat. There was some continued use of the Wildcat loadout, by small operators using front-end loaders, loading directly into rail cars for small spot-market shipments of coal.

(This was when Swisher moved its coal loadout from Wildcat to C. V. Spur.)

(Read more about C. V. Spur.)

December 31, 1979
Atlantic Richfield Company acquired 100 percent of the outstanding shares of Swisher Coal Co. from General Exploration Company.

At this time, or very soon after, the Wildcat site was sold to Beaver Creek Coal Company, a subsidiary of Arco Coal Company. Arco Coal (formerly Anaconda Minerals, as a subsidiary of Atlantic Richfield Company) had purchased Swisher Coal Company under its Beaver Creek subsidiary.

February 19, 1980
Swisher Coal Co. changed its name to Beaver Creek Coal Company, a Utah corporation.

December 28, 1983
Beaver Creek Coal Company, a Utah corporation, a transferred all of its assets to its sole shareholder, Atlantic Richfield Company, and the Utah corporation was dissolved.

In 1988 Atlantic Richfield Company transferred all of its property interests located in Carbon or Emery Counties, State of Utah, to a new Beaver Creek Coal Company, a Delaware corporation.

April 1, 1991
West Elk Coal Company, Inc., incorporated in Delaware, with mines in Colorado, was merged into Beaver Creek Coal Company, a Delaware corporation. Upon the merger, the name of Beaver Creek Coal Company was changed to Mountain Coal Company.

Tower-Andalex-IPA (West Side)

Andalex designed and built the Wildcat loadout using its own employees. "In the mid 1980s, the company received a large contract with the Intermountain Power Agency which necessitated both more tonnage and more coal deliveries. To fulfill the latter required the construction of a new loadout. But after 1982, the Utah coal market had plummeted. "We tried as much as possible to maintain a steady workforce," said [Sam Quigley, Vice President of Operations, Andalex Resources]. "So, to avoid laying off our miners, rather than contract the loadout construction, we took half our underground workforce and built the Wildcat loadout ourselves, beginning in 1984. Our underground employees did 90% of the steel fabrication, 75% of the electrical work and poured 100% of the concrete. We built our own electrical substation and did almost all the interior wiring—even the engineering was done in house. Very few companies would accept this challenge." Wildcat loaded its first train in April 1985. The facility is designed to load 4 million tons a year and Andalex has shipped 44 million tons thus far. (Coal Age magazine, January 2006, page 20-21)

December 1, 1981
Tower Resources leased from Utah Railway two strips of land 92.5 feet wide on both sides of Utah Railway's main line at a station known as Wildcat, "for the construction and maintenance of private trackage and coal loading facilities in order to ship coal over the Utah Railway." Rental was $4,000 per year, and the lease was for a period of one year, with a continuing lease to remain in effect as long as Tower Resources continued to load at least 100,000 tons of coal per year into rail cars furnished by Utah Railway. The lease included permission for Tower Resources to install a 60-inch conveyor above and across the Utah Railway main line track. (Lease between Tower Resources and Utah Railway, dated December 1, 1981)

January 1982
Andalex was granted the right-of-way in January 1982, by the Bureau of Land Management of the United States Department of the Interior. The right-of-way was assigned to Intermountain Power Agency on August 1, 2011.

April 2, 1982
A soils engineering study was completed of the Wildcat site in preparation for the "proposed" coal storage and rail car loadout facility, indicating that the new loadout was not yet under construction.

April 8, 1982
Tower Resources received federal BLM authority to proceed with its "Centennial Project," including expansion of the Wildcat loadout to accommodate additional mine production. The unit train loadout included a 200-ton surge bin. The authority included a waiver for close clearances on the loadout itself.

The mines of the Centennial Project were in Deadman Canyon, northeast of Price. The coal was trucked over public highways for almost 21 miles through Price to the Wildcat loadout directly west of Helper.

(View a map of the route taken by trucks between the mines and the Wildcat loadout)

July 22, 1982
The new coal preparation plant and unit train loadout at Wildcat became active for the purposes of air quality inspection, including coal dust and other airborne particulates. The first inspection did not find any violations.

February 8, 1983
Tower Resources and Utah Railway entered into a trackage agreement for operation of a new siding 3,000 feet long, and a secondary side track 1,190 feet long, both to be owned by Tower Resources and located on private property parallel to the Utah Railway main line. Tower agreed to refurbish and rehabilitate a total of 10,890 feet of tracks, including turnouts and other materials. The work was to be completed within 120 days. (Trackage Agreement between Tower Resources and Utah Railway, dated February 8, 1983)

(The "private property" was actually on land Tower Resources was leasing from the federal Bureau of Land Management for the purposes of mineral extraction.)

April 1985
The Wildcat Loadout became active for the purposes of mining reclamation inspection. Operated by Andalex Resources, and situated on 100 acres near Helper, Utah. (Documents on file with the Utah Division of Oil, Gas & Mining files; Permit C0070033)

The Andalex facility crushed, screened, and sorted coal hauled from the Centennial Mine, operated by Andalex Resources, Inc., and the Crandall Canyon Mine operated by Genwal Resources, Inc. This facility was designed to handle up to 5 million tons of coal annually.

In later years the Wildcat Loadout loaded high quality bituminous coal mined underground at the Horizon Mine that had been shipped by truck to the Wildcat Loadout where it is processed and primarily shipped on unit trains to its final destination.

The Horizon mine was located in Gordon Creek canyon, near the site of the old Consumers Mutual mine of the 1920s to 1950s. The site was opened in the late 1980s as the Blue Blaze Coal company, using the trade name of the coal mined and sold by the old Consumers Mutual company. The mine was transferred from the Blue Blaze company to the Horizon Coal company in March 1995.

April 2, 1985
Coal storage and loading activities at Wildcat started officially on April 2, 1985, when the first coal was brought there for storage and eventual loadout, under a permit issued to Andalex Resources, Inc. by the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Department of the Interior.

June 17, 1985
The first coal train bound for the Intermountain Power Project operated over Utah Railway, and had been loaded at the new flood loader at Wildcat. (Pacific RailNews, Issue 262, September 1985, page 4; CTC Board, August 1985, back cover, two photos of first train)

May 1987
Andalex was removing the retired Beaver Creek (Swisher) unit train loadout at Wildcat siding. (Utah Division of Oil, Gas & Mining files; permit C0070033, May 21, 1987 site inspection visit)

This older loadout had been constructed by Swisher Coal in the 1970s, and was located on the west side of Utah Railway's Wildcat siding. There was a conveyor from the screening and preparation plant that loaded directly into rail cars, but reports suggest that most loading was of run-of-mine coal by use of a front-end loader.

By May 1988 Andalex Resources built a new unit train loadout on the east side of the Wildcat siding, south and across the Utah Railway tracks from the original Swisher loadout. All of the coal storage piling equipment and conveyors used by Andalex after 1987 were on the east side. The site of the old Swisher coal screening plant and loading conveyors had been removed and replaced by a single conveyor loadout. The new loading conveyor was fed from the bottom of a single coal storage pile, which in-turn came from an adjacent truck dump. (Andalex surface facilities map, "as constructed," dated May 6, 1988)

July 1988
Andalex received permission from Beaver Creek Coal for Andalex to use a portion of Beaver Creek's property on the west side of the railroad tracks, in return for Andalex removing and cleaning up the site of Beaver Creek's old truck dump, also on the west side. The truck dump had already been removed and the area cleaned up. (Letter, Beaver Creek Coal to Andalex Resources, dated July 28, 1988)

During 1998 and 1999, coal from the Crandall Canyon mine was trucked to Hiawatha and loaded by front-end loader into rail cars for shipment by Utah Railway to Genwal's customers. This movement was in response to the lack of capacity at Andalex's Wildcat loadout, also on Utah Railway.

January 5, 2000
Andalex received regulatory authority for federal and state agencies to increase its coal storage at Wildcat from 12.5 acres to 16.5 acres. The site included, among other items, three truck unloading facilities with underground conveyors, two coal crushers with 250 tons capacity per hour, three sets of coal screens with capacity of 500 tons per hour, three radial coal stackers, and a "railcar loadout consisting of a tower and an extendable chute for loading railcars."

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)

1999-2000
A list of coal mines served by BNSF in July 2004 showed that the following coal mines:

August 9, 2006
Murray Energy Corporation "purchased all of the shares of the common stock of Andalex Resources, Inc and its subsidiaries, effective as of August 9, 2006. The Utah operations of Andalex including the Crandall Canyon Project, West Ridge Project, Tower Division and the Wildcat Loadout will be operated by UtahAmerican Energy, Inc, the Utah subsidiary of parent Murray Energy Corporation." (Murray Energy Corporation press release dated August 9, 2006)

May 11, 2011
Andalex Resources transferred ownership of the Wildcat loadout to Intermountain Power Agency. (Documents on file at the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining)

"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."

September 2011
American West Resources began using the Wildcat loadout after leasing the idle facility "last month." America West would using the screening and sorting facility, and the loading facility to load rail cars for shipment by Union Pacific and Utah Railway. Wildcat had been idle since early 2010. (America West Resources press release dated October 25, 2011)

October 2014
The federal BLM granted Intermountain Power Agency a right-of-way and renewed IPA's permit to own and operate a unit train coal loadout at the Wildcat site. The permission "instrument" was valid for 20 years. The grant and permission covered a total of 270 acres at the site. Coal storage and loading was to take place on the east side of the railroad tracks, and oil storage and loading was to take place on the west side. Oil loading was not to exceed 20,000 barrels (BBL) per day. (BLM Right-Of-Way Grant, Serial UTU-48027, dated October 16, 2014)

Spring 2015
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's 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)

(Rhino Resource Partners LP was the reorganized Rhino Energy LLC, following Rhino Resource's successful initial public offering on October 5, 2010. In August 2010 Rhino Energy had purchased, for a reported $25.5 million, the assets of the bankrupt C. W. Mining, including the coal mine in Bear Canyon. Production at the Bear Canyon mine resumed in December 2010. -- Rhino Resource Partners press release dated November 4, 2010) (The Bear canyon mine was previously operated by the Co-op Mining company.)

(The sale of the Bear Canyon mine was completed on August 25, 2010. A longwall machine was already in place in the mine, but was the property of the previous owner, C. W. Mining. Rhino would not be using the longwall machine due to its cost of operation. -- Emery County Progress, November 5, 2010) (C. W. Mining had been forced into involuntary bankruptcy in January 2008.)

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)

More Information

Utah Division of Oil Gas and Mining, Permit C0070033, Wildcat Loadout

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 covers environmental and wildlife issues, but there are a few small bits of history of the operation itself.)

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