Carbon County Railway History
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This page was last updated on February 23, 2015.
The Carbon County Railway that we know today was actually the second railroad company to carry that name. The subject railroad of this history was built in 1922-1923 by Columbia Steel Corp., a West Coast steel company.
Carbon County Railway (of 1899)
The first Carbon County Railway was incorporated on November 20, 1899. Its proposed route was from the mainline of Rio Grande Western at or near Scofield Station, south to Clear Creek (ex Mud Creek), to the coal mines of the Pleasant Valley Coal Co., a distance of about seven miles. A second route was from the mainline of Rio Grande Western at or near Mounds Station, north for five miles, then east up Grassy Trail Creek for 12 miles to Sunnyside in Whittmore Canyon, a total distance of about 26 miles. The road's incorporators were William G. Sharp, William F. Colton, and Robert Harkness — in other words, Rio Grande Western Railway.
The first Carbon County Railway was organized by the RGW in 1899 to build branches to the Winter Quarters mines of the Pleasant Valley Coal Company (also an RGW subsidiary) and the new Clear Creek mines of Utah Fuel, along with the new Utah Fuel mines at Sunnyside. Rail service to Sunnyside began on November 19, 1899. On December 15, 1900, RGW operated its largest coal train to date when it moved 1,000 tons in 36 cars from the Sunnyside mine, that's 27 tons per car, a far cry from today's 110-ton monster coal cars. Initially, all coal from Sunnyside was made into coke at Castle Gate, to support the smelters in Salt Lake City, which at the time, was the smelting capital of the west. Additional coke ovens were soon built at Sunnyside, and the mine became the number-one supplier of coke in the west (in 1907, they were shipping 350 tons of coke per day to the Anaconda smelter alone).
The first Carbon County Railway went away with the reorganization of the Gould properties into a new Denver & Rio Grande Railroad in July 1908, and the two branches became the Rio Grande's Clear Creek Branch and Sunnyside Branch.
Carbon County Railway (of 1922)
Carbon County Railway was built by Columbia Steel Corporation to serve its coal mine at Columbia, and transport coal from the mine to its iron mill at Ironton, south of Provo. Work on the railroad started in September 1922 and operations began in July 1923. To serve wartime needs during World War II, an extension was completed to the newly developed Geneva coal mine, six miles to the south, work starting
The second Carbon County Railway was organized on July 28, 1922 as a subsidiary of Utah Coal & Coke Company, which itself was a subsidiary of Columbia Steel Corporation. Its intended purpose was to construct, own, operate and maintain a railroad between a junction with the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad at mile post 13 on D&RGW's Sunnyside Branch, and the mines and mining properties lying in a general southeasterly direction from that junction point, a distance of about 4.79 miles. The connection to the D&RGW was named Columbia Junction, and was four miles from the end of the Sunnyside Branch. (Utah corporation, index number 15468)
The construction of the Carbon County Railway was approved on August 24, 1922, following a public hearing on August 15, 1922, and grading work starting on September 5, 1922. Upon receiving federal ICC approval on January 20, 1923 to build its road, the railroad said that it expected work to be complete by May 1, 1923. Formal operation commenced on July 5, 1923. First coal was shipped from the Columbia Mine in mid September 1923. There were 200 miners working at the time.
On January 20, 1923 the Carbon County Railway received Interstate Commerce Commission approval for the construction of its proposed 4.79 mile long railroad. The application was made on August 7, 1922, just a week after the company was incorporated in the State of Utah. (76 ICC 485)
A public hearing was held before the Public Utilities Commission of Utah in Salt Lake City on August 15, 1922. The construction of the railroad was approved on August 24th. The railway's stock was owned by the same individuals who also controlled the Utah Coal & Coke Company. (Utah corporation, index number 571)
The stated purpose for the construction of the Carbon County Railway was to furnish coking coal for the by-product ovens that were built by the Columbia Steel Company's iron mill at Ironton, Utah. (76 ICC 486)
The construction contract for the 4.7-mile line was let to Reynolds-Ely Construction Company, and the Wasatch Grading Company, with grading work starting on September 5, 1922. (43 Val Rep 65)
The contractor for the grading of the line was Reynolds & Creer, and their sub-contractor, Woods & McMahoon. The rate paid for the grading work was $30.00 per month for the teams and 35 cents per day for the dump carts. Waterman Brothers furnished the equipment, and were forced to file a lien in Carbon County to obtain a $120.00 bill owed them by the Woods & McMahoon contractor. (Carbon County Miscellaneous Records Book 3-H, p. 332)
The construction of the Carbon County Railway was expected to be complete by May 1, 1923. (76 ICC 486)
The 4.79 mile long railroad was completed between a junction on the D&RGW Sunnyside Branch, to the coal mine and mining properties of the Columbia Steel Corporation at Columbia. (124 ICC 351)
Operation commenced on July 5, 1923. (124 ICC 352)
July 13, 1923
The Columbia mine began make trial shipments of coal in late July 1923. (Coal Index: The Sun, July 13, 1923, p. 1, "about to begin")
September 14, 1923
First coal was shipped from the Columbia Mine in mid September 1923. There were 200 miners working. (Coal Index: The Sun, September 14, 1923)
Carbon County Railway Operations, 1923-1943
From the time of first operation, in July 1923, to September 1926, more than 99.6 percent of the traffic transported by the railroad consisted of coal destined for the iron plant at Ironton. During 1925, the coal tonnage moved was 327,574 tons (about 7,490 carloads, or about 20 cars per day), with only an additional 805 tons going out of state. The company had originally planned to own and operate a single locomotive with 50,000 pounds tractive effort, but that locomotive was never purchased. Instead, the railroad apparently rented either a single locomotive, or several locomotives, one at a time, possibly from D&RGW.
Originally the railway requested ICC permission to become a carrier in interstate commerce, including coal destined for out of state destinations. In December 1926, the railroad applied to abandon their interstate operations. From the time of first operation, in July 1923, to September 1926, more than 99.6 percent of the traffic transported by the railroad consisted of coal destined for the iron plant at Ironton. During 1925, the coal tonnage moved was 327,574 tons (about 7,490 carloads, or about 20 cars per day), with only an additional 805 tons going out of state. In the 1926 hearings, the company tried to show a deficit from interstate operations, but the deficit was found by the ICC to equal the rental paid by the company for locomotives and "roads", the 1.3 miles of the tipple yard tracks at the Columbia mine. In its denial for abandonment of interstate operations, the ICC took the railroad to task for renting from parties which also had an interest in the operation of the railroad, namely the steel company. The company's equipment was planned to be a single locomotive with 50,000 pounds tractive effort, but that locomotive was never purchased. Instead, the railroad apparently rented either a single locomotive, or several locomotives, one at a time, possibly from D&RGW. (76 ICC 485; 124 ICC 351)
The Denver & Rio Grande petitioned the Public Service Commission of Utah in June 1931 to close the agency station at Sunnyside. In his testimony in support of the application at the subsequent public hearing, a D&RG official gave the then-current method of operation of the Carbon County Railway by D&RG. The Carbon County Railway branched off of the D&RG's Sunnyside Branch at Columbia Junction, 12.1 miles from the branch's initial point at Mounds on D&RG's mainline, and was 4.1 miles long. Train service was furnished to Price, Sunnyside, and the Columbia mine all by the same D&RG local freight. That local train generally left Helper yard at about 8 a.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday with empties and merchandise loads for the Sunnyside and Columbia mines. The local proceeded direct to Sunnyside, did the necessary work and stayed there over night. Leaving on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday morning they proceeded to the Columbia mine and traded empties for loads of coal and returned to Helper at about 7 to 9 p.m., performing what ever switching was needed along the mainline via Price. Occasionally the local would deliver empties to the Columbia mine on the "up" trip if the mine needed the cars. Also, D&RG occasionally provided dedicated service to the Columbia mine if the mine's business showed a need. (Public Service Commission of Utah, case 1213)
Until at least March 1933, the Carbon County Railway did not own any equipment. At that time the railroad was being operated under an operating agreement with D&RGW, which used its own locomotives and crews to do the switching and hauling of rail cars to and from the coal mines of the Columbia Steel Corporation at Columbia, Utah. The majority of the railroad's capital stock was owned by the Columbia Steel Corporation. The large Columbia mine was the principle industry served by the railroad. In 1933 the railroad consisted of a single track, standard gauge, steam railroad located in Carbon County, Utah. (43 Val Rep 65)
In 1933 the railroad consisted of a single track, standard gauge, steam railroad located in Carbon County, Utah. Its mainline extended southeasterly from Columbia Junction (on D&RGW's Sunnyside Branch) to Columbia, Utah, a distance of 4.721 miles. Its total length was 5.216 miles, which included 0.495 mile of yard tracks and sidings at its shop and yard area. The railroad leased for its exclusive use, from Columbia Steel Corporation, 1.387 miles of yard tracks and sidings at Columbia, Utah. (43 Val Rep 65)
The road was operated by D&RGW, or with leased Rio Grande equipment, until the Carbon County Railway was expanded in 1943 to serve the new Geneva Mine in Horse Canyon. This new rail extension and new mine was entirely funded by the Defense Plant Corporation, which also funded the construction of the Geneva steel mill. The expanded operation brought with it in November 1943, two new locomotives, Baldwin VO-1000s also funded by DPC.
Geneva Coal Mine
Plancor 301 -- Research suggests that the Geneva steel mill, the extension of the Carbon County Railway to serve the coal mine in Horse Canyon, and the mine itself was given the overall DPC designation of Plancor 301. The Plancor name was a contraction of Plant Corporation and was part of a series of designations used by the government's Reconstruction Finance Corporation to administer and monitor the plants built to support the war effort. There were as many as 2,511 Defense Plant Corporation facilities, designated as Plancor 1 through 2511. There were 185 facilties built to directly support U. S. Army activities, designated as Army Plant 1 through 185, along with 56 facilities built to directly support U. S. Navy activities, designated as Navy Plants 1 through 56. (National Archives, Pamphlets Relating To Manufacturing Facilities)
"The Defense Plant Corporation was established on August 22, 1940, to finance and supervise construction and equipping of industrial facilities operated, for the most part, by private concerns sponsored by federal agencies administering defense and war programs. Dissolved, July 1, 1945. Functions, assets, and liabilities were merged with the RFC. The RFC Office of Defense Plants was established to liquidate DPC assets." (National Archives, Records of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation)
(click here for more information about Defense Plant Corporation)
In 1942-1943, with the advent of World War Two, the Defense Plant Corporation built the Geneva Steel Mill and in order to provide coking coal for the new mill the Defense Plant Corporation also developed the Geneva Coal Mine in eastern Utah. This mine was given railroad service by extending the Columbia Steel-owned Carbon County Railway another six miles from the Columbia Mine in Horse Canyon south to the new Geneva Mine.
During 1942 the Defense Plant Corporation constructed a six mile spur from the Columbia Mine, at the end of the Carbon County Railway, to new Geneva Mine in Horse Canyon. The new mine was developed to furnish coking coal for the new Geneva Steel Mill, near Orem. (Malaby, p. 260)
Included in the 1942 and 1943 improvements funded by the Defense Plant Corporation were new hopper cars and two 1,000 horsepower, model VO-1000 locomotives from the Baldwin Locomotive Works, arriving on the railroad in November 1943. The two locomotives were the sole motive power of the Carbon County Railway until May 1958 when they were replaced by two General Motors, Electro Motive Division model SW9 1200 horsepower locomotives.
December 8, 1942
The United States Steel Corporation was given the approval of the Interstate Commerce Commission on December 8, 1942 to acquire control of eleven railroads through its various subsidiaries. The application had been made to the Interstate Commerce Commission on November 11, 1942. Included in that total of eleven railroads was the Carbon County Railway, owned by the Columbia Steel Company subsidiary. (ICC Finance Docket 14014)
The rail car loader at the Geneva mine was completed in January 1944. (Coal Index: Sun Advocate, January 27, 1944, p. 2)
December 31, 1946
Tthe Carbon County Railway bought the six-mile rail line to the Geneva mine. (Malaby, p. 260)
Improvements to the Geneva mine during 1957 included a new 8,700 foot rock tunnel driven to intersect the coal seam at a point 5,000 feet down the pitch from the surface coal outcrop. The tunnel was nine feet high and thirteen feet wide. The tunnel was driven by W. W. Clyde of Springville, Utah, and was half completed by mid November 1957. (Salt Lake Tribune, November 10, 1957)
United States Steel Corporation completed its Wellington coal preparation plant in March 1958. The plant was located along the D&RGW mainline one and a half miles south of Wellington. The plant blended the coal from U. S. Steel's Sunnyside, Utah, and Somerset, Colorado mines to produce a better quality of coal for coking at the Geneva steel plant, by washing the coal to reduce its ash and sulphur content. The plant was built on a 1,500 acre site and processed all the coal mined in Utah and Colorado by the coal properties of Columbia-Geneva Steel Division, United States Steel Corporation. (see also Wellington Coal Wash Plant)
Along with improvements at the Geneva Mine in 1957, and the completion of the Wellington preparation plant in 1958, in May 1958 Carbon County Railway received two new (or nearly new) locomotives. The road, by this time a full subsidiary of U. S. Steel, sent the Baldwins to the parent company's Geneva steel mill and bought some used SW9s from EMD. These two units were built in 1953 as Duluth, Missabe & Iron Range 11 and 14 and had been traded to EMD on DM&IR's new SD9s. Carbon County Railway operated the two units as their 1201 and 1202, along with a new bay window caboose.
May 31, 1967
The coal mine at Columbia, the original mine served by the railroad since 1923, was closed on May 31, 1967, leaving the Geneva Mine in Horse Canyon (completed in 1943) as the sole source of traffic for the Carbon County Railway. An earlier source of traffic, other than the Columbia mine was the Bookcliff mine, which was later closed. (Duning, p. 70)
Operations in the late 1970s included a 9:00 am departure for the mine with thirty-eight to forty-five empty, 70-ton capacity coal cars in tow. The train proceeded for the six miles up to the Horse Canyon mine and spent about two hours loading. After the cars were all loaded, the two locomotives pulled the train to the interchange with D&RGW at Columbia Junction, after a short delay setting up air brake retainers at the yard about three miles east of the junction, the entire operation being completed by late afternoon. (Dunning, pp. 70,73)
The yard and shops of the Carbon County Railway were located at East Carbon City, formerly called Columbia. (Sun Advocate & Helper Journal, January 2, 1975, p. 8)
The Geneva Mine continued to produce and ship coal via the Carbon County Railway until 1982, when the mine was closed and the railroad abandoned. Replacement coal for the Geneva Works came from increased production at U. S. Steel's Somerset Mine in Colorado and from Mid-Continent Resources' mines above Redstone, Colorado. The Mid-Continent operation shut down in 1991. U. S. Steel shut down the Geneva Works in 1986 and sold the plant to Geneva Steel in 1987.
October 14, 1982
Carbon County Railway was shut down on October 14, 1982. All cars were sold. (Extra 2200 South, Issue 80, published in May 1984, p. 30) The two SW9 locomotives ended up at the Geneva steel plant near Provo, Utah.
April 4, 1984
The federal Interstate Commerce Commission approved the abandonment of Carbon County Railway. (ICC Decision AB-190 (Sub no. 1), dated April 4, 1984)
The following comes from Robert Katsnelson, via email dated July 11, 2012:
Records in the STB library indicate that the Carbon County Railway filed for authority to abandon its entire line of railroad under docket no. AB-190 (Sub no. 1). In a decision dated April 4, 1984 the ICC granted that authority, and the railroad subsequently consummated that authority on May 9, 1984.
From CTC Board, December 1990, page 50:
Carbon County Railway - Operations of this eastern Utah coal hauler ceased in 1982 and abandonment was approved in 1984. Recently the railway and the also-inactive Horse Canyon mine, its last customer, were sold to Intermountain Power Project of Delta, Utah. IPP is scrapping out both the 10-mile railroad and the mine tipple. Carbon County's two MU-equipped SW9s have been employed at Geneva Steel at Geneva, Utah since shutdown; its hoppers were scrapped at Geneva after shutdown. (Blair Kooistra. Staff)
From Pacific News, Issue 250, June 1984, page 4:
Abandonment Sought for Carbon County Railway — U.S. Steel's Carbon County Railway Company, serving the company's Geneva coal mine in Horse Canyon, Utah, would be completely abandoned if its March 1984 application to the ICC is approved.
Operations at the mine have been shut down since October 1982, a victim of imported steel; U.S. Steel has since used coal from its Somerset, Colo., mine for its Geneva Works near Provo, Utah.
The 10-mile railroad operated from Columbia Junction on Rio Grande's Sunnyside branch; the D&GRW line serves a Kaiser Steel mine about 10 miles from Horse Canyon. Coal had been transported from the Geneva Mine to a U.S. Steel plant at Wellington, on the Rio Grande main line; washed and blended, then reloaded and sent to the Geneva Works.
The railroad's two SW9 switchers, Nos. 1201-1202, were to be moved to the Provo facility in mid-March.
The rails and ties at Columbia Junction, where CCRy connected with D&RGW, were removed during the first week of August 2008. (James Belmont email dated August 8, 2008)
Thanks to Mark Hemphill and Bruce Collins for their help in compiling this history.
Included in the 1942 and 1943 improvements funded by the Defense Plant Corporation were new hopper cars and two 1,000 horsepower, model VO-1000 locomotives from the Baldwin Locomotive Works, arriving on the railroad in November 1943. The two locomotives were the sole motive power of the Carbon County Railway until May 1958 when they were replaced by two General Motors, Electro Motive Division model SW9 1200 horsepower locomotives. The two EMD units came to Carbon County second-hand from the Duluth, Missabe & Iron Range by way of General Motors which had accepted them as trade-ins from DM&IR when that road had purchased newer 1750 horsepower, SD9 road locomotives. These two General Motors locomotives were used by the Carbon County until the shut down of operations in 1983.
- Carbon County Railway Locomotives — Information about Carbon County's locomotives.
Hopper Cars and Cabooses
- Carbon County Railway Hopper Cars — Information about Carbon County Railway's unique hopper cars.
- Carbon County Railway Map — A Google Map of the Carbon County Railway that served coal mines in eastern Utah.
- Carbon County Railway Photo Album — A photo album of Carbon County Railway, including rare views of their Baldwin diesel locomotives.
- Geneva Coal Mine Photo Album — A collection of black & white photos of Geneva coal mine in Carbon County, Utah.
- Columbia Mine — History of the original mine served by Carbon County Railway
- Geneva Mine — History of the Geneva Mine in Horse Canyon, served by Carbon County Railway