Castle Valley Railway
D&RG/D&RGW Castle Valley Branch
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This page was last updated on December 21, 2018.
The original Castle Valley Railway was organized in 1901 by D&RG (not RGW) interests to build a line through Salina canyon.
First built in 1901-1902 as a minimally operational line, mainly to occupy the route, the Castle Valley line sat dormant after a series of floods in 1903 and 1906 that destroyed the line in several places. In 1908, the Castle Valley Railway became part of the reorganized Denver and Rio Grande Railroad, becoming the D&RG's Castle Valley Branch.
After the government sued in 1924 to take back the right-of-way, and after promoters began developing a coal mine in the canyon, D&RGW announced that it would indeed restore the line and provide service to the mine. But the mine was slow in starting production, and the railroad was equally slow in fulfilling its promise of restoring service. The mine shipped its first coal in July 1930, after the railroad was completed to the mine in December 1929. The coal mine shut down in 1934, due to low quality coal, after which no trains were operated. The mine went bankrupt in mid 1936, and the entire coal mining property was sold at auction in early 1937. After the mine closed, the D&RGW line in Salina canyon sat dormant, suffering regularly from floods due to cloudbursts. It was finally abandoned in May 1942.
Castle Valley Railway (1901-1908)
- 20 miles long, from Salina to Nioche
- Construction completed in 1903
- Construction cost was $420,083.56
- Washed out during 1904
- Part of consolidation in 1908 that formed the Denver & Rio Grande.
- Castle Valley Railroad name was re-used in 1909 for coal-hauling line between Price and the mines of Castle Valley Coal company at Mohrland. Replaced by Mohrland Branch of Utah Railway in 1913.
D&RG (1908-1921); D&RGW (1921-1941)
- In 1913, D&RG spent $35,000 restoring condition of branch, but stopped when World War I started and money was needed elsewhere.
- Between March 1921 and September 1923, $142,000 was spent by D&RGW and its court appointed receivers toward rehabilitation.
- Similar monies expended from time to time between 1925 and 1927.
- U. S. attempts to take back branch on grounds of non-use in U. S. vs. D&RGW RR, et. al. in 16 F(2nd) 374, Eighth Circuit Court in 1924.
- Crystal to Nioche removed in 1936, having not been operated since 1930.
- Salina to Crystal removed in 1942, having not been operated since 1933.
- Castle Valley Branch shown in Salt Lake Division employee timetable No. 119, dated June 2, 1940
- Castle Valley Branch *not* shown in Salt Lake Division employee timetable No. 122, dated July 5, 1942
Crystal was the site of the Sevier Valley Coal company's coal mine. "When the Sevier Valley Coal Company was operating its coal mine 18 miles east of Salina, a small settlement known as Crystal City was located nearby. With the cessation of mining operations the settlement was soon abandoned and the nearest town to the district now is Salina." "The main road in Salina Canyon, State Highway No. 10, connects the towns of Salina and Fremont. Part of it, from Salina to the abandoned workings of the Sevier Valley Coal Company, is hard surfaced and in excellent condition. The remaining section from there to Fremont is graded and drained." (Resinous Coals, Salina and Huntington Canyons, Utah, Utah Geological and Mineralogy Survey Circular No. 23, January 1943)
January 15, 1901
Castle Valley Railway was incorporated in Utah. (Utah corporation index 3028; corporation dissolved April 2, 1910)
"The incorporation covers the old Salina canyon line, one of the first surveyed by the Denver & Rio Grande Western over twenty years ago. The line is shown on the Rio Grande Western map accompanying the annual reports for the last three years, as being the cut-off from Farnham on the main line to Salina on the Sanpete branch. The new line taps Lawrence, Castledale, Ferron, Emery and other points in Castle valley and penetrates the lower end of the big coal vein." "Part of the line has been graded and is used as a wagon road through Salina canyon. Some of the work was very expensive." "The Rio Grande Western is organizing the company to hold the canyon, which is one of the most desirable for a rival and forms part of the routes announced in the past for various other roads. It would form a cut-off for the line to southern California and be another feeder for the road in its coal shipments besides opening up a rich live-stock country and developing other resources." "The company intends to build the as a local feeder and afterward can utilize it as part of the California line if the line is built through." (Salt Lake Tribune, January 16, 1901)
August 15, 1901
"Salina Canyon Line. -- Rio Grande Western Takes Important Step in Matter. -- Richfield, Aug. 14. -- A deed filed with the County Recorder of Sevier county has created a ripple of railroad excitement here. It is from the Sevier Railway company, and conveys a right of way and partial grade from Salina town into Emery county to the Castle Valley Railway company, for 500 fully paid-up shares in the Castle Valley company." "This right of way runs from Salina up Salina canyon, eighteen miles to where Meadow gulch merges into the canyon. Then it runs ten miles up Meadow gulch to the divide at Salina pass. From the divide it runs down twelve miles along Ivie creek into Castle valley." "There is considerable grading and several cuts along this route that were made by the Denver & Rio Grande when it intended to cross into Salina and run up through Sanpete county into Salt Lake City. The cuts, grades and fills are now in bad shape. The new company evidently intends to tap the Castle Gate coal fields by this branch of the Rio Grande Western." (Salt Lake Tribune, August 15, 1901)
(D&RGW records on file at the Colorado Railroad Museum indicate that the sale of portions of the Sevier Railway company to the Castle Valley Railway company took place on July 30, 1901.)
January 16, 1902
When the Castle Valley Railway filed its location and right-of-way maps with the U. S. land office in Salt Lake City on January 16th, the Los Angeles Times of January 17, 1902 remarked that while the line would tap the large coal fields of southern Utah, its true goal was to act as an "air line" for the Gould family between Denver and Los Angeles, while still maintaining its connection at Ogden. The location maps were approved by Washington D. C., and were on file at the Salt Lake City land office. (Salt Lake Tribune, January 29, 1902)
May 24, 1902
A force of more than 400 men were working on the railroad grade in Salina canyon, with a promised completion date of October 1st. "A dispatch from San Francisco again states that Clark (of the San Pedro, Los Angeles and Salt Lake) and Gould (of the Denver and Rio Grande) are in cahoots which all the more necessitates the construction of the Castle Valley railroad. This will give the Clark-Gould combination a through route from the Pacific to the Atlantic and the shortest one across the continent. There will be lively times in this valley within the next 18 months." (Emery County Progress, May 24, 1902)
The tracks of the Rio Grande Western in Salina canyon were washed out by a flood of waters from the reservoir of the Skootempaugh Reservoir and Irrigation company, after that company's dam burst following a cloudburst in the canyon. In January 1922 the D&RGW was asking that the state engineer enforce the engineering rules that water may not be stored behind a dam that did not meet the engineering instructions. (Emery County Progress, January 21, 1922)
According to LeMassena, Rio Grande to the Pacific, pages 263-264, the Castle Valley Railway was organized "to build a cutoff between Farnham (on the main-line) and Salina (on the Marysvale Branch), thence perhaps to Milford (on the SPLA&SL railroad), all in Utah. The 1902 Annual Report contains this intriguing comment:
The Castle Valley cutoff on the RGW was commenced last spring. The surveys and location were completed and a contract was let for 21 miles of grading. The cutoff will extend from Farnham to Salina, a distance of 116 miles, and when completed will afford a route 38 miles shorter than the present one to Southwestern Utah. Important coalfields in the vicinity of Salina Canyon and in contiguous districts can be opened up and the coal made avail-able for commercial use to meet the growing demands for Utah fuel. The construction of the cutoff will be prosecuted from time to time according to the requirements of the various classes of traffic which it is believed can be developed in the territory to be traversed.
LeMassena goes on to say, "The 1903 Report stated that 21 miles of the CV had been completed; that it was not contemplated to extend the CV during the current year; and that $400,000 of RGW bonds were issued to pay for the work. Never again was the CV mentioned in a D&RG Annual Report, and its actual status is open to inquiry. Was it to be a cutoff, affording a shorter route to the coast? If so, its severe gradients and curvature were not of main-line caliber. Was it to open up coal deposits? If so, the line was built in the wrong location. If it were important, why were its objectives and completion so indefinite? The timing of the Castle Valley's birth, and the peculiarities of its brief active existence, are highly suggestive that the CV may have been used by Gould to cover his preliminary Western Pacific activities."
February 23, 1905
Plans were still in place to finish the Castle Valley railroad between Salina and Farnham on the RGW in Emery county. (Price News-Advovcate, February 23, 1905)
May 16, 1906
"Salina Cut-Off is Going Down The Creek -- Salina creek is higher than any time since 1892 and is sweeping everything before it in its mad rush by the river. What remained of the railroad grade in the canyon has been swept away and the great railroad boom of 1902 will become a memory. Last week the bridge across Salina creek south of town was carried down in a flood." (Emery County Progress, May 16, 1906)
May 22, 1906
"Salina Cut-Off Gone. -- Famous 20-Mile Grade Washed Away By Raging Mountain Torrent. -- The Salina cut-off is no more. To be more correct the 20 miles of grade which was built years ago and which was the means of the building of more railroads - on paper - than the railroad editors could find presidents for, has disappeared." "This is the information brought by a gentleman who has been visiting Salina. He states that with the exception of some short stretches the entire grade has been carried away by the waters of Salina creek which have been on the rampage recently following the melting of the snow and the warm rains. Incidentally the creek not only honeycombed the grade but also carried away the wagon bridges, leaving some virgin soil for the next engineer corps that comes along to build a cut-off between Denver and Los Angeles." "Salina's big railroad boom of 1902 has petered out and with it apparently has gone the lively flurry in coal properties that the road was destined to tap." (Deseret Evening News, May 22, 1906)
March 21, 1908
"No new railroad contractors have arrived there (Salina) for a few days and not many trainloads of construction machinery, tools, ties and rails have been dumped at that point since Sunday last (March 8th)." "John Leamaster assistant superintendent of construction who always kept a big force of men at work on the line, and a still larger force starting to work tomorrow, has severed his connection with the local road and moved from this territory." (Emery County Progress, March 21, 1908)
(This suggests that work on the Castle Valley line through Salina canyon officially came to an end with the planned consolidation of July 1908. Throughout the 1906-1908 period, there were numerous calls in the local newspapers for the line to be completed between Salina and Green River.)
July 31, 1908
August 1, 1908
Denver & Rio Grande Railroad (Consolidated) was organized and incorporated. Rio Grande Western Railway was merged with Denver & Rio Grande Railroad, along with Carbon County Railway, Castle Valley Railway, Copper Belt Railroad, San Pete Valley Railway, Sevier Railway, Tintic Range Railway, Utah Central Railroad, and Utah Eastern Railway. (LeMassena, pp. 115, 117)
Castle Valley Railroad name was re-used in 1909 for coal-hauling line between Price and the mines of Castle Valley Coal company at Mohrland. Replaced by Mohrland Branch of Utah Railway in 1913.
August 10, 1909
Castle Valley Railroad was incorporated by the owners of the Castle Valley Coal Company to build a forty-mile railroad from Price to their mines in Cedar Creek canyon. All shares in the railroad, except for qualifying shares, were owned by the Castle Valley Coal Company, incorporated in Utah on August 9, 1909. The coal company had been organized in Wyoming on July 12, 1909, and incorporated in Wyoming on July 19, 1909. (Utah corporation number 7906)
A newspaper item says that D&RG was concerned about a survey being done in Salina Canyon by "Harriman interests". (Eastern Utah Advocate, August 3, 1911)
D&RG began reconstruction of its line between Salina and Nioche, after the line was washed out in 1904. (LeMassena, p. 125)
Reconstruction of Salina to Nioche branch resumed, after work was discontinued in 1914. Construction continued through 1922 and 1923. (LeMassena, p. 135)
March 6, 1924
"As explained in our issue of last week, the U. S. government is deeply interested in the matter for the reason that the D. & R. G. held the lease and the rights of way for more than twenty years, and In fact has laid some tracks up the canyon long ago but has never used them and used their rights only to prevent others from building roads, thereby retarding the development of the vast resources laying dormant in the canyon, principally coal. A part of the right of way traverses a forest, reserve area, and even the forest service was handicapped, on account of the lease, in keeping their traits open." (Richfield Reaper, March 6, 1924)
June 26, 1924
"Regarding the building of a railroad; the federal government is active and entered suit against the Denver and Rio Grande Western railroad to either build this road or to relinquish the right of way they have in the canyon so other railroad companies can construct it, and several companies stand ready to step in and to do the things the D. & R. G, neglects to do." (Richfield Reaper, June 26, 1924)
September 11, 1924
The D&RGW filed its response in federal court "last week" in the U. S. government's suit for a decree of forfeiture for the railroad right-of-way in Salina canyon. The government contended that the line constructed in 1903 by the Castle Valley Railroad company, acquired by the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad company, had been largely destroyed and no train has ever operated on it while there has not been any construction or improvement since that time. The D&RGW answered that the Castle Valley line was constructed at a cost of $437,441.89; storms followed; restoration was difficult on account of finances; increased demand for coal and uncertainties because of the war in 1914 made possible restoration likely. In 1917 the D&RGW took possession of the line, holding it until March 1920. Additional costs of restoration would be expended as soon as justified by public interest and necessity. No action was taken because the federal Interstate Commerce Commission failed to direct the railroad to make good on the right-of-way allowed in the original grant. Local promoters of the local economy made note that "public interest and necessity" due to the developing coal mines existed but the railroad showed no interest in restoring the line. In addition to the Sevier Valley Coal company, the Salina Canyon Coal company and a company backed by "the Knight interests" were all working on their separate coal properties. (Richfield Reaper, September 11, 1924, two separate news items)
(The coal company backed by the Knight interests appears to have been Consolidated Coal company, which by early July 1925 had completed its vertical shaft located about a mile up-canyon from the Sevier Valley company's mine, and reached the main coal vein, and was developing its underground workings in preparation for production to begin. -- Richfield Reaper, July 2, 1925)
Reconstruction of the Salina to Nioche branch was resumed. Construction continued through 1926. (LeMassena, p. 145)
January 15, 1925
The government suit for decree of forfeiture against D&RGW for its line in Salina canyon was dismissed by the U. S. district court in Salt Lake City. (Richfield Reaper, January 15, 1925)
March 5, 1925
""Engineers of the D. & R. G. were on the ground all of last week and with them were representatives of four big construction companies to reconnoiter the damage done to the old grade by the washout, to survey a few changes that will have to be made in the grade, to see what material will be needed to fill gaps caused by the floods and where to take such material, etc. Division Engineer Crawford informed the station agents in Salina and Richfield that the construction companies have been asked to submit bids, and while we were unable to secure authoritative information, we hear from generally well-informed sources that bids have to be in by March 1 and contracts will be awarded not later than March 15." "Twenty Miles Up To Nioche" "The railroad up the canyon will connect at Salina and follow the old grade up the canyon over Sawtooth station for twenty miles to a point two miles east of the Sevier Valley Coal Co. and named in the survey as Nioche. Only very few changes will be made in the grade. Washouts will be properly filled and the fillings reinforced in such a manner as to avoid any danger of similar happenings. Caterpillar tractors will be used by the construction companies to haul the material to the points needed, about half of a mile to a mile distant. (Richfield Reaper, March 5, 1925)
May 21, 1925
Following the visit of the president of D&RGW, and the presidents of the two coal companies (Sevier Valley Coal, and Salina Canyon Coal) the local newspaper reported that the contracts for the restoration of the D&RGW line in Salina canyon had been let and work was to begin on July 1st, if not before. "The cooperation of the coal people is primarily a guarantee of tonnage for the new line. To insure this tonnage and to have the desired guarantee the railroad company asks the two mines to advance $112,500 each, a total of $225,000, to the company, this amount to be secured by an interest bearing note and to be refunded to the coal companies at a rate of 25 cents per ton shipped." If the coal companies advance the funds, the railroad would restore the line and have it in operation by the end of summer. If the coal companies choose not to advance the funds, the line would be restored, but in sections over a five-year period. (Richfield Reaper, May 21, 1925)
Work had apparently started during the summer of 1925, repairing the existing railroad grade for use by D&RGW tracklaying crews. As work on stages of the railroad grade were being completed and made ready for tracklaying, there were delays in continuing the construction work, and the graded and repaired right-of-way began to be used by wagons as a road within Salina canyon. In May 1927, an agreement was made between the railroad, the state highway department, and Sevier county to expedite the construction of a state highway in the canyon after funds were withheld by the U. S. bureau of roads, citing more important projects in Utah. With a planned date of May 1st for the start of tracklaying, an agreement was made to accommodate wagons and vehicles pending construction of an unimproved and temporary county road, with designated grade crossings where needed. Prior to the railroad grade being repaired, the damaged railroad line had served as the sole route for wagon and vehicle traffic throughout Salina canyon. (Richfield Reaper, May 5, 1927)
August 26, 1925
D&RGW let the contract to build its railroad in Salina Canyon to Utah Construction Company. (The Sun, August 28, 1925, page 1, "last Wednesday")
August 4, 1927
Construction work on the repaired railroad grade was still not yet complete, but would probably be completed to a point within two miles of the mine of the Sevier Valley Coal company "this year." Delays in funding the construction work, and tracklaying, would result in only five miles of steel being laid "this year," instead of the ten miles as originally intended. Laying of the planned five miles of steel was to begin "next week." (Richfield Reaper, August 4, 1927)
January 5, 1928
"Salina will see railroad trains running up the canyon within a year, if the Denver & Rio Grande Western railroad makes good the budget promise that $160,000 will be spent during 1928 to complete grade and track. This will bring the railroad up to the mine of the Sevier Valley Coal company, and the coal that can be produced there is of so high grade and quality that even now, while it is still slumbering in the intestines of mother earth, several big concerns have made bids for the entire output." (Richfield Reaper, January 5, 1928)
October 25, 1928
"Canyon Branch Line Nearing Completion -- Recent orders from the main offices of the Denver & Rio Grande, to the effect that the Salina canyon branch line should be hurried to completion as soon as possible, has created unusual activity in the canyon and indications are now that the plan to finish grading, laying rails and ballasting this year. D. E. Crowley, road master for the Denver & Rio Grande, spent several days here the first of the week and was personally supervising the resumption of the work. To facilitate matters, a pile driving machine was taken to the canyon Tuesday and work was started at once on driving piling for the first large bridge. The driver will be kept at work constantly, and there will be no cessation in the work until all the many bridge pilings are driven and ready for the structural work. A tracklaying machine is also at the yards and in due time it will be taken to the canyon and tracklaying will be rushed along." "Mr. Crowley stated that rails and ties were expected at any time, large consignments of each having been shipped from outside points. Some of the rails, however, will be taken from the line running south and where heavier steel is being laid. There are eleven miles of track to be laid to complete the branch line to the Sevier Valley Coal company's property, the objective point, and if weather conditions continue favorable, the work should be completed some time the latter part of December. It will be the aim of the railroad company to hurry the construction of the branch in the shortest time possible." (Richfield Reaper, October 25, 1928)
April 25, 1929
"The Denver & Rio Grande has a crew rip-rapping the new grades and a bridge building crew in the canyon, and it is announced that completion of the line will be accomplished late this summer, or within three months." (Gunnison Valley News, April 25, 1929)
June 20, 1929
"The Sevier Valley Coal Co. is about ready to commence production. Other coal companies are at work to produce coal also. Marketing the product depends entirely on railroad facilities, and the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad Co., at an expense of more than half a million dollars, has repaired the grade and tunnels, constructed bridges and laid part of the track. J. S. Pyeatt, president of the railroad company, and his staff were recently in the canyon, and found things in readiness to extend the track up to the mine of the Sevier Valley Coal Co. However, Mr. Pyeatt was very out-spoken in stating that the work will not be continued until adjustments in the numerous and dangerous crossings around the highway are made. The highway crosses the railroad track between the lower mouth of the canyon and the Sevier Valley Coal mine twenty-eight times, and it would be too much of a hazard to operate trains where the railroad would have to cross the highway so frequently, endangering life and limbs of people traveling through the canyon, as well as of the train crews. The matter is of vital importance to the economic conditions of our county. A great deal of tourist traffic bringing revenue to Sevier county goes through Salina canyon, and if we ever expect to have revenue from the coal and metal mines in the canyon we have to have there in operating railroad. The railroad company cannot be blamed for refusing to operate trains while such dangerous" (Richfield Reaper, June 20, 1929)
October 10, 1929
The D&RGW line in Salina canyon was to be completed by the latter part of November. A flood had swept down the canyon in August (on August 18th), causing $30,000 damage, including a large bridge at the mouth of the canyon. Repairs to the bridge and rip-rapping, and the fills throughout the canyon was progressing. Crews would then be transferred to completion of the line and tracklaying from the upper bridge to the coal mine properties, a distance of three and a half miles. Action still needed to take place by county, state and federal public roads officials to eliminate 19 of the 27 highway grade crossings. (Gunnison Valley News, October 10, 1929)
November 28, 1929
"The railroad track crew which has been working in Salina canyon on the branch line from Salina to the mine of the Sevier Valley Coal company, has at last reached the end of the line. They laid the last rails on the main line, passed the property of the Sevier Valley Coal company Saturday, and are now engaged in putting in more ties and grading the track." "All the main line switches, including the necessary switch material, ties, rails, bridge timber, and so forth, necessary for the laying of the tracks in and around the property of the coal company are now in Salina and the railroad track crew started laying tracks near the mine Wednesday. This is expected to take about a week. In the meantime, the big steel girders which will span the creek at the workings of the coal company, will be shipped from Colorado, and the bridge will be put in and completed by the bridge crew as soon as the track is laid to the bridge site." "All the work is expected to be completed not later than December 15." (Richfield Reaper, November 28, 1929)
December 18, 1929
The "last spike" of the D&RGW Castle Valley Branch was driven at a point opposite the coal mine of the Sevier Valley Coal company on Wednesday December 18th. The spike was driven by Leo Merrill, mayor of Salina. Many residents of the surrounding area attended by "motoring" to the site, including residents of Manti, Richfield, Monroe, and Ephraim on the north and Panguitch on the south. A special train with 40 passengers operated from Salina, leaving the Salina depot at 1:30 p.m. A total of about 200 persons attended the ceremony, after which they toured the facilities of the coal mine, which was not yet ready for production. The cost of the branch line was reported as $1 million. (Richfield Reaper, December 19, 1929; Gunnison Valley News, December 19, 1929; December 26, 1929, quoting an extensive article from the Salina Sun newspaper)
December 26, 1929
"Work on rebuilding the branch line up the canyon was started some seven years ago. The starting was on a very small scale, only a few teams and workmen being engaged in the work. Six years ago real work was started and modern railroad building machinery was employed. Delays were encountered, due to the fact that the railroad company was just emerging from a receivership. But the past few years work has gone ahead and more than $1,000,000 has been expended in connecting the coal property by branch line from the station at Salina." The total length of the branch line was 18 miles. (Gunnison Valley News, December 26, 1929)
(The rehabilitation and restoration of the line was covered in Work Order 4969, completed in 1930.)
September 23, 1938
In its 1938 "Report On Branch Lines Of The Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad Company," the railroad wrote the following about the Castle Valley Branch:
The construction of this branch was part of an ambitious scheme looking to the full development of the Utah coal fields by opening the south and east outcrops with the construction of a line up Castle Valley and through Salina Canon. This line was to have been part of a through line that was to have extended from a point on our main line near Price or Wellington, via the Castle Valley-Salina route, through Marysvale and on to Southern California. There undoubtedly was an additional motive, namely, that of forestalling the invasion of the Utah coal fields by other railroads.
For many years after the construction of the Salina Canon Branch, this plan of a short line was discussed by more than one report to the Directors recommending that we keep alive our filing maps on the surveyed routes from the main line near Price to the end of the branch at Nioche.
While the original construction of this 20-mile branch was completed in 1903 at a cost of nearly $450,000, not a single revenue train was operated over it until 1930, and before many years had passed, severe floods in Salina Canon had destroyed substantial parts of the grading and bridges. In 1913 and 1914, we spent an additional $35,000.00 in restoration of the roadbed, and again during the receivership that terminated in 1921, an additional $26,000.00 was spent, followed by expenditures of $60,000.00 in 1922, and approximately $56,000;00 in 1924, during all of which time the filings in Castle Valley were kept alive and from time to time additional surveys made to explore the advantages of new routes. In 1924, the Government brought suit to oust us from possession of Salina Canon and get control of the right of way for highway purposes. This suit was dismissed by the United States District Court. After the end of the second receivership in 1924, the railroad company continued to spend money from year to year for the rehabilitation of the branch until finally, in 1930, on the opening of a coal property on the line, the roadbed was finally restored, track laying completed, and itinerant operations begun.
Description of the Branch: The greater part of this branch is on natural mixed clay and gravel, with a few scattered cinders. There are approximately 3,200 ties per mile, 54 percent of which are treated. Maximum grade 3.00 percent - Maximum curvature 15 degrees.
Resources: This coal is of poorer quality than the Carbon County coal in the Helper District.
Industries and Freight Traffic: There are no mines operating on this line that contribute freight traffic to the railroad. The line has not operated since 1934.
Future Possibilities: It is our opinion that any development of coal lands on this branch would not reach a point sufficient to justify its operation. They might conceivably supply a portion of the Marysvale Branch, and if there is any development of the alunite deposits at Marysvale, they might supply that demand. However, recent inquiries from parties interested in this deposit would indicate the use of electrical power. The large coal consuming territory is, we believe, tied up, insofar as Utah mines are concerned, to those operating in the Carbon County district. This coal, according to analysis, is a better all-purpose coal than that in Salina Canyon.
It is thought that conditions no longer exist that would justify the continuation of this line in order to prevent invasion of the Utah coal fields by other lines.
Recently at Salina, we were informed that Mr. Sumner, present owner of the Crystal Mine, is negotiating with a Mr. McPhail at Helper, Utah, to assist in the opening of this mine, believing that by putting the mine in shape, a loan from the Reconstruction Finance Corporation might be available for installation of modern machinery. The mine, at the present time, is full of water, and while the cost of dewatering would not be excessive; there would be additional expense, such as the purchase of new machinery and retimbering the mine, which would cost a considerable sum. The Utah Fuel Company owned some of the bonds and stock of the Crystal Company and the Crystal Company owes the Utah Fuel Company for machinery. Both the bonds and stock owned by the Utah Fuel Company, as well as the money the Crystal Mine owes for machinery, has been charged off the books of the Utah Fuel Company. We feel this is sufficient evidence to indicate that there is no possibility of this property being opened in the future and the branch, therefore, should be abandoned.
April 27, 1942
D&RGW applied to the federal Interstate Commerce Commission for approval to abandon the Castle Valley Branch along its entire 17.51 miles, from Salina to Crystal. In its "Return To Questionnaire" for abandonment of the branch, D&RGW wrote:
"The Castle Valley Branch was originally constructed in 1903 by The Castle Valley Railway Company, a Utah corporation, in the hope of developing certain Utah coal fields by operating a railroad up Castle Valley and through Salina Canon. Between 1903 and 1930 large expenditures were made at various times in an attempt to keep the branch intact although it was operated only intermittently during this period. Due to its location in Salina Canon the roadbed and bridges were constantly washed out by severe floods. The branch was actually operated as a railroad for four years only, from 1930 to 1934." "There is no train service on the Castle Valley Branch at the present time. The last train was operated over this branch in 1934. The coal mine at Crystal, owned by the Crystal Coal Company, ceased to ship coal early in the year 1934. Consequently, there has been no service whatever on this line for the past eight years."
May 22, 1942
D&RGW received ICC approval to abandon the Castle Valley Branch, between Salina and Nioche. (ICC Financial Docket 13700, in 252 ICC 807, "Cases Disposed Of Without Printed Report")
- Salina (MP 0.0)
- Gooseberry (MP 7.9)
- Tunnel No. 7, 329 feet long
- Tunnel No. 8, 586 feet long
- Saw Tooth (MP 12.6)
- Tunnel No. 9, 301 feet long
- Tunnel No. 10, 269 feet long
- Sumner (MP 13.8)
- Crystal (MP 17.7) (80-feet long turntable at Crystal)
- Nioche (MP 18.8) (Nioche to end of track, 2.33 miles, not operated in 1934)
- End of track (MP 20.0, end)
Sevier Valley Coal Company
"Coal production from the Salina Canyon coalfield has come mostly from a few small mines that were opened to provide fuel for local residents during the winter months; the largest of these mines was the Sevier Valley Coal Company (Crystal City) mine. Production at the Sevier Valley mine began in 1924 (sic, 1930), was suspended from 1933 through 1943, and resumed from 1944 through 1953, when the mine closed." ("Available Coal Resource in Salina Canyon...," Utah Geologic Survey, Special Study 129, 2009, page 5)
February 10, 1920
Sevier Valley Coal company was organized in February 1920 to develop 160 acres of coal lands in Salina canyon. (Richfield Reaper, February 10, 1920)
January 5, 1921
Sevier Valley Coal company filed its articles of incorporation with the secretary of state in January 1921. (Beaver County News, January 5, 1921)
January 15, 1921
"At a meeting held in Richfield, the Sevier Valley Coal Company was formed by Richfield and Salina capitalists and articles of incorporation were filed. The company proposes to open up the vast coal deposits about eighteen miles up Salina canyon, on the south side, and shipment of coal is expected to commence shortly. The following officers were elected: C. J. Summers (C. J. Sumner) , president; E. R. Poulson, vice president; Sterling K. Heppler, secretary; J. O. Anderson, treasurer. The above officers with John Dastrup and William Lillywhite, form the board of directors." (Salt Lake Mining Review, January 15, 1921)
March 17, 1921
"According to our own information the present intention of the D. & R. G. railroad is to build the railroad up to Salina canyon to the twenty-mile post so it passes alongside the property of the Sevier Valley Coal company and ends at the property of the Knight interests." (Richfield Reaper, March 17, 1921)
January 26, 1922
"The Sevier Valley Coal Co. is an organization composed entirely of Richfield, Salina and Salt Lake City men. C. S. Sumner (C. J. Sumner), of Richfield, is the president of the company. The holdings of this organization are all in Salina canyon and reported to be the best and richest of the mighty promising coal deposits in the canyon. Preparatory to extensive development work the company acquired a diamond drill which was brought in from Rock Springs, Wyoming, arrived in Salina Tuesday and will be installed immediately so the holdings of the company can be thoroughly explored." (Richfield Reaper, January 26, 1922)
July 5, 1923
Sevier Valley Coal company was the successful bidder on the lease of 840 acres of coal lands in Salina canyon, as follows: S 1/2 NW 1/4, SW 1/4, Sections 21; NW 1/4, Section 28; Township 22 South, Range 3 East containing 400 acres. Also SW 1/4 NE 1/4, S 1/2 NW 1/4, SW 1/4, Section 20; NW 1/4, Section 29, Township 22 South, Range 3 East, containing 440 acres. These 840 acres surrounded the 160 acres that the company already owned outright. (Richfield Reaper, July 5, 1923; December 13, 1923)
June 19, 1924
Sevier Valley Coal company began development work on its coal mine in Salina canyon. The initial work included a temporary camp, timbers for the mine portal, and a bridge across Salina creek to allow access for the work to continue. The townsite to be built for workers at the mine will be called Crystal City, and the coal brand name will be Crystal Coal. (Richfield Reaper, June 26, 1924)
July 31, 1924
A new hoist for the Sevier Valley Coal company was on its way to the mine from Salt Lake City. The hoist would have a capacity of 500 tons per day, at 5,000 pounds per trip. By August 14th, several carloads of machinery had arrived at Salina and been moved to the mine for installation. The coal vein to be mined was four feet thick and of the highest quality. (Richfield Reaper, July 31, 1924; August 14, 1924)
July 16, 1925
The stockholders of Sevier Valley Coal company voted to approve a $400,00 bond issue to pay the railroad its $112,500, and to pay off old $10,000 debt, with the remaining amount to be used to cover current and upcoming expenses needed to get the mine into production standing. All of the required hoisting machinery and boilers were in place, as well as a boarding house and kitchen for 22 men. The vertical three-compartment shaft, 16 by 24 feet, had been sunk, and lined with concrete to a depth of 80 feet. "Touching on the question of railroad and wagon road, Mr. Lewis, general manager, referred to the full harmony prevailing between the railroad, state road commission, the U. S. bureau of public roads, the U. S. forest service and the Sevier county commissioners which augers well for an immediate start in railroad and wagon road construction." (Richfield Reaper, July 16, 1925)
December 28, 1928
The mine of the Sevier Valley Coal company was incomplete and not yet ready for production. The mine still needed a head frame for the shaft, cages, mine cars, trackage, a tipple to load railroad cars, and other preparations needed to produce 500 tons per day. During a special meeting, shareholders were asked to approve a $300,000 bond issue, to approve a mortgage, and to authorize the board of directors to take any additional action they deemed necessary to advance the bond issue and mortgage. The railroad grade had reached the mine, and tracklaying had been completed half the distance. The mine would be in production by the time railroad rails reached the mine, with 100 tons daily capacity right away, and 500 tons capacity within two years. (Richfield Reaper, December 28, 1928; January 11, 1929)
December 18, 1929
At the time of the "last spike" ceremony for the D&RGW Salina canyon branch line, the coal mine was not yet in production. "The driving of the golden spike symbolized the completion of the main line of the railroad to the mine, turn-out switches, and two combined loading tracks which are completed past the shaft of the coal mine and are sufficient to care for the present needs until, possibly late next summer, when four more tracks will be laid." "It is expected that the final capping-off of the shaft will be completed Sunday, December 22, and when completed the concrete which forms the lining and the partition of the shaft will contain twenty-one carloads of cement, 107 carloads of sand and gravel, eight carloads of re-enforcing steel, and will be the largest, most substantial and permanent shaft west of the Mississippi river." (Richfield Reaper, December 19, 1929)
June 26, 1930
"After five years of active development at their mine located in Salina canyon, 36 miles from Richfield, the Sevier Valley Coal company will ship their first carload of coal next Monday, June 30, according to a statement by C. J. Sumner, president of the company. The initial shipment will consist of five or six cars with a capacity of 40 to 50 tons each." "These first cars will be sent to points within Sevier county, as this is distinctly a local industry of which the county is justifiably proud." About one million dollars had been spent by the coal company before any coal had been sent to market. The main coal vein being worked is 8 to 9 feet thick. The mine was located at what was called Crystal City, and by the coming fall season expected to be shipping 400 to 500 tons of coal per day. A new steel tipple had been completed and a solid concrete shaft with three compartments had been completed to a depth of 200 feet. The steel tipple spanned three tracks to load three grades of coal, which would be sold under the brand name of "Hotfire" coal. (Richfield Reaper, June 26, 1930)
July 7, 1930
The first three cars of coal, totaling 115 tons, were shipped from the Sevier Valley Coal company's mine in Salina canyon. The first car went to the Salina hospital. The second car went to the Sevier Valley Mercantile company in Salina, and the third car was shipped south to Richfield. (Gunnison Valley News, July 10, 1930)
"Manager Lewis briefly outlined the history of the company's operations since the first test was made some eight years ago. Six years ago solicitation of the Denver & Rio Grande to continue their line to the mine was started. Obstacles that confronted the coal operators were overcome and finally the line was completed. It cost approximately $1,500,000 to produce the first carload of coal. The huge shaft, the exploration and development of the coal veins, the installation of modern head-frame, boilers, tipple, the purchase of equipment, the erection of buildings, buying of coal cars, installation of one of the most modern and best railroad scales to be found anywhere on the Rio Grande system, and side-tracks at the mine, are all figured in the cost of producing the first carload of coal." "Perhaps three months will be required to place the coal mine on a large producing basis. Within ten days the cages, capable of hoisting cars with three and a half ton capacity, will be operating. Shakers and dumping equipment will be connected up and the production will be gradually increased until the property will be able to produce some 400 tons per day." (Gunnison Valley News, July 10, 1930)
August 3, 1930
A severe cloudburst and resulting flood along Salina canyon badly damaged the D&RGW line in the canyon and the spur tracks of the Sevier Valley Coal company's mine at Crystal. It would take a week to ten days to repair the damage at the coal mine, and D&RGW reported that it would take several weeks to repair the damage along their line. (Richfield Reaper, August 7, 1930; Gunnison Valley news, September 4, 1930)
September 28, 1930
The first carloads of coal were shipped from the mine, following repairs to the railroad line in Salina canyon. The first train was made up of 17 cars, about 700 tons of coal, which were bound for dealers from Manti to Marysvale. (Richfield Reaper, October 9, 1930)
September 19, 1931
In a cooperative agreement, Utah Fuel company took over the operation of the Sevier Valley Coal company's coal mine in Salina canyon. Utah Fuel would operate the mine, and Sevier Valley would market the coal. (Richfield Reaper, September 24, 1931; December 10, 1931)
December 10, 1931
The Sevier Valley Coal company was producing 150 to 175 tons per day. The mine's main shaft, with its head frame and hoisting machinery, was 160 feet deep, where the vein is 6 to 8 feet thick. Four tunnels have been dug to reach into the vein, each about 2800 feet long. Five additional tunnels, 500 feet long, have also been dug. (Richfield Reaper, December 10, 1931)
June 18, 1936
Utah Bank and Trust of Salt Lake City sued to foreclose on its lien and trust deed against Sevier Valley Coal company The mortgage was dated April 1, 1929. (Richfield Reaper, June 18, 1936)
October 20, 1936
The U. S. government sued Sevier Valley Coal company for non-payment of coal royalties and rent on the coal leases the company had obtained in 1923. (Salt Lake Telegram, October 20, 1936)
January 29, 1937
The assets and properties of the Sevier Valley Coal company were sold in a sheriff's auction on the steps of the Sevier County courthouse, resulting from a suit filed by Utah Bank and Trust company. The purchase was by an agent for the bondholders, and the purchase price was $40,000. (Richfield Reaper, January 7, 1937 [first notice]; February 4, 1937; legal notice includes full list of all property and machinery at the mine)
January 4, 1938
Sevier Valley Coal company was listed as delinquent on the Sevier County tax rolls. The list also included the Salina Coal company. (Richfield Reaper, January 4, 1938)
Salina Coal Company
The Salina Coal company was incorporated in early December 1926. Its mine was about 15 miles east of Salina, in Salina canyon. This location would have put the mine at about mile post 15 on the D&RGW's Castle Valley Branch. (Richfield Reaper, January 20, 1927)
D&RGW Castle Valley Branch -- Google map of the D&RGW Castle Valley Branch; large portions of roadbed disturbed by the construction of Interstate 70 in Salina canyon. Portions of roadbed still visible in aerial photos from 1939.
- ICC Valuation Docket 960 (26 ICC Val. 746)
- Salt Lake Division timetable No. 95, June 1, 1924 (courtesy John B. Charles, email to D&RGW Yahoo group dated July 22, 2003)
- Salt Lake Division timetable No. 102, June 9, 1929 (courtesy Scott Meier, email to D&RGW Yahoo group dated July 23, 2003)