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George Hilton's American Narrow Gauge Railroads

Index For This Page

This page was last updated on June 24, 2010.

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The following comes from American Narrow Gauge Railroads, by George W. Hilton, pages 529-537 (Stanford University Press, 1990)

American Fork Railroad

The Miller Mining Co. operated the Sultana Smelting Works northeast up American Fork Canyon from Lehi on the Utah Southern. The smelter mainly, though not exclusively, served the Miller Mine, which produced about $100 in silver bullion, $20 to $28 in gold, and a small amount of copper from a ton of ore. A mule tramway of about two miles connected the mine and smelter. Officers of the company formed the American Fork Railroad on April 3, 1872, to provide a rail connection to the Utah Southern at American Fork City, about three miles south of Lehi. Ground was broken on May 20. The six miles approaching the canyon were easy to construct, but the canyon itself was narrow, tortuous, and subject to flooding. The American Fork River had to be bridged 16 times in the first five miles. By the end of 1872 rails had reached an end-of-track called Deer Creek, about 16 miles from the projected Utah Southern connection. The actual connection had to be made temporarily at Lehi, for the standard gauge railroad did not reach American Fork City until 1873. The Miller management graded an additional four miles beyond Deer Creek to the Sultana plant, but this trackage would have entailed switchbacks with grades thought to be beyond the capacity of the line's early Mason Bogie locomotive. The existing line gained 1,900 feet, with a ruling grade of nearly 6 percent. The railroad was shut down for the winter, but in the spring of 1873 the management decided against laying rail on the extension. Mining in the area declined, and the railroad found itself dependent largely on tourist traffic. The canyon was spectacular, and a hotel was built at Deer Creek in 1877. The railroad was regularly closed for the winter, and opened for the last time in the spring of 1878. Ore movements proved very meager, and operations were shut down in May. Track was removed in June.

This railroad was initially shown in Poor's Manual of 1873-74 as 3'-0", but thereafter as 3'-6". The latter is apparently in error. The Railroad Gazette uniformly reported the line as 3'-0". The builders' lists of Mason and Porter show the railroad's two locomotives as 3'-0", and they served on 3'-0" railroads following the American Fork's abandonment. Extensive newspaper research by George E. Pitchard brought forth evidence only of 3'-0" gauge. See his A Utah Railroad Scrapbook (Salt Lake City, Utah: George E. Pitchard, 1987), p. 24.

REFERENCE: Clarence A. Reeder, Jr., The History of Utah's Railroads 1869-1883 (New York: Arno Press, 1981), pp. 193-208.

Denver & Rio Grande Western Railway

Unlike western Colorado, which was virgin territory when the Denver & Rio Grande entered it, Utah had over a decade's experience with standard gauge railroads when the D&RG's western line approached in the early 1880s. Following completion of the transcontinental railroad through Ogden in 1869, figures prominent in the Mormon Church built both the Utah Central between Ogden and Salt Lake City and the Utah Southern to develop the territory around Provo and Utah Lake. Narrow gauge was considered for the Utah Southern, but rejected in favor of compatibility with the Utah Central and Union Pacific. By 1879 the line had reached Frisco in southwestern Utah, and come into the Union Pacific's control. The existence of this railroad stimulated construction of three connecting narrow gauges, all of which came into the hands of the Denver & Rio Grande, and in part determined the route of the D&RG's entry. The three are described separately below.

Bingham Canyon & Camp Floyd Railroad

When the Utah Southern reached Sandy, 13 miles south of Salt Lake City, a connection into the Bingham Canyon mining area to the west became practicable. Hugh White and his associates chartered the Bingham Canyon & Camp Floyd on September 10, 1872. Their immediate target was the Bingham area, Utah's principal mining region for copper, silver, and other nonferrous metals. White began construction in October 1872, but by June 1873 had exhausted his resources and was forced to sell control of the railroad to a syndicate headed by Charles W. Scofield of New York, who had mining interests in the area. White agreed to remain with the railroad to superintend it to completion, which he accomplished on November 23, 1873. Several mine spurs were laid in 1874. A longer-range plan to extend over the Oquirrh Mountains to Tooele, Stockton, and Ophir in the Camp Floyd mining district was never executed.

Wasatch & Jordan Valley Railroad

Mormon Church leaders, plus Gentile businessmen in Salt Lake City, were interested in developing the mining area in Little Cottonwood Canyon to the east of Sandy. The Church wanted to draw upon a quarry at Wasatch for granite for the Mormon Temple, and silver had been found farther up the canyon to the east. William Jennings and associates formed the railroad on October 24, 1872. Construction began on November 4, utilizing three and a half miles of grade already laid by the Utah Southern for a projected branch. Rails were laid for eight miles to Wasatch in Fairfield Flat by mid-September 1873. Track was not pushed farther, partly because of the growing financial stringency, and partly because the grades up the canyon to Alta promised to be 3 percent to 6 percent.

The railroad, which was unprofitable, was sold in June 1875 to Charles W. Scofield of the Bingham Canyon & Camp Floyd, who agreed to complete the road to Alta. Scofield chose to build the extension of about seven miles as a horse or mule tramway, a technology he was already using on mine spurs in the Bingham area. The tramway was opened on September 12, 1875, for passenger and freight service. Snows in the area--Alta was, of course, to become a major ski resort--shortly closed the line, but in 1876 superintendent George Goss covered virtually the entire tramway with snowsheds. About 70 animals were required to work the line.

On April 29, 1879, Scofield merged the W&JV into the Bingham Canyon & Camp Floyd, the stronger of his two railroads. The combined railroad had a disappointing performance, mainly because of the declining output of the mines at Alta. It covered its variable expenses, but defaulted on its interest payments, precipitating a receivership in August 1881. The receivership was to separate the two companies briefly.

Utah & Pleasant Valley Railroad

Coal operators in the Pleasant Valley sought an outlet for their product to Salt Lake City, which was dependent on coal brought in over the Union Pacific at rates widely considered excessive. Their most direct route was a very difficult one, with two hard crossings of mountain barriers and a line along Soldier Creek to Springville and Provo. The Utah & Pleasant Valley was organized on December 10, 1875, by M. P. Crandall and other owners of coal land in the valley. They raised capital largely by selling bonds to Charles W. Scofield, who thereby became interested in all three of the Utah predecessors of the D&RG. Scofield gained stock control of the corporation in 1878 and became president. Tracklaying began at Springville in August 1878, and was completed to Scofield (55 miles) in the valley on November 5, 1879. An additional five miles from Springville to a junction with the Utah Southern at Provo were put in service in October 1880.

William J. Palmer's initial plan for the Denver & Rio Grande's entry into Utah was to cross the desert of eastern Utah via the town of Green River and the Castle Valley, and then traverse the Wasatch Plateau along Salina Creek into the Sevier Valley to a junction at Salina--the approximate route of the present Interstate 70. There the railroad would have a north-south line up the valley into Provo and Salt Lake City and down the valley to a crossing into Arizona near Kánab. This route had the attraction of a penetration of Arizona, plus a possible route into Mexico not prohibited by the Tripartite Agreement of 1880. The D&RG, which was not itself empowered to build or operate in Utah Territory, incorporated the Sevier Valley Railway on December 7, 1880, to build the Utah mileage. Some surveying and a small amount of grading were undertaken in the Salina area, but the management changed its plan in favor of a more direct route from Green River to Provo and Salt Lake City via Soldier Summit. On July 21, 1881, Palmer organized the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railway to build the Utah mileage. The new company absorbed the Sevier Valley Railway, and more important, shortly absorbed C. W. Scofield's narrow gauges. The D&RG bought the bankrupt Bingham Canyon & Camp Floyd in September and the Wasatch & Jordan Valley in December. The Utah & Pleasant Valley was acquired on June 14, 1882.

With the three narrow gauge acquisitions in hand or in prospect, Palmer's forces quickly built the extension. By the time of the third acquisition, the D&RGW had built 45 miles from Salt Lake City to Provo, essentially parallel to the Utah Southern. The narrow gauge made use of the Jordan Narrows near Draper to avoid a crossing of a small plateau. The Utah & Pleasant Valley could be used for 38 miles southeast to Clear Creek (Tucker), whence the company built a difficult 14-mile crossing of Soldier Summit. The D&RG leased its Utah subsidiary, the D&RGW, on August 1, 1882, and undertook completion of the railroad. Its first major act was to abandon the U&PV's tortuous crossing of the Wasatch Mountains, which included switchbacks, in favor of a 13-mile line along Fish Creek to a junction with the main line at Pleasant Valley Junction (Colton). By the end of 1882 the main line had reached Price, the principal intermediate settlement, and been extended about ten miles east. D&RG crews reached the Utah line from Grand Junction on December 19. Construction was pushed from both directions, and the tracks from east and west met at Desert Switch, about 13 miles west of Green River, on March 30, 1883. The company then built an extension from Salt Lake City to Ogden, completing the east-west line on May 12, 1883. Initially, the terminal was made by laying third rail on Central Pacific tracks.

The heavy expenditure of recent construction taxed the D&RG's resources, producing some hostility to the management on the part of its foreign investors. Palmer, as a consequence, resigned the presidency of the D&RG in August 1883, but remained in control of the D&RGW. Frederick Lovejoy, a Pennsylvanian, became president of the D&RG, ready to effect economies at the behest of directors who had considered the Palmer management profligate. Palmer became convinced that Lovejoy was neglecting the D&RG's obligations under the lease of the D&RGW, as well as seeking to gain control of the Utah lines in violation of the terms of agreement. The dispute went into the courts in the spring of 1884. On July 2, before a definitive judgment had been delivered, Lovejoy ordered his men to seize the D&RGW equipment at Grand Junction, and on the following day had about a mile of track removed on the Colorado side of the state line, breaking the physical connection and severing the telegraph line between the two railroads. Temporarily, the D&RGW could reach Grand Junction only by wagon and stagecoach. On July 7 bondholders together with directors loyal to Palmer secured a receivership for the D&RG, with William S. Jackson, an associate of Palmer, as receiver. The track connection was restored on July 14. The episode soured the Burlington, the D&RG's principal connection at Denver, on the D&RG, causing the big granger to negotiate an agreement for western traffic with the AT&SF. As a consequence, the Denver-Ogden line was mainly reduced to a local facility, in spite of its obvious potential as a transcontinental route. The episode also cre ated the prospect that the Burlington might itself build to Grand Junction. It never did so, but the possibility, along with the invasion of the Colorado Rockies by the Colorado Midland, gave the managements of the D&RG and D&RGW a powerful incentive to convert the Denver-Ogden main line.

In 1885 the D&RG's lease of the D&RGW was found by the courts to be valid, but the D&RGW was found to have been injured by the D&RG's arbitrary and capricious behavior. When the D&RG was reorganized in July 1886, it elected not to continue the lease. By way of compensation, the D&RG turned over 27 locomotives and considerable equipment to the D&RGW. The D&RGW came out of receivership in August 1886, with Palmer still in the presidency. Whether the D&RGW continued as a western connection for the D&RG or became allied with the Colorado Midland, it would have to be converted. Palmer had apparently come to that conclusion by 1887 and began firm plans for conversion by 1888. The project entailed building a new line from Crevasse, Colorado, to Whitehouse, Utah, which would replace the existing 53-mile route with another route, 8.5 miles shorter, through Ruby Canyon to the south. Transitionally, the D&RGW leased the portion of the D&RG from Grand Junction to the Utah state line, and organized and incorporated the State Line & Denver Railway to acquire the new right-of-way in Colorado. The SL&D had in its charter powers to build east to Denver via Glenwood Springs, a veiled threat to the D&RG. In June 1889 Palmer merged the D&RGW and the SL&D into the newly formed Rio Grande Western Railway, which effected the conversion. The 82 miles from Ogden to Provo were converted in 1889 and the remainder from Provo to Grand Junction by June 11, 1890. The narrow gauge line had been allowed to deteriorate badly, and in its last days was being operated in slovenly fashion; accordingly, the conversion was greeted with enthusiasm. The branch from Sandy to Bingham was converted effective June 2, 1890. The line from Sandy to Wasatch was converted in May and June 1891, and the long branch of 61 miles from Thistle to Manti, which had been built only in 1890, was converted in July 1891. The Manti line was unusual among the branches of the D&RG and its affiliates in being built to serve an agricultural area rather than a mining community. After conversion the line was pressed south down the Sevier Valley, and reached the gold-mining community of Marysvale in 1900.

The line to Salt Lake City remains the main line of the current D&RGW, one of the major transcontinental routes of the nation, and one of the most heavily utilized former narrow gauges. The Wasatch branch was abandoned in 1934, along with the mule tramway, which had never been converted. The tramway last operated regularly in the 1890s, but it was rebuilt in 1917 under lease by the Little Cottonwood Transportation Co., which operated it with Shay locomotives until 1925. The Thistle-Manti segment was abandoned with the rest of the Marysvale branch in 1983, but the Bingham branch remains in service. In a reciprocal arrangement with the Union Pacific the D&RGW line from North Salt Lake City to Ogden was closed in March 1986.

REFERENCES: Gordon Chappell and Cornelius W. Hauck, Scenic Line of the World, Colorado Rail Annual No. 8 (Golden: Colorado Railroad Museum, 1970); Robert A. LeMassena, Rio Grande . . . to the Pacific! (Denver, Colorado.: Sundance, Ltd., 1974); Reeder, The History of Utah's Railroads 1869-1883; Donald B. Robertson, Encyclopedia of Western Railroad History: The Desert States (Caldwell, Idaho: Caxton Printers, 1986).

Salt Lake & Fort Douglas Railway/
Salt Lake & Eastern Railway

The earlier of these related enterprises, the Salt Lake & Fort Douglas, was chartered in December 1884 and built mainly in 1887, principally to move sandstone from the Red Butte quarries into Salt Lake City. The railroad built ten miles of track originating at 4th West and 8th South in Salt Lake City. Grades ranged up to 10 percent, and curvature to 80°. The railroad was mainly operated with a small two-truck Shay, but it also owned several secondhand rod engines. Spurs served the Fort Douglas military installation, a brickworks, and a prison.

The same interests incorporated the Salt Lake & Eastern Railway in September 1888 to carry silver and lead ores from the Park City area to smelters southeast of Salt Lake City. The line was built in 1888-90 from Sugar House immediately southeast of Salt Lake City to Park City (32 miles). Grades ascending the Wasatch Mountains were as heavy as 6.25 percent, and the descent of 3.5 miles from Altus to Park City had grades up to 4.2 percent. The line was worked by rod engines and two Shays. On April 8, 1890, the management organized the Utah Central Railway, which built a two-mile connection from Lincoln Park Junction on the SL&FD south to Sugar House to unite the two narrow gauges. The UC operated the SL&E and part of the SL&FD as a combined system, which was known popularly as the Utah Central. The management, which was headed by Joseph Collett of Terre Haute, Indiana, projected an extension to the Colorado state line, probably on the route later planned by the Denver & Salt Lake. The company reportedly graded 17.5 miles of the route east from Park City, and stated that it laid 7.5 miles of track.

The Utah Central failed in the depression of the early 1890s and was placed in receivership on November 27, 1893. The SL&FD was put under the same receiver separately in January 1894. The UC was reorganized as the Utah Central Railroad in December 1897. In January 1898 the Rio Grande Western agreed to lease the system in return for assuming its interest payments. It abandoned all but a mile of the former SL&FD, trackage that had apparently not operated after early 1894. In 1900 the RGW converted the Park City line, modifying its grades in the process. The Denver & Rio Grande assumed the lease in 1901 and absorbed the UC in its consolidation with the RGW in 1908. The Park City branch was abandoned in 1946 beyond Cement Quarry, approximately a fourth of the distance from Salt Lake City, when the right-of-way was condemned for highway construction. Some trackage at Park City was turned over to the Union Pacific. The remainder of the branch was abandoned in 1956 and 1957.

San Pete Valley Railroad

The Central Pacific Coal & Coke Co., Ltd., of London, chartered the San Pete Valley Railroad in 1873 to develop its mining properties in Utah. The company originally planned a 3'-6" line, but shifted to 3'-0" before building. Construction was undertaken in 1880 from Nephi on the Utah Southern 91 miles south of Salt Lake City through the San Pitch Mountains to the southeast. The line was opened on April 1, 1882, to Wales (30 miles), where the mining company had about 10,000 acres of coal land. An extension to Moroni (35 miles) was opened in 1884. Henry W. Tyler of London served as president, with Thomas Marshall of Salt Lake City as vice-president. Simon Bamberger, later governor of Utah and operator of the Bamberger Railroad, the interurban between Salt Lake City and Ogden, was managing director. The line was the first penetration of the middle Sevier Valley. The management from the outset planned on building farther south, but shortly encountered financial problems. The enterprise was reorganized in 1893 with the parent company becoming the Sterling Coal & Coke Co. and the railroad becoming the San Pete Valley Railway. Theodore Bruback, who replaced Bamberger as general manager, arranged financing for an extension to Manti (43 miles), and opened it at the end of 1893. In November 1894 he opened a difficult extension through Six-Mile Canyon to Morrison (51 miles), a coal installation on the east side of the valley named for a director of the firm in London. Bruback sought funds on the east coast and in Britain for a line north from Nephi to Salt Lake City and another south from Manti through the Sevier Valley to some point in southern Nevada, but he was unable to finance either.

Bruback decided upon conversion of the railroad about 1894; the extension to Morrison had been laid with standard gauge ties. The ascent of Salt Creek Canyon from Nephi had to be eased for standard gauge equipment. The line was converted from Nephi to Manti on July 9, 1896, and the remaining trackage to Morrison shortly thereafter. The narrow gauge rail was stockpiled for the southern extension, which was still projected. The Sevier Valley was by then traversed by the Denver & Rio Grande's Marysvale line, which directly paralleled the SPV from Ephraim to Manti, about seven miles. The SPV was not built farther south, although it did build a long spur to a brownstone quarry at Nebo in 1899.

The Denver and Rio Grande bought all of the securities of the SPV in October 1907, reducing the railroad to a pair of branches out of Manti. The Morrison branch was abandoned in 1923 and the duplicate track between Manti and Ephraim in 1926. The line was cut back from Nephi to Moroni in 1948. The remaining 11 miles from Ephraim to Moroni survived as a spur off the Marysvale branch until that line went out of service in 1983. Formal abandonment was approved at the end of 1986 and the rails were removed in 1987.

Summit County Railroad

The Mormon settlement at Salt Lake City, troubled by a lack of readily available fuel, sought to develop a bank of low-grade coal at Coalville. In September 1869 Mormon businessmen incorporated the Coalville & Echo Railroad to connect Coalville with the Union Pacific main line at Echo. They graded the line, but were unable to complete construction. On November 27, 1871, Joseph A. Young and other Mormon leaders formed the Summit County Railroad to take over the grade and franchise of the C&E. They undertook construction of the line as a narrow gauge from Echo in 1872 and began service to Coalville (6 miles) on July 1, 1873.

The narrow gauge served its function imperfectly, mainly because the Union Pacific charged rates from Echo that were considered exorbitant. The Mormon leaders shifted their interests to a direct line from Coalville to Salt Lake City, the Utah Eastern, and sold control of the SC to the UP in March 1877. The UP converted the railroad in 1880 and reorganized it on January 17, 1881, as the Echo & Park City Railroad. As a standard gauge line, the railroad was extended to Park City, a silver-mining area 21 miles to the south. The UP also built a spur of four miles off the original portion to serve a coal mine at Grassy Creek. The spur to Grassy Creek Mine was abandoned in 1947, but the remainder of the branch to Coalville and Park City remains in service.

Utah & Northern Railway

During the Civil War, gold mining was begun at Butte and other points in Montana Territory. At the outset, the mining camps were served by wagon freighting from Fort Benton, head of navigation on the Missouri River. Because of the seasonality of navigation on the Missouri, plus chronic problems of variable water level, mud banks, and strong winds, this form of transport was inherently unsatisfactory. When the transcontinental railroad was completed, western Montana was mainly served by wagon freighting from Corinne, Utah, a small community predominately of Gentile businessmen on the portion of the Union Pacific--Central Pacific line between Ogden and Promontory. The trip was nearly 500 miles across forbidding territory in eastern Idaho and southern Montana. A railroad along the route had obvious attractions to the hierarchy of the Mormon Church. Not only would it improve transportation to Montana, but it would open the intermediate country to Mormon colonization. Rivalry with the Gentile community of Corinne was presumably also part of the calculations.

John W. Young, William B. Preston, George W. Thatcher, and their associates began planning for the rail line, which they named the Utah Northern Railroad. They first considered two routes from the Union Pacific main line at Hams Fork, Wyoming, into Montana via Soda Springs, Idaho, and Monida Pass, but they rejected the connection with the UP in Wyoming as unlikely to benefit the Mormon settlements in Utah. They decided upon a route from Ogden north to Soda Springs via the Cache Valley, thence across rugged country to the South Fork of the Snake River, and finally into Montana through Monida Pass. The choice to use 3'-0" gauge was made about the time of incorporation in August 1871 on the basis of the reported success of narrow gauge on the Denver & Rio Grande, which was, of course, barely undertaken. Colonel J. H. Martineau, who had surveyed the Utah Central and portions of the Union Pacific, was chosen chief surveyor of the railroad. Tracklaying began at Willard, just south of Brigham City, on March 25, 1872.

The projected line presented formidable difficulties in almost all areas, including the immediate exit from the populous area of northern Utah. Young and his associates were eager to serve the Cache Valley, in which Logan and other Mormon communities had already been established. Martineau proposed to do this by building through the Bear River Narrows, but the management overruled him and ordered a line over Mendon Divide, locally known as Cache Hill. This proved a difficult project, and rails did not reach Logan until January 31, 1873. Because the Utah Northern menaced Corinne's Montana trade, local businessmen formed a rival project, the Utah, Idaho & Montana Railroad. In a successful effort to abort this line, the management of the Utah Northern built a branch of four miles from Box Elder into Corinne. After a substantial bridge was completed over the Bear River, a project that caused some delay, the branch was opened on June 9, 1873. It proved unprofitable and was abandoned at the end of 1875; the rail was used for the extension of the main line. The next segment of the railroad was the south end of the main line, which was completed to Ogden on February 5, 1874. Rails were extended up the Cache Valley into Idaho, and reached Franklin on May 2, 1874. The main line now comprised some 78 miles. At Ogden it connected with another Mormon railroad, the standard gauge Utah Central, for access to Salt Lake City.

The Panic of 1873 had the usual dampening effect on the Utah Northern. The company graded 14 miles north from Franklin toward Soda Springs in 1874, but was unable to lay track or proceed farther into the mountains. The line had reached Franklin partly through the use of labor contributed by Mormon volunteers, but the area immediately to the north was largely unpopulated. The Mormon Church had little interest in developing the land beyond Soda Springs, but profitability depended on reaching the Montana mining region. Efforts at public aid were unsuccessful, particularly because Montana was more motivated by the Northern Pacific's project of entering the state from the east. As a consequence, Jay Gould was able to secure control of the Utah Northern between 1875 and 1878 for about 40 cents on the dollar. The change in control meant that the Utah Northern was to become permanently an appendage of the Union Pacific Railroad.

Union Pacific interests reorganized the railroad as the Utah & Northern Railway in April 1878, and immediately began efforts to extend the line into Montana. In 1877 Gould had decided the projected route via Soda Springs was impractical, and ordered the extension to proceed via the Marsh Valley to the west. The Union Pacific's chief engineer, Washington Dunn, surveyed a route via the Portneuf Canyon, the Fort Hall Indian Reservation, and Eagle Rock (Idaho Falls), an existing community that served the wagon-freighting trade. Service to Eagle Rock was established on April 26, 1879, and the railroad made the town its division point. By March 9, 1880, track had reached the Montana state line at Monida Pass. Construction ended for the winter when track reached Dillon, 348 miles from Ogden. During the winter of 1880-81, shop facilities were built at Eagle Rock. Construction resumed in the summer of 1881, and track reached Silver Bow, seven miles west of Butte, in October. Entering Butte was made difficult by a legal problem. The railroad's charter provided that it should run north via Deer Lodge to a point on the main line of the Northern Pacific. The NP had still not built into the area, but the projected junction point would later be known as Garrison. Because the Butte branch was not in the charter, the company had no legal right of condemnation, and its projected entry required the crossing of several mining claims. By threatening to bypass Butte and to build north from Silver Bow toward Garrison and Helena, the railroad brought about an agreement with the Butte municipal government whereby the holders of the mining claims were bought out with $3,400 of municipal funds and $5,000 spent by the UP. The railroad was completed into Butte on December 21, 1881.

The Utah & Northern proceeded with the northward extension in 1882, reaching Garrison in November, 454 miles from Ogden. The management planned to lay a third rail from Garrison to Helena on the Northern Pacific, once that railroad had reached the area. By an agreement of February 1883 the NP was, in return, to lay a third rail on the Utah & Northern from Butte to the junction at Garrison. In October, however, the two companies had a falling out, such that the NP built its own line into Butte [by way of Homestake Pass to the east] and the Utah & Northern never reached Helena. The company considered building its own branch to Helena that would leave the main line at Melrose, bypass Butte to the east, and reach Helena via Radersburg. The company also considered extending the main line west along the Northern Pacific to Missoula, but never did so. An even more grandiose proposal was an Oregon Division, to leave the main line at Portneuf, Idaho, and run to the Pacific via Boise, presumably on the route actually built by the Union Pacific's Oregon Short Line.

The standard gauge Oregon Short Line was chartered by the Union Pacific in 1881 and built from Granger, Wyoming, to Huntington, Oregon, 541 miles. The line reached the Utah & Northern at McCammon, Idaho, in the fall of 1882, and entered Pocatello (a newly established town that bore the local settlers' nickname for the local Shoshone chief), by 23 miles of third rail along a new dual gauge right-of-way that replaced the narrow gauge. Transitionally, while awaiting arrival of the standard gauge, Oregon Short Line crews laid about 45 miles of narrow gauge from Pocatello through American Falls to a point beyond Wapi. This line was operated essentially as a branch of the Utah & Northern only for part of 1882. The narrow gauge rails were then replaced with standard about October as the OSL built west.

The newly established junction caused Pocatello to become the operating center of the Union Pacific's subsidiaries in the area. The narrow gauge into the Montana mining region proved successful beyond anyone's expectations, but the traffic was now typically transshipped to standard gauge cars at Pocatello, rather than sent on to Ogden. The Union Pacific installed a Ramsey Transfer so as to move standard gauge cars north. The UP sent about 100 narrow gauge gondolas from its South Park Line to move coal from Wyoming to Butte via the Ramsey Transfer. This arrangement, as usual, proved a bottleneck. About 750 tons of freight were transshipped per day in November 1885. Plans for standard gauging the line north of Pocatello were made about that time. As on other narrow gauges, bridges were widened and standard gauge ties installed. The Union Pacific was no longer interested in destinations north of Butte, and arranged with the Northern Pacific to turn the line from Butte to Garrison over to a jointly owned subsidiary, the Montana Union Railway, on August 1, 1886. The Montana Union Railway was converted to standard gauge immediately and made part of the Northern Pacific's alternate main line via Butte. The Union Pacific retained trackage rights from Silver Bow into Butte even after the track was turned over to the Northern Pacific's exclusive ownership in 1898. (ed. note: UP leased the line to NP for 999 years, and still retains ownership today.)

Upon completion of a new bridge across the Snake River in 1887 [at Eagle Rock] the Union Pacific was ready to convert the north end of the narrow gauge. The line had been relaid with 55-pound rail beginning in 1885, so placed that only one rail need be moved at any location. The entire 264 miles from Pocatello to Butte were converted between 2:00 A.M. and early afternoon on July 25, 1887.

Because the line south of Pocatello had been reduced mainly to a local service facility, the Union Pacific felt no urgency in converting it. There was the further matter that it required extensive relocation, both to avoid flooding in the Marsh Valley of Idaho and to circumvent the steep crossing of Cache Hill in Utah. In the Marsh Valley 27 miles of standard gauge at higher elevation were built south from McCammon to a point beyond Swan Lake. From that point a new line of 48 miles was constructed along the route originally proposed by Martineau west of the Bear River as far as Deweyville, 36 miles north of Ogden. A connection from Cache Junction to Mendon was built to tie the old trackage in the Cache Valley to the new route, and both the line between Deweyville and Mendon over Cache Hill and the original narrow gauge north of Preston were abandoned. The grade over Cache Hill was later used by the Utah-Idaho Central interurban. The changes reduced the distance from Ogden to Butte from 417 to 397 miles. The conversion of the main line was completed on October 1, 1890, and of the Cache Valley branch on October 26. The company had been merged into the Oregon Short Line in 1889, and was thereafter operated only as a major branch of the Union Pacific system. As such, it has always done well, and is still in operation. Remarkably, it retained passenger service until the establishment of Amtrak in 1971. The line from Silver Bow to Garrison turned over to the Northern Pacific in 1886 was conveyed to the Montana Western Railway in 1986, and is also still in service. The Montana Western also operates the trackage from Silver Bow to Butte.

REFERENCES: Merrill D. Beal, Intermountain Railroads: Standard and Narrow Gauge (Caldwell, Idaho: Caxton Printers, 1962); Robert L. Wrigley, Jr., "Utah & Northern Railway Co.: A Brief History," Oregon Historical Quarterly, 48 (1947), pp. 245-53; Robert G. Athearn, "Railroad to a Far Off Country: The Utah & Northern," Montana: The Magazine of Western History, 18 (1968), pp. 3-23; Mallory Hope Ferrell, Utah & Northern: The Narrow Gauge That Opened a Frontier, Colorado Rail Annual No. 15 (Golden: Colorado Railroad Museum, 1981), pp. 9-81; Pitchard, A Utah Railroad Scrapbook, pp. 2-13 and passim; collection of Cornelius W. Hauck.

Utah Eastern Railroad

Although never completed, the Utah Eastern was an endeavor of Mormon leaders to provide a direct route from Salt Lake City to the coalfield at Coalville, about 50 miles distant. Their first effort, the Summit County Railroad, was considered unsatisfactory because of its dependence on a Union Pacific connection. The Utah Eastern was chartered in January 1880 to run from Salt Lake City via Emigration Canyon or Parley's Canyon to the summit of the Wasatch Range, across Parley's Park to the head of East Canyon Creek, across a divide to East Silver Creek, down to Park City, and to Coalville. By November 1880 the line was built from Coalville to Kimball's Junction (16 miles), and on December 9 track reached Park City (23 miles), seat of a major silver-mining area. The management negotiated a contract with the Ontario Silver Mining Co. to bring in coal from Coalville. The Union Pacific in the following month, however, reached Park City with a standard gauge line that served the general transport demands of the area better. The UE management considered extension, either to Salt Lake City over the route later built by the Salt Lake & Eastern or to Alta to a connection with the Wasatch & Jordan Valley, but never built either.

The Union Pacific bought control of the Utah Eastern in the fall of 1883 and on November 20 announced its plan to shut the UE down a month hence. The traffic to the Ontario mine, which had sustained it, was diverted to the parallel UP line, and the narrow gauge was closed on December 20, 1883. The corporation was allowed to go into bankruptcy and to be sold at auction on February 21, 1887. P. L. Williams of the UP bought it for $25,000 and scrapped it. Most of the equipment went to the Utah & Northern.

REFERENCE: Leonard J. Arrington, "Utah's Coal Road in the Age of Unregulated Competition," Utah Historical Quarterly, 23 (1955), pp. 35-63.

Utah Western Railroad

H. S. Jacobs of Salt Lake City formed the Salt Lake, Sevier Valley & Pioche Railroad on May 2, 1872, with the financial support of several men in the local Gentile business community and John Leisenring, a prominent mine operator of Mauch Chunk, Pennsylvania. The railroad was to run southwest from Salt Lake City to the Tooele mining area, west of the dry Sevier Lake, through a second mining district in Beaver County and to a third at Pioche, Nevada. If completed, the line would have covered about 300 miles. Ground was broken near the Utah Central depot in Salt Lake City on April 14, 1873, and a locomotive, Kate Connor, was bought from Brooks. Jacobs arranged for the purchase of the sternwheel steamer City of Corinne, in operation on the Great Salt Lake, where the company planned a resort development at Lake Point. The projected line was located as far as Tintic, about 85 miles, and grading was done at several points on the 41 miles between Salt Lake City and Stockton. Jacobs ordered enough rail for 22 miles, and a small amount was laid leaving Salt Lake City. Jacobs became embroiled in a dispute with his directors about paying for the rail, and he resigned as president on August 1, 1873. In the course of the controversy, the corporation went bankrupt and the rail was sold at a loss.

Heber P. Kimball, who had been active in the company, interested John W. Young and other Mormon leaders in reviving the project under the name of the Utah Western Railroad. With Young as president, the new corporation was chartered on June 15, 1874. Young quickly contracted for enough rail to reach Lake Point (20 miles), and crews began to lay it in November. The railroad opened service over its first 11 miles on December 14. Trains began running to Half-Way House (25 miles) on April 1, 1875. Renamed General Garfield, the steamer operated excursions from Lake Point. The management was mainly interested in reaching the mining area around Stockton, but the terrain was difficult. The route chosen bypassed Tooele to the west to avoid gradients, but a station was established for the town about three miles to its north. In September 1877 rails reached an end-of-track unimaginatively named Terminus (37 miles). Completion to Stockton would have entailed a tunnel, which the company proved unable to finance, but a 2'-0" tramway built by local mine operators provided a connection to the mining district.

The Utah Western missed its interest payment in January 1878, and was placed in the hands of the trustees of its bond issue, Royal M. Bassett and E. F. Bishop, on April 16. The trustees brought about a sale of the property under foreclosure on November 3, 1880, for $36,000. The buyers, Bassett and W. W. Riter, organized the Utah & Nevada Railroad on February 16, 1881, intending to extend the line to Tintic. Before any extension could be undertaken, the Union Pacific on April 1, 1881, purchased 600 of the 700 bonds of the Utah Western and converted them into stock of the new corporation, gaining control on August 20. The UP, which was thought to be interested in the railroad as an exit from Salt Lake City for a line of its own to the San Francisco Bay Area rival to the Central Pacific, actually made no immediate change in the narrow gauge. The line remained an independently operated subsidiary until August 1, 1889, when it was merged with other UP subsidiaries in the area into the Oregon Short Line & Utah Northern Railway, which in turn became the Oregon Short Line in 1897. A spur of 2.5 miles was built to Saltair in 1888. A major resort was built there in 1893. The narrow gauge was converted by the OSL November 8-15, 1902. Actually, the UP made use of only three or four miles of the old right-of-way, otherwise building a new parallel railroad. The Saltair line was abandoned at the time of conversion. The UP made use of the line as the northern 37 miles of its San Pedro, Los Angeles & Salt Lake Railroad, the extension of its main line into Los Angeles. As such, the line remains a major part of the American railroad system.

REFERENCE: Reeder, The History of Utah's Railroads 1869-1883, pp. 257-99.

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