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National Coal Railway

Index For This Page

This page was last updated on December 17, 2018.

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Overview

(also Helper Western Railway)

The Helper Western Railway was organized in June 1909 to build a railroad from a point on the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railway two miles south of Helper, Utah, northwest to a point in Gordon Creek Canyon near the center of Section 17 of Township 13 South, Range 8 East, a distance of about 15 miles. Nothing happened by way of construction for another 11 years, pending organization and development of coal mines in Gordon Creek Canyon. The coal lands being developed and the railroad were owned by the same people.

The Helper Western Railway became associated with National Fuel Company in March 1912, and changed its name to National Coal Railway in July 1920. By 1925, the coal mines were producing, but only in small amounts, and the coal was hauled by wagon to a siding on the Utah Railway near its crossing of Gordon Creek.

The coal companies that owned shares in the National Coal Railway included: Great Western Coal Company, National Coal Company, Consumers Mutual Coal Company, Sweet Coal Company, and Union Coal Company.

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

George A. Storrs organized his Great Western Coal Mines and began selling shares in 1920. Some of the money raised was used to begin construction of a railroad from Wildcat Siding on the Utah Railway to the mines. In 1924 Utah Railway suggested that they would build the new railroad, provided that each mine operator contributed their share of the expense. At about the same time, the Sweet Coal Company, the National Coal Company, and the Consumers Mutual Coal Company were organized and put up the needed cash to build the railroad. Each of these mines were located within a mile of each other and together made up a good sized coal mining camp. Construction of the National Coal Railway (in the form of grading) began in August 1921 and continued sporadically until 1925.

Utah Railway began laying rail, under contract to the National company, on July 6, 1925 and operation by Utah Railway commenced on September 18, 1925. The National Coal Railway constructed an 8.9 mile standard gauge railroad from a point on the Utah Railway known as National Junction. The first coal was shipped on November 9, 1925. On March 11, 1926 Utah Railway took over formal operation and ownership of the National company. What Utah Railway called its National Branch was retired and dismantled in 1954.

By July 1954, when the corporation was dissolved, Utah Railway was the sole owner of all stock. The company never owned any rolling stock, and throughout its entire operational life, was operated as a branch of Utah Railway.

Timeline

Helper Western (1909-1920)

July 2, 1909
The Helper Western Railway was incorporated, having been organized on June 24th. The proposed route of the new company was from a point on the D&RG that was two miles south of Helper, then northwest for approximately fifteen miles to a point in the center of Section 17 in Township 13 South and Range 8 East, a point on the north fork of Gordon Creek. The company's organizers included John F. Williamson of Salt Lake City and George W. Higgans of Clinton, Indiana, along with C. C. Crandall and H. B. Tirrall of Provo, and Joseph A. Thorne and William McKenzie of Springville. (Utah corporation, index number 7779)

Late December 1910
The proposed survey of the Helper Western Railway was approved by the U. S. Land Office in late December 1910. (Eastern Utah Advocate, December 22, 1910)

March 25, 1912
The Helper Western filed an amendment to its corporation papers that allowed it to have a joint agreement with the National Fuel Company. The name of the Helper Western was changed to the National Coal Railway on July 16, 1920 and amended its intended route to include a three-mile branch along the south fork of Gordon Creek and a one-mile branch along Coal Creek, from where Coal Creek joined with Gordon Creek. F. A. Sweet was shown as the president. (Utah corporation, index number 7779)

Mid July 1912
National Fuel Company filed a $450,000 mortgage to begin the development of its coal lands, and to build the Helper Western Railroad. (Eastern Utah Advocate, July 18, 1912)

January 2, 1920
The National Coal Company was organized to purchase the property and interests of the National Fuel Company, and to finance the construction of the Helper Western Railway. (Utah corporation, index number 14229)

Mid July 1920
The Gordon Creek Coal Company was incorporated during mid July 1920 by Norman W. Lacey, of Los Angeles, president, F. A. Hutchens, vice president, and V. R. Hutchens, secretary. (News Advocate, July 15, 1920, "was incorporated this week")

National Coal Railway (1920-1925)

July 16, 1920
Helper Western Railway was changed to National Coal Railway. (Utah corporation, index number 7779)

May 27, 1921
George A. Storrs (formerly with Jesse Knight's Spring Canyon company) organized the Gordon Creek Coal Company in May 1921. The mine was located eight miles up Gordon Creek Canyon. (Coal Index: The Sun, May 27, 1921, p. 2)

August 1921
Construction of the National Coal Railway began in August 1921 and continued sporadically until 1925. (Utah Railway: Manual, p. 24)

(Early portions of construction on the National Coal Railway consisted mainly of grading cuts and fills for a wagon road located along the possible route for a railroad.)

"The railroad was constructed over a period of years between 1922 and 1926 by the National Coal Railway which was owned and organized by five coal companies preparing to produce coal in the so called Gordon Creek mining area." (Utah Railway: Engineer's Report, 1951, National Coal Railway Branch, sheet 1)

October 14, 1921
Storrs organized the Great Western Coal Company, which included plans for a railroad up Gordon Creek Canyon. (Coal Index: The Sun, October 14, 1921, p. 6)

March 12, 1925
The construction of the National Coal Railway was approved by the Public Service Commission of Utah, case number 750, on March 12, 1925. (Utah Railway: Manual, p. 24)

July 6, 1925
Rail laying by Utah Railway, under contract to the National company, began on July 6, 1925 and operation by Utah Railway commenced on September 18, 1925. The first coal was shipped on November 9, 1925. (Utah Railway: Manual, p. 24)

July 7, 1925
Amendment to allow an increase of its stock shares, the shareholders of the National Coal Railway were shown as Great Western Coal Mines Company (4,960 shares), Frank F. Lahut (Latuda?) (4,900 shares), National Coal Company (3,550 shares), Sweet Coal Company (3,100 shares), Union Coal Company (2,910 shares), and F. A. Sweet (2,410 shares). Another 350 shares were owned by C. N. Sweet, T. Sato, Consumers Mutual Coal Company, George A. Storrs, D. E. Jenkins, C. N. Strevell, George S. Payne, and C. T. Worley. (Utah corporation, index number 7779)Prior to the completion of the National Coal Railway in 1925, the coal from the Gordon Creek mines was loaded onto Utah Railway cars at a loading platform constructed at Wildcat Siding. (Public Service Commission of Utah, case 2750, "K. L. Storrs")

In 1925, one of the coal companies which had an interest in National Coal Railway, and which had mines located in Gordon Creek canyon, employed sixty men and twenty wagons to ship its coal from its mine, nine miles to the Utah Railway. Another coal company shipped its coal seven miles using twelve men and wagons for loading into the cars of Utah Railway. (99 ICC 570)

August 14, 1925
The federal Interstate Commerce Commission approved National Coal Railway's application to build its railroad. The coal companies interested in the construction of the National Coal Railway included: Great Western Coal Company (Heber C. Jex), National Coal Company (F. A. Sweet), Consumers Mutual Coal Company (Donald E. Jenkins), Sweet Coal Company (C. N. Sweet), and Union Coal Company (C. N. Strevell). All but the Gordon Creek company were involved in the construction, management, and later sale of the line to Utah Railway. The railroad company in its application for the construction of its line stated that it could not finance its construction into Helper as originally considered, but would be able to finance its construction to a connection with the Utah Railway. The application was approved on August 14, 1925, knowing that the new railroad would most likely not be profitable, but at least self supporting, and that the Utah Railway intended to purchase the line from the coal companies for the cost of its construction. (99 ICC 570)

Arthur E. Gibson, one of the organizers of the Consumers Mutual coal mine, stated in his history of the Gordon Creek district that George A. Storrs organized his Great Western Coal Mines and began selling shares. Some of the money raised was used to begin construction of a railroad from Wildcat Siding on the Utah Railway to the mines. In 1924 Utah Railway suggested that they would build the new railroad, provided that each mine operator contributed their share of the expense. At about the same time, the Sweet Coal Company, the National Coal Company, and the Consumers Mutual Coal Company were organized and put up the needed cash to build the railroad. Each of these mines were located within a mile of each other and together made up a good sized coal mining camp. (Gibson: Gordon Creek, pp. 241,242)

Utah Railway, National Branch (1925-1954)

December 17, 1925
An agreement for the sale of the National Coal Railway to the Utah Railway was signed on December 17, 1925. The transaction was approved by the Utah Public Service Commission, case number 857, on January 7, 1926, and by the Interstate Commerce Commission, docket numbers 5294 and 5295, on March 11, 1926. On March 11, 1926 Utah Railway took over formal operation and ownership of the National company. (Utah Railway: Manual, p. 24)

(The National company remained in existence for a number of years as a subsidiary of Utah Railway, and during this time the National company was leased for operation to the Utah company.)

The National Coal Railway constructed an 8.9 mile standard gauge railroad from a point on the Utah Railway known as National Junction, at Utah Railway engineering station 753+19. The new railroad was built up Gorley Canyon and the north fork of Gordon Creek. The railroad was ready for operation at the time of the proposed lease and sale to Utah Railway on January 6, 1926. The Coal Creek Branch was not yet built but was contemplated to be complete before January 1, 1931. (Public Service Commission of Utah, case 857, pp. 3,8)

The railroad officially disassociated itself from the National Coal Company in November 1936, and by the time that the corporation was formally dissolved in July 1954, all of the stock shares were owned by Utah Railway. (Utah corporation, index number 7779)

The National Branch was retired and dismantled in 1954. (Utah Railway: Engineer's Report, 1951, handwritten note on National Coal Railway Branch, sheet 1)

Miscellaneous Information

In 1928 four retired boxcar bodies were moved from Martin to National for use as section material sheds. In 1937 an old caboose body, Outfit Car 06, formerly caboose number 50, was placed at Union for use by section laborers. All of the bodies still existed at their locations in 1951. (Utah Railway: Engineer's Report, 1951; Utah Railway: Manual, equipment lists)

During late 1943, Utah Railway was moving three loaded trains a week off of the National Branch. During the winter months there was a train a day, with helpers. (Utah Public Utilities Commission, case 2750, "K. L. Storrs")

Maps

National Coal Railway -- A Google Map of Utah Railway's National Branch, built in 1925, abandoned in 1954.

National Coal Railway at Consumers, 1925 -- A scanned map of the rail lines at Consumers, in Gordon Creek Canyon, and at National in Coal Creek Canyon.

National Coal Railway at Consumers, 1927 -- A scanned map of the station tracks at Consumers and National, in Gordon Creek Canyon.

National Coal Company Coal Lands, 1925 -- A scanned map of the coal lands of National Coal Company, in Gordon Creek Canyon. Also shows entire National Coal Railway.

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