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Salt Lake & Mercur Railroad (1894-1913)

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Overview

The Salt Lake & Mercur Railroad was a standard gauge railroad that operated between Fairfield in Cedar Valley, west of Utah Lake (just south of today's Eagle Mountain community), and the Mercur gold mine at the top of Mercur Canyon on the west slope of the Oquirrh Mountains.

Incorporated on July 18, 1894. The majority shareholder was A. A. Noon of Provo, Utah, with 1,000 shares.

From an article in the Salt Lake Mining Review, Volume 1, Number 18, December 30, 1899, pages 5-8:

The following is from Our Pioneer Heritage, Volume 10, by Daughters of Utah Pioneers, pages 184-185:

The Salt Lake & Mercur was a broad gauge mining road built to run between Fairfield, Utah County, and the famous mining town of Mercur. It was one of the roads illustrating the difficulties of railway building in the mountainous districts of the West. The roadbed was almost twice as long as the airline distance between the terminal points, these being Fairfield in Utah County, and Mercur in Tooele County; the distance first mentioned being fourteen miles and the other nine miles. Necessarily the track was crooked and the general view spectacular.

The road owes its beginning and finish to Joseph G. Jacobs, a native of Ohio, who reached Utah in 1890. The line was commenced September 1, 1894, and finished February 20, 1895. It was one of the best paying roads in the country and one of the most altitudinous, its climb from the valley to the heights, being 1986 feet. It was [p.185] dismantled in 1914, after the abandonment of mining operations at Mercur."

Originally the line was intended to bring the ore from the Mercur area three miles south to the Manning Mill. The tracks were soon extended on down the canyon to Fairfield, connecting with the Union Pacific lines. This allowed passengers and equipment to travel by an all-rail route from Salt Lake City via Lehi and Fairfield. Much of the color of the 1890's in Mercur was connected with this one-car railroad.

James W. Nell gives this account of a ride on the Salt Lake and Mercur:

Mercur is reached from Salt Lake via the Union Pacific Railway with one change of cars at Lehi Junction, change again at Fairfield, where the Salt Lake and Mercur Railroad, with a little narrow gauge car on broad gauge track, meets the Union Pacific trains and conveys one to Mercur. This railroad is a wonder to the traveler; the trip over it is well worth the taking even if the mining camp at its western end were no attraction. It is twelve miles long, and I heard an old railroad man say that he would wager big money that in four miles of it one could not find a straight rail! It crosses a divide 1,800 feet above the Fairfield station, reaching this point by a series of curves, loops, twists and turns which fairly make one dizzy, and discounts any of the scenery on the famed Marshall Pass on the D. & R. G. Railway or the Hagerman Pass of the Colorado Midland. The single car is taken over by a diminutive engine of the Shay type, and at every turn the passenger holds his breath for fear this little machine will actually jump over what, to all appearances, is the end of the track. The rails are not yet laid into the town of Mercur proper, but a short drive of one-half mile in a hack fills the gap.'

The following comes from Moody's Manual of Railroads, 1914:

SALT LAKE & MERCUR RR (Independent).— Inc. Aug 17, 1894, in Utah; road completed for operation in Jan, 1895. Line of road: Fairfield to Mercur, Utah, 12.69 miles. Gauge, standard. Equipment: Locomotives, 2; cars, 2.

Receivership.— On Feb 15. 1913, the Utah State Circuit court appointed Lucius Laudie, receiver for the company. On Jan 26, 1914, the receiver stated that the tracks were being torn up, and that the properties were to be sold and the Company dissolved.

Officers: L. L. Nunn, Pres., Provo, Utah; S. A. Bailey, Sec.; W. L. Biersach. Treas.; Lucius Laudie, Receiver & Gen. Mgr.. Salt Lake City. Utah. Directors: G. E. Airis, John Dern, Lucius Laudie, S. A. Bailey, Salt Lake City, Utah; L. L. Nunn, W. L. Biersach, Provo, Utah.

Timeline

July 18, 1894
"Railroad for the Mercur", a line from Fairfield to Mercur, the Salt Lake & Mercur Railroad, filed articles of incorporation, with A. A. Noon of Provo as President, Joseph G. Jacobs of SLC as V. P., and John J. Stewart of SLC as Secretary-Treasurer. (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, July 19, 1894, "yesterday")

July 31, 1894
Daniels and Holdaway began work yesterday on the grade of the Salt Lake & Mercur Railroad, with operations planned to begin by October 1, 1894. (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, July 31, 1894)

August 7, 1894
It appears that the rail and equipment of the Provo 'dummy line' was to have gone to the Salt Lake & Mercur, but the Provo bondholders are objecting, in court, to the removal of the property. (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, August 7, 1894)

August 25, 1894
On Salt Lake & Mercur, grade from Fairfield to the mill, four miles, and graders now on the way to the mine and Mercur; rails are ready to ship from Provo, and a carload of spikes is on the way; ties are piled all along the grade. (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, August 25, 1894)

September 15, 1894
The route of the Salt Lake & Mercur has been changed from the east side of the canyon, where would be much rock work, to the west side, where the grading can be done largely with plow and scraper. (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, September 15, 1894, item lifted from the Mercur "Mercury" newspaper)

September 23, 1894
Salt Lake & Mercur people have gotten tired of waiting for a settlement in the Provo 'dummy' line suit, so have bought rails from the Union Pacific. The Salt Lake & Mercur to have two engines, one a "heavy mountain climber" to be used on the line from the mill to Mercur, and the other a lighter engine to be used on the flatter portion from the mill to Fairfield Station. (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, September 23, 1894, item lifted from the Mercur "Mercury" newspaper)

In November 1895, the bondholders of the Provo Railway, George Q. Cannon and LeGrand Young, sued Salt Lake & Mercur in First District Court for the return of seven miles of rail, or the value of $20,000, plus $1,000 in damages. The suit alleged that the rails were removed and "destroyed" on or about November 1, 1894. (Evening Standard [Provo], November 1, 1895)

September 26, 1894
Two cars of rails left SLC yesterday morning for the Salt Lake & Mercur; they are from the U. P. Wyoming Division, and more will follow. (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, September 26, 1894)

September 29, 1894
"Territorial News." "The Mercur railroad company is purchasing the rails for its road from the Union Pacific company." (Park Record, Park City, September 29, 1894)

October 6, 1894
Tracklaying began on Salt Lake & Mercur; grade ready to a point about three miles from Mercur. (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, October 7, 1894, "tomorrow")

October 13, 1894
"Locomotive for Mercur" "The Mercur Railway people have purchased a Shea locomotive from the Oregon Lumber Company for use on the heavy grade between the mine and the mill. The engine was set up in Salt Lake yesterday, and will start out over the Union Pacific this afternoon." Other Salt Lake & Mercur notes: Carpenters are putting in bridges between the mill and Fairfield; George Green to be first engineer on the road; heavier of the two engines arrived yesterday and will be used in laying track to mill; laying of rail commenced Wednesday morning (October 10, 1894), and was to be done to the mill in a few days. (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, October 13, 1894)

November 15, 1894
The Salt Lake & Mercur is hauling machinery to the mill, but the line is not open to the public yet. Rails continue to be laid towards Mercur. (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, November 15, 1894)

December 1, 1894
Item from the 'Mercury' -- the locomotive is now running two or three miles above the mill, on the Salt Lake & Mercur Railroad. (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, December 1, 1894)

December 22, 1894
In making a deep cut for the Salt Lake & Mercur Railroad through the hill below the Mercur Mine, a vein of ore was struck that turned out to be worth the trouble to mine! (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, December 22, 1894)

January 1, 1895
Camp Floyd area -- Mercur Railroad is almost completed; Col. C. P. Moore began the survey in July of 1894; the Mercur Gold Mining Company's mill is located about mid-point of the line, as also the railroad's boarding house, station, enginehouse, and the like are located halfway between Fairfield and Mercur, as is the Mercur Gold Mining Company's mill. (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, January 1, 1895)

January 18, 1895
Last spike on the Mercur railroad was driven; ore will now be moved at 25 cents per ton, as opposed to the 80 cents per ton that the wagon haulage had cost. (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, January 19, 1895, "yesterday afternoon")

January 19, 1895
"The Mercur Railway." "Last Rail will be Laid This Afternoon." "On Thursday morning one of the engines of the little system pulled a train of cars up to the switch near the Ruby and the engineer saluted the camp with a succession of blasts from his whistle." Thursday was January 17, 1895. (Salt Lake Daily Herald, January 19, 1895)

January 22, 1895
"Mercur Mill now Operating." "Delivery of Ore Commenced on Sunday Afternoon." "At an average cost of about $10,000 per mile, the twelve miles of track which comprise the system of the Mercur & Salt Lake railroad, were completed on Saturday afternoon and the ballasting was finished the following day." Sunday was January 20, 1895; Saturday was January 19, 1895. (Salt Lake Daily Herald, January 22, 1895)

January 26, 1895
An item lifted from the Mercur 'Mercury' -- the SL&M is at last finished, and regular trains running; the engine has some trouble getting two loaded cars around some of the curves on the 4 percent grade, but a new and more powerful engine is to be gotten. It appears that the first 'official' run had been on January 21, 1895, with two cars of ore for the mill at Manning. (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, January 26, 1895)

March 16, 1895
The Salt Lake & Mercur is moving an average of 170 tons of ore per day, plus the other business. Mr. Jacobs informs the 'Mercury' that the company has purchased a passenger coach, and is negotiating for another and larger engine. The road is already making more than the expenses. Tuesday, March 12, 1895 was payday for the 11 men on the roll. (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, March 16, 1895; Park Record, Park City, March 23, 1895)

March 20, 1895
Daniel and Holdaway, grading contractors on the Salt Lake & Mercur, have filed a mechanic's lien against the road for $44,000; President Dern, of Mercur Mining & Milling Co., agrees that there is a balance due to D & H, but as the final estimates and such have not been completed as yet, he is quite surprised by D & H have taken action against the railroad. (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, March 20, 1895; Park Record, Park City, March 30, 1895)

April 13, 1895
Some time ago L. C. Trent & Co, of Salt Lake City, agent for Lima Locomotive Works, received an order from the Salt Lake & Mercur for another Shay, and Trent arranged for it at once with Lima. On April 12, 1895, the railroad received information to the effect that the locomotive was to be shipped during the coming week. The present engine weighs 20 tons; the new one, 28 tons. (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, April 13, 1895)

May 9, 1895
The Salt Lake & Mercur is about to receive another engine. They have already a passenger car (a combine), but need another engine before they can run a regular passenger train, as the present engine has all it can do to move the ore trains and freight business. (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, May 9, 1895)

May 11, 1895
"The Mercer railroad expects to get opened for passenger service sometime next week. The new coach has arrived and the new engine is expected every day." (Park Record, Park City, May 11, 1895)

May 18, 1895
The Mercur 'Mercury' says that on Wednesday May 15, 1895 the S.L.& M. got their new and heavier engine, which will now handle the ore and freight traffic, while the older and lighter engine will be repaired and refurbished to handle the passenger job and other light work. (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, May 18, 1895)

June 7, 1895
The Salt Lake & Mercur began running a passenger train on Tuesday, June 4, 1895. (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, June 7, 1895)

June 15, 1895
"Passenger service on the Salt Lake & Mercur railroad has been inaugurated and the little road promises to be an entire success." (Park Record, Park City, June 15, 1895)

October 1, 1895
"Work on the extension of the Salt Lake & Mercur railway, to carry the terminus around to and beyond the Mattie group, commenced Tuesday (October 1). Manager Jacobs has ordered the ties, of which there are 4,000, from San Pete, and has closed his order with the Colorado Coal & Iron Co. for forty tons of forty-pound steel rails, enough to lay 3,360 feet of track. Mr. Jacobs is in reality ordering more than is necessary to take the line to the Mattie, but explains that the Mattie is not even the proposed terminus, and he doesn't know where the extension will end. - Salt Lake Tribune." (Park Record, Park City, October 5, 1895)

October 6, 1895
Owing to the traffic arising from the Salt Lake & Mercur, the Union Pacific is building a depot at the junction, Fairfield station. (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, October 6, 1895)

December 17, 1895
A new engine and several coaches to be ordered for the Salt Lake & Mercur road; two miles of iron has been relaid with 40 pound steel on the Mercur end of the line. (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, December 17, 1895)

January 1, 1896
The Salt Lake & Mercur has two engines of the Shay pattern, eight ore cars, and one combination passenger car; and recently ordered another engine. (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, January 1, 1896)

May 1, 1896
"The Salt Lake & Mercur road will have its new Shay engine in a few days." (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, May 1, 1896)

May 10, 1896
Jacobs says that the new engine was shipped from Lima on the 5th, and should be here by the 16th. (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, May 10, 1896)

May 19, 1896
"The new Shay engine recently purchased by the Salt Lake & Mercur railroad company is now en route from the East and will soon be doing service on the little road." (Salt Lake Daily Herald, May 19, 1896)

July 8, 1896
"The new Shay engine for the Salt Lake & Mercur road has arrived, and with it in operation the company will be enabled to handle some heavy loads over the steep grades of the road." (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, July 8, 1896)

January 1,1897
Review of 1896: Salt Lake & Mercur added about 1-1/2 miles of track, 'around almost into the town of Mercur', and they added a locomotive, costing $6,000; and a coach, costing $1,000. The depot, at Mercur, moved and added onto. (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, January 1, 1897)

May 11, 1897
The City of Mercur was incorporated. (Our Pioneer Heritage, Vol. 2, p.475)

January 1, 1898
Review of 1897: Salt Lake & Mercur built a 1-1/2 mile branch in 1897. (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, January 1, 1898)

March 6, 1898
One-half page devoted to the new mill of the Golden Gate company at Mercur, which started up "yesterday." (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, March 6, 1898)

March 20, 1898
Reported sale of the Salt Lake & Mercur by Jacobs to 'Chicago parties'; line has three engines and 11 cars. (see item for March 30th, below) (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, March 20, 1898)

March 29, 1898
William Simpson, engineer on Salt Lake & Mercer engine number 3, slipped and fell under rear wheels of the engine. His leg was crushed, and later required amputation above the knee. This is but the second serious injury since the road began operating. (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, March 29, 1898)

March 30, 1898
J. G. Jacobs has returned from Chicago, and says that his railroad, the Salt Lake & Mercer, is NOT sold. (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, March 30, 1898)

July 1, 1898
The Salt Lake & Mercur filed at Provo today, a $300,000 mortgage with the Produce Exchange Trust Company; bonds are 20 year, at 5 percent. The proceeds are to be used for extension, improvement and new equipment. (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, July 1, 1898)

August 16, 1898
The Salt Lake & Mercur depot at Mercur was to be moved 200 feet to the south of its present location, so that the De La Mar company can begin mining operations on the ground upon which it presently sits. (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, August 16, 1898)

November 18, 1898
"The new locomotive some time ago ordered for the Salt Lake & Mercur will be shipped from Lima, O., in a short time." (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, November 18, 1898)

December 20, 1898
The new locomotive for the Salt Lake & Mercur has passed Cheyenne, and should be here today. It is a 40-ton Shay, accompanied by Stephen H. Reed, who will set it up. This will give the Salt Lake & Mercur four engines; two of the others are 28 tons, and the old 'dinkey' is 20 tons. (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, December 20, 1898)

January 1, 1899
Review of 1898: The Salt Lake & Mercur has recently received a new 40-ton locomotive, and one passenger coach. (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, January 1, 1899)

February 19, 1899
"The new yard tracks at Mercur have been completed." (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, February 19, 1899)

April 13, 1899
"Mercur's March Record," their best month yet; "The new locomotive, which is now working like a charm, has afforded much relief,..." (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, April 13, 1899)

June 11, 1899
T. J. Mackintosh has been appointed General Superintendent of Salt Lake & Mercur, effective July 1, 1899. (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, June 11, 1899)

July 25, 1899
"Mercur Broke Record" in that the railroad handled 400 carloads last week, "...remarkable from the fact that the Salt Lake & Mercur has but three locomotives,..." (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, July 25, 1899)

October 1, 1899
The Salt Lake & Mercur "Buys More Equipment," that being a 50-ton Shay locomotive to be delivered April 1, 1900; and six steel ore cars of a capacity of 20 tons with a light weight of the car of 17,000 pounds. The current wooden cars have a capacity of only 15 tons, while the car weighs, light, 22,000 pounds. (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, October 1, 1899)

December 31, 1899
Review of 1899: Salt Lake & Mercur bought new engine and 10 heavy ore cars. (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, December 31, 1899)

March 8, 1900
"Cars for Mercur Ores." "Manager Jacobs of the Salt Lake & Mercur railroad is in receipt of two new steel cars that will be used in the handling of Mercur ores between the mine and the mill, and that will enable him to materially increase the tonnage. Notice from the works indicates that the new locomotive will be on the ground early next month, and with this machine in active service, but little time will be required in sending the output of the bonanza up to 600 tons daily." (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, March 8, 1900)

May 5, 1900
"The new locomotive for the Salt Lake & Mercur railway is on its way to Zion, and is expected early next week. It will greatly relieve the situation on the Mercur line,..." (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, May 5, 1900)

May 12, 1900
"The new locomotive and two additional steel ore cars for the Salt Lake & Mercur railway were rolled into the yards of the Oregon Short Line yesterday morning and will be forwarded to the Mercur company's tracks at Fairfield Junction today. The locomotive consists of a fifty-ton Shay, while the ore cars will handle twenty tons." (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, May 12, 1900)

August 1, 1900
The two largest mining companies at Mercur (Mercur Mines company and Mercur Gold Mining and Milling company) merged to form the Consolidated Mercur Gold Mines company. The Mercur Gold mining company had its mill (built in 1890) at Manning, and the Mercur Mines company had its Golden Gate mill (built in 1898) above Mercur. Both mills were on the rail line of the Salt Lake & Mercur railroad. The merger was announced on May 31, 1900. The sale of De Lamar's Mercur Mines company to Mercur Gold Mining was to finalized at a shareholder's meeting on July 21, 1900. The actual exchange of stock from the Mercur Mines company to the new consolidated company took place on September 6, 1900. (Salt Lake Tribune, June 2, 1900; June 28, 1900; July 21, 1900: September 7, 1900; Salt Lake Herald, December 29, 1901)

December 30, 1900
Review of 1900: The SL&M is shown as having five locomotives. (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, December 30, 1900)

February 1, 1901
"Thomas J. Mackintosh has resigned as general superintendent of the Salt Lake & Mercur and the office is abolished, effective today. General Manager J. G. Jacobs announced yesterday the appointment of W. S. Hall as superintendent of both the Copper Belt road at Bingham and the Salt Lake & Mercur. Mr. Hall's headquarters will be at the general offices of the companies in the McCormick block, this city." Item further comments that Hall "has been general agent of the Mercur road at Mercur ever since it was built." (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, February 1, 1901)

(Read more about the Copper Belt Railroad at Bingham)

June 27, 1902
Large article on Mercur, which burned "yesterday." (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, June 27, 1902)

January 27, 1904
A timecard was published showing train times between Fairfield and Mercur. Depart Fairfield at 9:35 a.m., arrive at Manning at 10:00 a.m., arrive at Summit Junction at 10:30 a.m.; arrive at Mercur at 10:45 a.m. Trains depart Mercur at 2:10 p.m.; arrive at Summit Junction at 2:25 p.m., arrive at Manning at 3:02 p.m., arrive at Fairfield at 3:24 p.m. (Mercur Miner, January 27, 1904)

October 5, 1905
J. G. Jacobs sold "an interest" in the Salt Lake & Mercur railroad to L. L. Nunn and his associates. Jacobs had built the railroad in 1895 and had previously been vice president and general manager of the railroad company, but resigned to "take up other work." Jacobs was to remain as the company's corporate secretary and as a director of the company. L. L. Nunn became the president of the railroad. Nunn and his associates owned the Telluride Power Company, which furnished almost all electrical power in Utah. The new general manager of Salt Lake & Mercur was A. D. Smith, formerly with Telluride Power. (Salt Lake Herald, October 5, 1905; June 26, 1908)

(There were rumors that the "other work" Jacobs was to be involved was as a subcontractor to Utah Construction company's building of the Western Pacific railroad between Salt Lake City and Oakland.)

The mining company at Mercur, known as Mercur Mines company, was Telluride's second and largest customer in Utah, with Telluride having built its Olmstead hydroelectric plant in late 1897 at the mouth of Provo canyon to furnish electric power to Mercur Mines' Golden Gate mill. Nunn's purchase of the railroad was in response to the mining company deciding to build it own power plant to reduce its own costs. The railroad was the sole connection for rail service to Mercur, and Nunn bought the railroad and raised freight rates to make up for the lost revenue. (The Power To Make Good Things Happen, by John S. McCormick, 1990, page 47-48)

(On November 22, 1912, L. L. Nunn sold his Telluride Power company to the newly formed Utah Power & Light company, a subsidiary of the large national electric power holding company Electric Bond and Share Company, which itself was controlled General Electric. Included in the sale were Telluride's five power plants that served parts of southeastern Idaho, northern Utah and western Colorado. Telluride furnished all electric power to the large mining camps of Bingham, Tintic and Park City, as well as Mercur. -- The Power To Make Good Things Happen, by John S. McCormick, 1990, page 54)

(On January 16, 1919, a later Telluride Power Company used the same name when it was organized, also by L. L. Nunn as a consolidation of Beaver River Power & Light and Southern Utah Power company. The new company had nine generating stations throughout central and southern Utah, and 250 miles of electrical distribution lines. Utah Power & Light also bought this Telluride Power company, on May 1, 1958. -- Beaver Weekly Press, January 17, 1919; Garfield County News, January 30, 1958; The Power To Make Good Things Happen, by John S. McCormick, 1990, page 124)

December 19, 1912
The state board of equalization assigned a value of $43,485 to the Salt Lake & Mercur Railroad. (Logan Republican, December 19, 1912)

February 17, 1913
Lucius Laudie was appointed receiver for Salt Lake & Mercur Railroad, the the authority of the District Court, in the case of A. Reeves vs. Salt Lake & Mercur Railroad. (Salt Lake Tribune, February 18, 1913)

March 30, 1913
"The End of Con-Mercur", article about the shut down of Consolidated Mercur mine at Mercur. The company was organized in July 1900. The mine and mill closed on March 30, 1913. (Salt Lake Mining Review, Volume 15, number 1, April 15, 1913, p.26)

April 22, 1913
The last public train departed Mercur bound for Salt Lake City. No more tickets for public travel between Fairfield and Mercur were to be sold. "At noon tomorrow Mercur's last train will leave the city never to return. In its wake will be towed the three passenger coaches with plush seats, et cetera, and the eleven freight cars. This equipment will be sent to Salt Lake." (Los Angeles Times, April 21, 1913)

June 27, 1913
The state board of equalization assigned a value of $26,731 to the Salt Lake & Mercur Railroad. (Salt Lake Tribune, June 28, 1913)

October 18, 1913
Last day of Salt Lake & Mercur operations. Railroad was 14.38 miles long. (Unpublished manuscript detailing the life of L. L. Nunn; manuscript in possession of Grand Pendleton, Utah Power & Light, research completed in March 1982 during a visit to the UP&L archives in Salt Lake City.)

November 18, 1913 - December 7, 1913
A public notification of a "Receiver's Sale" was published daily in local newspapers, detailing the items being sold by the receiver, including rail and two Shay locomotives.

February 15, 1914
"Salt Lake, Utah, Feb. 15 -- The last carload of rails from what was once the Salt Lake & Mercur railroad, was brought to Salt Lake last week. A few carloads of ties are buried in the vicinity of the abandoned town of Mercur under about three feet of snow, but there is no longer any railroad to the town." (Ogden Standard, February 16, 1914)

April 22 and 26, 1914
A public notification of the availability and potential sale of several miles of rail in "first class condition" and still in place, being all that remained of the Salt Lake & Mercur railroad. (Salt Lake Tribune, April 22 and 26, 1914)

Engineering News Article

ENGINEERING NEWS, Volume 36, Number 1, July 2, 1896:

THE SALT LAKE & MERCUR RAILROAD.

By W. P. Hardesty, C. E.

The Salt Lake & Mercur Railroad is a standard-gage mountain road, for giving the Mercur mining camp connection with the railway system of Utah. This camp is situated in Camp Floyd Mining District, in the Oquirrh Mountains, and near the center of the State. This district has, within the past two or three years, attracted a great deal of attention, on account of the discovery and working of enormous bodies of gold-bearing ore, so that within the past few months it has been enjoying a veritable western mining boom. The gold found is not free-milling, not the usual "quartz" gold, but is in a form that requires the application of the cyanide process to secure it. The town of Mercur is the site of the first developments of the gold mines and is the commercial center of the district. It lies just over the divide, and on the west side of the Oquirrh range, which divides Tooele County on the west from Utah County on the east.

The Tintic branch of the Union Pacific Ry. traverses Cedar Valley on the east side of the range, and from the station of Fairfield, which is 49 miles from Salt Lake City, the Salt Lake & Mercur R. R. is built to the Mercur Camp.

The Oquirrh main range, though not high, is difficult to surmount on account of its slopes rising abruptly to its narrow summit, it having no considerable mountain streams with their canons, and it is entirely different in these respects from the Wasatch range of mountains.

From Fairfield to Mercur the distance in an air line is 6 miles. The Salt Lake & Mercur R. R. Company was organized to build this road. Col. Chas. D. Moore, who has had an extensive experience on the location and construction of western railways, was selected as chief engineer, and work commenced in July, 1894.

A large gulch comes down from Mercur divide on the east side of the range and opens out into Cedar Valley, directly opposite Fairfield station. Up the general line of this gulch the road is located. From Fairfield to the mouth of the gulch the distance to 4-1/4 miles by the line. The road is fairly straight and direct from this portion, and an average ascending grade of 3.75% is used, with a maximum of 4.2%. Then the development begins.

Here at the mouth of the gulch are located the shops of the Salt Lake & Mercur R. R., and also the Mercur mill, for reducing the ores of the famous Mercur mine. The station here is called Manning. From Fairfield to Manning the rise is 844 ft.; from Manning to the summit the rise is 1,142 ft. more, in a direct line of less than 2 miles, and by the railway of 5-1/3 miles.

The total elevation overcome from Fairfield to the summit (called Mercur divide) is 1,986 ft., the length of line 9.58 miles in a direct distance of less than 5-1/2 miles. The maximum grade used is 4.2%, and the maximum curvature 42°, the grade being equated for curves at the rate of .02% per degree. Six of these sharp curves (having a radius of 146.2 ft.) are used for loops, and many 40° and less are used.

The line is continuous, no switch-backs being used, lighter curves would have been used but for considerations of economy. The map and views show the alignment and the nature of the country very well.

The excavation and embankment are comparatively light for such work. The work is mostly in earth, with a good percentage of loose and solid rock for part of the line. The largest cut, about 1,000 ft. long, contained 30,000 cubic yards. The total cost of grading was about $30,000.

There are four 45-ft. culverts for crossing main gulches. But little trouble with either wash-outs or snow has been experienced in the operation of the line. Standard ties are used throughout. 35-lb. second-hand rails were put down. These are to be replaced on the east side of the summit during the summer of 1896 by new 52-lb. rails, the old ones being used for the extension and switches on the west side.

The rails were elevated on curves for a speed of 12 miles per hour. The gage was not widened on curves, Col. Moore deeming it a disadvantage to do so under the conditions here, and of little benefit in any case.

The railway cost, fully equipped, about $75,000. Shay geared locomotives are used, it of course being impracticable to use ordinary mountain engines on such a road. There are one 18-ton and two 28-ton Shay locomotives in the service, the former being geared 3 to 1 and the latter 2 to 1. Each locomotive has three cylinders or engines and eight driving wheels. The large ones weigh 32 to 33 tons when coaled and watered.

They cost about $6,000 each at the works, at Akron, O. These engines do their work well, but are difficult and expensive to keep in good repair. The valve gears of the three cylinders are found hard to adjust for proper cut-off (on account of wear) to avoid working against each other. The wheel base of the small engines is 47 ins., of the large ones 52 ins.

The ore cars used by the road are 30 ft. long, weigh 20,000 to 21,000 lbs., and have a rated capacity of 15 tons, though 18 to 20 tons are often carried. The 34-ft. box cars of the Union Pacific Ry. are hauled over the line with no trouble at all. At one time a 46-ft. furniture car was also taken up to Mercur. It is found that any wheel base of over about 6 ft. 8 ins. gives trouble. The sharp curves, unless reversed, do not seem to affect train motion to any appreciable extent. The ability of the cars to stick to the track seems to depend mostly on their ease of swiveling on their trucks.

At one time a car got loose and ran for three miles, presumably at 40 or more miles per hour, before being ditched by a broken rail. At another time one got loose and was derailed by the workmen--hurrying down the hill-side and placing a tie across the track, catching the car in its return down a loop.

For down trips an air pressure of 20 lbs. is kept on the drivers of the engine, and is applied to the cars only for stops. All cars are equipped with Westinghouse air brakes and with hand brakes. The water brake is not used with the Shay engines, as it is thought that there would be a possible danger of their cogs stripping if it were. Chilled steel brake-shoes are used and are worn out very fast.

On up trips two passenger coaches or three box cars is counted a fair load, while seven empty ore cars are taken up at one trip. Mercur station is located nearly one mile further and 132 ft. lower than the summit, being 10-1/2 miles from Fairfield. The depot is 253 ft. higher than the center of the town, which lies in the bottom of Lewiston Canyon. An extension of the road is now being built that will get down into the town on a comparatively easy grade, with a distance of about two miles. This requires extensive development, and two switch-backs are also used. The grade on the west side of the summit is all 2.4% descending, except one level portion of 500 ft.

The operation of this road has proved very profitable, and has fully justified the enterprise of the projectors. An average of 200 tons of ore per day are carried from the Mercur mine to the . Mercur mill at Manning, at a contract rate of 35 cents per ton. With a number of other mines that have about begun shipping, the revenues from these sources may greatly increase. A considerable business is also done carrying miscellaneous freight and passengers, high rates being charged. The road has been in operation since January 20, 1895.

The only other road of any importance in Utah that exceeds the Mercur road in heaviness of grades is the Utah Central, running from Salt Lake City to Park City, distant 31.0 miles. This, road has 6% and 6-1/2% grades for considerable of its length, and one very short strip of 7-1/4%; while 4% and 5% grades are very common.

It has three switch-backs, however, and moreover is exceedingly difficult and expensive to operate, both on account of the heavy grades and because of snow, being located on the wrong side of the valley it traverses. It is a narrow-gage road, with maximum curvature of about 20°. It runs over the Wasatch Mountains, following up the valleys of Parley's Creek and its forks.

By a proper location, using more distance, the grade could have been kept down to 4%. giving a line with better ground for construction as well as much more freedom from snow.

The summit of the divide crossed by this road (19 miles from Salt Lake City) is 7,040 ft. above sea-level, that of the Mercur divide being nearly as high. The Utah Central road, with an engine weighing 40 tons without tender and something like 60 tons with tender full, can haul up ten empty flat cars at one trip, these weighing 6-1/2 to 7 tons apiece.

The great expense of operating this direct connection between Salt Lake City and Park City, is compensated for by the fact that its only competing line, the Union Pacific, runs by way off Ogden and requires about three times the distance for the same connection.

The Alta branch of the Rio Grande Western Ry., running from Bingham Junction to Wasatch,, Utah, has about one mile of 5% grade.

This road is about 8 miles long, and is operated only during the summer season, though it is not troubled with snow.

Deseret News Article

From Deseret News, November 25, 1913:

MERCUR ROAD IS THING OF PAST

Rails, Ties and Rolling Stock Are Being Removed to Salt Lake.

HAS INTERESTING HISTORY.

Romance of Other Utah Railways In Days Gone By

Reconstruction Of One

Receiver Lucius Laudie of Salt Lake & Mercur railroad, is taking up the rails and ties of the Salt Lake & Mercur road, removing them with the motive power and rolling stock to Salt Lake where they are being disposed of at private sale. Mr. Laudie said today, that he was receiving satisfactory prices for the equipment. The occasion of the discontinuance of this once noted line is the failure of Mercur mines to produce sufficient business to pay for operating the road. The Salt Lake & Mercur road was built in 1894, from Fairfield on the Salt Lake Route across the mountain range to Mercur camp, 12 miles of corkscrew curves and scenic surprises, thus affording through rail connection with the outside world. Mercur is southwest from Salt Lake City, 62 miles. The promoter, builder and manager was J. G. Jacobs of this city, formerly of Ohio. The road was planned by him, in 1894. Others had hesitated at the formidable array of difficulties, but Mr. Jacobs had faith in his plan, and in the face of adverse surroundings and with little capital, for it was very difficult to raise the needed money, construction was begun in January, 1895, reaching the camp in the summer of 1896. All told, with side tracks and spurs, the total length of track was 14 38-100 miles, with a maximum grade of 4% per cent. The Third district court of this state appointed a receiver for the road last February, when business had fallen off so that the road was no longer profitable, when the Consolidated Mercur mine closed down, late in the summer, the machinery was hauled away, over the Salt Lake Mercur road, and shortly thereafter the receiver began removing the rails, and ties, and various other properties of the road.

Locomotives

Salt Lake & Mercur Locomotives -- Roster listings of the Shay locomotives used by Salt Lake & Mercur Railroad.

More Information

Corporate information -- Information about the corporate organization of Salt Lake & Mercur Railroad.

Joseph G. Jacobs -- Information about J. G. Jacobs, builder of three railroads that used Shay locomotives: Salt Lake & Mercur; Copper Belt; Salt Lake & Alta

Copper Belt Railroad -- Information about another of J. G. Jacobs Shay-operated railroads in Utah.

Salt Lake & Alta Railroad -- Information about another of J. G. Jacobs Shay-operated railroads in Utah.

Stephen Carr included three pages on the Salt Lake & Mercur in his book, Utah Ghost Rails (Western Epics, 1989), including five photos and a map.

There have been several articles about the Mercur mine and mill itself:

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