St. John & Ophir Railroad (1912-1938)
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The St. John and Ophir Railroad was a standard gauge railroad completed between the Union Pacific at St. John, south of Stockton, and the silver mines in Ophir along the western slope of the Oquirrh Mountains.
Extensions to the Union Pacific system in Utah include the St. John and Ophir Railroad, a short line built to connect the mines at Ophir with the main track at St. John in Tooele County. It was incorporated March 5, 1912, for $150,000, and immediately constructed. The company was dissolved on January 15, 1938, and the line apparently abandoned. (The History and Economics of Utah's Railroads, by David F. Johnson)
It was during the excitement produced by the very rich developments made on the Emma and other mines of Little Cottonwood, that "horn," or chloride silver ores, of a very rich character, were discovered in East Canyon--now known as Ophir District. The first location in this district was made on the 23d of August, 1870, and was named Silveropolis. This location was soon followed by many others of a similar kind of mineral, all proving, at the surface, to be very rich--such as the Tarnpico, Mountain Lion, Mountain Tiger, Petaluma, Zella, Silver Chief, Defiance, Virginia, Monarch, Blue Wing, and many others, with promising prospects. All were found on what is known as Lion and Tiger Hills, immediately south of Ophir City; and the ores (unlike those of Cottonwood) are adapted to the mill treatment alone. (Rocky Mountain Saints, by T. B. H. Stenhouse, 1872, page 715)
There were silver claims in the Ophir district, including the Mountain Lion, the Petalume, the Silver Chief, the Tampico, and the Blue Wing. The first claim in the Ophir district was filed on August 23, 1870, as the Silveropities. Ophir also had the distinction of being the location of the first stamp mill in the Territory, when the Walker Brothers located their 15-stamp Pioneer Mill at Ophir in June 1871, processing about 30 tons of ore per day. (Tooele County, pp. 343, 362, 376; Bliss, p. 176)
August 9, 1877
Oquirrh Railway was organized to build, own and operate a railway from near the head of Dry Canyon in Tooele County to a junction with the Utah Western Railway at or near the Basin Ranch in said county, together with a branch running from a convenient point on said railway near the mouth of Dry Canyon to a point in East Canyon near Ophir City, a total length of about 20 miles. (Utah corporation 4302)
The Pioneer quartz-mill of 15 stamps, for the reduction of silver ore, the first one in Utah, was built by Walker Bros, at the Ophir mining district. When that district was considered a failure the mill was removed to the Alice mine in Montana, five stamps being added, and a 60-stamp mill erected by its side. Nevertheless, at the close of 1883 there were three mills in this district, named the Pioneer, Enterprise, and Fairview. At this date (1883) the Ontario mill, at Park City, Uintah district, had 40 stamps, and the Marsac mill at the same city, 30 stamps. Among others may be mentioned the McHenry mill at Parley Park, the Stewart mills in the West Mountain district, and one belonging to the Tintic Mining and Milling Co., the last with 10 stamps. (History of Utah, 1540-1886, by Herbert H. Bancroft, 1889, page 749; see also Walker's Merchants and Miners of Utah)
Article about Stockton District. Ophir Hill mine was shipping ore to Terminus on the Oregon Short Line, twelve miles away. The mine was owned by W. A. Clark. (Salt Lake Mining Review, Volume 3, number 10, August 30, 1901, p.13)
Article about Ophir and Stockton, with photographs. (Salt Lake Mining Review, Volume 9, number 11, September 15, 1907, p.19)
March 12, 1912
St. John & Ophir Railroad was organized to construct, equip, own, control, maintain and operate by steam or electric power a line of railroad from a point of connection with the San Pedro, Los Angeles & Salt Lake Railroad at St. John Station, then east to the Town of Ophir, a distance of about 10 miles. (Utah corporation 9449)
"Railroad Day at Ophir", article about the completion of the St. John & Ophir Railroad, with photographs. Railroad was 8.6 miles long. Grading began on March 15, 1912 and the railroad was completed on July 24, 1912. Grades varied between two and seven percent. The first four miles used 52-pound rail, with the remainder using 60-pound rail. The railroad used fourteen degree curves. The railroad owned one locomotive and one combination baggage coach. The railroad was owned by W. A. Clark, who also owned the Ophir Hill Consolidated mine. (Salt Lake Mining Review, Volume 14, number 9, August 15, 1912, pp.11-15)
July 7, 1922
The federal ICC approved a deficit settlement for the period that St. John & Ophir was under federal USRA control. (ICC Finance Docket 214, approved July 7, 1922, in 72 ICC 121)
- Under federal control from January 1, 1918 to June 26, 1918.
- 8.56 miles
Article about the closing of the Ophir Hill Consolidated mine "at the end of the month." (Salt Lake Mining Review, Volume 27, number 16, November 30, 1925, p.14)
St John & Ophir, Valuation Docket 11. (108 ICC 774)
- Connected St. John, Utah (on Los Angeles & Salt Lake Railroad), with Ophir Consolidated Mining Company mine at Ophir, Utah, a distance of 8.5 miles.
- Station at St. John is owned by LA&SL and used jointly by way of rental fees from St. John & Ophir Railroad.
- Maximum grade of 7 percent, and curves of 14 degrees.
- Constructed by Utah Construction Company; construction commenced about March 2, 1912, and railroad placed in operation on July 18, 1912.
- Financed by William A. Clark, who also built and owned the San Pedro, Los Angeles & Salt Lake Railroad, later renamed Los Angeles & Salt Lake Railroad.
- Two steam locomotives, Shay type, valued at $22,601.88; one passenger car valued at $1,805.00.
October 26, 1928
ICC approved the abandonment of the St. John & Ophir Railroad, which connected with LA&SL at St. John. (ICC Financial Docket 7108, in 145 ICC 611)
- Constructed during summer of 1912 for the purpose of transporting lead-silver ores mined in Ophir Canyon.
- Ores gradually depleted during period of 1923-1928; only the Ophir Consolidated Mining Company was producing ores.
- Ophir Con ceased operation in December 1925.
- Operation of railroad ceased in 1926.
- 581 carloads during 1923, including 541 carloads of ore
- 41 carloads during 1927, including 28 carloads of ore
- The only residents of St. John, Utah (connection with LA&SL), were the company's section crew and its station agent.
- Practically all mining activity ceased in August 1928.
- Starting in 1921, Ophir Consolidated Mining Company made several loans to the railroad, totaling $63,500.00 by 1928. These loans were to defray operating costs.
- Total number of passengers were: 35 in 1923; 33 in 1924; 13 in 1925; 6 in 1926; and 4 in 1927.
December 10, 1928
Utah Public Utilities Commission approved abandonment of St. John & Ophir Railroad. (Utah PUC Case 1076)
- In addition to above information submitted in support of the ICC abandonment case, the following was presented.
- The mines served stopped being productive in 1919 and the operation of the railroad was at a loss.
- Annual loss since 1922 was approximately $22,000.00 per year, with the total loss since 1918 being $192,241.58.
Description of railroad from 1929 Poor's Railroad Manual:
- 8.92 miles (8.56 miles main track, 0.36 mile side track)
- two locomotives
- One combination car
January 10, 1938
St. John & Ophir Railroad was dissolved by Utah's Third District Court.
St.J. & O
|StJ&O 1||Three-truck, 85-Ton, Climax||Climax||1159||1912||(new)||c. 1940||1|
|StJ&O 2||Three-truck, 90-Ton, Climax||Climax||1189||1912||1919||2|
- St. John & Ophir Railroad was completed in August 1912; operation ceased in 1926 and railroad abandoned in 1928.
- St. John & Ophir 1 had 36-inch drivers and 15-1/2x16 inch cylinders, and weighed 170,000 pounds. (source not recorded)
- St. John & Ophir 2 had 36-inch drivers and 16x16 inch cylinders, and weighed 180,000 pounds. (source not recorded)
- St. John & Ophir 2 was transferred from Clark's Verde Tunnel & Smelter Railroad at Jerome in central Arizona. The VT&S line was also owned by William A. Clark and ran between the United Verde mine at Jerome and the smelter at Clarksdale. Clark had purchased the United Verde mine in 1888 and it became the source of his wealth; the mine and railroad shut down in 1920. (Verde.org) (broken link)
- Additional information about Climax locomotives and Climax Manufacturing Company is available at Climax Locomotives.com.
- Built as St. John & Ophir Railroad 1; scrapped in about 1940. (source at Climax Locomotives.com)
- Built as Verde Tunnel & Smelter Railroad No. 1, Jerome, Arizona; to St. John & Ophir Railroad 2 in 1919; further disposition unknown. (source at Climax Locomotives.com)