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ParsonMcKee & Tintic Southern Rail Road

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This page was last updated on March 5, 2013.

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Overview

ParsonMcKee & Tintic Southern Rail Road is a shortline railroad with plans to operate over the former D&RGW Tintic Branch (later known as UP's Tintic Industrial Lead).

Two rare Alco switchers have been saved from the scrapper's torch.

They are the two locomotives stored for over 10 years at the defunct U. S. Steel coal washing plant near Wellington, Utah. The locomotives were both built for U. S. Steel: USS 1 is an Alco S-6 built in 1957, spending its entire service life at the Wellington wash plant. USS 1217 is an Alco SSB-9, the cab unit of a unique cow-calf set built in 1956 for U. S. Steel's Oliver Iron Mining operation in Minnesota. The 1217 came to Utah in about 1981 when U. S. Steel closed the Oliver Iron operations.

U. S. Steel closed the Wellington plant in 1984 when they also shut down their nearby coal mine, along with their Carbon County Railway subsidiary. U. S. Steel sold their coal mine and coal washing plant to Kaiser Coal in 1985, and Kaiser continued to operate both until 1989, when they sold the Wellington facility to Castle Valley Resources as a loadout location for their Genwal Mine in Crandall Canyon.

Both Alco locomotives are now owned by Ophir Minerals and Mining Group. Ophir's president, Al McKee, had noticed the two locomotives sitting at the Wellington location in about 2002. The locomotives were owned by NEICO (Nevada Electric Investment Company), parent company to Nevada Power. Mr. McKee had done some work for Nevada Power at their Reid Gardner coal-fired power plant at Moapa, Nev., and some contacts within Nevada Power. He contacted them in January 2007 about buying the two Wellington locomotives and was told that the locomotives could not be moved over UP tracks because they had solid bearings (also known as friction bearings), instead of the needed roller bearings. McKee wanted the locomotives to switch rail cars at his Ophir Mineral and Mining facilities at Flux, Utah, where they load salt into rail cars, and at Wendover where they load gypsum for use as a soil amendment.

Ophir purchased both locomotives in May 2007. Union Pacific agreed to move the former USS 1217 to Flux, but only after a very extensive inspection. Ophir planned on repairing and repainting the 1217 upon its arrival at Flux. UP would not approve the movement of the old USS 1, so Ophir plans to move it by flatbed truck to Payson where they will repair and repaint it for use at their Keigley facility at the former Geneva Steel Keigley quarry west of Santaquin on UP's ex D&RGW  Eureka Branch. At Keigley, Ophir loads limestone (calcium carbonate) into rail cars, and will use the former USS 1at that location. After loading the cars at Keigley, Ophir will move them to over UP's former D&RGW Tintic Branch to a connection with UP's mainline at Springville.

Ophir Mining and Minerals mines and loads salt, food-grade calcium carbonate, flux-grade silica, high-grade silica, Gilsonite, Halloysite, Perlite, Dolomite, gypsum, and all types of concrete aggregates. Ophir is part of the rapidly expanding McFarland & Hullinger/Broken Arrow, a trucking, construction, and mining company headquartered in Tooele, Utah. McFarland & Hullinger started out in the construction business about 70 years ago. They grew beyond their construction and excavating roots in 1972 when they organized Broken Arrow , Inc., to expand into the environmental disposal business just getting started in western Tooele County, centered around Clive, a rail station on Western Pacific.

From the D&RGW section of a history of the Tintic District, on this web page:

OSL&UN had the Tintic district all to itself until early 1892, when the standard gauge Tintic Range Railway was completed to Eureka from the east. The new line was organized in May 1891 by Rio Grande Western interests to tap into the mineral traffic coming out of Tintic, less than two years after RGW was reorganized as an independent from the Colorado interests that had controlled the original narrow gauge D&RGW road. RGW converted all of its lines in Utah from narrow gauge to standard gauge by late 1890, and wanted to solidify its independence by directly competing with Union Pacific, and its local subsidiaries. The new RGW line to Tintic connected with RGW's mainline south of Provo at Springville, and its 39 miles of new trackage was built across the south end of the Utah Valley to Eureka, crossing over a summit of 6,567 feet just east of Eureka. The new line reached Eureka first, then within a year, continued another four miles to Mammoth and Silver City, south and west around the slopes of Eureka Peak that overshadowed the entire district. A notable feature of the Tintic Range Railway was the loop completed to ease the climb up Pinyon Canyon. Many Rio Grande travel brochures carried the dramatic view of several trains on the "Double Circle" loop, which crossed over itself like the more famous Tehachapi Loop in California. With new competition in transportation, even the marginal mines, which were most of the mines in the district, could now play the two railroad companies against each other.

Tintic Range Railway's stock was completely controlled by the Rio Grande Western Railway, who then leased the line to itself for operation in April 1892. In May 1892 the Rio Grande Western decided to extend the Tintic Range Railway into the Deep Creek Mining District on the border of Utah and Nevada, and began building grade south of Silver City, past the old smelter site at Tintic Mill to a point near what is now called Jericho. Rio Grande Western then proposed to cross Cherry Creek Summit and enter the Deep Creek country on the border between Utah and Nevada territories by way of route of the old Pony Express through Fish Springs. RGW's interest in Nevada was based largely on Union Pacific's rumored interest in the same region, but UP's financial problems in 1893 brought an end to any expansion plans. RGW also lost interest, and nothing more was done other than the partial completion of the grade in spots along the proposed route.

Although independent since 1889, by 1900, Rio Grande Western was under the control of George Gould, son of the 1880s robber baron Jay Gould. Through his control of Denver & Rio Grande, Gould hoped to go head to head competing with Harriman for control of railroad traffic in the West. In 1908, Gould brought Rio Grande Western in Utah and Denver & Rio Grande in Colorado, back together again. As part of a system wide reorganization, on July 31, 1908, the Rio Grande Western-controlled Tintic Range Railway was included in a consolidation of all D&RG and RGW lines and branches in Utah and Colorado that formed the new Denver & Rio Grande Railroad. The Tintic Range Railway became D&RG's Tintic Branch.

Rio Grande's "Double Circle" loop in Pinyon Canyon was constructed along with the rest of D&RGW's Tintic Branch in 1892. In early 1940, the trestle by which the line crossed over itself, caught fire during a range fire in the canyon, thereby forcing D&RGW to either rebuild it, or build a new line around it. The road chose to rebuild the portion of the line in Pinyon Canyon, removing the trestle and bridge entirely. The new line increased the climb in the canyon from an already steep 3 percent, to a steeper 4 percent. Motive power for the branch was changed from the previous 2-8-0 locomotives then in service, to more powerful articulated 2-6-6-0 motive power in the 3300 and 3400 series.

Sam Bass wrote in an email on January 1, 2006:

About the destruction of the Double Circle Trestle; I have a copy of an article from Trains Magazine on the railroads in the Tintic (ed. note: December 1941 issue).  It includes a photo looking downgrade towards the trestle.  It was taken from beside the grade of the new line that bypassed the loop.  The trestle is still complete, no evidence of fire damage.  It is my belief that the loop and trestle were eliminated in order that the D&RG could use heavier locomotives (the Mallets) instead of having to doublehead the smaller 2-8-0s. 

While UP had abandoned operation of its Tintic branches by the late 1970s, the former D&RGW Tintic Branch remained in place as of mid 2004. D&RGW's Tintic Branch was cut back from Silver City to Eureka in 1943. The agent was removed from the Eureka depot in September 1961, but the agency had been closed by special permission since January 1961, after the last shipping mine was closed in December 1960. Although other mines may have begun shipping ore at some later time, the 1961 application showed that the last train operated out of Eureka on December 29, 1960. At some time between May 1966 and June 1967, the time period between D&RGW Utah Division timetables No. 6 and No. 7, Rio Grande's Tintic Branch was changed from ending at Eureka, to end at the Iron King mine on the former Goshen Valley Railroad. The Goshen Valley Branch had originally consisted of two lines; one from its connection to the Tintic Branch at Pearl Junction to the Iron King mine, and another from Dividend Junction on the line to Iron King, to the Dividend mine.

This change in 1966-1967 eliminated the line to Dividend (the Dividend mine had closed in 1949), and changed the Tintic Branch to end at the Iron King mine (new mile post 33.8), instead of extending all the way to Eureka (old mile post 39.1).

In 1958, Kennecott Copper opened a lead-zinc-silver mine at Burgin, very near the old Iron King mine, making this the end of the branch, at mile post 32.4.

In the late 1987 timeframe, D&RGW continued to provide service along its Tintic Branch, using Train 665 to designate the train itself. The dolomite mine at Keigley was dormant after U.S. Steel's closing of its Geneva Works, but would soon reopen to supply material after the steel mill reopened under new management.

In May 2002 as part of a larger purchase of 62.77 miles of Union Pacific trackage in Utah, the 16 miles of the Tintic Industrial Lead (D&RGW's Tintic Branch, also known as The Elberta Line) was sold to Utah Transit Authority for future light rail construction. UP retained surface operation rights to continue common carrier serivice.

While the tracks remain in place in mid 2004, after 1985, D&RGW, and now UP after its control of D&RGW in 1996, only operated trains as far as the limestone quarry at Keigley (mile post 16.0), until Geneva Steel closed in 2001, taking away the need for limestone. Occasional traffic is still generated by the LDS Church's grain elevator at Elberta, at mile post 25.1.

On September 14, 2007, Union Pacific as successor to D&RGW, applied to abandon its Tintic Industrial Lead. The application was approved and took effect on January 2, 2008. As late as February 2009, the line was still being used to store surplus rail cars.

Timeline

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Locomotives

Road
Number
Previous
Number
Builder
Model
Builder
Number
Builder
Date
Notes
NEICO 1 USSX 1 Alco S-6 82303 Sep 1957 1
NEICO 002 USSX 002 Alco SSB-9 81817 Oct 1956 2

General Notes:

a. USSX 1 was built for Columbia Geneva Steel. (The Diesel Shop, Alco S-5, S-6, and SSB-9 Rosters) (see also Extra 2200 South, March-April 1972, page 18)
b. In September 2001, USSX 1 was seen to have the number "1" in its number boards, with USSX and the number "1" visible under the paint. The unit also had a metal plate saying, "Property of Columbia Geneva Steel Div Geneva Mine 31-39". (information from Norm Metcalf via email on February 19, 2007)
c. USSX 002 was built as Oliver Iron Mining (OIMX) 1217 as the 'A' cab part of a two unit cab-and-booster set, with the 'B' booster part having been scrapped. (see also The Diesel Shop, Alco S-5, S-6, and SSB-9 Rosters, with a photo of OIMX 1217) (Oliver Iron Mining became U. S. Steel's Minntac operations in ??)
d. Both units were still there by September 1994, as Castle Valley Resources. (Locomotive Notes II, Number 182, December 1994, page 12)
e. Both units were owned by Coalplex International by August 1995. (Locomotive Notes II, Number 186, August 1995, page 16)

Notes:

1. NEICO 1 was sold to Ophir Mining & Minerals in May 2007; with plans to use it on a new shortline railroad planned to operate over UP's former D&RGW Tintic Branch, which UP calls its Tintic Industrial Lead. The new road hopes to serve the Keigley limestone quarry at Santaquin.
2. NEICO 002 was sold to Ophir Mining & Minerals in May 2007; with plans to use it on a new shortline railroad planned to operate over UP's former D&RGW Tintic Branch, which UP calls its Tintic Industrial Lead. The new road hopes to serve the Keigley limestone quarry at Santaquin. The unit, with its original 1217 number still visible, was seen in May 2007 at the dolomite facility at Flux, on UP's Ellerbeck Branch south of Great Salt Lake.

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