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Utah Southern Railroad (of 2006)

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This page was last updated on February 19, 2016.

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Overview

Utah Southern Railroad (USRC) was a shortline railroad operating over the Comstock Subdivision of Union Pacific's Cedar City Branch, between the re-opened iron mines at Iron Mountain, and UP's Cedar City Branch at Iron Springs, Utah. Rail access to the nation's railroad network is provided via UP's Cedar City Branch between Cedar City and the Salt Lake City-to-Los Angeles mainline at Lund, Utah.

In September 2006, Palladon Iron Corporation made a lease of the former Union Pacific Comstock Subdivision. Rail service was contracted by Palladon to a new company called Iron Bull Railroad, but the name was changed to Utah Southern Railroad in September 2008. The two locomotives were delivered in October 2008, and the first test train was operated a week later.

USR is approximately 14.5 miles long. The first 11.0 miles is laid with 133-pound jointed rail with approximately 6,000 concrete ties on the upper seven curves. CML Metals, operator of the mine has ordered 150 Rapid Discharge hopper cars that I inspected about 2 weeks ago in Kentucky. The first 75 cars should be here around July 5-6. Loads will go to the Port of Richmond via Las Vegas. Presently, two ex UP SD40-2 locomotives will handle the loads down the 3 miles of 2.5/3.0 per cent grade until it levels out to 1.5 per cent. This will be done in 3 cuts of 25 cars each. Railroad is in good shape, but will require constant tie work as many ties are from 1935 when most of the track was constructed. There are two open deck trestles near MP 9. Two trains per week. There is no legal access to the loading area as it is Federal Mine Safety rules. Dirt access road follows the tracks. Locomotives are generally kept at Iron Springs because that's where the interchange is. Mine operations are not real exciting. They blast a big area, separate the waste and haul the ore to the crusher. We pull the cut of cars under the new tipple, spot on the scale and then approximately 105 tons of iron ore falls into the car. (Mike Root, Trainorders.com, June 20, 2010)

First Utah Southern train, in the form of a test train of 25 empty cars, was run on Friday October 17, 2008.

Mine development stopped in late 2008 due to financial problems following the world-wide economic collapse. The mining company was reorganized in March 2010, and mine development resumed. Formal production from the mine began in June 2010, and the first shipment was on July 12, 2010.

Operations by Utah Southern ended in late 2011 due to a contract dispute and the locomotives were sold to Western Rail Industries, Spokane, Washington.

Timeline

August 22, 2006
Palladon Iron Corporation's lease of Union Pacific's Comstock Subdivision went into effect. Palladon organized the PIC Railroad LLC to operated the line. On the same day, PIC Railroad assigned the lease to Iron Bull Railroad, a company controlled by Michael Root and the Albany & Eastern Railroad. Also on the same day, the Surface Transportation Board designated Iron Bull Railroad as a common carrier. (STB Dockets FD 34896, 34897, 34898, all dated September 14, 2006)

Authorization has been granted by the United States Surface Transportation Board for the operation of the newly-named Iron Bull Railroad, the 14-mile short line running between the Iron Mountain mine site and interchange tracks in Iron Springs, Utah. Mike Root and the Albany Eastern Railroad have also been authorized as the operator of the Iron Bull Railroad. Palladon Iron Corp. is the lessee. Construction of interchange tracks at Iron Springs was completed in April, 2006.

July 31, 2008
Union Pacific approved Iron Bull Railroad as a common carrier to operate the PIC Railroad lease of the Comstock Division. On the same day PIC Railroad and Iron Bull Railroad entered into a formal agreement for Iron Bull to operate the PIC Railroad lease of the UP line. (STB Docket No. FD 35558, dated September 21, 2012)

August 1, 2008
"Iron Bull Railroad will take over operations of the Comstock sub between Iron Springs and Iron Mountain, Utah." (Mike Root, email dated July 31, 2008)

September 2008
The informal name for the new operations, Iron Bull Railroad, was set aside to prevent confusion with the name of the iron mining company. The formal name, Utah Southern Railroad, with a reporting mark of USR, and as it was originally referred to, was the name chosen to be placed on the two newly acquired locomotives.

October 1, 2008
Iron Bull Railroad Company name was changed to Utah Southern Railroad Company. On November 17, 2008, PIC Railroad and Iron Bull Railroad amended their agreement to show the name change. (STB Docket No. FD 35558, dated September 21, 2012, Utah Southern letter to Surface Transportation Board, dated September 30, 2008)

(This "misleading" information furnished to the STB, i.e. a name change versus the incorporation of the Utah Southern Railroad as a new corporation, which is what happened, later served as partial basis for the cancellation in 2011 of the 2008 operating agreement.)

October 16, 2008
Utah Southern locomotives were delivered at Iron Springs, Utah.

October 17, 2008
First Utah Southern train, in the form of a test train of 25 empty cars, was run on Friday October 17, 2008.

Plans called for two trains per week, with Utah Southern Railroad handling the loads from the mine on the Comstock branch.

(Read the discussion at Trainorders.com, July 23, 2010; subscription required)

Both locomotives remained out of service and stored at the mine loadout, from October 2008 until July 2010, when the first train was operated. "Holding down the ballast, making sure it didn't blow away."

June 2010
Mining operations began, following a formal agreement between China Kingdom International Minerals & Metals and CML Metals for the shipment of at least 600,000 tons of iron ore to China by way of the Port of Richmond, near Oakland.

July 12, 2010
The first trains of iron ore moved from Utah to Richmond, California, using 150 Rapid Discharge hopper cars owned by CML Metals Corporation and leased to Utah Southern Railroad, using USR's reporting mark. The iron ore moved in two trains of 75 cars each. Current plans call for two trains per week, with Utah Southern Railroad handling the loads from the mine on the Comstock branch.

November 4, 2011
The federal Surface Transportation Board approved the change of operators of UP's Comstock Subdivision, from Iron Bull Railroad Company, to Utah Southern Railroad Company. Utah Southern had notified CML Metals, the sole shipper on the line, of the change in operators on October 26, 2011. (STB Docket FD 35558, Decision 41963)

(Read the STB document at STB.DOT.gov)

December 14, 2011
Due to several contract disputes, CML Metals Corporation evicted Utah Southern Railroad from property owned and leased by CML Metals (as successor to Palladon Iron Corporation), and CML Metals took over rail operations at its iron mine and the rail line leased from Union Pacific.

The change of operators is covered in the public record, in STB Docket FD 35558, approved September 2012. The document summarizes the two operating agreements (2008 and 2011), the variations in company names, and the federal suit that was filed in December 2011, and set aside in June 2012.

(Read the STB document at STB.DOT.gov)

(The story continues after December 2011 as the CML Railroad.)

Locomotives

Road
Number
Locomotive
Model
Previous
Number
Builder
Number
Date
Built
Date To
USR
Date From
USR
Notes
USRC 3000 SD40-2 UP 3164 Feb 1972 7334-42 16 Oct 2008 Jan 2012 1
USRC 3001 SD40-2 UP 3188 Jul 1972 5819-16 16 Oct 2008 Jan 2012 2
USRC 3100 SD40T-2 UP 2934 Mar 1980 786264-14 24 Aug 2010 14 Oct 2011 3

General Notes:

a. Painted in a yellow and brown scheme that is reminiscent of UP's paint scheme from the mid and late 1930s.
b. Both locomotives were shipped from LTE's facility in MacDonald, Ohio, on September 30, 2008 and delivered by UP to Utah Southern at Iron Springs on October 16. (photo at RRPictureArchives, showing both units en route to Utah on October 4, 2008)
c. Both locomotive remained out of service and stored at the mine loadout, from October 2008 until July 2010, when the first train was operated.
d. Both locomotives were owned by a private investor, who paid to have the locomotives painted in their unique yellow and brown paint scheme; both were leased to Utah Southern for operation; when Utah Southern operations ended, both locomotives were sold to Western Rail Industries.
e. Roster information furnished by Robert Lehmuth.

Notes:

1. USRC 3000 was built as UP 3164, which was retired by UP on 24 January 2008 and sold to Larrys Truck Electric; lettered first as LTEX 3000, then Utah Southern Railroad 3000; sold to Western Rail Industries (WRIX) in January 2012, shipped to WRIX at Spokane in early February 2012; in service during May 2012 on Eastern Washington Gateway Railroad; in service during early February 2016 on Washington & Idaho Railway.
2. USRC 3001 was built as UP 3188, which was retired by UP on 24 January 2008 and sold to Larrys Truck Electric; lettered first as LTEX 3001, then Utah Southern Railroad 3001; sold to Western Rail Industries (WRIX) in January 2012, shipped to WRIX at Spokane in late January 2012.
3. USRC 3100 was built as DRGW 5411; renumbered to UP 4032 on 16 October 1999; renumbered to UP 8602 on 15 March 2000; wreck damage near Gila Bend, Arizona on 21 May 2003, repaired by UP, renumbered to UP 2934 on 26 September 2003, at time of wreck damage repair; retired by UP on 12 April 2010, sold at auction on July 10, 2010; seen in Denver on August 8, in full UP paint and lettering; seen en route to Utah on August 13, 2010, with a thick black line through the Union Pacific lettering; leased to Utah Southern (USR) 3100 in August 2010; lease expired and returned to lessor in mid October 2011.

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