Eastbound To Wahsatch

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Union Pacific's Route Through Weber and Echo Canyons

This page was last updated on June 13, 2022.

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(This article is an updated and expanded version of the article published in "The Streamliner", Volume 17, Number 3, Summer 2003; additional motive power comments were furnished by Lloyd Stagner in "The Streamliner", Volume 17, Number 4, Fall 2003, p. 5; and by email from Gil Bennett; comments about local rail traffic were furnished by S. Hadid via the forums at Trains.com)


September 9, 1941. A day for the history books. UP's newest steam locomotive had come to Ogden for the first time that same day, in the extreme morning hours at 3:30 a.m. This new locomotive, known as "Big Boy," was the first of a fleet of UP's largest steam locomotive. In the afternoon of this day, what would soon be known to many as the world's largest steam locomotives, would head east with its first eastbound train, up the mountain grade it was designed to conquer. The Wasatch Grade, a sustained 1.14 percent uphill climb along Utah's Weber Canyon to Echo, where the train would take a turn away from Weber Canyon and make its way up Echo Canyon to the top of the Wasatch Mountains at UP's Wahsatch station, five miles west of the Utah-Wyoming state line. The Big Boy was nicknamed "Titan of the Wasatch" for a reason, it was designed to climb one of the toughest railroad grades in the United States, an uphill grade that has always been a consideration for nearly all of UP's locomotives, whatever their design. Starting at 4,298 feet elevation at Ogden, the grade climbs to 6,799 feet at Wahsatch. That's 2,501 feet in a distance of 65 miles, an average climb of 38.47 feet per mile.

When Big Boy arrived in 1941, the Wasatch grade was a modern double track railroad, with modern traffic controls. First built as a single track line in 1868 and 1869, Union Pacific's traffic increased steadily in the early years of the Twentieth Century so that a single track railroad no longer met its needs. A second track was added in parts of the canyon in 1916 and 1917, and the remainder was double-tracked in 1926. The second mainline was better engineered than the original line, and was completed with a grade that was 1.14 percent (1.14 feet of climb per 100 feet of route), compared to the original line's 1.72 percent climb. Because of its easier climb, the second track became the eastbound, uphill track. Several line changes further eased the route, but the uphill climb was always a tough one.


UP's line in Weber (pronounced "Wee-bur") Canyon and Echo Canyon was the obvious choice when the initial surveys were made in 1864 and 1865. Its downward course along Echo Creek and the Weber River was steady and sustained, with only one stretch of white water, at a gorge rightly called Devil's Gate. The canyon was seen as the way west for California-bound immigrant wagons in 1846. The wagons of the ill-fated Donner-Reed party were bound for Devil's Gate, until turned to another route because of the difficulty of getting some of their larger wagons past this gorge.

The Weber name comes from John Henry Weber, a fur trapper in the 1820s who had spent a winter in the area. His name was used for the County, the River, and the Canyon. (Read the Wikipedia article about John Henry Weber)

With the general route for the transcontinental railroad decided by 1865, the railroad's surveyors prepared the route in the canyons, marking the way for construction of the grade and roadbed by Mormon workers that would follow during the summer and fall of 1868, after Union Pacific signed a grading contract with Brigham Young in May 1868. The contract was between Union Pacific and Brigham Young, representing The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, popularly known as the Mormons. It was to be an expensive contract, the full payment of which within a year would be a point of disagreement between the two parties.

The grade was completed in stages, beginning at Echo Summit at the top at the head of Echo Canyon. As the grade was completed, the track layers continued right on after laying track across western Wyoming, and by late December, tracks had been laid as far as the very top of the Wasatch Grade. As the track layers made their way west, so too did the construction camps. In October 1968, the main engineering camp was moved from Granger, Wyoming to Echo City, where Echo Creek joined Weber River. Echo City was the site of a stage station since 1853, and the population soon boomed as the railroad moved in with its construction warehouses and offices.

Wahsatch, too, became a boom town because the railroad recognized very early that more locomotives would be needed to conquer the grade between Ogden and Wahsatch. Because it would be at the top of the grade, the new settlement at Wahsatch was selected as the home of one of the road's mechanical shops. Buildings and facilities were constructed to service and maintain both locomotive and cars, but the structures were made of wood and were very exposed to the dramatic Wyoming weather. According to the 1871 annual report, in the fall of 1870 the railroad decided to move the shops east to Evanston, where more substantial stone buildings were constructed in a more protected location. The shops at Evanston were completed in May 1871, and the shops at Wahsatch were closed soon after.

The construction of the grade down Echo Canyon included a tunnel five miles west of Wahsatch. As the graders moved west from Echo Summit, with the track layers following close behind, it was soon obvious that the completion of Tunnel No. 2 would be an obstacle to the rapid construction schedule. (Tunnel No. 1 was 275 miles to the east, between Hanna and Walcott.) Known by at least three different names (Echo Tunnel, Wahsatch No. 2, and Tunnel No. 2), the 757 feet long tunnel was the subject of furious construction efforts from October 1868 through the spring of 1869. The tunnel was to pass through the ridge that separated the south branch of Echo Creek from its north branch. The completed grade along the north branch of Echo Creek, west of the tunnel, was ready for ties and rails but laid dormant while a temporary seven-mile detour was completed that took the line in a zigzag down the valley of the south branch of Echo Creek, today the route of Interstate 80 between Wahsatch and Castle Rock. (see "The Streamliner", Volume 13, Number 3, with a corrected map in Volume 13, Number 4) Within six months, Tunnel No. 2 was completed and the zigzag track was abandoned. After completion of a second track in 1916, Tunnel No. 2 became Tunnel No. 5, matching Tunnel No. 6 that was on the new line as it passed under the original line at the now famous "East Meets West" location at Curvo.

The next tunnels weren't planned until deep in the Upper Weber Canyon, west of Devil's Slide, so from the Tunnel No. 2, track laying progressed rapidly down Echo Canyon to Echo City, reaching there on January 15, 1869. Within a week, tracks reached the site of a large tree, 90 feet tall, that happened to be exactly 1,000 miles from Omaha, and soon a sign was hung from the tree clearly stating that fact. The tree was in the middle of a gorge between Henefer in the Upper Weber Valley and Devil's Slide, a unique geological formation of twin limestone ridges running vertically from the canyon floor. Along with the Thousand Mile Tree, Devil's Slide immediately became a sight to be seen by all passing trains. The gorge just east of Devil's Slide was named Wilhemina Pass and was the subject of several views by Union Pacific's official photographer A. J. Russell for his stereographic tour of the new line. Although the gorge was changed significantly to accommodate today's Interstate 84, most early trains stopped to allow passengers to appreciate the landmark, and several excursion trains from Ogden were arranged to see Wilhemina Pass, the Thousand Mile Tree, and Devil's Slide. It was a nice day trip from Ogden, and many of the city's residents made the trip during the summer to escape the heat of the city.

Three miles west of Devil's Slide, two tunnels (initially designated No.3 and No. 4, later called No. 8 and No. 9) were completed, allowing tracks to progress further west through Round Valley to Morgan. Like the delays at Tunnel No. 2, delays at tunnels 3 and 4 forced the construction of short and temporary runaround tracks to speed the progress of tracklaying, including a curved wooden trestle at Tunnel No. 3 that is said to have followed the course of the river around the tunnel. Quoting Charles Edgar Ames in his excellent 1969 history of the construction of UP's transcontinental line:

"Tunnels 3 and 4 were only three-quarters of a mile apart in the narrowest part of the steep, rock-filled gorge of Weber Canyon, 3 miles west of Devil's Slide. Work was begun in September. Tunnel 3 was 508 feet long on a 3-1/2 degree curve, while Tunnel 4 was 297 feet long on a 4 degree curve. Both were cut through sharp spurs of black limestone and dark blue quartzite. The use of newly invented nitroglycerin greatly expedited the work. Number 4 was finished in January, but longer Number 3 not until April. So, for a few months, trains had to creep dangerously around sharp curves at the edge of the turbulent river."

The view of the completed Tunnel No. 3 and its adjacent bridge over the Weber River was so dramatic that numerous stereographic and hand colored postcards were generated that showed the wooden bridge crossing the Weber River, and the tracks plunging under the rocky crags above the tunnel portal. After the completion ceremony at Promontory, and throughout the following spring and summer, UP construction crews returned to the tunnel sites and various bridge sites to complete the permanent structures and timber linings. (see "The Streamliner", Volume 10, Number 3)

The track laying crews were hard on the heels of the grading crews, and within a month the tracks reached the mouth of Weber Canyon. A small settlement called Uintah had grown up there as the stage stop closest to Salt Lake City. In the preceding years as railroad tracks headed west across Nebraska and Wyoming, stages and freight forwarding companies established depots at each successive end of track. The stages and freight wagons were continuously on the move, and it was at Uintah that their routes veered away from the railroad's route, and headed south to what was known then as Great Salt Lake City, the largest city in Utah Territory, and also the largest city in the west after San Francisco.

Uintah station on the original 1869 railroad line was first called Deseret Station. On March 2, 1869, a Tuesday evening, Union Pacific completed its line down Weber canyon to its mouth. The station there was named Deseret Station. First known as East Weber, then in 1867 as Easton, by an order of the Weber County court. According to the June 23, 1869 issue of The Deseret News, Union Pacific changed the name from Deseret Station to "Uinta". From then on the agricultural area on the north side of the Weber River became known as Uintah, taking its name from the railroad's station name. Additional reference comes from the January 5, 1870 issue of the same newspaper, writing an entry for June 17, 1869 in its annual "Summary Of Events For 1869," saying, "[June] 17, About this date the name of Deseret Station was changed to that of Uintah."

From Uintah, it was only eight miles further west along the Weber River to Ogden, but to reach Salt Lake City from Ogden, the stages and wagons had to take a 15 mile detour out to the west from Ogden to avoid the ancient lake benches. But from Uintah, it was a very steep one-mile climb up to the top of the bench lands, then an easy downward route all the way to Salt Lake City.

Uintah was also a trans-shipment point for the new mining traffic. Much mining activity was taking place in the mountains around Salt Lake City, in anticipation of the coming of the railroad. The railroad's low cost transportation would soon be available to make many of the mines profitable. Uintah became the point where hundreds of 100-pound sacks of the combined silver and lead ore known as galena were shipped by the Salt Lake City's first mining magnates, the Walker Brothers. In just one month in 1869, with the completion of the transcontinental rail line, the Walker Brothers shipped 4,000 tons of ore to San Francisco over the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads. Uintah remained an important traffic point for less than a year. In January 1870, the Utah Central Railroad was completed between Ogden and Salt Lake City, and Uintah soon returned to being a small rural village, albeit with its own railroad depot.

By late February 1869, Ogden's residents and city fathers were all abuzz with the approaching railroad. After reaching Uintah on February 28, and with all the excitement of feverish railroad construction just eight miles away, plans were made to properly welcome the arrival of the iron horse to what would soon be the territory's second city. Tracks were completed into Ogden, and a ceremony was held on March 8, 1869. The population of the town swelled by many times from its normal 1,200 residents, but the construction crews continued their rapid pace right on through town, in a dramatic race with Central Pacific, who was headed east across Nevada with a similar sense of urgency.

All politics of the transcontinental rail line aside, February and March of 1869 were banner months for Ogden and all of the residents of the Salt Lake Valley and Utah Territory as a whole. The territory had its railroad line to the east, and Union Pacific had completed one of the most difficult stretches of its cross-country line in a record amount of time. Between the end of the December 1868 and the first week in April 1869, Union Pacific crews completed 91 miles of railroad from the head of Echo Canyon to Corinne, where the Bear River flowed into Great Salt Lake. The last 29 miles from Corinne to Promontory were completed during April and early May.

Line Changes and Improvements

After the completion of the line, both companies returned to their respective routes and made many needed improvements. The period of rapid construction had made for some barely adequate pieces of trackwork, bridges and tunnels. One of the most obvious was the somewhat temporary crossing of the Weber River at Devil's Gate. Quick construction had seen the installation of a very simple trestle that was said to have a frightening sway as trains moved over it. A sudden rush of waters from a springtime storm in early May 1869 damaged some of the supports, stranding a trainload of UP dignitaries on their way to the golden spike ceremony. Repairs were made and they were able to make their way west after only a two day delay. A. J. Russell recorded this temporary trestle in a photograph included in Westward To Promontory, a wonderful collection of Russell photograph's put together by Barry Combs in 1969. The completion of a new bridge was reason for Russell being called back in the fall to record the testing of the much more substantial wooden truss bridge that replaced the original trestle. This often-seen second Russell photo shows three fully loaded engines and tenders atop the permanent bridge, proving its ability to hold any projected load.

During the 1880s, Union Pacific served as the pawn for the financial maneuvers of Wall Street robber barons. This, and its receivership after 1893 delayed any sort of significant improvements. In 1897, as the road came out of receivership, several improvements were made, including some important improvements in Weber and Echo canyons. A quote from an article in the 1992 Union Pacific Annual says it best:

In the mid-1890s the Union Pacific was a near derelict, its steam engines leaky and its ties rotten, and its requests for credit greeted with howls of laughter. Bankrupted by the Panic of 1893, in 1897 it was sold at auction to Edward Henry Harriman, a man little known outside of a few Wall Street circles. Within a few years Harriman and the UP had become synonymous. Harriman believed that railroads should be safe, efficient, and most of all profitable handlers of freight and passenger traffic. Under Harriman the UP embarked upon a program of improvements that continued unabated until the Great Depression. Part of this work was the double-tracking of the Omaha-Ogden mainline.

Although Harriman's reorganized company did not formally purchase Union Pacific until February 1, 1898, traffic was already growing, and more side tracks were needed to keep the trains moving. In 1897 Union Pacific installed a new 3,000 feet long siding at Uintah, along with a new section house and a new depot. Also in 1897 a section house was built at Gateway, along with 2,550 feet of side tracks. Gateway was the name given to the siding that was originally known as Strawberry Ford, the subject of a Russell photograph from 1869, and also the location of another photograph titled simply, "Telegraph Corps in Weber Canyon." Other improvements in 1897 included new water tanks added at Strawberry (two miles east of Gateway), Peterson and Morgan (changed from Weber Station in 1895). Morgan also received a new depot, a new section house, and 4,000 feet of side tracks.

More improvements were made in 1897. At Wahsatch, a new 20 feet by 50 feet depot was completed, replacing one that itself had been a replacement moved there in July 1887, to replace the original that had burned a month before. A water tank and stand pipe were added, as were a new section house and a new stock yards. The improvements also included 3,100 feet of new side tracks.

In 1900, a landmark of UP's route in Weber Canyon was removed. By that time, the Thousand Mile Tree had died and it was removed in September 1900. Later line changes reduced the mileage at that point to 959.66, but in 1982 to commemorate the site, UP planted a new tree that has grown today to over 30 feet tall.

According to the 1904 annual report, 40 miles of line improvements were completed that year between Echo and Ogden. The report says that the line was changed at eight different points, involving the construction of 5.69 miles of new track, each section of the work being opened for business as soon as completed. Examination of the track profiles reveals that this 1904 date was the rollup of line changes completed in 1902, 1903, and 1904. The improvements included cuts and fills that allowed easier curves, and were made between Devil's Slide and Echo, between Echo and Baskin, and between Emory and Castle Rock.

Second Track Added

More capacity was needed due to growing traffic levels on UP's Overland Route. In 1916, a second track was added between Riverdale and Weber Junction, a temporary junction immediately west of the Devil's Gate bridge at Gateway. Weber Junction was where the new line joined the old line to cross the Gateway bridge, which was still single track. The 1916 annual report shows a completion date of December 29, 1915.

At Uintah, on the Riverdale to Weber Junction (Gateway) segment, the town of Uintah received a second depot, located on the new line. At Uintah, the two lines were separated by about 800 feet, so UP built a second, smaller depot. Photos from the era indicate that the depot was only for freight and express shipments. The building itself used the newer standard depot design known among UP historians as a "14439" depot, so-named for the drawing number for Union Pacific's then-standard 24' by 78' depot. This drawing is dated April 1911, and shows the unique design with its "pagoda" roof. The original depot at Uintah, on the original 1869 track, followed the Common Standard design shown on a drawing dated March 1906. (UP Common Standard depots are covered in the Union Pacific Historical Society's magazine "The Streamliner," Volume 3, Number 2. The "14439" depots are covered in the Volume 6, Number 4 issue of the same magazine.) (The first depot at Uintah burned on August 26, 1947.)

A new bridge was completed at Devil's Gate for the second track in 1917 and double track was extended up-canyon to the east end of Gateway, just west of Bridge 979.78 (adjacent to today's Mountain Green exit for Interstate 84). Also in 1917, a minor line change was made to the original 1869 line between Riverdale and Gateway.

In late 1916, a second track was added between Mile Post 945, two miles west of Emory, and the top of the grade at Wahsatch. Although the track profiles show 1916 as the date, the 1918 annual report gives details, saying that 15.82 miles were opened for traffic on August 22, 1917. The new line, to be used solely for eastbound trains, had a 1.14 percent grade and 3 degree curves, compared to the original line's 1.77 percent grade and 6 degree curves. These two new segments of 1.14 percent trackage (Riverdale to Weber Junction, and Emory to Wahsatch) improved operations in the canyons greatly.

The following comes from the October 12, 1916 issue of Engineering News magazine.

New Line of Union Pacific R.R. Through Echo Canyon, Utah. A piece of railway construction which is notable and interesting from several points of view, is the building of the second track on the Wyoming division of the Union Pacific R.R. from Emory eastward to Wahsatch, the summit of the Wahsatch Mountains, near the boundary of Utah and Wyoming. This work is through the famous Echo Canyon, and is one of the two places on the Wyoming division of the Union Pacific where the reduction of the gradients to a maximum of 0.82 per cent or 43.3 feet per mile is not feasible. The other place is from Cheyenne westward to Buford.

The stretch from Emory to Wahsatch up the head waters of Echo Creek, about 13-1/2 miles long, which is now under construction, presents some interesting problems in railway location. This is a part of the original line located in 1864 by Samuel B. Reed, who selected the Weber and Echo Canyon route as the most feasible outlet from the Great Salt Lake Basin to the East, after many explorations and reconnaissances made under trying conditions. He went overland by stage to Salt Lake City and worked eastward.

The double-tracking of the line through this mountain pass is a part of the extensive program of betterment adopted by the Union Pacific management in 1898. The construction work was inaugurated some time later by J. B. Berry, then chief engineer of the company. A most complete study of the problem was made from the previous surveys and explorations and from new surveys. These studies were continued down to the commencement of the work on this section last fall.

Although the actual decrease in total ascent is only 17-1/2 feet, and the saving in distance is practically nothing, the saving in total curvature is more than a half. The new line has a fairly uniform grade of 1.14 per cent (compensated) or 60 feet per mile, while the grades on the old line on the approach to the summit average about 1.7 per cent with a maximum of 1.77 per cent or 93 feet per mile.

This was accomplished, however, only at large expense. There are three tunnels in this 17-mile stretch, and several fills of a half million cubic yards or more each, one of which has a maximum height of nearly 130 ft. The cost of these 13-1/2 miles is in excess of $3,000,000, which proves the truth of the statement made by Mr. Berry in 1904 that the great reduction in curvature and grades would not stand as a criticism of the work of the pioneer engineers who made the original location. The original lines located under the direction of the late Gen. Grenville M. Dodge, chief engineer, was allowed by law a maximum gradient of 116 feet per mile, yet the grades were actually held down to a maximum of about 90 feet.

The new second track is never more than 2,000 feet from the old track. It lies mostly on the north or opposite side of the canyon, but crosses the old line at two places.

Much of the country is picturesque and in the canyon between the two tracks is a portion of the now famous Lincoln Highway.

(Engineering News, October 16, 1916, Volume 76, Number 15, pages 700-701) (PDF; 2 pages; 0.9MB; includes map and profiles)

(The contract was awarded on March 23, 1916. 15 miles; $2 million -- Engineering News, March 30, 1916)

To ease the grade on the new second track at Wahsatch, a tunnel was constructed at the summit. Helpers continued on to Evanston, where they were cut off and returned to Ogden. A wye track was added at Wahsatch in 1921 to shorten this return trip. This new wye was at the summit, and its eastern end connected with Wahsatch siding. The wye track was aligned along the south side of the new tunnel, with its trail track pointing still further to the south (across both the eastbound and the westbound lanes of today's Interstate 80). The wye track continued west and connected with the old original (now westbound) track by crossing over the west portal of the tunnel for the new second track.

Due to new clearances required to operate Big Boy steam locomotives, the Wahsatch tunnel was retired in 1943 and replaced by a deep open cut located between the tunnel and the original mainline. The wye was also retired, and replaced by a new wye, on the north side, but about 1/4 mile to the east.

(View a drawing showing the tunnel and original wye at Wahsatch)

In 1921, the second track was extended east from Wahsatch through Evanston and on to Leroy. The new construction included a wye track at Wahsatch to turn the helper locomotives at the top of the grade, instead of running them ten miles further east to be turned at Evanston.

Two years later, in 1923, UP added a second track between Emory (actually Mile Post 945 west of Emory), and Echo. This new segment included the expansion of Echo yard. In 1913, a new depot had been added at Echo, using one of UP's standard designs.

In 1926, the two previous segments of double track (Riverdale to Gateway, and Echo to Wahsatch) were connected, making the entire Wasatch grade a full double track railroad. For this second expansion project between Gateway and Echo, UP hired Utah Construction Company for the grading work and used its own crews to lay the ties and rails. Additional eastbound tunnels were added at tunnels 8 and 9 in the Upper Weber Canyon between Morgan and Devil's Slide. (The construction of a second track in 1916, with two new tunnels between Curvo and Wahsatch, had caused Tunnel No. 3 and Tunnel No. 4 in the Upper Weber Canyon to be redesignated as Tunnel No. 8 and Tunnel No. 9.)

A new bridge over the Weber River was later installed in 1931 at Devil's Slide. All of the tunnels were lined with concrete, as the single track tunnels had been in 1923.

In January and February 1937 the landmark rock formation known as Pulpit Rock was demolished by the Utah State Highway Department as part of the improvement of the Lincoln Highway (U. S. Highway 30S).

(Read more about Pulpit Rock, below)


(Tunnel No. 1 is at Hermosa, Wyoming; Tunnel No. 2 is at Aspen, Wyoming)

Tunnel No. 3 at Wahsatch (MP 928.48) was 1530 feet long, but was abandoned in 1943 after the line change that did away with the original wye at Wahsatch.

Tunnel No. 4 (MP 930.13), on the eastbound track is 1107 feet long, added with the second track in 1916.

Tunnel No. 5 (MP 931.27), the westbound upper tunnel at Curvo, is 692 feet long. It was originally 679 feet long when it was completed in 1869 as Tunnel No. 2. It was a timber-lined tunnel when completed, and was concrete lined in 1924. At that time it was extended to be 692 feet long.

(The delayed completion of Tunnel No. 2, changed to Tunnel No. 5 in 1916, was the reason a temporary 'Z' track was built in 1868 to allow construction of the line to continue in time to meet the Central Pacific at Promontory.)

Tunnel No. 6 (MP 931.12), the eastbound lower tunnel at Curvo, is 1,223 feet long, added with the second track in 1916.

Bridge No. 931.46, where the westbound line crosses over the eastbound line just above the west portal of Tunnel No. 6, consists of four deck plate girder plate spans, each 60 feet long.

(View a Google satellite photo of the Curvo Tunnels)

In the satellite photo, the original 1869 line is the one with all the curves. A little further to the northeast (upper right) on the westbound line is Tunnel No. 4, which is 1,107 feet long.

Tunnel No. 7 (MP 935.53), on the eastbound track, is 201 feet long, added with the second track in 1916.

Tunnel No. 8 (MP 963.21), eastbound tunnel at Taggart; first timber-lined tunnel (formerly Tunnel No. 3) was 490 feet long; extended to 520 feet when it was concrete lined in 1927.

Tunnel No. 8 (MP 963.21), westbound tunnel at Taggart; 523 feet long, added with the second track in 1926.

Tunnel No. 9 (MP 964.01), eastbound tunnel at Taggart; first timber-line tunnel (formerly Tunnel No. 4) was 280 feet long; extended to 311 feet when it was concrete lines in 1927.

Tunnel No. 9 (MP 964.01), westbound tunnel at Taggart; 322 feet long, added with the second track in 1926.

Tunnel No. 10 (MP 982.09) "Sheepshead Tunnel," 250 feet long, added with the second (upper) track in 1916.

Devil's Gate (Gateway) Bridge

As previously mentioned, the bridge over the Weber River at Devil's Gate was at first a temporary trestle, replaced by a more substantial wooden truss bridge capable of carrying the loads of normal operations at the time. A new single-track steel bridge was installed at Devil's Gate in 1899, as part of the overall 1897 improvements. In 1916, a second track was added between Gateway and Riverdale for eastbound traffic. One of limiting factors was the high crossing of the river and the adjacent ridge at Devil's Gate. Pending the completion a second bridge, the new eastbound line was completed in 1916 and tied into the old line just west of the river crossing, at a temporary location called Weber Junction. A new steel bridge was completed for the new eastbound track in 1917, and the bridge for the original 1869 westbound track was taken out of service and a replacement bridge was completed soon after. At the same time, an additional 1-1/2 miles of double track was completed that included Gateway siding to the east. Here, the second track ended until the entire grade received a second track in 1926.

The current bridges at Devil's Gate were put in place in the 1940s. The eastbound bridge was replaced with a "deck riveted truss" in 1941 as part of the improvements for the use of the 4000-class 4-8-8-4s. The westbound remained as a "deck lattice truss" bridge until after World War II. Photos taken in 1949 show a new westbound deck riveted truss bridge that matches the eastbound bridge. (A photo by R. H. Kindig in June 1941 shows the modern eastbound bridge, next to the older westbound bridge, see Kratville's The Challenger Locomotives, page 43)

A minor line change took place in 1966 just east of the bridges to accommodate the construction of Interstate 80 North, which opened for traffic in October 1970. (On May 1, 1980, I-80N was changed to I-84, the designation used today.)

For the current bridges (UP bridge 981.01, just west of Gateway, mile post 980.12), each bridge consists of a 50-foot deck plate girder bridge, then a 135-foot deck truss bridge, then a 90-foot deck plate girder bridge at the west end crossing the now-abandoned U. S. Highway 30 South. In 1985, the eastbound bridge received concrete panels that allowed the bridges to have fully ballasted trackwork for better stability. The westbound track was upgraded with a concrete deck in 1993.


There are two types of traffic control in Weber and Echo canyons. One is CTC, or Centralized Traffic Control. The other is ABS, or Automatic Block Signals. The rule books define CTC as a system of "block signals whose indications supersede the superiority of trains for both the opposing and following movements on the same track." These block signals are controlled both automatically and manually by a distant dispatcher who also controls the turnouts of the district's passing sidings. Intermediate signals are controlled by ABS.

The rule books define ABS as a series of consecutive parts of a railroad (called blocks) governed by block signals that are actuated by a train or engine, or by certain other conditions. ABS signals are not controlled by a distant dispatcher. On the Wasatch grade, in the ABS territory east of Strawberry, the route is double track. The rule books define double track as two main tracks "upon one of which the current of traffic is in a specified direction, and upon the other is the opposite direction of traffic." On Union Pacific, movement over ABS-controlled territory is controlled by Rule 251, from which the above definition of ABS is taken. The current of traffic in Weber and Echo canyons is eastbound on the north track and westbound on the south track. West of Strawberry, the CTC controls allow movement on either track in either direction, although it is usually in the same directions as the rest of the Wasatch grade.

Strawberry, fifteen miles east of Ogden, is the east end of CTC territory out of Ogden, and the beginning of 72 miles of double track ABS territory through Weber and Echo canyons to mile post 907 at Altamont, 22 miles east of Wahsatch. Full CTC coverage of the entire Wasatch grade is limited because there are but six sets of double-ended center sidings, at Peterson, Morgan, Devil's Slide, Henefer, Echo, Emory, and Wahsatch, which won't allow the flexibility needed for full bi-directional CTC signaling. Strawberry is a new location of double crossovers that replaced Peterson in 1974. Between Ogden and Strawberry, the two mainlines are designated as Track No. 1, the eastbound uphill track, and Track No. 2, the westbound downhill track. But beyond Strawberry, in the ABS territory, the two tracks become simply Eastbound Main Line and Westbound Main Line.

The Strawberry to Riverdale CTC territory was added in 1974 as a continuation of CTC control of the Riverdale By-Pass track, completed in September 1973. The Riverdale By-Pass track took mainline trains along the west side of Riverdale Yard. This by-pass track did away with the congestion of mainline trains needing to cross the west (compass north) end of Riverdale to get to the double track mainline that was along the opposite side of the yard. The construction of the Riverdale By-Pass track, and the addition of CTC through to Strawberry, was an extension of the CTC territory that was already in place between Salt Lake City and Ogden at Bridge Junction. Beginning in about 2002, Union Pacific began a program of improvements that will end in late 2006 with full CTC capabilities along the entire Wasatch grade.

In the days of all-ABS operations in Weber and Echo canyons, there were depots with both day and night operators at Ogden (Riverdale), Morgan, Echo, and Wahsatch, with a day-shift operator at Devils Slide and Henefer. In addition to serving as operators, the agents at each of these stations also tended to the railroad's business. In January 1986, the combination of a new customer service center in St. Louis, and modern dispatching made the last agents at Morgan, Devil's Slide, and Echo obsolete, and the agencies were closed.

The entire Weber and Echo canyon route is ACS (Automatic Cab Signal) territory. ACS is a system of signals in each locomotive cab duplicating the line-side signals. It first came into use on the Wasatch grade in early 1952, following a tragic rear end collision in which the "City of San Francisco" struck the "City of Los Angeles" on November 12, 1951 at Wyuta, just east of Wahsatch. An investigation by the Interstate Commerce Commission found that the root cause was the "white-out" conditions, a ground blizzard that obscured the visibility of line-side signals. The recommendation was to introduce a system that duplicated line-side signals inside the locomotive cab, thus removing any potential confusion due to extreme weather conditions.

Motive Power

Along with Sherman Hill in Wyoming, the Wasatch grade was UP's other major obstacle to operations. Its original 1.77 percent grade, compared to Sherman's 1.55 percent climb, made the use of multiple locomotives, a road locomotive and a helper, a necessity on almost every train. To do away with helper locomotives, in January 1910 UP took delivery of three massive 2-8-8-2s built to a Harriman-era Common Standard design also used on Southern Pacific, and on subsidiary Oregon Railway & Navigation Co. Their UP road numbers were 2000-2002, and they were temporarily assigned service between Ogden and Evanston while the facilities at Cheyenne and Laramie were being reconstructed to accommodate these new locomotives. Their eastward tonnage rating between Ogden and Evanston was 1,750 tons, compared to the next largest locomotive, UP's 2-8-0s, which were rated at 880 tons. The 2000 series were used in Weber Canyon from their delivery in 1910 to about 1915, when they were moved east to Cheyenne. In 1917 they were sold to Oregon Short Line and assigned to helper service on King Hill, east of Glenns Ferry. They were retired in 1928. Over-the-road speed has always been required by Union Pacific, and these early articulateds were simply too slow to find a permanent home on the Wyoming and Utah mainline. By the time of their retirement, UP had taken delivery of numerous 2-8-2s, 2-10-2s, 4-8-2s, and 4-10-2s, modern locomotives that allowed higher operating speeds.

The first steam locomotives built specifically to conquer the Wasatch grade were UP's 90 TTT-class 2-10-2s, delivered in 1917 to 1924 as part of a larger fleet of 144 locomotives. They were designed to operate with increased tonnage and without helpers, and those that were owned by UP (numbered 5000-5089) spent their initial years operating between Ogden and Evanston, and were part of the modernization that also brought double track to portions of Weber and Echo canyons. At Evanston the trains were turned over to heavy 2-8-2s for the trip across the flatter Wyoming mainline. As train size continued to increase, mainly due to traffic increases from World War I, helpers were usually added to eastbound trains in the form of 2-8-0s. The 5000 class continued to operate on the Wasatch grade until most steam locomotives were pushed east by the delivery of fleets of diesel and turbine locomotives in 1952-1955.

Along with the 2-10-2s in 1917, UP also ordered fifteen compound Mallet 2-8-8-0s for service on the Wasatch grade, and were the first of a fleet of sixty-five locomotives. War time restrictions during World War I forced the delayed delivery the first order until 1918. Later orders continued to be delivered as late as 1924. These were Mallet locomotives much like the earlier 2000 class of 1910, but were designed for higher road speeds. Also, these compound articulated locomotives came from Alco, instead of Baldwin for the earlier design. With a total fleet of sixty-five Mallet 2-8-8-0s for UP, numbered as 3600-3664, and another three each for OSL and OWR&N, this was indeed a successful design for its time. Until the delivery of UP's first Challengers in 1936, the 3600 series 2-8-8-0s, known as Bullmooses, were a mainstay for both the Wasatch grade, and on Sherman Hill. The combination of a 2-8-8-0 road engine, in combination with a 2-10-2 helper, was found to be too slow for UP's growing need for heavy, fast freight power, so beginning in 1935 and continuing through 1944, in an effort to increase their over-the-road speed, all were converted from compound articulated locomotives to simple articulated locomotives. In 1937 they were renumbered from the 3600 series to the 3500 series. Their lack of ability in fulfilling UP's need for high speed freight operation, compared to the new Challengers, forced the Bullmooses almost solely to helper service.

In his research, locomotive historian Lloyd Stagner found that UP's notable 4-12-2 Union Pacific type locomotives were also used on Weber and Echo canyons. Quoting Mr. Stagner:

A report by the General Superintendent of Motive Power and Machinery dated February 11, 1933, shows that on December 31, 1932, 45 9000s were assigned to the Wyoming division, with 32 between Cheyenne and Ogden, five stored and eight in the shop. No other locomotives are shown in freight service in this territory. Eight 2-8-8-0s were working coal runs out of Rock Springs, six 2-10-2s were in helper service and 16 2-8-2s were in helper and branch freight service. The 4-12-2s were rated at 3000 tons Ogden-Wahsatch, the same as the 2-8-8-0 Mallets.

I am unable to determine when the 4-12-2s replaced 2-10-2s on this assignment, but would suspect 1930, after the last order of 4-12-2s were delivered, although it could have been as early as 1929. Motive Power of the Union Pacific states that as of January 1, 1929, 4-12-2s were in service between Laramie and Green River. But an additional 50 4-12-2s were delivered in 1929 and 1930.

In February 1936, Vice-President W. M. Jeffers wrote Chairman W. A. Harriman that assigning 15 new 4-6-6-4s to the Ogden-Green River freight pool would release 15 4-12-2s for assignment between Cheyenne and North Platte, replacing 2-10-2s which made 2800 round-trips during 1935.

By 1934 the railroad could see that the compound 2-8-8-0s, with 2-10-2 helpers, and the road's 4-12-2s, still did not meet UP's need for high speed freight service. Research and design, and visits to other roads, along with many discussions with American Locomotive Co. soon resulted in an all-new design for UP in early 1934. In addition to increasing the speed of freight trains, the other goal was to eliminate double heading of passenger trains, and to stop running passenger trains in multiple sections. The new design, called Challenger, was for an all new from-the-ground-up locomotive, with the 4-6-6-4 wheel arrangement. The Challenger name came from a conversation in 1936 among UP president William Jeffers and a team from the road's mechanical department. Jeffers wanted a locomotive that could run unassisted from Ogden to Wahsatch, run fast from Wahsatch to Green River, then return to Ogden with another train. He was told that it would be a challenge for any locomotive to do so. Jeffers liked the name and sent a memo to the advertising department that the new locomotive would be called "Challenger."

The first fifteen 4-6-6-4 Challengers were delivered in September 1936. Numbered as UP 3900-3914, they were soon followed by another twenty-five 4-6-6-4s in August 1937. These were known as the "small" Challengers and were designed especially to move trains up the Wasatch grade without helpers. They ruled supreme on the grade for six years, at times with 2-8-2 and 2-10-2 helpers to ensure the speed of UP's fast freights. The next sixty-five Challengers, known as the "large" Challengers and numbered as UP 3930-3969 and 3975-3999, arrived in 1942 to 1944, and were designed as part of an overall motive power plan that used Big Boys on the Wasatch grade from Ogden east to Evanston and Green River. At Green River, the Big Boys were sent back west to Ogden and the trains were put under the care of the new Challengers for the trip across Wyoming east to Laramie. The small Challengers were displaced on the Wasatch by Big Boy, and were moved west for service in California and Nevada, and in Idaho and Oregon. In later years, all of the Challengers were sent east as UP continued to dieselize, first the South-Central District in 1948, and then the Northwestern District in 1954. One group of oil fired large Challengers became a mainstay on the Wasatch as rear end helpers, assisting turbine- and diesel-powered freights in their climb from Ogden to Wyoming.

Big Boy

The 1940 annual report carried an announcement that "in late 1940, an order for fifteen freight locomotives of a new design which will be more powerful than any locomotives now owned by the Company and capable of hauling heavier trainloads at high speed and with fewer stops for fuel and water. The new locomotives will be used between Ogden, Utah, and Green River, Wyoming, and will permit the discontinuance of helper locomotives up a 1.14 percent grade from Ogden to Wahsatch, Utah, (65 miles) with substantial saving in expense. Early in 1941, five more of these locomotives were ordered in anticipation of further increase in traffic from the national defense program."

Of course, these new locomotives were the 4-8-8-4 Big Boy locomotives. The first of the initial order for twenty locomotives was delivered in the first week of September 1941, and with the delivery of the second order for an additional five locomotives in fall 1944, all twenty-five were put into service, dominating almost every train east of Ogden. The first train that Big Boy took east from Ogden on September 9, 1941 was 3,500 tons. It left Ogden in the afternoon of September 9th and made the trip to Green River in six hours and fifty minutes. It returned to Ogden right away with a train of 120 empties. The shop forces turned it right around again and it headed east again with another train, this time the load was 3,870 tons, 800 tons heavier than the ordinary load.

For over six years, Big Boys were used almost exclusively for which they were deigned, to move a 3,600 ton train east from Ogden to Green River at a sustained 18 miles per hour. While the specific tonnage for any given train varied from as low as 3,400 tons to as much as 4,000 tons (an average of 45 to 55 loads with 10 to 20 empties), the performance of Big Boy never varied. The locomotives did exactly what they were designed for. Although traffic continued to grow, and helper locomotives were not entirely banished from the Wasatch grade, Big Boy took many trains to the top at Wahsatch unassisted, doing a job that always took two locomotives before.

The length of Big Boy and its needed clearances caused a lot of trackwork between Ogden and Green River to be changed. In anticipation of the first delivery in September 1941, all during the summer of 1941 almost every curve was realigned. Gateway siding, just east of the Devils Gate bridge, was retired because it was not possible to realign the siding without interfering with an adjacent super elevated curve. Heavier 131-pound rail was laid, and new ballast was applied. Big Boy was the biggest it could be. To do more to accommodate a larger or heavier locomotive would have meant that the entire railroad, including all tunnels and bridges, would have to be replaced. Big Boy was as big as UP could economically squeeze on to its route up the Wasatch and across Wyoming.

The tenders for Big Boy were designed to carry a full load of coal and water to pull a 3,600 ton train from Ogden to Echo. At Echo each locomotive was refueled for the continued trip to Evanston, and then to Green River. By 1950, the growing fleet of diesels (EMD F3s and F7s), which did not need to stop at Echo for refueling and water, made Big Boy's assignment on the Wasatch more costly. Big Boy was moved east, to operate between Cheyenne and Green River, along with the fleet of large Challengers that had been purchased for that same run.

In June 1957, steam power between Ogden and Green River was only the seven Challengers in helper service, and a 2-8-2 in work train service. Steam power saw its last days of service on the Wasatch grade in November 1957, when the oil-burning Challengers were sent east. In October 1958, seven of the oil burning 3700 class Challengers returned to Utah and worked until December 24th, at which time they were stored at Ogden. In June 1959, they were moved to Cheyenne for service between Cheyenne and North Platte. This service was cut short after three weeks due to a steel strike.

In an email dated March 7, 2005, Gil Bennett adds some comments about how Union Pacific used modern steam locomotives on the Wasatch grade:

The Big Boys! They were working regularly out of Ogden until 1957 according to Kratville. Dr. Carr watched them in 1956 working up Echo Canyon. I have a photo of 4001 in Ogden in 1953. The 4000 class were being run from Ogden to Green River, then from Green River to Laramie and Cheyenne. Union Pacific found that the 4000 class could run faster across Wyoming than a turbine could, hence the turbines were used from Salt Lake too.

The Big Boys ran between Ogden and Green River, with some running through to Cheyenne. The 4000s were used west of Green River during the Korean War as well as the fruit and vegetable rushes from California. Also, the UP used the Western Pacific 4-6-6-4s in helper service in 1950 and 1951 out of Ogden to Wahsatch. These were used with both the turbines and the 4000s.

Diesel Power

Diesel-electric locomotives came to Weber Canyon with UP's first Streamliner units on the road's premier passenger trains. But these were passenger trains. For freight trains, General Motors' Electro Motive subsidiary introduced the FT road freight locomotive in 1939, and sent the four-unit 5,400 horsepower set on a national tour that apparently did not include any running on UP. The FT locomotive was viewed by many industry observers as the clear choice with which railroads would displace steam power from heavy mainline freight service. UP had purchased early examples of diesel passenger power from Electro-Motive for use on its passenger trains, but when the builder offered to sell UP its 5,400 horsepower FT locomotive model, UP's president William "Bull" Jeffers responded by saying that as soon as EMD could build a diesel locomotive that could match the performance of its 4000-class 4-8-8-4 Big Boy locomotives (at approximately 6,300 horsepower) on the Wasatch grade in Utah, then UP would be interested.

Regular freight trains did not become powered by diesels until after 1950, after enough units had been delivered to fully dieselize all lines to the west and south of Green River. From 1950 to 1954, the motive power on freights on the Wasatch grade varied almost evenly between large, modern steam, gas turbines, and solid sets of EMD F units. In 1954, a fleet of 169 GP9 cab units, and 75 GP9 booster units were delivered, and forever changed the motive power in Weber and Echo canyons. The arrival of a large fleet of GP9s, together with other diesel units already on the railroad, essentially killed the use of steam locomotives between Ogden and Green River, except for the group of large Challengers assigned to helper service. And after more GP9s came in 1957, these steam locomotives were moved east, leaving all trains to be pulled by either gas turbines or diesels, both with diesel helpers (usually GP9s).


Between June 1949 and April 1951, Union Pacific operated a double-cab, 4,500 horsepower gas turbine locomotive designed by General Electric. Built in November 1948, the locomotive was painted fully for UP, and numbered as UP 50. It tested on all UP main routes, and its superior performance on both the Wasatch grade and across Wyoming lead to an order for ten similar locomotives for service on Union Pacific. The first of the new order was numbered UP 51, and was delivered in late January 1952, as the beginning of a fleet of twenty-five 4,500 horsepower gas turbine electric locomotive, numbered as UP 51-75. The first ten, UP 51-60, delivered in January 1952 to August 1953, had full width carbodies and were known as Standard Turbines. The later fifteen locomotives, UP 61-75, delivered in March to October 1954, had outside walkways and were known as Veranda Turbines.

Both types entered service between Ogden and Green River, and regularly pulled trains of 5,000 tons and heavier, without helpers, although helpers were usually added to ensure higher track speeds. In the earlier years, up to 1957, helpers were usually in the form of 2-8-2s, 2-10-2s, or oil-burning, 3700-class Challengers. After 1957, the helpers were usually GP9s. All twenty-five small gas turbines remained in service between Ogden and Cheyenne throughout their careers that lasted until 1962-1964.

By late 1955, the performance of the 4,500 horsepower Standard and Veranda turbines on the grade in Weber and Echo canyons had so impressed UP that the road ordered from GE the next generation of gas turbines. These fifteen locomotives were to be built with 8,500 horsepower, and as two unit locomotives, with tenders (tenders were added later to the smaller 4,500 horsepower locomotives). The design of the larger locomotives took three years. Over that period of time, as the design progressed, UP saw the potential and increased the order quantity from fifteen to thirty, to be numbered as UP 1-30. The first 8,500 horsepower gas turbine was delivered in August 1958, with the delivery of the other twenty-nine being completed by June 1961. By April 1966, all had had their horsepower increased to 10,000 horsepower, and had been equipped to operate in multiple with diesel locomotives. This combination allowed UP to continue to operate trains at a sustained higher speed over their railroad, as tonnages continued to grow. For an almost ten year period of time, the larger gas turbines served as almost the exclusive motive power on the Wasatch grade. But by 1968 their reliability was waning, and their special fuel was getting more and more expensive. In 1963-1964 UP began receiving deliveries of 5,000 horsepower double diesels, and the gas turbines were all removed out of service between 1968-1970. During 1968, the roundhouse forces at Ogden were severely cut back. The major part of their work was maintaining the gas turbines, and when those locomotives went east, so too did the work for the mechanics (most found work in the Salt Lake City diesel shops, 40 miles to the south).


Helper locomotives were required on the Wasatch grade right from the very beginning. Early photos suggest that in those early days, the helpers were placed on the front of each train. During the early Harriman years, the early Mallet locomotives were combined with helpers in the form of 2-8-0 Consolidations, which were also the assigned helpers as UP modernized with its fleet of 144 Common Standard 2-10-2s. The first Challengers in the mid 1930s were designed to take a train up Weber Canyon alone, but as train lengths grew, and with the arrival of Big Boys, the helpers shown in photographs were usually 2-8-2s, tacked on to the front of the road Big Boy power.

Until large numbers of EMD F units and E units had been delivered in 1950, road freights in Weber and Echo canyons were powered by combinations of Big Boy and Challenger road power with steam 2-8-2 and 2-10-2 helpers. As diesels came to the Northwestern District, they bumped the district's steam power south and east to the road's Eastern District, which included Utah's Weber Canyon. Included in this group of displaced power were the 3700-3715 series Challenger locomotives. The first small turbines came in early 1952, and they usually had 2-10-2 helpers assigned to assist their movement of heavy drag freights from Ogden to Evanston. With the delivery of the GP9s, large Challengers were used as helpers, and after more GP9s came in 1957, they too were assigned as helpers. GP9s continued to serve as helpers into early 1970, when the new DDA40X Centennial essentially did away with all helpers on the Wasatch grade. Helpers returned briefly in the late 1990s on coal trains, but today, any helper locomotives are radio-controlled Distributed Power locomotives that remain with the trains throughout their trip across many divisions of the railroad.

The following comes from Michael Borkon's article about Green River, Wyoming, published in the Fall 2001 (Volume 15, Number 4) of The Streamliner magazine published by the Union Pacific Historical Society.

In October 1956, despite new high horsepower multiple unit diesels and turbine-electric power, 92% of all eastbound freight traffic from Ogden used helper engines to facilitate the steep climb up the 1.14% Wasatch grade. According to the Wyoming Division Special Rules, No. 13, effective July 1, 1954, tonnage ratings for diesel locomotives in freight service from Ogden to Wasatch were 3570 tons for gas turbines 51-75, and 4800 tons for three-unit GP9s or three-unit unit F3s. All of the Wasatch helpers were 3700 class Challenger locomotives. Placed at the rear of the train with a trailing caboose, the helper locomotives were cut off at Wahsatch and returned light to Ogden to be readied for a new assignment. Handling nearly all of the average of 15 to 16 eastbound freights each day required a pool of eight to ten helper locomotives, each of which were recorded to have made usually two trips a day.

Manned Helpers in Weber and Echo Canyons

Don Strack: When was the last time manned helpers were used in Weber Canyon? There are numerous photos of UP GP9s in helper service up to the early 1960s.

Rick Durrant: Regular manned helpers were stopped in the 1960s, and since then only in isolated cases. In the 1960s we had helpers at Ogden and at Echo. They turned at Wahsatch. They were assigned jobs until the 1960s, then started calling them off the extra board.

Don Strack: An estimate by a current UP engineer who operated them many times, puts the date range at 1998 to about 2003, or 2005. As always with anything in railroading, it is tough to nail down what happened and when. I guess crew agreements would help with more specific dates, but I suspect the current agreements allow manned helpers whenever they are needed.

Rick Durrant: The 1998 to 2005 was when we started manned DPU and putting the units in service.

Don Strack: Were helper crews a regular bid job, or did they come off of an extra board? So when they were running manned helpers in the late 1990s, the crews were regular crews, for special trains, or a special circumstance.

James Belmont: [Photo] A 114 car coal train with two manned helpers shoving on the rear, June 10, 2000. The coal train was a reroute off the Rio Grande via the UP through Wyoming due to Moffat congestion.

James Belmont: [Photo] The MWCNP with an SD70M/SD40-2 combo shoving on the rear at Emory, February 16, 2013. The helper was a one time rescue mission for a stalled MWCNP train.


Locomotive Facilities

From the very first of UP's operations in 1869, Echo had been a helper terminal, where as many as six locomotives were kept to both help trains up the most severe portion of the Wasatch grade, and to power the locals on the Park City Branch. The Echo helper terminal was closed with the completion of the new roundhouse and engine terminal at Ogden in 1927.

At the height of steam operations, locomotives used on eastbound freights used two-thirds of their coal and water getting up the first forty miles, to Echo, where coaling chutes and water tanks were located. After servicing at Echo, they made their way to the top at Wahsatch, continuing on to Evanston where they were serviced again.

In the early years at Echo there was a four-stall wooden engine house and a 66-foot turntable. The 66-foot turntable had been moved from Spring Valley in 1906, and was replaced in the 1920s with a later 80 feet long version. Both were hand powered. The Echo enginehouse was in place before 1893, and was closed and likely demolished in 1906 when the newer turntable was installed. The date the turntable was removed is not yet known, but its abandoned pit was still in evidence west of the Echo yard until grading for Interstate 80 North (later Interstate 84) in the late 1960s removed much of the hillside at that location.

Along with coal chutes built at Echo City, the railroad built warehouses, which stored groceries, hardware, and other goods for sale in the Summit County area. The water tanks were filled from the Weber River using a steam powered water pump. A flour mill was erected in 1871, and a large two-story hotel was also built. In later years, Echo City was the home of over 300 railroad employees, including three section crews, a yard crew (the yard was expanded in the 1923), two signal maintainers, a station agent, four to six telegraphers, and a buildings and bridges crew. All of the employees lived in houses furnished by UP. The town itself had two stores, two hotels, a gas station, and a school.

While diesel locomotives used on the Park City Branch were almost always serviced at Ogden, steam locomotives used on the branch were serviced either at Echo, or later, at Ogden, 41 miles west of Echo by way of the Weber canyon mainline.

According to the 1951 edition of UP's "List of Agencies, Stations, Equipment, Etc.", also known as a Form 70, the Echo turntable was a 80 feet long. Previous research had suggested that the turntable at Echo had been removed in 1944 when the engine terminal there was downgraded because of the arrival of the Big Boy steam locomotives, but the listing for 1951 indicates that the turntable remained until at least that year. The remains of the Echo turntable pit can still be seen where the turntable was located, although a good part of the outside southwestern edge was taken as part of the I-84 construction.

Echo Coaling Station

The first coaling station at Echo was manual, the coal being hand shoveled into the locomotive tenders. The first coaling station was replaced in 1897 by an semi-automated, 32-pocket wooden coaling station. The new coaling station, which many people called a coal chute, was needed to furnish coal to the mainline trains and three or four helper engines assigned to Echo. This second coaling station burned in 1902, and was replaced by a third, smaller version. A smaller version was built at Echo because locomotive tenders were becoming larger, and fewer helper engines assigned to Echo. The third coaling station burned in 1941. The fourth coaling station, a fire-proof concrete version, was demolished in 1956.

The coaling station at Echo was destroyed by fire on the afternoon of June 3, 1902. (Salt Lake Herald, June 4, 1902)

The third coaling station at Echo was a large two-pocket wooden coaling trestle, as illustrated in a 1910 photo of UP articulated 2000, on page 24 of Jim Ehernberger's "Ocean Toads" article about UP's first Mallet locomotives (see "The Streamliner", Volume 5, Number 2).

The wooden coaling station at Echo was destroyed by fire on the night of January 10-11, 1941. (Ogden Standard, January 11, 1941; Salt Lake Tribune, January 11, 1941)

This wooden coaling station had been in need of repairs and modernization, and would not clear the soon-to-arrive, in September 1941, Big Boy locomotives, so it was replaced in March 1941 by a concrete and steel coaling station. (Ogden Standard, March 11, 1941)

The wooden coaling station at Echo was replaced by a 200 ton capacity concrete and steel coaling station furnished by Fairbanks-Morse, & Co. (Fairbank-Morse Type SR11 Skip-Hoist). UP simply called it a two-track skip-hoist type. The new concrete coaling station is shown in an Emil Albrecht photo in September 1946 being used to fuel a double-headed Mikado helper and a Big Boy road engine on an eastbound freight. The replacement Echo coaling station was the same as the design used by UP at Evanston, Wyoming, and very similar to the new coaling station built at Rock Springs, Wyoming, in 1944.

("A new coal chute was built in 1941 after a fire destroyed the old one. It was the fourth one to be built at Echo." Echos Of Yesterday, Summit County Centennial History, Daughters of Utah Pioneers of Summit County, 1947, page 78)

(Plans and photos of the Rock Springs and Echo concrete and steel coaling stations are in The Streamliner, Volume 13, Number 1, published by Union Pacific Historical Society)

(A color photo of the Echo tower, along with Big Boy 4019, was published on the cover of The Streamliner, Volume 5, Number 2.)

(Additional detail photos and drawings of what Fairbanks-Morse called its Type SR11 Skip-Hoist Coaling Station, were published in a 1989 reprint by TLC Publishing of a mid-1930s Fairbanks, Morse & Co. catalog.)

(View the Fairbanks-Morse Coaling Station catalog)

The concrete and steel coaling station at Echo was demolished in February 1956. (Ogden Standard, February 11, 1956, with photo)

(Read newspaper items and view photos and drawings of the Echo coaling stations)

The last steam locomotive to receive coal at Echo was in Spring 1960. (Robert S. Mikkelson, "Growing Up Railroad: Remembering Echo City" in Utah Historical Quarterly, Fall 1994, Volume 62, Number 4, page 349)

Echo Depot

The depot at Echo was of the standard design that UP historians have labeled as the 14439 Type, after the drawing number of the engineering drawing that shows the general design of this unique structure. The depot at Echo was completed in 1913, ten years before the mainline east of Echo was double-tracked (the mainline west of Echo was double-tracked in 1926). The Echo depot matches other almost identical depots built by UP between 1911 and 1922 at as many as 19 other locations in Wyoming, Colorado, and Nebraska. A photo of the Echo depot was included as part of an article in The Streamliner about the 14439-Type depots, on page 38 of Volume 6, Number 4.

In May 1975 the Echo depot building was donated to Summit County and was moved five miles south to Coalville on May 14th and 15th, 1975, where it still serves as a senior citizens center. The move was sponsored by O. A. "Scotty" Durrant, former UP Eastern District General Manager. Durrant was born in a company house across the UP mainline from the Echo depot where his father was section foreman. Early in his career, Durrant also served at Echo as agent/telegrapher. The former Echo depot was donated for use as a senior citizens center, and was dedicated on June 19, 1976 in memory of Durrant's parents Leroy and Vera Durrant. Scotty Durrant died on December 31, 1993. He was living in Bountiful, Utah at the time.

Pulpit Rock At Echo

Pulpit Rock, near Echo, Utah, was removed in January and February 1937 by the Utah State Highway Department as part of the improvement of the Lincoln Highway (U. S. Highway 30S). But it was the end of a long string of events surrounding the historical site. It was named for its appearance similar to that of a preacher's pulpit, but as early as 1897 there were stories that the name came from the myth that Brigham Young had delivered a sermon from the site in July 1847 as the pioneers into Utah. It was in 1897 that the myth was published as such, stating that Young was in fact too ill at the time to have delivered his supposed speech. (see Salt Lake Tribune, July 14, 1897)

According to the Deseret News newspaper of October 24, 1905, there was a proposal to remove the entire Pulpit Rock formation. The plans were not implemented, and in April 1909 a Professor of Geology from the University of Utah pronounced the rock formation "quite stable." (see Utah Daily Chronicle, April 26, 1909)

Work on the new Echo Reservoir began in 1927-1928, and there were reports that the blasting for the dam construction, less than a mile away, had weakened the formation and made it unstable, forcing the removal its upper "pulpit" portion by Union Pacific in a move to protect its adjacent tracks.

In early December 1936 work began to remove the remaining lower portion to make way for a an improved U. S. Highway 30S. The state highway department contracted with Wheelwright Construction Company for the work, during which Union Pacific re-routed its trains to the westbound tracks. With the removal of the remains of Pulpit Rock, the highway was lowered 21 feet to the level of the railroad tracks, eliminating a dangerous reverse curve for highway drivers. (Morgan County News, December 10, 1936)

(Portions of the above were first published in the UtahRails.net blog on September 4, 2010)


U. S. 30S

The Lincoln Highway passed east to west though southern Wyoming, and paralleled Union Pacific's mainline in Echo Canyon. At Echo, the route turned south toward Salt Lake City, passing through Silver Creek and Parleys canyons.

The original route of the Lincoln Highway came into Utah from Wyoming at Wahsatch summit, then progressed westward down Echo Canyon to what was shown in guide books as "Main Forks," one-quarter mile east of Echo. By 1918 there was already a railroad underpass taking the road to the south to Coalville. The road was "good gravel" all the way to Salt Lake City by way of Silver Creek canyon to Kimball's Ranch, then continued west through Parleys canyon to Salt Lake City. (The Complete Official Road Guide of the Lincoln Highway, Third Edition, 1918; Internet Archive)

(Read the Wikipedia article about the Lincoln Highway)

Prior to 1924, the Lincoln Highway had 17 grade crossings of Union Pacific's double-track mainline in Echo Canyon. By 1932, all had been eliminated by new construction by the Utah state road commission. (Salt Lake Tribune, February 14, 1932)

U. S. 30S Overpass at Emory

The overpass at Emory on today's Echo Canyon Road (formerly U. S. 30S) was completed in late 1953 or early 1954, making the current bridge about 65 years old. The project was planned as early as January 1951, and the contract for the Emory overpass was awarded in May 1952. At the same time, in December 1951 the state road commission announced a budget plan for "straightening" of U.S. 30S between Echo and Emory, for probable contract award during 1952. Another budget plan was announced in March 1953 for the "straightening" of U. S. 30S between Emory and Castle Rock. Looking at aerial photos from 1963, this last project removed the road from between the two UP mainlines, eliminating two narrow underpasses, and put it over on the south side, where I-80 was built in in 1968-1970. This new alignment of U. S. 30S became the alignment for I-80. This was done in several locations across Utah, with half of an Interstate being built on the existing U. S. highway, and the other half being built to one side or the other, making a full four-lane interstate.

U. S. 30S at Devils Slide

The highway bridge at Devils Slide was built in late 1926, as a major modernized link in the paving of U. S. 30S, which was originally routed from Devils Slide, through Croydon, to Henefer. It was the way east for all Weber Canyon highway traffic. When UP built the transcontinental line in 1869, they filled up the pass along side the Weber River between Devils Slide and Henefer (known by some as Wilhemina Pass). It's where the famous 1000-Mile tree was. In 1970, modern earthmoving equipment made I-80N (now I-84) possible, allowing the shortcut for the highway, and realigned river and railroad track to all fit into the Pass. It was a major project that travelers along I-84 don't appreciate at 70mph. There is still a secondary road through Croydon that is actually the original U. S. 30S.

U. S. 530

The highway connection between U. S. 30S at Echo Junction, and U. S. 40 at Silver Creek Junction, by way of Silver Creek Canyon.

(Read more about U. S. 530, and its route through Silver Creek Canyon)

U. S. 530 Underpass At Echo

In July 1928 Union Pacific began construction of a concrete underpass for the Lincoln Highway just east of Echo. The concrete underpass was an improvement of an existing underpass for the Lincoln Highway as early as 1918. The location was where the Lincoln Highway (later U. S. Highway 530) had its junction with U. S. 30S and continued on through Coalville and Silver Creek Canyon to Silver Creek Junction where it connected with U. S. Highway 40. South from Silver Creek Junction, the highway became U. S. Highway 189, and continued south to Provo by way of Heber and Provo canyon. Highway 40 continues west through Parleys Park and Parleys Canyon to Salt Lake City. The intent at Echo was to eliminate the dangerous grade crossing for the Lincoln Highway. The underpass was part of the work for the construction of Echo Dam and Reservoir and included a new fill and concrete culvert for the crossing of Echo Creek by UP's Park City Branch. (Salt Lake Telegram, July 2, 1928)

In 1939, U. S. 530 was eliminated as a designated highway and became part of U. S. 189 when its designation was extended from Silver Creek Junction on U. S. 40, north to a connection with U. S. 30S. Although some sources show 1939 as the year U. S. 189 took over the route, there are newspaper references to U. S. 530 as late as June 1944 when a sodium light was proposed for the intersection at Echo Junction.

Interstate 80

(Interstate 80 diverged at Echo, with its destination being Salt Lake City)

Wyoming Line to Echo (Paralleled by Union Pacific Railroad to Echo)

1961 -- Wyoming Line to Castle Rock - (12.6 miles) Completed in July 1961; signs and guardrail work continued through 1964; final paving in July 1965
1967 -- Emory to Echo Junction - (11 miles) Awarded in July 1964; started in September 1964; completed in November 1967, with ribbon cutting by Governor Rampton
1973 -- Castle Rock to Emory - (5.3 miles) Started in May 1970; completed in 1971 (two lanes); July 1973 (all lanes)

(Read more about Interstate 80's entire route across Utah)

Interstate 80N (later I-84)

Planning for what would be Interstate 80 and 80N began as early as 1962. The route of the two highways were to parallel Union Pacific's route throughout Weber and Echo canyons, and would replace U. S. Highway 30S. Interstate 80 paralleled the Union Pacific tracks from Evanston westward to Echo, where it turned to the south toward Salt Lake City. At Echo, traffic bound for Ogden was routed to the new designated highway, Interstate 80N, which also paralleled Union Pacific's line in Weber canyon, as well as replacing U. S. 30S.

Construction started in July 1964 and progressed in stages, moving from one interchange to the next, with the easier flat portions completed first, by February 1965. The more difficult portion between Round Valley and Devil's Slide, through what was called Taggart's Canyon, wasn't completed until October 1966. The large interchange at Echo was completed in October 1969, and included a new bridge and alignment for Union Pacific's Park City Branch. The final parts were from Devil's Slide to Henefer, completed in December 1972, and Emory to Castle Rock, completed in July 1973. These dates are for the full four lanes. In every case, a single lane was opened in each direction as early as 12 to 18 months before.

On May 1, 1980, Interstate 80N was changed to Interstate 84, the designation used today.

(Read more about Interstate 80N, later I-84)

Weber and Echo Canyons Today

A quick tour of the Wasatch grade starts at the bottom, at Ogden. The route today is paralleled almost perfectly by Interstate 84 in Weber Canyon, and Interstate 80 in Echo Canyon. On UP, all directions are either eastbound or westbound, and our next location after Ogden is eastbound to Riverdale, where the grade actually starts. Next is East Riverdale where the normal right hand running of double track changes to left-hand running for the climb up the Wasatch grade. A long stretch of double track takes us past the East Riverdale crossover, and moving along the lower reaches of the Weber River, we come to Uintah. At Uintah the newer eastbound line is separated by both vertical and horizontal distance from the original 1869 line, which is the downhill westbound line. The two lines remain separate into the mouth of Weber Canyon (officially called Lower Weber Canyon) to a crossing of the Weber River at Devil's Gate. The ridge adjacent to Devil's Gate, and the large double track steel bridge, looks a lot easier today when seen from Interstate 84, but it was a formidable object to conquer for the route when it was built. After Devil's Gate there is the location of Gateway, a retired siding between two crossings of the river. In pioneer times, it was called Strawberry Ford, and today the location is adjacent to a reservoir and rest stop on the interstate.

After Gateway the double track moves on east through the Lower Weber Valley and the sidings and towns at Strawberry, Peterson, Stoddard and Morgan,  to Round Valley where the line enters the Upper Weber Canyon. Here the line crosses the river four times and passes through twin double-track tunnels. Further on, there is Devil's Slide, where there is a cement plant that has furnished regular traffic for UP from the 1920s to today. Just beyond Devil's Slide is Wilhemina Pass, where the Thousand Mile Tree was located.

Continuing up-canyon from Devils Slide, there is the Upper Weber Valley and the towns of Henefer and Echo. At Henefer, one can exit the interstate and travel along the old U. S. 30 highway through Echo and about halfway up Echo Canyon. The yard at Echo is all that remains of Echo when it was the point where for almost 90 years, steam locomotives stopped to refuel and take water. Echo is about ten miles beyond the grade's halfway point, and is where the grade flattens out a bit.

At Echo, the route takes a left turn and heads up Echo Creek, with the next location being a short siding at Baskin. Next is the double-ended center siding at Emory, where there was a section house and other maintenance buildings, all now retired and removed leaving only a shady grove of trees and abandoned turf grass. Two miles east of Emory the old highway rejoins the interstate. At this same spot, the two lines separate to allow the eastbound track to start its easier grade to the top. Four miles beyond is Castle Rock, an exit on Interstate 80 with a great panorama of the eastbound track as it climbs to Wahsatch. Just east of Castle Rock, the grade moves away from the interstate, which continues up the south branch of Echo Creek.

The railroad line continues east by way of the north branch of Echo Creek. Near the head of the north branch, the railroad pierces the ridge between the two and the newer eastbound track crosses under the westbound track at Curvo, a location made famous by Union Pacific with several publicity shots showing "Where East Meets West." After passing through the ridge, the eastbound and westbound lines remain separate for another five miles to the top at Wahsatch, where a large water tank still stands today. In previous days, Wahsatch was where the helper locomotives cut off and returned to Ogden, sixty-five miles to the west. A tunnel for the 1916 second track at the summit was replaced in 1943 by a new deep cut. Both east and west portals for the tunnel are still visible. There were two wye tracks at Wahsatch; one installed in 1921, with the other replacing the first in 1943.

Local Rail Traffic

(posted by S. Hadid on Trains.com, December 26, 2006)

In response to a question about modeling UP's line between Ogden and Evanston:

I'm sorry to report that you've selected a stretch of main line with very little local traffic, even then.

The major traffic source between Ogden and Evanston was the cement factory at Devil's Slide, livestock loading at various pens, and the Park City Branch. Crude oil loaded at Evanston intermittently, and poles were loaded there as well -- neither in large volume.

Livestock loading matched the seasons, with a brief rush as soon as the snow melted in the spring and a larger rush in the fall before the snow fall. In the spring cows shipped in from lower elevations for summer grazing, and in the fall cows and calves shipped back out either to winter at lower elevations or to market. Sheep moved out in the fall. Between seasons the business was rather dull.

I'll do some digging tonight in the USGS Minerals Yearbooks to see if there was any activity I'm overlooking, but I don't think so.

I looked at 1957 as a more-or-less representative year.

Morgan County, Utah: Ideal Cement Co. Devil's Slide Plant ran 361 days, producing Portland and masonry cements. I think UP had some covered hoppers then, but a lot would have moved in bags in 40-foot boxcars. I don't think it would be unusual to see eastern road boxcars being used for this service even though it would be a purely local move (local in railroad-traffic-speak means "the move is not interline"). Trucks were no doubt heavy competition for the bagged cement. Small amounts of clay were mined at Henefer for Interstate Brick at West Jordan, which may have transferred to rail for movement to the kilns at West Jordan. It could have moved all truck, too. Sand and gravel was locally produced for road construction and almost without doubt moved all-truck.

Summit County, Utah: Park City produced $4.6 million in gold, silver, copper, lead, and zinc. The concentrates shipped by rail to the smelters at Garfield, Midvale, and Tooele, depending on what kind of ore it was -- copper to ASARCO at Garfield, lead-silver to USSR&M at Midvale, zinc to International at Tooele. Some small amounts of brick clay were mined which also might have moved by rail. All of this would have moved in UP drop-bottom gons. There would be some coal inbound to Park City as well as a few carloads a week of mine timbers and lumber, both on flats and in boxcars.

Uintah County, Wyoming: Other than oil and natural gas liquids there was no significant minerals output in the county that might have moved by rail. The natural gas liquids apparently moved by pipeline to Salt Lake City. Inbound pipe and drill stem probably moved in small volumes by rail to Evanston from both the CF&I mill at Minnequa and U.S. Steel at Geneva. U.S. Steel made cheap welded-seam pipe suitable for oilfield gathering lines whereas CF&I produced both seamed and seamless pipe and drill stem. CF&I pipe and stem would have probably arrived on C&W flatcars, or sometimes D&RGW/C&S/AT&SF flatcars. Geneva pipe would arrive on UP flats.

Other inbound commodities to Evanston moving by rail would have included coal (the school systems were big coal customers) for domestic heating from Superior or Rock Springs, and lumber from Boise-Payette in Idaho. Motor fuels would have arrived by truck from the 25,000 bbl/day Sinclair refinery at Sinclair, or from the Utoco refinery in North Salt Lake City. Coal was highly seasonal, with most customers not bothering to place orders until early fall.

Of course you also have railroad fuel being shipped to Evanston so long as steam remained in use.

There are some very good photos of the Park City local in the mid-1950s in Richard Steinheimer's "Backwoods Railroads of the West," and in the Don Sims article on railroads of northern Utah, "U.P. Trail Almost a Century Later," Trains October 1960 issue.

Thanks also goes to Jim Ehernberger for his help on this article.

Additional Reading

Ames, Charles Edgar. Pioneering The Union Pacific. (Meredith Corp., 1969)

Carr, Stephen. "Union Pacific Tunnels on the Transcontinental Route" The Streamliner, Volume 10, Number 3

Carr, Stephen L. "The Zig-Zag in Echo Canyon" The Streamliner, Volume 13, Number 3, with corrected map in Volume 13, Number 4

Combs, Barry B. Westward To Promontory (Crown Publishers in cooperation with The Oakland Museum and Union Pacific Railroad, 1986)

Ehernberger, James L. "'Ocean Toads' - 1909 Monster Mallets" The Streamliner, Volume 5, Number 2

Kratville, William W. Big Boy. (Kratville Publications, 1972)

Kratville, William W. The Challenger Locomotives. (Kratville Publications, 1980)

McCulloh, Gordon. "The Union Pacific Two-Ten-Twos" The Streamliner, Volume 4, Number 1

McCulloh, Gordon. "The Ubiquitous Bullmoose" The Streamliner, Volume 6, Number 4

Mikkelsen, Robert S. "Growing Up Railroad: Remembering Echo City" Utah Historical Quarterly, Volume 62, Number 4

Stagner, Lloyd E. Union Pacific Motive Power In Transition, 1936-1960. (South Platte Press, 1993)

Stagner, Lloyd E. "Letter to the Editor" The Streamliner, Volume 17, Number 4, Fall 2003.

Strack, Don. Ogden Rails. (Railway & Locomotive Historical Society, Golden Spike Chapter, 1997)

Williams, Susan E. "The Great West Illustrated, A Journey Across the Continent with Andrew J. Russell" The Streamliner, Volume 10, Number 3