Bingham Horse Tramway

Compiled by Don Strack

This page was last updated on April 12, 2018.

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In 1874, a narrow-gauge horse tramway was constructed between the railroad depot at Bingham, and the Jordan mine in Galena Gulch, a distance of 3.5 miles. The grade in Bingham Canyon was too steep to construct a rail line that could use steam locomotives.

The Bingham horse tramway made use of gravity to move loaded ore cars down from the mine, with men riding the cars and applying brakes to slow the descent. Horses were then used to pull the empty cars back to the mine to be reloaded.

Over the years, other "spurs" of the horse tramway were built to serve other mines in upper Bingham Canyon, in Bear Gulch, and in Copper Center Gulch.

While the chain of actual ownership of the right of way has not yet been documented, it appears that the railroad (Bingham Canyon & Camp Floyd, then D&RGW, then RGW) retained ownership of the tram, and continued to lease it to a series of operators.

(The Bingham horse tram was one of two trams serving the Bingham mines. The second tram was 24-inch gauge and was built in 1882 outside of Bingham Canyon on the Salt Lake valley (east) side of the Bingham ridge. It operated between the Lead mine and the Lead Mine mill, at the mouth of Bingham canyon, a distance of four and one-half miles. The Lead Mine tram was extended seven miles to the Brooklyn mine in 1892. The Lead Mine tram, later known as the Dalton & Lark tram, lay dormant and unused after 1897 due to the mill having burned, and a severely depressed price of lead, but was used during 1900 and 1901 after the Bingham Consolidated company put the Dalton & Lark mines back into production. The Lead Mine tram was abandoned after the Rio Grande Western completed its Dalton & Lark spur in 1902.)

(Read more about the Dalton & Lark mining company)

(Read more about the Bingham Consolidated mining company)


December 1, 1873
Bingham Canyon & Camp Floyd was completed to Bingham. (Poor's Railroad Manual, 1876-77)

April 26, 1874
"Bingham Canyon Railroad" advertised for "two hundred more men, for the purpose of immediately commencing the building of tramways from the Jordan and other mines, in order to transport ore to the main depot, at a speedier and less expensive way than teaming." (Salt Lake Tribune, April 26, 1874)

June 27, 1874
"Tracklaying has commenced on the tramway, running from the terminus of the Bingham Canyon road to the mines. The grading is nearly completed, and the road will be in running order by the end of next month." (Utah Mining Gazette, June 27, 1874)

June 30, 1874
"The Bingham Canyon Railroad company have completed their railway to the Jordan mine, and are now busily receiving and laying ties at the rate of 500 per day." (Salt Lake Tribune, June 30, 1874)

July 10, 1874
Item on the tramway above Bingham on the BC&CF seems to indicate that it is of a gauge narrower than three feet. According to this item, the tramway goes up to the mines on Jordan Hill. (Salt Lake Herald, July 10, 1874)

"The railroad ends at the Winamuck furnaces, from which the Transfer Omnibus Line and hotel busses carry passengers up to the hotels." "From the end of the railroad, it being a narrow-gauge, there is still a 'narrower gauge' railroad being built up to the mines on Jordan hill, the grading of which is already done." ("Our Bingham Letter," Salt Lake Herald, July 10, 1874)

November 15, 1874
"Last but not least, the Bingham Tramway Company are pushing the tracklaying along at a reasonable rate, and expect to have cars on and delivering ore by the 15th of December, when we hope to hear the last curse of the yahoo at his team." (Salt Lake Tribune, November 15, 1874)

November 22, 1874
"The Horse Tramway is being pushed ahead vigorously. The track is laid about half a mile above town, and the work has been going bravely on until one o'clock this afternoon." Construction crews were stopped when they approached the mouth of "Murphy's Tunnel" in Galena Gulch, just across Galena Gulch from the Jordan mine. The owner refused to allow construction to proceed in front of his tunnel site, and used shots from a Henry rifle to threaten the company president, a Mr. Morgan. Many shots were fired but no one was injured. (Salt Lake Tribune, November 22, 1874)

Summer 1875
Service began during the summer of 1875 on a two-mile, 5.6 percent grade, mule tramway in Bingham Canyon to the Jordan mine of the Utah Mining Company. Construction began in June 1874, with delays because of disputes in the right of way over located mining claims. (Reeder, p. 160; citing Salt Lake Herald, June 16, 1874; June 26, 1874; November 25, 1874)

March 1876
The horse tramway at Bingham was extended to serve the Old Telegraph mine in Bear Gulch, after George Goss, superintendent of the Bingham Canyon & Camp Floyd railroad, examined the mine and agreed that it would furnish 100 tons of ore per day, justifying the extension of the road. (Salt Lake Herald, February 8, 1878)

May 20, 1876
"Now that the tramway is completed to Bear Gulch, the monster mines of that vicinity can disgorge their wealth as fast as they please, the tramway can now keep the ore bins empty." (Salt Lake Tribune, May 20, 1876)

January 1, 1877
"The Bingham Canyon Railroad Company have a tramway from the Bingham Transfer to the ore house belonging to the Telegraph Company, with a branch leading up main Bingham to the Spanish, Jordan, Orphan Boy and others. By this means all ore is sent to Jordan Valley without the aid of steam or horse power, except to haul the empty cars up." (Salt Lake Tribune, January 1, 1877)

June 20, 1891
"Ore [from the South Galena mine] is sent to the railroad by means of a tramway over three miles long. The average cost of sending ore down is about 80 cents per ton. The cars are run down by gravity and hauled up by horses, of which thirty are being used. The capacity of the tramway is to be doubled by the addition of more cars and horses." (Salt Lake Tribune, June 20, 1891)

August 8, 1892
"The Old Jordan & Galena Company is now running ten cars on the tramway but will put on six or eight more in a few days. The cars have a capacity of three tons each, and make two trips a day." "The Old Jordan & Galena Company took charge of and began operating the Niagara mill on the first of the month. A force of thirty men is employed at the mill and between 125 and 150 tons of ore per day is being treated." (Salt Lake Tribune, August 8, 1892)

October 15, 1892
"H. N. Standish has leased the Old Jordan and Galena tramway, taking charge of the road and stock Wednesday of this week (October 12, 1892). The horses will be stabled at the Rio Grande Western depot and the men will also board at this end of the road. Mr. Standish, we understand, will extend a track from a point on the main line, near Cushing's store, up to the Old Telegraph mine, using the old tramway grade, and will begin the construction of said track in a few days, he having taken the contract for hauling the Telegraph ore to the railroad station. (Salt Lake Tribune, October 15, 1892)

December 20, 1892
"The usual long trains of tram cars continue to make their two trips per day over the O. J. & G tramway, hauling down the products of the Old Jordan & Galena and Niagara mines to the Rio Grande Western Railway for shipment. The tram operators experienced some little trouble in going up over the line Wednesday morning on account of the heavy fall of snow Tuesday covering the track. But the road is again clear and everything is running smoothly." (Salt Lake Tribune, December 20, 1892)

January 1, 1893
"Standish & Jimpson lately took a lease on the tramway, and are operating it with twenty men and a dozen animals, while they have a large number of teams besides, forty-five horses in all, and the entire camp employs ninety horses in hauling for the mines." (Salt Lake Tribune, January 1, 1893)

July 1, 1895
"The enterprising tramway operators Messrs Standish & Jimpson have had a passenger car built for the purpose of conveying passengers from the Rio Grande Western station to points of interest up the main canyon and back over their tramway. The car makes two trips daily up as far as the Old Jordan and Galena mill." (Salt Lake Herald, July 1, 1895)

January 1, 1896
"During the past year, the Old Jordan and South Galena company shipped 20,800 tons of first class ore and concentrates." This would have been almost entirely by way of the Bingham horse tram, since neither the U. S. aerial tram (in 1900) nor the Copper Belt rail line (in 1901) were yet in service. (Salt Lake Tribune, January 1, 1896)

February 9, 1896
The following was hauled by Standish & Jimpson and shipped from Bingham Station: Old Jordan and Galena, 1085 tons; Old Telegraph, 985 tons; Niagara, Spanish and Utah, 350 tons; Northern Chief, 150 tons. (Salt Lake Tribune, February 9, 1896)

March 1, 1896
"Standish & Jimpson, lessees of the Galena tram, are grading for connection with the Rogers mill. The mill is doing custom work, but will be run principally on Ashland ore. The Ashland is another fine property that is coming into prominence." (Salt Lake Tribune, March 1, 1896)

January 1, 1897
"The tonnage of the district for 1896 fell short of that of 1895 about twenty-one thousand tons in ore and concentrates shipped out." "Standish & Jimpson employ sixty horses and twenty-five to thirty men to operate the trams to the Old Telegraph and Jordan-Galena properties and to do hauling to and from other mines." (Salt Lake Tribune, January 1, 1897)

November 26, 1899
"Standish & Jimpson Co. are having a survey made for a branch of their tramway to the mouth of the Bingham C. & G. long tunnel in Bailey gulch. This is one of the most enterprises projected this season, and will prove of far greater importance than appears at first sight." (Salt Lake Tribune, November 26, 1899)

December 11, 1899
"Standish & Jimpson company report that the grade of Bingham C. & G. branch of their tramway from Niagara ground to mouth of Commercial long tunnel is completed and about 600 feet of rails are laid. Track-laying is now suspended, awaiting arrival of rails. As soon as they arrive every effort will be made to complete the work at the earliest date possible." (Salt Lake Tribune,December 11, 1899)

December 24, 1899
The Standish & Jimpson tram was being extended to the Bingham Gold and Copper company's "long tunnel," with 2,250 feet of track laid, and 2,105 feet still to go. (Salt Lake Tribune, December 24, 1899)

January 20, 1900
"This week Standish & Jimpson tram delivered a lot of ore from Cook group to Dewey mill, but otherwise has been idle. With good sleighing the movement of ore from Petro dump to Dewey mill will begin. The pile contains several thousand tons. This afternoon or tomorrow, roads permitting, Standish & Jimpson will put four or five teams at work hauling ore from Ashland dump to the Dewey. After several days' layoff for repairs the Dewey mill started up on a 150-ton lot from the Columbia Mining company's group -- said to be a fine grade of milling ore." (Journal History of the [LDS] Church, 1900 20 Jan, page 42; courtesy Larry Osaro)

November 11, 1900
Standish & Jimpson have formally turned over their lease of the R. G. W. tramway to Bingham. The price is said to have been $15,000. The length of the road, from depot to upper terminus to be established for the present, one and one-third miles. The road is to be constructed for the present (ultimately to be extended) to a point near the Rogers mill, where a gravity tramway in Bailey Gulch will dump ore into its cars directly from Bingham C. & G. north tunnel. Meanwhile during the next fortnight the tramway, connecting with north tunnel by way of a spur built last fall, will be worked to its utmost capacity, delivering at depot ore to be hauled thence by Rio Grande Western cars to the new smelter - it being the intention to put 7,000 to 10,000 tons into the bins for a starter, so that the road construction will not prevent the smelter firing up as soon as ready." (Salt Lake Herald, November 11, 1900)

November 13, 1900
J. G. Jacobs leased from Rio Grande Western Railway, for a period of ten years, "all that line of narrow gauge road known as the Bingham tramway, commencing at or near, Bingham station in Salt Lake County, Utah, and extending up the canyon three and one half miles, more of less,...". (Lease, RGW to J. G. Jacobs, dated November 13, 1900) (link to text of the lease) (map)

November 15, 1900
"The extension of the Bingham branch of the Rio Grande Western railroad from lower Bingham as far as the Old Jordan & Galena mine in Highland gulch has been decided upon, it being the intention to use the Old Jordan & Galena tramway after widening the track, the motive power to be a Shea engine. J. G. Jacobs, who projected and built the Salt Lake & Mercur road, will have charge of the little branch or spur. The construction of this line will materially advance the mining and business interests of the marvelously rich camp of Bingham." (Salt Lake Mining Review, November 15, 1900, page 21)

(Continue the story of the Bingham horse tramway, as the Copper Belt Railroad)


Copper Belt Lease -- Text of the lease between RGW and J. G. Jacobs for the horse tramway in Bingham Canyon

Map of the original Copper Belt RR -- A scan of the original map that accompanied the lease between RGW and J. G. Jacobs