Bingham Railroad Tunnels
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This page was last updated on May 12, 2022.
Copper Belt Tunnel
Completed in November 1907 as part of Rio Grande Western's Copper Belt spur to the Boston Consolidated's steel ore bin in lower Carr Fork. This tunnel was built through the ridge that separated Carr Fork from Bingham canyon. This line to the steel ore bins later became Utah Copper's main 'A' level Auxiliary Yard
Bingham & Garfield Tunnels
"The total length of tunneling on the line 4795 ft., in four tunnels of the following lengths: 682, 754, 2079, 1280 ft. There are three steel bridges on the upper end of the line, one across Carr Fork, adjacent to the main delivery yards of the Utah Copper Co., having a length of 690 ft., and a maximum height of 190 ft. The bridge across Markham Gulch is 640 ft. long and 220 ft. high, and the Dry Fork bridge, about three miles from the upper end of the line, is 670 ft. long and 185 ft. high." (Mining & Scientific Press, Volume 103, July 1, 1911, page 18)
There were four railroad tunnels on the Bingham & Garfield Railway in Bingham Canyon. From south to north, they were:
B&G Tunnel No. 1
- 1,280 feet long
- Built on a curve
- Connects between Markham Gulch and Freeman Gulch
B&G Tunnel No. 2
- 2,072 feet long
- Connects between Freeman Gulch and Smelter Gulch
B&G Tunnel No. 3
- 754 feet long
February 15, 1942
Utah Copper locomotive 105 had a boiler explosion that killed both the engineer, Joseph Poulsen, and the fireman, Rhys Thomas. The brakeman, Edward Anderson suffered minor burns because of his location in the brakeman's shanty atop the locomotive tender. The explosion took place at 8:05 a.m. on Saturday February 15, 1942 while the locomotive was inside Tunnel No. 3 on the former Bingham & Garfield line in Bingham Canyon. The locomotive was at the head of a train of 52 empty ore cars returning to the Bingham copper mine from the mill at Magna. (Salt Lake Telegram, February 21, 1942) The usual operating practice was for the locomotive to travel tender first when returning to the mine, putting the brakeman ahead of the locomotive when the explosion took place.
B&G Tunnel No. 4
- 680 feet long
- Built on a curve, entering Dry Fork Gulch
'D' Dump Line Tunnels
The 'D' Dump Line extended down-canyon from Carr Fork, eastward along the north side of Bingham canyon, above the Bingham & Garfield mainline. The line had very sharp curves, and three tunnels.
- Tunnel No. 1 was 313 feet long.
- Tunnel No. 2 was 1,551 feet long and was directly above the B&G Tunnel No. 2.
- Tunnel No. 3 was 447 feet long and was concrete lined.
Beyond Tunnel No. 3, the 'D' Dump line extended into the upper parts of Dry Fork, and along with the retired portion of the B&G mainline after 1944 (known as the 'A' Dump line), was used to fill Dry Fork Gulch.
The cross-canyon connection was completed at the site of the old Yampa Smelter, providing a railroad connection between the planned 6040-Tunnel and the new Ore Haulage Central Yard, near Dry Fork. The new cross-canyon fill included two short tunnels for the highway and the Denver & Rio Grande Western line. (Kennecott Historical Index)
Kennecott Railroad Tunnels
Eighty percent of all ore mined was moved through the 6040 and 5840-Tunnels. (Kennecott Historical Index)
Seventy five percent of all ore mined came from below the 6340-Level. Seventeen percent of ore mined moves through the 6040-Tunnel with forty percent moving through the 5840-Tunnel. (Kennecott Historical Index)
In 1983, the entire mine was converted to shovel and truck mining. Rail haulage was used for reload only, at the 6040, 5840, and 5490-Tunnel levels. The last rail and shovel mining took place between the 5540 and 5990 levels. Prior to the end of 1983 there were 42 truck haulage levels, 36 above the 5990-Level and six below the 5490-Level. The 11 rail haulage levels were between the 5490-Level and the 6040-Level. By this time there was very little ore left above the 6040-Level and all operations were concerned with removal of waste to allow ore mining in the lower levels.
September 1982 - Truck haulage replaced rail haulage below the 5490 tunnel (rail haulage was replaced above the 5840 tunnel in 1963), leaving rail haulage in place between 5490 and 5840 tunnels.
May 1983 - Power plant at Magna was shut down.
Summer 1983 - Rail haulage was severely curtailed.
September 1983 - Last waste train operated between the 5840 and 5490 tunnels.
Late 1983 - Diesel-powered rail haulage was in place only for reload operations at 6040, 5840, and 5490-Tunnel levels.
January 10, 1944
6040 Tunnel -- Utah Construction Company began work on the tunnel, 4,600 feet long, that was to connect the bottom of the open pit mine with Bingham. Completion was anticipated to be in one year. (Bingham Bulletin, August 4, 1944; December 22, 1944)
A Utah Copper photograph dated June 23, 1944 (UCM 288, 6-23-44) shows the lower portal of the 6040 tunnel not yet completed, with wooden concrete forms still on the portal, and no railroad rails in the vicinity.
December 22, 1944
6040 Tunnel -- There remained just 800 feet yet to drive to complete the new railroad tunnel. The new tunnel was 18 feet wide and 22 feet high. The general superintendent of Utah Construction Co. stated that the tunnel would be complete in approximately two months, at a cost of $1,222,000. "Obstacles which have plagued construction crews include two cave ins, one in June, which halted progress for six weeks, and another, which slowed down the crew for two weeks, in July. The shortage of labor has kept shift crews, which in ordinary times number 16 or 18 men, down to 8 and 10. To keep the men needed on the job it has benn necessary to raise the wages of $10 a day, standard tunnel pay all over the country, to $11.70." "Much loose ground has been encountered, necessitating placement of arched supports close to the face and nearer each other than ordinarily required. Until recently the rock excavated from the tunnel has been of little value. The quartzite vein they are now encountering has better grade mineral content." (Bingham Bulletin, December 22, 1944)
January 22, 1945
6040 Tunnel -- "In addition to the increase in [mine] track lengths, 3,972 feet of tunnel was driven on the 6040 Level connection to the pit." (Utah Copper Chronology History, General Manager's Report for 1944, January 22, 1945)
July 7, 1945
6040 Tunnel -- A dinner was held at the Utah Construction company boarding house at Bingham, celebrating the completion of concrete work on the new railroad tunnel, 4,700 feet in length. (Bingham Bulletin, July 13, 1945)
February 4, 1946
6040 Tunnel -- "At the end of the year  the transportation tunnel from the present floor of Utah Copper company's open pit mine was described as 'nearing completion.' It will provide an outlet for sub-level ore." (Ogden Standard Examiner, February 4, 1946)
(This indicates that although the tunnel itself was completed in July 1945, Utah Copper still had extensive work to complete before track could be laid connecting the new tunnel with the lowest track levels in the mine, including considerable excavation, as well as connecting with the new cross-canyon connection. The new connections included new switchback tracks connecting with the waste dump lines higher in the canyon. Other connections included tracks to the new Copperton yard of the new electrified line being built.)
A map of the Kennecott mine dated 1954 shows that by that date there were no tracks entering the tunnel from the pit end, and the tunnel was no longer being used. This would have been in preparation of a planned expansion of the pit walls.
April 9, 1951
The new 5840 tunnel was being driven from a point 50 feet below the current bottom of the open pit mine, and was to be 1-1/3 mile in length. It was to be a standard railroad tunnel, 21 feet wide and 25 feet tall. (Salt Lake Tribune, April 9, 1951)
The 5840-Tunnel in completed and placed in service. The tunnel was 7,000 feet long. Tracklaying in the tunnel began in January and was completed in March. (Kennecott Historical Index)
August 30, 1952
Drilling came to an end on the new 5840 tunnel on "Saturday" (August 30). The tunnel was 7,042 feet in length. (Salt Lake Tribune, August 31, 1952)
March 26, 1953
First ore trains operated through the new 5840-Tunnel. (Kennecott Historical Index)
(A Kennecott company photo dated March 3, 1953 shows an ore train apparently exiting from the newly completed 5840 tunnel, a short distance from the south side of the C-C cross-canyon connection to Central Yard. Another ore train is shown moving down hill from the 6040 tunnel to the same connection with the cross-canyon connection to Central Yard. The downhill portal of the 5840 tunnel was lower and about 1/4 mile down-canyon from the downhill portal of the 6040 tunnel.)
January 17, 1957
First waste train used 5840-Tunnel. (Kennescope, February 1957)
Kennecott began operating waste rock trains through the 5840 tunnel. Previously only ore trains were allowed through the tunnel. The change was because of the expansion of the pit, and more waste was being removed from the lower levels. (Bingham Bulletin, August 8, 1958)
The reload facility in the mine was moved to a site below Dry Forks shops. The previous reload site was inside the pit, accessed via rail through the 5840 tunnel, and had been found to be located on top of a pocket of high grade ore. Moving the reload site outside of the mine also allowed the 5840 tunnel to be closed. The rail in the 5490 tunnel had been replaced in January 1988 by a new conveyor belt that moved ore from the primary crusher in the pit, out to the new Copperton concentrator.
March 19, 2000
The last ore train was operated from the last reload site inside the mine, through the 5840 tunnel, down the remaining rail corridor in old Bingham Canyon to Copperton yard. After that date, all ore was loaded at the new Dry Fork reload site, outside of the mine. (Louie Cononelos, email dated December 27, 2011)
Actual drilling began on the new 5490 tunnel. (Bingham Bulletin, July 19, 1957)
The new tunnel was to be 18,000 feet long, measure 18 feet wide and 24 feet tall, with a reported cost of $12 million. Two other tunnels were already in place: the 6040 tunnel, completed in 1945, and the 5840 tunnel, completed in 1953. All tunnels were built to reduce mining costs by elimination of the uphaul of ore trains coming from the deepening bottom of the open pit mine. (Ogden Standard-Examiner, February 24, 1957)
A large portion of the 5490 tunnel went through ground that was owned by United States Smelting, Refining and Mining, through its purchase in 1929 of the Montana-Bingham property. Any ore that was found during the construction of the tunnel was therefore owned by USSR&M and was shipped to USSR&M's Midvale smelter.
During the year, Utah Construction Company made 8,875 feet of progress on the new 5490-Tunnel. (Kennecott Historical Index)
December 19, 1958
The new 5490 tunnel was 92 percent complete. The tunnel was projected to be 18,000 feet in length and to cost $11 million, and would eliminate costly up-hill ore and waste haulage from the bottom of the deepening Bingham open pit mine. (Bingham Bulletin, December 19, 1958)
The new 5490-Tunnel was completed at a cost of $12 Million. The tunnel is 18,000 feet long. (Arrington: Richest Hole, page 72)
March 6, 1959
Kennecott announced that the new 18,000-foot tunnel at the 5490-level had been completed. Work had started on October 30, 1956. (Salt Lake Tribune, March 7, 1959)
November 21, 1960
The new 5490 tunnel was completed in March 1959 to a point 150 feet lower than the current bottom level of the open pit mine. In June 1960, Morrison Knudsen began construction of a spiral cut to take railroad tracks down to the new tunnel's Bingham portal. Kennecott was installing permanent railroad track inside the newly completed tunnel. The spiral cut was to be 3600 feet long, at a finished grade of 4 percent. Because the spiral cut was in the actual ore body, the MK earth movers, at 20 cubic yards and 40 tons with each load, were moving the ore to a stockpile on the east side of the mine's bottom level, at a rate of 18,000 yards per day. Kennecott shovels were then loading the ore into trains, with the operation furnishing about one third of the mine's daily production. (Deseret News, November 21, 1960)
May 7, 1961
First ore train used the new 5490-Tunnel, seven weeks after "breakthrough" of the tunnel into the pit. The train was loaded with ore that had been stockpiled from the excavation in the pit for the tunnel portal. (Kennescope magazine, June 1961, page 26; with small photo of empty ore train being pulled by locomotive 869 exiting tunnel)
May 27, 1961
The first train of ore from other levels in the pit moves through the new 5490-Tunnel to Copperton. The track had been connected (using a spiral excavation) with the track of the 5640-Level on May 21st, and electrified on May 25th. (Kennescope magazine, June 1961, page 26)
"When I hired at Kennecott in April 1964 I worked on a pit track gang the first day. That locomotive and five ore cars in this picture was in the area of the bottom of the pit. We were laying the new switchback or spiral as we called it. Notice the loaded ore cars in the 5490 yard, the locomotive coming up out of the pit would push the five loaded cars onto the same track as the loads, building a train of about 15 cars to be shipped to Copperton. Then the train crew would go back down into the pit to pick up more loaded cars. In the picture the locomotive in the bottom of the pit was called the hole motor. That train crew would spot cars under the shovel while the other train crew pulled the loads up to 5490." (Gary Curtis, Facebook Bingham Canyon History, March 23, 2019)
March 26, 1985
A five-mile conveyor belt system t move the crushed ore to the site of a new grinding and floatation plant one mile north of Copperton. The 72-inch main ore conveyor exited the mine through an existing railroad tunnel at the 5,490-foot level. The conveyor belt would have a capacity of moving 10,000 tons every hour. Along the 5.1 miles of total length, there were five transfer stations, large steel structures several stories high that were needed each time the conveyor belt changed direction. After exiting the former railroad tunnel, the conveyor continued for two miles to the new grinding and floatation complex.
The new conveyor belt installed in the 5490 rail tunnel was put into operation in January 1988. The conveyor system consisted of six separate conveyor belts, with the longest, known as C-6, being 17,300 feet in length. By the time it was replaced due to normal wear and tear, in August 2002, the conveyors had carried 700 million tons of 10-inch minus material, from the in-pit crusher, out to the material storage pile adjacent to the Copperton mill. The conveyor belts were 72-inches wide. The C-6 belt was replaced during a normal 10-day downtime to move the in-pit crusher. "After almost 14 years of service, the most critical belt was removed after exceeding all warranty expectations. In particular, it exceeded warranty life by 40 percent and warranty tonnage by 245 percent. The belt was finally replaced [in August 2002] due to the convenience of system downtime created by a crusher move and because of the awareness of the increasing incidence of cord damage/breaks." (Dr. Robin B. Steven, The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, "Replacing C-6 Conveyor Belt at Kennecott Copper, Bingham Canyon Copper Mine")
April 15, 1951
The new Bingham-Lark tunnel for United States Smelting, Refining and Mining was "bored through" on Sunday April 15, 1951. The work had started two and a half years before, with Kennecott paying the full cost of $6 million. The length was reported as 21,014 feet, or 3.9 miles. Construction was being completed by Utah Construction company. The tunnel was at the 5600-foot level, and a shaft would be completed to connect the new tunnel with the old Niagara tunnel at the 6688-foot level. Work began in November 1948, and was scheduled for completion in summer 1952. (Deseret News, April 16, 1951)
Bingham-Copperfield Vehicular Tunnel
Although not a railroad tunnel, many who lived in Bingham Canyon, or who visited there recall the vehicular tunnel that connected Bingham with Copperfield.