D&RGW Bingham Branch

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This page was last updated on July 7, 2022.

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Bingham Branch Summary

The following is taken from employee timetable No. 90, March 1920.

The Low Grade Line was shown in the 1920 employee timetable as the Bingham Branch Extension, with the following mile posts.


Bingham Canyon & Camp Floyd Railroad, 1872 to 1881

"The Bingham Canon and Camp Floyd Railroad Company, Utah, has a single track of twenty-two miles of main line with about three miles of side track and branches. The road commences at Sandy, a station on the Utah Southern Railroad, twelve miles south of Salt Lake City, and runs west up the Canon to Bingham City, in the vicinity of which are upwards of 5,000 located mines. The largest producing mines of this district have direct connection with the road by means of tramways and cars belonging to this road. The road was commenced in the Fall of 1873, but was not completed until the Spring of 1875. The equipment consists of four six-wheel locomotives, four passenger and one hundred and forty freight cars." (Engineering and Mining Journal, June 17, 1876, page 593)

The Bingham Canyon & Camp Floyd Railroad, incorporated September 10, 1872, held a ground-breaking ceremony on October 24, 1872. By June 1873, when the line was sold to C. W. Scofield, the entire line was about 16 miles length and had been graded, ties placed, and the Jordan River bridge built, but no iron laid. Scheduled trains began running on Thursday, October 16, 1873. The line was completed on November 22, 1873 to a point in Bingham Canyon near the Winnamuck smelter, just short of Bingham town. The end point was out of necessity due to the change in slope of the canyon floor. Beyond, and into Bingham town itself, the slope was found to be too steep. It would very soon be built on by a tram company that used horses as motive power. The horse tram used a switchback and steeper grades to go beyond the Winnamuck, and continued its line for another 3.5 miles to reach the mines of the U. S. Mining Company.

The completion of the Bingham Canyon & Camp Floyd to the Winnamuck gave the railroad 16 miles of line from Sandy station, on the Utah Southern Railroad, west to Bingham station, just below Bingham town proper. The track from Sandy station to the Jordan River bridge, three miles, was laid as three-rail for both BC&CF's three-feet narrow gauge trains, and Utah Southern's standard gauge trains, for the convenience of the Utah Southern Railroad in reaching smelters in that vicinity.

The Bingham Canyon & Camp Floyd became part of the newly organized Denver & Rio Grande Western Railway in December 1881.

(Read more about the Bingham Canyon & Camp Floyd Railroad)

Horse Tram

The narrow gauge railroad was extended up-canyon from the Bingham Canyon & Camp Floyd depot at Bingham. This extension was surveyed by the railroad, and the right of way purchased (or leased in some cases). Rails were laid by the railroad, but not operated by them due to the excessive grades that prevented locomotives from operating.

Operation of the extension was passed to third parties who leased the line for operation. These third parties used horses to pull the empty ore cars up to the mines being served, and gravity to move the loaded ore cars down to the rail yard at Bingham.

This operation continued from 1874 to 1900, when the Copper Belt railroad was organized to build and operate a standard gauge railroad along the same right of way.

(Read more about the horse tram at Bingham)

(The story of the Bingham horse tramway continued after 1900 as the Copper Belt Railroad)

Denver & Rio Grande Western Railway, 1881 to 1889

December 7, 1887
"Local Railway Notes." "Revere station has been opened to freight, passenger and express business, with A. O. Davis as agent. This station is on the Bingham road below the mouth of the canyon, and is the shipping point for ores on the side of the Brooklyn, Yosemite, and mines of that locality." (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, December 7, 1887)

(Read more about the Denver & Rio Grande Western)

Rio Grande Western Railway, 1889 to 1908

June 24, 1889
Rio Grande Western Railway was incorporated to finance conversion of the D&RGW to standard gauge. The company was formally organized on May 16, 1889, and was a consolidation of the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railway, in Utah, and the State Line & Denver Railway, in Colorado. The State Line & Denver was organized by Palmer as a connection between the D&RGW at State Line and the soon-to-be-completed Colorado Midland at Glenwood Springs. (Utah corporation index 565; LeMassena, p. 89)

July 1, 1889
The reorganization of D&RGW as RGW took place on July 1, 1889, using the name Rio Grande Western Railway instead of the planned Utah & Colorado Railway. (Wilson, pp. 93, 94)

September 24, 1889
The old 45 pound steel rail from the SLC-Ogden line being laid as standard gauge the Bingham line. (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, September 24, 1889)

June 3, 1890
First regular standard gauge train to Bingham went up yesterday. (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, June 3, 1890)

August 7, 1890
The old narrow gauge turntable from Salt Lake has had one foot added on each end, and will be installed at Bingham. Engine widening continues. (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, August 7, 1890)

October 22, 1890
The 'depot' at Bingham has been old narrow gauge carbodies ever since standard gauge was put in. (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, October 22, 1890)

November 8, 1890
The reason for no new depot at Bingham is that the RGW cannot get land at a reasonable price, everyone wanting to gouge the railroad company. The waiting room at Bingham is 'reported as being an old narrow gauge boxcar body; new depots are being built at Castle Gate and P. V. Junction. (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, November 8, 1890)

December 15, 1890
There will be a new depot at Bingham soon, to replace the two old narrow gauge boxcars now used for that purpose. (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, December 15, 1890)

RGW extended the narrow-gauge, mule-powered tramway in Bingham Canyon two miles, from Bingham to Upper Bingham. (LeMassena, p. 92)

June 25, 1896
"New Depot For Bingham -- The Winnamuck company of Bingham has given the R. G. W. Railway company a tract of land 60x100 feet for depot purposes, and yesterday surveyors were at work staking off the ground for the new buildings, which will consist of a tasty depot building and a commodious warehouse, which will be erected about midway between the Winnamuck office and mill. The new depot will be about 1,000 feet down the canyon from the company's old box-car ticket and express office, and, when completed. will "fill a long-felt want." (Salt Lake Herald, June 25, 1896)

(Read more about the Winnamuck mill; which opened in May 1896)

December 11, 1900
"Will be Steep Grade" when the RGW extends its line from Bingham to the mines of the Bingham Copper & Gold Mining Company, three miles up the canyon. "For the first two miles beyond Bingham the present grade of the company's three-foot gauge tramway will be used as far as practicable. Beyond that point the work will be new." "It is to be standard gauge and operated with a Shay engine." (ed. note: This is the Copper Belt Railroad) (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, December 11, 1900)

December 30, 1900
Review of 1900: "The Rio Grande Western three-mile extension at Bingham will be known as the Copper Belt Railroad and will be operated by J. G. Jacobs." (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, December 30, 1900)

Copper Belt Railroad leased (and converted to standard gauge) the three-mile long old RGW narrow gauge tramway from Bingham to the Old Jordan and Commercial mines in Bingham Canyon. Copper Belt later, in 1905, acquired title to the line in exchange turning over its stock to D&RG (not RGW). (LeMassena, p. 111)

September 26, 1901
A contract for the construction of the "Revere Railway," from Revere on the RGW Bingham Branch, to the mouth of the Dalton & Lark tunnel was awarded by Bingham Consolidated Mining & Smelting company, to Utah Construction company of Ogden. The new rail line was reported as being 3.6 miles in length, with a projected cost of $32,000. The new rail line would greatly reduce the expenses of shipping ore from the Dalton & Lark mine. (Salt Lake Tribune, September 27, 1901, "yesterday")

November 4, 1901
"Next week the Bingham Consolidated mining company will begin laying rails on the Dalton & Lark branch of eight miles." (Deseret Evening News, November 9, 1901)

December 9, 1901
"Track laying has begun on the Rio Grande Western branch from Revere to Dalton & Lark tunnel." (Salt Lake Herald, December 9, 1901)

November 3, 1903
RGW bought the "Dalton & Lark Railroad" from Bingham Consolidated Mining & Smelting Company. The rail line became RGW's "Dalton & Lark Spur." The mining company had begun construction of the spur in October 1901 at Revere (later Dalton) on the RGW's Bingham Branch and continued to the lower portal of the mining company's Dalton & Lark Drain Tunnel. The spur was completed in January 1902 and was operated by the mining company with a Shay locomotive. (Interstate Commerce Commission Reports, Volume 26, p. 809; 26 ICC 809; the sale was dated November 3, 1903; Engineering News, July 24, 1902, p. 59; Destiny, p. 273) The line was four miles of standard gauge railroad. (LeMassena, p. 111)

January 1, 1905
D&RG (not RGW) took control of Copper Belt Railroad. (26 ICC 927) The Copper Belt had been completed in February 1901 (construction began in November 1900) by the owners of the Bingham Copper & Gold Mining Company. In April 1901 the mining company was reorganized as the Bingham Consolidated Mining & Smelting Company, partly to finance the organization (on May 18, 1901) and purchase of the Copper Belt Railroad. (Engineering News, July 24, 1902, p. 59; Engineering & Mining Journal, May 4, 1901 p. 572; USGS Professional Paper 38, p. 99)

August 3, 1905
RGW let a contract to Utah Construction Co. for the construction of a 17-mile line between its Bingham Branch, near its station of Revere, to the site of the new American Smelting & Refining company's new smelter at Garfield. Work was to begin at once. (Deseret News, August 3, 1905)

November 1905
RGW completed Garfield Branch, from Garfield Junction (later Welby) on the Bingham Branch to the site of the Garfield smelter. Construction had begun in August. Sixteen miles of new construction. (Salt Lake Mining Review, August 15, 1905, p. 31; October 30, 1911, p. 18; LeMassena, p. 115)

RGW built the new "Low Grade" line in Bingham Canyon, 12 miles of new construction. The new line ended at the new Cuprum yard. From there, two miles were added to connect its existing trackage at Bingham, at Copper Belt Junction, further up the canyon. (LeMassena, p. 115)

(The Low Grade Line was also called the Lo-Line, similar to the station called Loline Junction where the new line connected with the Bingham Branch. In the railroad's employee timetables, the line was called the Bingham Branch Extension.)

January 2, 1907
RGW operated the first train over the new Bingham Branch Extension into Bingham Canyon. (Salt Lake Mining Review, October 30, 1911, p. 18)

Construction was begun in April 1906. (1909 Bingham Commercial Club souvenir booklet)

(Note on sources: Surprisingly, the local newspapers apparently did not cover the completion of either the RGW line to Garfield, or the new low-grade line into Bingham canyon. Numerous searches in online newspapers does not reveal any coverage.)

Denver & Rio Grande Railroad

(includes Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad after 1921)

Utah Copper Co. built its own Bingham & Garfield Railway because the copper company was not satisfied with D&RG's service between the copper company's mine in Bingham Canyon, and its smelters 16 miles north near Great Salt Lake via D&RG's Garfield Branch. (LeMassena, p. 123)

In his summary for the year 1911, LeMassena wrote on page 123, "Copper ore, in tremendous tonnages, which had been routed from Bingham through Welby to Garfield, dwindled to but a fraction of the former quantities. The reason was simple enough: the copper company wanted more reliable service. The D&RG ignored this request, with the result that the copper company eliminated the D&RG completely by building the Bingham & Garfield railroad."

D&RG added three miles of second track between Welby and Loline Junction to relieve the congestion of copper ore traffic between Bingham Canyon and the mills and smelter at Garfield. (LeMassena, p. 123)

September 14, 1911
Utah Copper Company began operation of its Bingham & Garfield Railway. Construction had begun in April 1910. Utah Copper had asked D&RG to expand its facilities (more locomotives and cars and double tracking of its "Low Grade Line" and Garfield Branch) and D&RG had refused. The copper company had organized the B&G in July 1908, hoping to "scare" the D&RG railroad into making the needed improvements. The copper company went ahead with the construction because they could see advantages to controlling their own transportation facilities. (106 ICC 459)

D&RGW's ex Copper Belt Railroad line in Bingham Canyon was removed because of the copper mine's expansion, including the line from Bingham up canyon to Copper Belt Junction on the low grade line, and the former Copper Belt branch from Bingham to the Yampa smelter. (LeMassena, p. 139)

September 21, 1925
D&RGW sold its Bingham Low Grade Line, the Copper Belt Branch, and the Yampa Branch to Utah Copper's Bingham & Garfield Railway. (D&RGW Agreement 4163 and Deed U-3267)

(Expansion of the copper company's operations required that they move these tracks, along with others that were connected with them.)

D&RGW Employee Timetable #97, June 6, 1926 -- This employee timetable shows the D&RGW railroad's Salt Lake Division in 1926. Specific research was completed to determine the existance of what remained of the old Copper Belt railroad in Bingham Canyon. By the time of the 1926 timetable, only a short portion of the Copper Belt remained, serving the loading bins of the Montana-Bingham mine. (See page 7 for the remnants of the Copper Belt Branch). (PDF; 11 pages; 10.9MB)

To answer the question, the Montana-Bingham loading bin was about 1/4 mile up-canyon from the D&RGW Bingham depot. As the timetable shows, the old Copper Belt line ended at the Montana-Bingham loading bin, just 0.3 mile from its start. The Montana-Bingham mine itself was owned by U.S. Mining, Smelting & Refining by this time, and as part of the construction of its 6040 haulage tunnel in 1944-1945, which would intersect the underground Montana-Bingham mine tunnel, Utah Copper paid for a new Montana-Bingham underground haulage tunnel that exited about 1/3 mile lower in the canyon, with a new Montana-Bingham loading bin built adjacent to the D&RGW Bingham depot. This allowed the last remnant of the old Copper Belt to be retired and removed.

(Read more about the Montana-Bingham mine)

D&RGW removed the four miles of the Bingham Low Grade Line from Upper Junction in Bingham canyon, back to Midas to serve the Midas and Congor mines. Continued expansion of Utah Copper's Bingham mine forced the removal. (part from LeMassena, p. 147)

(LeMassena, on page 147 of Rio Grande...to the Pacific, wrote that in 1929 D&RGW built four miles of new line in Bingham Canyon from Upper Junction to Midas to serve the Midas and Congor mines. This is in error because the line already existed as the Low Grade Line.)

The Upper Junction referred to in LeMessena's timeline was also shown on maps as Yampa Mine Junction, or Copper Belt Junction, and was at the upper, southern end of the Low Grade Line where it met and intermingled with the tracks of the Utah Copper company.

The Midas spur mentioned in LeMessena's timeline was outside of Bingham canyon, at Mile Post 15 (from Midvale) of the Low Grade Line. The Congor spur mentioned was at approximately Mile post 14.5, and was on the southern-most loop of that part of the line outside of the canyon.

December 28, 1931
D&RGW received Utah Public Utilities Commission approval to close agency station at Bingham. (Utah Public Service Commission case 1244)

May 16, 1934
D&RGW retired its 60-foot turntable at Bingham. (D&RGW AFE 5227, courtesy of Jerry Day) (This was the lower turntable near the site of the former Utah Copper Copperton mill)

June 24, 1948
D&RGW received ICC approval to purchase the former Bingham & Garfield Sand Spur at Garfield. The B&G had been abandoned in May and Kennecott Copper still needed the sand. (ICC Finance Docket 16094, concurrent with ICC Finance Docket 16093, the abandonment of the B&G, in 271 ICC 804)

D&RGW completed the construction of three miles of new track from Snyder to Lark on the Lark Branch. The new construction was necessary to serve the new ore bins of the U. S. Mining company's new Bingham and Lark tunnel, built by Kennecott to avoid the continued growth of Kennecott Copper's Bingham open pit copper mine. (part from LeMassena, p. 174)

A recently discovered D&RGW engineering department map shows that the northern portion of the new track at Lark, which connected with the existing Lark Branch, was on a parcel of land purchased from Kennecott Copper on March 21, 1955. The southern portion that actually served the new facilities at Lark, was on a parcel of land purchased from United States Smelting Refining & Mining Co. on August 23, 1955. The new plant at Lark was at the lower portal of a new Bingham-Lark tunnel completed in 1952, constructed by Kennecott for USRR&M to replace the original Mascotte Tunnel. Kennecott was expanding its open pit mining operations in Bingham, and the old Mascotte tunnel along with its connection to the Niagara tunnel in Bingham, was in the way. Kennecott constructed the new tunnel that allowed USSR&M to access it underground holdings at Bingham.

(Read more about the United States mining company and its operations in Bingham and at Lark)

January 22, 1960
D&RGW, the state road commission, and Midvale City began negotiations for D&RGW to remove its tracks along Midvale's Center Street, which the road commission wanted to use as a major thoroughfare and access point to the new Interstate 15 freeway. The new highway, to be known as state route U-48, was to be four lanes from State Street to Redwood Road. The tracks of D&RGW's Bingham along Center Street were to be removed, and the D&RGW mainline crossing of U-38 was to be by way of an overhead bridge, with the east-west highway passing under the north-south railroad tracks. The highway, U-48, was already in place as a two-lane road, and was to be expanded as a four-lane road with center islands and turn lanes. (Midvale Sentinel, January 22, 1960, "recently")

October 14, 1960
The D&RGW Bingham Branch was to be relocated to accommodate the rebuilding of Midvale's Center Street as a major thoroughfare west of State Street. The existing alignment has the railroad branch paralleling Center Street along its south edge from the D&RGW mainline, westward. The new alignment included a new wye track at Midvale, with new tracks westward across smelter property, connecting with the existing branch near Gardner's mill (very near today's Historic Gardner Station on UTA's Mid-Valley TRAX light rail line). (Midvale Sentinel, October 14, 1960)

October 19, 1962
Plans for the realignment of the D&RGW Bingham Branch were progressing. The state road commission had announced that the Midvale exit for Interstate 15 would be at Sugar Street (7200 South), with the first work to be moving the underground utilities, along with property purchases on both sides of the new interchange site. By late November, the embankments for the new alignment crossing over the widened state route U-48, were half completed. (Midvale Sentinel, October 19, 1962; November 30, 1962) (This is the current bridge used by UTA TRAX to cross 7800 South)

April 19, 1963
D&RGW announced that it planned to begin using the new alignment of its Bingham Branch on or about June 30th. (Midvale Sentinel, April 19, 1963)

June 21, 1963
To reduce the number of overpasses needed after Interstate 15 and its connector roads were completed, D&RGW and Union Pacific reached an agreement to allow UP's trains on its Midvale Spur, to use D&RGW's crossing of Midvale's Main Street (today's 700 West), at about 7300 South. (Midvale Sentinel, June 21, 1963) (The new joint bridge over Main Street wasn't installed until after 1965.) (Union Pacific had its own overhead crossing of 7200 South, west of I-15; later used by UTA 's TRAX Mid-Valley light rail line.)

April 6, 1964
On the evening of Monday April 6, 1964, the first revenue train operated over the new alignment for the D&RGW Bingham Branch, between Midvale and "bottoms" near the branch's crossing of the Jordan river. The same point of connection location is very near today's Historic Gardner Station on UTA's Mid Valley TRAX light rail line. The opening of the new line allowed the line along Midvale's Center Street to be abandoned and removed. The next morning, Tuesday April 7th, crews began removing the old line, beginning at the Jordan river bridge and working eastward. On Thursday April 9th, an informal ceremony was held as officials from the railroad, the state highway department, and Midvale city gathered at the Jordan river bridge for photographs and remarks. The ceremony also marked the beginning of the rebuilding of Center Street from a two-lane road, to a four-lane highway connecting State Street and Redwood Road. (Midvale Sentinel, April 10, 1964)

April 9, 1964
An informal ceremony was held at the Jordan river bridge in Midvale to make the start for the removal of D&RGW tracks along Center Street. The removal would allow the start of improving Center Street westward to Redwood Road. (Deseret News, April 9, 1964)

April 15, 1964
A formal ceremony was held in front of Midvale city hall, with speeches and photographers, marking the removal of the first rail of the D&RGW Bingham Branch in Midvale's Center Street. (Midvale Sentinel, April 17, 1964)

October 14, 1964
The new highway replacing Center Street as a state road was completed. With the completion of Sugar Street (7200 South) as the freeway interchange, state road U-48 was changed from Midvale's Center Street west of State Street to Redwood Road, to be along 7200 South from the freeway interchange to Midvale's Main Street (700 West; Holden Street), to Center Street, then west to Redwood Road. The first layer of pavement was put on U-48 on Wednesday, October 14th, and would remain as the road surface through the winter pending good weather before the final layers was put into place. (Midvale Sentinel, October 16, 1964)

D&RGW constructed three miles of new line on the Bingham Branch to avoid the continued growth of the waste dump of Kennecott Copper's Bingham open pit copper mine. The portion of the old Bingham Branch that would not be affected by the growing waste dump became part of the Lark Branch. (LeMassena, p. 195)

(No apparent activity or actions concerning the Bingham Branch while part of Southern Pacific, 1988 to 1996)

March 2001
The Midvale Tramp operates on weekday mornings. Leaves Roper yard before daylight and works the Bingham and Garfield branches, then return to Roper around noon. (James Belmont)

Utah Transit Authority

January 28, 2002
Union Pacific and Utah Transit Authority applied to the federal Surface Transportation Board on January 28, 2002, and the STB approved on May 22, 2002, the sale by Union Pacific of the following properties to Utah Transit Authority, for use as part of a commuter rail project, total of 62.77 miles, including

September 20, 2002
A ceremony was held on the steps of the state capital, for the signing of the $185 million check to Union Pacific. In attendance were Utah governor Mike Leavitt, U. S. congressmen Jim Matheson and Chris Cannon, Union Pacific chairman, president and CEO Richard Davidson, and UTA general manager John Inglish. (BYU NewsNet, September 19, 2002; Deseret News, September 19, 2002; Union Pacific press release dated September 20, 2002) The sale was formally closed on September 23, 2002. (UTA press release dated September 23, 2002)

Included in the sale was the part of the former D&RGW Bingham Branch, from Midvale to West Jordan/South Jordan (known as the Bingham Industrial Spur).

(Read more about the sale of UP trackage to Utah Transit Authority)

December 2, 2002
Union Pacific received approval from the federal Surface Transportation Board to abandon its rail operations along 5.21 miles of the former D&RGW Bingham Branch, which by this time was officially known as the "Bingham Industrial Lead." This section of track runs from MP 6.60 near Bagley (West Jordan Industrial Park) to MP 11.81 near Lead Mine (Copperton). This trackage had been sold to Utah Transit Authority, but UP had retained "perpetual easement and common carrier obligation to conduct freight operations", and this action allowed UP to abandon those rights. (STB Docket AB-33, Sub 194X; notice of intent to abandon published in Salt Lake Tribune, November 8, 2002)

(This 5.21 miles of trackage hadn't seen any regular use since the mid-1990's when Kennecott's precipitation plant closed at Lead Mine. The line extends from West Jordan's Bagley Industrial Park (home of SME Steel and the Interstate Brick Company) west through Dalton Junction (connection to the abandoned Lark Branch) up Bingham Canyon to Lead Mine at Copperton. This track was a regular assignment for Rio Grande's fleet of SD7/SD9's and later GP30's.)

March 29, 2007
Union Pacific sold to Savage Bingham & Garfield Railroad, portions of the former D&RGW Bingham and Garfield branches.

Savage Bingham & Garfield operations started on October 1, 2007.

(Read more about Savage Bingham & Garfield)

April 24, 2007
Utah Transit Authority was given authority to acquire the remaining 35 feet of right-of way of UP's Bingham Industrial Lead (former D&RGW Bingham Branch) between Midvale and Bagley (about 5200 West), being the portion with the actual track structure on it, and adding to the 35 feet of right-of-way acquired in 2002, gave UTA complete ownership of the entire line. (Surface Transportation Board, Finance Docket 35008, decided April 23, 2007; service date April 24, 2007)

Construction of UTA's Mid-Jordan light rail passenger line started in May 2008, and was completed and opened to the public in August 2011.