D&RGW Tintic Branch (1908-2016)

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This page was last updated on March 31, 2023.

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Tintic Branch Description

(View a map of the D&RGW Tintic Branch)

Maximum grade: 3 percent (4 percent after 1940)

Maximum curvature: 12 degrees


(Read more about D&RG's Tintic Branch as the previous Tintic Range Railway)

July 31, 1908
August 1, 1908
Denver & Rio Grande Railroad (Consolidated) was organized and incorporated. Rio Grande Western Railway was merged with Denver & Rio Grande Railroad, along with Carbon County Railway, Castle Valley Railway, Copper Belt Railroad, San Pete Valley Railway, Sevier Railway, Tintic Range Railway, Utah Central Railroad, and Utah Eastern Railway. (LeMassena, pp. 115, 117)

According to LeMassena, page 67, the mechanism used by both D&RG and by RGW to build branchlines was to encourage a group of individuals, or a particular shipper, to organize a new company to build a spur or branch, contracting the actual construction to the railroads' construction crews. The railroads would then refund all costs of construction to the organizing company or individuals in the form of haulage credits until the full cost was fully recovered. Formal ownership, deed and title would then pass to the railroads.

March 1, 1929
D&RGW received Utah Public Utilities Commission approval to discontinue train numbers 409 and 410 between Springville and Silver City, over the Tintic Branch. (Utah Public Service Commission case 1071)

September 6, 1940
Union Pacific, LA&SL, and D&RGW received federal ICC approval for UP to access the Spanish Fork sugar factory of the Utah-Idaho-Sugar company. The ICC approved an agreement dated October 11, 1939 and signed by the railroads and the sugar company, and would allow Union Pacific trackage rights over the following: (1) after leaving its own Provo Subdivision mainline, approximately 1.038 miles over the sugar company's private Lake Shore Spur to its connection and crossing of the D&RGW Tintic Branch; (2) approximately 0.345 mile over the D&RGW Tintic Branch; (3) approximately 1.593 miles of D&RGW sidings and spurs from its Tintic Branch to the sugar factory, including an additional 0.505 mile over the Salt Lake & Utah spur that served the sugar factory. D&RGW and Salt Lake & Utah had jointly served the sugar factory under an agreement signed on October 1, 1918. Construction was to begin by November 1, 1940, and be completed by March 1, 1941. But research suggests the connection between UP and D&RGW, by way of the private Utah-Idaho Lake Shore Spur was never completed. (242 ICC 55; ICC Finance Docket 12812, decided September 6, 1940)

Rio Grande's "Double Circle" loop in Pinion Canyon was constructed along with the rest of D&RGW's Tintic Branch in 1892. In early 1940, the trestle by which the line crossed over itself, was due for some major maintenance and upgrades to allow larger locomotives. Quoting from Richard Kindig's article in the December 1941 issue of Trains magazine:

Perhaps one of the most interesting railroad features in this almost treeless country is the loop of the D&RGW east of Eureka. The railroad ascends from the ancient bed of Lake Bonneville (a flat valley called Goshen), and turns into a narrow canyon after a short hair-pin curve in a tunnel. Not far from the mouth of the dry stream bed a complete corkscrew loop is made to the right, up and over the main. Here a trestle 80 feet high spans highway, wash, old line and a new line just completed. The new line, however, will spell the death of the loop, for it replaces a section of 3 per cent track including the trestle with new, more direct 4 per cent trackage.

This might seem unusual, since most relocations are made with easier gradients, but the maintenance of the aging trestle was an expensive item, and the structure was able to support only the D&RGW's Class 3300 locomotives, which the company felt had done their life's work. The new line, although steeper, will pass almost any kind of engine used on branch line service, and will shorten the length of rail and roadbed as well. It would have cost $120,000 to rebuild the trestle as against the $22,000 for the new line. The engines scheduled for operation are the 3400 class Mallets, newer than the 3300's. Since the upgrade movement is toward the mines, most of the cars will be empty over the 4 per cent section.

D&RGW chose to rebuild the portion of its Tintic Branch in Pinion Canyon, removing the loop trestle and bridge entirely. The new line increased the climb in the canyon from an already steep 3 percent, to a steeper 4 percent. Motive power for the branch was changed from the previous 2-8-0 locomotives then in service, to more powerful articulated 2-6-6-0 motive power in the 3400 series.

D&RGW's Tintic Branch was cut back from Silver City to Eureka in 1943.

November 4, 1943
Eureka to Silver City Abandoned -- "F. D. No. 14342, Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad Company Trustees Abandonment. Decided November 4, 1943. Certificate issued permitting abandonment by Wilson McCarthy and Henry Swan, trustees of the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad Company, of a portion of a branch line of railroad extending from Eureka to the end of the track at Silver City, approximately 3.49 miles; and abandonment of operation by them of another line of railroad extending from a connection with the branch near Mammoth Junction to the end of the track, approximately 0.85 mile, all in the State of Utah. T. R. Woodrow for applicant." (ICC Financial Docket 14342, in 254 ICC 831, "Cases Disposed Of Without Printed Report")

September 1961
The agent was removed from the Eureka depot in September 1961, but the agency had been closed by special permission since January 1961, after the last shipping mine was closed in December 1960. Although other mines may have begun shipping ore at some later time, the 1961 application showed that the last train operated out of Eureka on December 29, 1960.

At some time between May 1966 and June 1967, the time period between D&RGW Utah Division timetables No. 6 and No. 7, Rio Grande's Tintic Branch was changed from ending at Eureka, to end at the Iron King mine on the former Goshen Valley Railroad. The Goshen Valley Branch had originally consisted of two lines; one from its connection to the Tintic Branch at Pearl Junction to the Iron King mine, and another from Dividend Junction on the line to Iron King, to the Dividend mine.

This change in 1966-1967 eliminated the line to Dividend (the Dividend mine had closed in 1949), and changed the Tintic Branch to end at the Iron King mine (new mile post 33.8), instead of extending all the way to Eureka (old mile post 39.1). In 1958, Kennecott Copper opened a lead-zinc-silver mine at Burgin, very near the old Iron King mine, making this the end of the branch, at mile post 32.4. Kennecott continued to work the Burgin mine, along with adding the Trixie mine in 1969, until both were closed in mid 1978 due to high costs, including pumping to fight the increasing water levels in the mines. In November 1982, Kennecott leased the Burgin mine to the Sunshine Mining Co., which continued to sell ores to Kennecott as smelter flux for its large smelter at Garfield on the south shore of Great Salt Lake. A heap leach gold mine was also opened at Burgin, but the entire mine has been closed since 1985. After Sunshine closed the Burgin mine, Kennecott sold its interest to Tintic Utah Metals, a jointly held subsidiary of the still existing Chief Consolidated Mining Co., and Young Poong Corp., of Korea, and as late as 2000, Tintic Utah Metals continued to process the dumps from the Trixie mine in its refurbished Burgin mill.

August 1972
The federal Interstate Commerce Commission approved D&RGW's request to abandon the Tintic Branch from Pearl Junction to Eureka, 13.13 miles, along with the Goshen Valley Branch from Flora to Dividend, 2.70 miles. (Railroad magazine, December 1972, page 66)

A large potential shipper was established in about 1980 at Elberta on D&RGW's Tintic Branch, with the opening of a large grain storage facility. Built and owned by Elberta Utah Grain Storage, a unit of the LDS Church, the facility has sixteen concrete bins that hold up to 93,250 bushels each. Hard red wheat is stored on a four-year rotation, depleting and replenishing 25 percent each year. Corn is stored for one year or less. The facility remains in place as of May 2015, but without rail service.

The last train to the Burgin mine was in 1986 when D&RGW ran a box car of equipment to the mine. Train 664 with two GP30s ran the entire 32.5 mile distance from Springville up the branch to the Burgin mine. The crew waited for it to be unloaded and returned. Conductor Neal Thorpe passed this news on to James Belmont during an interview in 1992. (James Belmont, email dated December 10, 2011)

After 1986, D&RGW (and later Union Pacific) only operated trains as far as the limestone quarry at Keigley (mile post 16.0), until Geneva Steel closed in 2001, taking away the need for limestone. Occasional traffic is still generated by the LDS Church's grain elevator at Elberta, at mile post 25.1.

Late 1987
In the late 1987 time frame, D&RGW continued to provide service along its Tintic Branch, using Train 665 to designate the train itself. The dolomite mine at Keigley was dormant after U.S. Steel's closing of its Geneva Works, but would soon reopen to supply material after the steel mill reopened under new management.

Nine miles of the former D&RGW Tintic Branch, between Keigley and Elberta, were rehabilitated to accept inbound shipments of pipe for the Kern River pipeline. The pipe was stockpiled at Elberta. (James Belmont, Rails Through The Wasatch group on Facebook, November 29, 2015)

September 1998
Union Pacific continued to serve the limestone quarry at Keigley as late as September 1998, with service continuing until the closure of the Geneva steel mill in 2001.

February 2002
The last train operated on the branch in February 2002. (James Belmont, Rails Through The Wasatch group on Facebook, November 29, 2015)

May 2002
As part of a larger purchase of 62.77 miles of Union Pacific trackage in Utah, the 13 miles of the Tintic Industrial Lead (D&RGW's Tintic Branch, also known as The Elberta Line) was sold to Utah Transit Authority for future light rail construction. UP retained surface operation rights to continue common carrier service.

UTA bought the 13 miles of line from Springville to a point west of Payson and the bridge over the UP tracks in May 2002. The line west from there (mile post 13.06) to Elberta was what UP formally abandoned in January 2008, along with its common carrier rights on the UTA portion.

UTA purchased the Tintic Industrial Lead in September 2002, from MP 0 to MP 13.06 (Payson). UP continued to operate to Elberta, at MP 26, a bit beyond Elberta to provide car storage for the Deseret Grain Storage. UP ended rail service in 2002, but compensated Deseret Grain for its use of trucks after UP ended service.

December 2005
Deseret Grain informed UP that they were about to start a dairy operation at Elberta, and wanted UP to restart rail service. Deseret projected 300 carloads of grain through 2007. UP declined to provide rail service on the grounds it was not profitable.

November 2006
UP applied to abandon rail service west of the UTA end of track at Payson, and STB approved the application in January 2008. With the formal abandonment, UP was no longer obligated to compensate Deseret Grain for its use of trucks. UP agreed to leave the rail in place, in case someone else wanted to operate the line.

January 2, 2008
The federal Surface Transportation Board approved Union Pacific's application to abandon railroad operations on what the railroad called its "Tintic Industrial Lead." Union Pacific had submitted its application on September 14, 2007, as successor to D&RGW. (Surface Transportation Board, Docket No. AB-33, Sub No. 209)

As late as February 2009, the line was still being used to store surplus rail cars.

March 2009
Tintic Southern Railroad, as a subsidiary of Ophir Mineral and Aggregate Group, usually known as Omag, began planning for a new railroad that would operate the former D&RGW Tintic Branch. Omag was already shipping limestone and other minerals from the quarry at Keigley, but was using trucks. Omag planned on rebuilding and renovating the tracks all the way west to the Burgin and Trixie mines on the east slope of the Tintic mining district. Omag began working with Utah Transit Authority, which owned the tracks as far as Payson, as well as with Union Pacific, which owned the tracks west of Payson, all the way to the Burgin and Trixie mines.

Tintic Southern Railroad (2009-2015)

(Read more about the failed Tintic Southern Railroad, actively planned from 2009 to 2015)

After 2015

May 2015
Portions of the western end of Tintic Branch, where the spurs crossed U.S. Highway 6 on the western edge of Goshen Valley, were destroyed by contractors working for the federal Bureau of Land Management, in a project to remove unwanted plant species. The work is known as "chaining" and involves a large chain connected between two bulldozers as they move across the land being "restored." The chain rips out native juniper trees and shallow-rooted plants, such as sage brush, for the purposes of encouraging the growth of grasses for the benefit of cattle grazing. It also destroys abandoned railroad tracks.

During May 2015, UTA people were seen inspecting the line near the LDS elevator looking at the rail. The UTA has their 2040 plan that implies a Front Runner line all the way to Elberta.

November 2015
A large portion of the Tintic Branch was dismantled west of Keigley. The potential still exists for rail service to Keigley, over UTA-owned track from Springville to Payson, then over UP-owned track to Keigley. (Information and photos from Pete Maxfield, courtesy of James Belmont, by way of postings to Facebook "Rails Through The Wasatch" group, January 6, 2016.)

February 2016
Indictments for fraud were issued for the principle owner of the proposed Tintic Southern rail line, and an associated proposed industrial development at Elberta.

May 2016
Union Pacific discovered that seven miles of its (abandoned) Tintic Industrial Lead that had been removed. The removed track was valued at $175,000. Charges of theft and trespass were filed against the owner of the proposed Tintic Southern Railroad.

Newspaper articles:

Pete Maxfield wrote on May 29, 2017:

The LDS silo wishes they could get service, and Rigtrip eggs is trucking 80,000 lbs of chicken feed from Lyndyl everyday.

Once the track is removed, unless the roadbed is railbanked it automatically reverts to the land owners it had easement over. This track can never be re-laid at this point as the railroad did not railbank when abandonment happened. The land would have to be repurchased as eminent domain is lost since the railroad had it and relinquished it. Also UP claimed that the Silos shipments and the egg shipments plus Burgin Mine's anticipated traffic were insufficient to maintain the rail line active. The STB agreed.

I don't believe the courts would recognize the illegal removal of the track as a legal point. It doesn't matter by what means it is removed. The land owners position is that the contractual problem is between UP and McKee. The landowners were not defrauded in any way.

It was legally a good faith abandonment by Union Pacific. What Al Mckee did was not in good faith against UP. Not against the landowners. It boils down to contractual faith, and there is none against the landowners, only against UP who must seek damages from the offending party who is Al Mckee. There is no circumstance under which the Tintic could be restored unless someone goes back to negotiate with the landowners in Genola and above Pearl. Even if that could be accomplished it would be 5-8 million dollars to restore the railroad.


Map of the Salt Lake & Western Ry. -- Later known as the Union Pacific's Fairfield Branch

Map of UP's Tintic area branches -- A Google map of UP's Tintic area branches

Map of D&RGW's Tintic branches -- A Google map of Rio Grande's Tintic branches, including the Dividend and Iron King Spurs, also known as the Burgin Mine Spur

Map of Eureka Hill Railway -- A Google map of Jesse Knight's narrow gauge line in the Tintic Mining District

Map, Railroads of the Tintic District -- Josh Bernhard's Google map of the railroads of the Tintic District