D&RGW Tintic Branch (1908-2016)
Index For This Page
This page was last updated on March 18, 2022.
Tintic Branch Description
- Springville (MP 0.00) (yard)
- Spanish Fork (MP 3.8) (23 car side track)
- Payson (MP 10.8) (28 car side track)
- (UP Crossing -- MP 13.06; "Red Bridge")
- Santaquin (MP 15.4) (35 car side track)
- (Keigley -- MP 16.0; site of Staker limestone quarry)
- Townsend (MP 17.3) (13 car side track)
- Harold (MP 19.7)
- Goshen (MP 22.1) (21 car side track)
- Pearl (MP 27.5) (8 car side track)
- Wye track, connection with Goshen Valley Branch and Iron King Branch
- Hillside (MP 27.9) (16 car side track)
- Laguna (MP 30.8) (14 car side track)
- Cañon Siding (MP 34.9) (9 car side track)
- Knightsville (MP 27.5) (17 car side track)
- Wye track
- Eureka (MP 39.1) (yard)
- U. P. Crossing (MP 42.0)
- Silver City (MP 43.7, end)
Maximum grade: 3 percent (4 percent after 1940)
Maximum curvature: 12 degrees
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)
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")
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.
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.
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)
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.
The last train operated on the branch in February 2002. (James Belmont, Rails Through The Wasatch group on Facebook, November 29, 2015)
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.
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.
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.
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)
In March 2009, a new railroad was reported as being organized in Utah. Known as the ParsonMcKee & Tintic Southern Rail Road, the new planned shortline railroad was moving forward with plans to operate over the former D&RGW Tintic Branch (later known as UP's Tintic Industrial Lead).
Since May 2002, the roadbed and track of the former D&RGW Tintic Branch (which later became Union Pacific's Tintic Industrial Lead) had been owned by Utah Transit Authority, with Union Pacific retaining operating rights to provide limited common carrier access.
The new Tintic Southern railroad was to be affiliated with Ophir Mineral and Aggregate Group, usually known as Omag, with Al McKee (Alan Dean McKee) as the new company's president. The formal name was Ophir Minerals and Aggregate LLC.
During 2009, McKee reported that Omag mined, loaded, and shipped by truck, commodities such as salt, food-grade calcium carbonate, flux-grade silica, high-grade silica, Gilsonite, Halloysite, Perlite, Dolomite, gypsum, and all types of concrete aggregates. McKee planned to increase operations and ship the increased production by rail.
McKee stated that Omag was part of the rapidly expanding McFarland & Hullinger/Broken Arrow, a trucking, construction, and mining company headquartered in Tooele, Utah. Although later found to be wrong, the reports sparked a research interest in McFarland & Hullinger, which started out in the construction business about 70 years ago. They grew beyond their construction and excavating roots in 1972 when they organized Broken Arrow , Inc., to expand into the environmental disposal business just getting started in western Tooele County, centered around Clive, a rail station on Western Pacific. During the mid 1950s, McFarland & Hullinger was involved in the movement of tailings from the mine dumps of the Ontario mine above Park City, down to a truck dump for transloading into Union Pacific rail cars, at the rate of about 30 carloads per week. The material was used by Kennecott as flux ore at its Garfield smelter.
In addition to increased quarry production, McKee stated that Tintic Southern was organized in anticipation of rejuvenated rail traffic at mines in the Tintic district, at the Burgin mine being developed by the Chief Consolidated mining company. But the new mining traffic never did materialize.
McKee purchased two Alco switching locomotives, stored at the former U. S. Steel coal wash plant east of Price, Utah. The two locomotives were moved in September and October 2007 to McKee's shop at Flux, on the west side of Tooele Valley, west of Grantsville.
The new Tintic Southern Railroad was organized. The signs placed at several road crossings showed the company as Omag Mining/ParsonMcKee & Tintic Southern Rail Road.
Many observers noticed new signs that appeared at points where the tracks crossed local highways and roads, announcing, "Please Be Aware. This Rail Line Is Subject To Reopen."
Andover removed the rail from Burgin and sold it before they declared bankruptcy in 2012.
Omag and Tintic Southern's plans for renewed operation of the Tintic Branch depended on the success of renewed mining operations by Chief Consolidated Mining Company, at its Burgin and Trixie mines, and surrounding area. Those plans disappeared with the bankruptcy and liquidation in February 2014 of Andover Mining Corp., a Canadian company that held 65 percent ownership of Chief Consolidated.
Plans were in place as late as March 2014 to operate trains hauling stone from the Keigley quarry and other sites, as well as whatever Tintic ore traffic might develop.
Pete Maxfield wrote on May 10, 2014:
The Burgin mine owners already pulled the rail on their property and the EPA told UP if they pull the rail in the Goshen Valley it will get real expensive because of the environmental damage, so let's hope that Al McKee will make good on the signs he keeps posting along the right of way that the railroad will reopen. Joel Thompson would argue that the UTA probably owns the rail all the way to Elberta, since the UTA 2030 plan shows a Front Runner line from Elberta to Eagle Mountain.
Pete Maxfield wrote on May 23, 2015:
Omag had a dream to start the line back up again. In 2009 they actually hired a company to start rehabilitating the line, the equipment sat for a few days on the Muir-Roberts siding until UTA and UP told them to remove the equipment. They kept their signs up until about a year ago . When Andover Mining declared bankruptcy Omag was caught in that business as they had formed a partnership with Andover on the Chief Consolidated properties. Omag broke their relationship with Andover during the bankruptcy and dropped the idea of re-opening the Tintic as they wanted to ship minerals (Halloysite) from Burgin and from Keigley. Since the Andover bankruptcy Omag seems to be in disarray. Recently there were UTA people out in the Goshen Valley looking at the rail.
The Tintic Southern is pretty much a dead project. Andover removed the rail at the Burgin mine and sold it before they declared bankruptcy (2012). Then the Federal government pulled up a bunch of rail while chaining the ground (2015).
(As a final note about the two Alco locomotives, after being moved from the US Steel Wellington coal wash plant in 2007, the two locomotives were stored at Flux, on the UP (former WP) Ellerbeck Branch near Grantsville. During summer 2015, following the failure of the Tintic Southern, copper thieves stole the external copper cabling, making the locomotives unserviceable, and not economically repairable.)
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.
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.)
Indictments for fraud were issued for the principle owner of the proposed Tintic Southern rail line, and an associated proposed industrial development at Elberta.
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.
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 not 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