Utah Iron Ore Corporation
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This page was last updated on October 20, 2018.
Utah Iron Ore Corporation owned and operated the large iron mines in southwestern Utah, west of Cedar City.
The particular iron ore deposits near Iron Mountain were first located in the 1870s but by the 1920s had not yet been commercially worked. The mines were to be developed to furnish ore for the new Columbia Steel Company's new iron mill that was being constructed near Springville. The actual mining was done by the steel company's subsidiary Columbia Iron Mining Company, and also by the Colorado Fuel & Iron Company to supply its mill in Pueblo, Colorado. Columbia's mill near Springville, called Ironton, went into production, producing pig iron, on May 1, 1924. The construction of the Cedar City Branch also included the 4.5-mile Iron Mountain Branch to Desert Mound, which left the Cedar City Branch at Iron Springs (Mile Post 20.28).
Utah Iron Ore Corporation completed a four-mile in-plant railroad between the Vermillion pit and the Desert Mound pit, along with a couple spurs. These four locomotives were used to operate that line. Apparently the two gas-mechanical locomotives, purchased in 1924 and 1926, did not have enough power, and were replaced by the two Shay locomotives in 1928. The in-plant railroad was used until about 1940, when truck haulage replaced rail haulage at the Desert Mound mine.
Iron Mountain Railroads -- A Google Map of the railroads and mines in the Iron Mountain District, near Cedar City, Utah.
December 24, 1923
Utah corporation index number: 16095; Organized: December 24, 1923; Filed in Salt Lake County: December 31, 1923; Dissolved: December 27, 1950
January 18, 1924
Milner Corporation of Salt Lake City announced that it would build a railroad spur, 3-1/2 miles in length, from the current Union Pacific branch between Lund and Cedar City, to extend to its iron ore mines at Desert Mound. The corporation owns 527 acres of iron ore reserves, and has a contract to furnish iron ore to United States Smelting & Refining Company to serve as flux ore in that company's smelter. (Iron County Record, January 18, 1924)
The following comes from the Iron County Record, January 18, 1924:
Construction of another branch railroad line to tap another vast deposit of Utah's iron is seen in the announcement by the Milner corporation of Salt Lake of the sale of $250,000 in bonds to Stephens & Company of California. Proceeds of the bond issue will be used in part for construction of three and one-half one miles of line from the present branch of the Union Pacific from Lund to Cedar City, to the Desert Mound iron holdings of the Milner corporation in southern Utah.
The corporation has contracts with the United States Smelting & Refining company and the International Smelting company calling for a minimum of 72,000 tons of iron ore annually to be used for fluxing purposes.
It is expected that construction of the new branch will be started immediately and that the mines will be shipping iron ore as soon as transportation facilities permit. In the letter announcing the bond issue A. C. Milner, president of the corporation says, in part:
"The corporation owns 527 acres of patented iron ore lands in the Iron Springs district - with known iron ore reserves estimated at 16,000,000 tons within a depth of 100 feet. Engineering tests show ore to extend to a depth in excess of 340 feet. Steel companies operating in this vicinity are using similar ore for which they are paying a royalty basis of 35 cents per ton in the ground. In as much as the Desert Mound ore is surface ore it can be extracted and loaded on cars by a single steam shovel operation at a very low cost.
April 17, 1924
Columbia Steel's mine at Iron Mountain was producing 600 tons of iron ore per day, with plans to increase production to 1000 tons per day by April 20th. (Ogden Standard Examiner, April 17, 1924)
May 21, 1924
A new rail spur, 3.6 miles long, was to be completed south from Iron Springs to a new station to be known as Desert Mound, the site of the iron ore deposits of the Utah Iron Ore Corporation, situated on 527 acres owned by the Milner Corporation. Construction was to begin "immediately," and be completed by July 1st. The Utah Iron Ore properties are about two miles from the Columbia Steel properties. (Ogden Standard Examiner, May 21, 1924)
June 20, 1924
"Cedar City -- Grading for the spur track being built to the Milner iron properties at Desert Mound has begun in earnest and it is expected that the four mile branch line will be completed before the middle of July. The line is being built by the Utah Iron Ore corporation, which has leased the Milner property and already has contracts to furnish iron ore for fluxing purposes to several smelting companies." (Davis County Clipper, June 20, 1924, News Notes from All Parts of Utah)
July 12, 1924
The Desert Mound spur of Union Pacific, serving the Milner mines was completed on July 12th. Open cut mining was to start August 1st. (Iron County Record, July 18, 1924)
"The Utah Iron Mines Corporation, operating at the Desert Mound, is spending approximately $5,000 monthly for labor. Now that the R. R. spur has been completed to the Mound, the stripping of the ore completed, shipping will soon commence which will necessitate the employment of fifty or more men. This will increase the payroll considerably." (Iron County Record, July 18, 1924, page 5, "Local News")
"The Desert Mound Spur leading to Milner Mines was completed Saturday, July 12th. This track laid with substantial material to support the largest locomotives and tonnage will be ballasted this week. Stripping of the deposits is well advanced and mining will proceed under open-cut method about August 1st., when heavy output is expected. The camp takes on an air of encouraging activity complete In every department. Clarence Milner who has been on the ground day and night for several months with commendable zeal; should be congratulated on the business like aspects of the surround-inn. Advancement of the Union Pacific Railroad into the heart of the Iron Belt wilt add a distinctive value to every contiguous claim and affords to all old timers who for more than twenty years, with patience and fortitude, have fulfilled all obligations necessary to sustain legal titles to their prospects." (Iron County Record, July 18, 1924, page 1)
Utah Iron Ore Corporation began shipping ore. (Iron County Record, August 8, 1924, page 2, "Iron Springs Notes")
Vulcan locomotive number 1 arrived.
Utah Iron Ore Corp. was shipping iron ore as fluxing ore to Salt Lake valley smelters. Initial mining operations were done without stripping overburden from the iron ore. Shipments were found to contain high levels of silica, so operations were shut down and formal stripping of overburden was started. In December 1924, shipments of iron ore resumed. (Salt Lake Mining Review, December 30, 1924, includes photo of the Vulcan locomotive coupled to an ore car as the car was being loaded by a steam shovel)
By April 1925, Utah Iron Ore Corporation was shipping 300 tons daily to the northern smelters. Demand had increased, compelling the company to strip a larger area of overburden so that 500 tons daily can be produced. (Iron County Record, April 10, 1925)
Columbia Steel Corporation entered into a contract for Utah Iron Ore Corporation to furnish 1,500,000 tons of iron ore from its Deseret Mound open pit mine, at a minimum of 500 tons per day, with delivery to start in July 1926. (G. D. MacDonald, The Magnet, page 19)
September 19, 1925
Columbia Steel was announced as having acquired the Milner-Dear-Leach holdings at Iron Mountain, near Cedar City. The iron ore reserves were owned by the Milner Corporation of Salt Lake City; Mrs. Ridie L. Dear of Washington D. C.; and Fred Leach of Virginia, Minnesota. Columbia Steel had purchased an option on the properties in spring 1925, and test exploration drilling had been completed on September 1st, with the results being that there were reserves of several million tons of hematite ore that was at least 58 percent iron. The Union Pacific branch that currently terminated at Iron Springs, would be extended to Iron Mountain to reach the properties as they are developed. (Salt Lake Telegram, September 19, 1925)
"The Columbia Steel Corporation, San Francisco, Cal., has acquired iron ore properties at Iron Mountain, Utah, heretofore held by the Milner-Dear-Leach Company, totaling more than 900 acres, and plans for extensive developments in the near future." (Blast Furnace & Steel Plant, Volume 13, Number 12, December 1925, page 505, "The Open Hearth")
Utah Iron Ore Corporation announced that the company would install twin crushers at Desert Mound with a combined capacity of 900 tons per day. One of the crushers was to be completed in April and would have a daily capacity of 350 tons. (Iron County Record, January 8, 1926, page 1)
Vulcan locomotive number 2 arrived.
Utah Iron Ore Corp. was shipping 300,000 tons per year to a combination of customers: Columbia Steel Corporation at Ironton, Utah; Salt Lake Valley smelters as fluxing ore; and several customers of iron ore on the Pacific Coast. (Salt Lake Mining Review, July 30, 1926)
"Iron Ore Production by Utah Iron Ore Corporation...", with photographs of the loading tipple at Desert Mound, Utah. (Salt Lake Mining Review, Volume 28, number 8, July 30, 1926, p.9)
"About 40 men were busily engaged stripping, drilling, operating steam and electric shovels, dumping ore, watching crushers, conveyors, and grading machines, laying track, and loading railroad cars with the crushed raw ore to be shipped to northern Utah points. The stripping of the overbearing of the ore is a mammoth job, there being about 35 feet of limestone that must be removed before the mining of the ore can take place. At present something like 700 tons of raw ore are mined daily, but after the completion of the stripping now in progress three or four times that number of tons can be mined each day with the force of men now employed." (Iron County Record, February 25, 1927, page 1, "Progressing Smoothly")
The following comes from the Salt Lake Telegram issue for March 2, 1928:
Cars, Engine Purchased for Desert Mound Mine -- Cedar City, March 2. -- Wallace R. Cook, general manager of the Utah Iron Ore Corporation mine at Desert Mound, has returned from a trip to Salt Lake in connection the buying of several cars and and another locomotive for the Desert Mound mine. (Salt Lake Telegram, March 2, 1928)
Shay locomotive number 3 arrived.
Shay locomotive number 4 arrived.
The Desert Mound mine was reported as having been abandoned after the opening of the Blackhawk claim by Columbia Steel Corp., in April 1936. The Milner Corporation, organizers of Utah Iron Corporation, continued to lease its mining claims to smaller operators. (G. D. MacDonald, The Magnet, page 21)
Rail haulage was replaced by truck haulage.
The Desert Mound property was reopened and greatly modernized, with production starting in early 1951. (G. D. MacDonald, The Magnet, page 32)
All locomotives were 36 inches gauge; used at Iron Mountain, Utah.
|1||Vulcan||7-61-B||7-ton Gasoline||3468||Aug 1924||1|
|2||Vulcan||7-60-B||20-ton Gasoline||3622||May 1926||2|
|a.||Both locomotives were built by Vulcan Iron Works of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania|
|b.||Roster based on information furnished by Robert Lehmuth and Allen Copeland.|
|1.||Utah Iron Ore number 1 was a four-wheel gas-mechanical locomotive, with 22-1/2-inch drive wheels; equipped with a Waukesha 60-horsepower gasoline engine; weight was 14,000 pounds.|
|2.||Utah Iron Ore number 2 was a four-wheel gas-mechanical locomotive, with 30-1/2-inch drive wheels; equipped with a Climax 125-horsepower gasoline engine; weight was 40,000 pounds.|
All locomotives were 36 inches gauge; used at iron Mountain, Utah.
Utah Iron Ore
|3||2-Truck Shay||8x8 inches||26-1/2 inches||40,000 pounds||1672||Apr 1906||Apr 1928||1|
|4||2-Truck Shay||8x8 inches||29 inches||48,000 pounds||3324||Aug 1928||(new)||2|
|a.||Both locomotives were built by Lima Locomotive Works of Lima, Ohio.|
|b.||Roster based on information furnished by Robert Lehmuth and Allen Copeland.|
Allen Copeland found a reference to a possible third Shay locomotive being used at the Desert Mound mine. In December 1964, before Michael Koch published his landmark book "The Shay Locomotive: Titan of the Timber," Allen compiled a list of Shay locomotives based on a booklet called "Shays of The Western United States and Canada", compiled by Ralph Ranger, Jr. in 1963. It was a bound mimeographed list with hard covers. Ralph Ranger and Jack Holst were early geared engine enthusiasts, and dug through records, rosters and photographs. Although Mr. Ranger did not cite his sources, he did cite the people that helped him with his effort, including Gerald Best, C. W. Witbeck, Charles Fischer, and Bob Hanft. The Koch book does not show Lima 672 as being on the Utah Iron Ore railroad, nor does the booklet published and sold by Tom Lawson "Shay-The Supplement" in 1998. At any rate, if Lima 672 was sent to Utah, it was a lot heavier than the other two Shays on the property, as well as being standard gauge, and this could explain why it did not last long on the property. (email from Allen Copeland, dated March 6, 2011) (ed note: The similarity of numbers, 672 vs. 1672, also suggests a simple typographical error.) (Read more at Shay Locomotives.com)
Shay no. 672 had the following specifications.
Utah Iron Ore
|??||2-Truck Shay||10x12 inches||29-1/2 inches||64,000 pounds||672||Dec 1901||??|
|1.||Utah Iron Ore number 3 was built new for Silver City, Pinos Altos & Mogollon number 3 (also known as Comanche Mining & Smelting); sold in 1913 to W. A. Zenicker Supply Company (dealer), St. Louis, Missouri, moved to Birmingham Rail & Locomotive, Birmingham, Alabama for conversion from 24-inch gauge to 36-inch gauge; sold to Little Cottonwood Transportation Company, Wasatch, Utah and shipped from Alabama to Utah on July 3, 1917; sold in 1925 to Alta Scenic Railway number 3, Wasatch, Utah; sold in March 1928 to Utah Iron Ore Corporation number 3, Iron Springs, Utah (sale reported in Salt Lake Telegram, March 2, 1928); Lima records show parts being ordered as late as January 1934; further disposition unknown. (Read more at Shay Locomotives.com)|
|2.||Utah Iron Ore number 4 was purchased new in 1928; further disposition unknown. (Read more at Shay Locomotives.com)|