The History Of Utah's Railroads, 1869-1883

By Clarence A. Reeder, Jr.

(Return to Reeder Manuscript Index Page)

Chapter 5

Branch Lines Of The Utah Southern Before 1875

The Utah Southern served as the trunk line for three branch railroads that were constructed before 1875. These independent roads were the Bingham Canyon and Camp Floyd Railroad, the American Fork Railroad, and the Wasatch and Jordan Valley Railroad. All three were built to facilitate the shipment of ore from the mining areas they served. As the fortunes of the mining industry rose and fell, so, too, did the fortunes of these railroads.

The Bingham Canyon and Camp Floyd Railroad

Bingham Canyon, nestled in the Oquirrh Mountains southwest of Salt Lake City, was the center of the West Mountain Mining District in 1872. There were more than a dozen large mines in the district at that time producing silver, gold and lead; and it was one of the most favorable districts for inexpensive and efficient mining operations in Utah. Several factors contributed to make this so. Primary among them was the fact that the mountain ridges crossed the mineral belts at different angles and made it possible to trace the mineral veins easily. In addition, the mountains were not extremely steep, nor were the gulches and ravines particularly narrow or deep; and there was plenty of water and natural drainage. The one disadvantage in the district was that its ore was low grade; and in order to make the operation profitable, large quantities had to be mined and processed. This meant large shipments of ore to the smelters, or the building of smelters near the mines and large shipments of coal in. Perhaps more than any other mining area in Utah, the potential of this district would remain unrealized until it had railroad connections. In 1872 a railroad became a possibility as the Utah Southern was constructed to Sandy Station, less than twenty-five miles away; and those with mining interests at Bingham began contemplation of a narrow gauge railroad.[1]

First to take action was a group of speculators headed by I. Wentz Wilson and W. C. Hendrie of Salt Lake City, and M. B. Dodge and M. B. Valentine of New York. They filed Articles of Incorporation for the Bingham Canyon Railroad on September 10, 1872. It was proposed that they issue $1,000,000 of capital stock and build a railroad from a junction with the Utah Southern near Sandy Station to Bingham Canyon.[2]

Filing of Articles is apparently all that this group did. There is no mention in any of the local newspapers of this railroad company or any action in support of a railroad to Bingham by any of the men connected with it. It is noted, however, that Wilson and his associates filed articles of incorporation for several railroads in Utah during the early 1870's. None of them was ever completed.[3]

Another group of Salt Lake businessmen with interests in the Bingham Canyon area filed separate articles of incorporation for a railroad to be named the Bingham Canyon and Camp Floyd Railroad. This was done on September 10, 1872, the same day that the Wilson group filed.[4]

The Bingham Canyon and Camp Floyd Railroad was the venture of Hugh White who served as its first president and superintendent of construction. The company issued $300,000 of capital stock, of which $140,000 was subscribed at the time of incorporation. White was the principal stockholder, having purchased 1,000 shares. The remaining 400 shares of stock sold at the time of incorporation were divided among the Walker Brothers, R. N. Baskin, C. B. Towbridge, and other Salt Lake businessmen.[5] In addition to President White, other officers of the company were: C. B. Towbridge, vice president; George A. Black, secretary; T. R. Jones, treasurer; and J. Fewson Smith, chief engineer. The road was to run through the principal mining areas of western Utah, from Sandy Station to Bingham Canyon, Tooele City, Stockton, Ophir and Lewiston in the Camp Floyd Mining District.[6]

Chief Engineer Smith completed a survey of the proposed road during the early part of November. He located the line so that the average ratio of climb was only sixty-five feet per mile. The steepest incline was 163 feet, and this was only for a short distance.

The roadbed was laid on a generally north-south tangent where the winter snow would catch the full force of the sun; and there were no high hills, narrow canyons or deep cuts along the route. This careful planning gave promise to the prospect of operating the railroad with little or no stoppage due to snow blockades in the winter months, a problem which plagued most of the other early Utah railroads. If the road could be kept open all year, a more substantial profit could be expected.[7]

As the work on the roadbed of the Bingham Railroad commenced in early December 1872, the construction of a smelting works by the Galena Silver Mining Company was also started. This was done in the anticipation of smelting ores hauled on the railroad from Bingham Canyon, and it was located near the Jordan River where adequate water was available for operation. The works consisted of two vertical blast furnaces capable of reducing forty tons of ore per day.[8] A standard gauge track was planned from Sandy Station to the smelter in order to make the transportation of coke and other materials possible without changing cars from the Utah Southern Railroad. A third track of three-foot gauge was also laid in this portion, making it possible to use either standard or narrow gauge equipment. From the smelter to Bingham Canyon the road was three-foot gauge.[9]

Superintendent Hugh White was a virtual dynamo in directing the construction of the road. Work began in December as the long, hard winter season set in; but this did not stop progress. Before December gave way to the new year, five miles of roadbed had been graded, a contract had been let for ties enough for sixteen miles, and Mr. White had made a trip to the East to acquire rails and rolling stock. He announced on December 10 that he expected to open the road for passenger and freight service by April 15, 1873.[10]

White continued to show the same energy in January and encouraged his crew to finish another five miles of roadbed before the month was half over. Enough ties for fifteen miles of the line were also delivered early in the month.[11] At this point, winter was the victor as the roadbed could not be prepared over frozen ground; and construction came to a near standstill. Apparently the railroad had financial problems as well. While a substantial amount of the company's stock had been subscribed, only 10 percent in cash had been paid for it; and this was an insufficient amount to pay for labor and supplies and to purchase rails and rolling stock.[12] In the face of the financial crisis of 1872, White's efforts to secure additional funds through loans had failed; and in June, 1873, he was forced to sell the stock, rights and franchise of the Bingham Canyon and Camp Floyd Railroad to a group of Eastern capitalists and Salt Lake City businessmen. William B. Welles acted as agent for the group which was headed by Charles W. Scofield of New York. Scofield had extensive mining interests in Utah and was beginning to invest in Utah railroads as well. In making the sale, White agreed to remain with the company and direct the completion of the roadbed.[13]

Welles proceeded to reorganize the company to reflect the change in ownership. Charles W. Scofield became president; Benjamin W. Morgan of Pittsburg, vice president; William B. Welles of Salt Lake City, secretary and treasurer; and Scofield, Morgan, Welles, Hugh B. White and John M. Haskell of California, directors.[14] These officers were sustained at the first annual stockholders' meeting on October 27, 1873. In addition, four new directors were added; and George Goss, who would play a prominent role in Utah's railroad development for many years, was elected as general superintendent.[15]

Hugh White again took charge of the grading operations which had remained dormant during the financial crisis and sale of the road. By the time the first shipment of rails for twelve miles of track arrived on September 1, 1873, he had sixteen miles of roadbed graded and tied.[16]

A further delay in construction was caused by a shortage of narrow gauge rails that were in short supply; and after the first twelve miles of track were laid, the company was forced to halt track laying until November. On October 16, 1873, regular passenger and freight service was begun over the finished portion of the road. From its junction with the Utah Southern Railroad at Sandy Station, the Bingham Canyon and Camp Floyd Railroad ran twelve miles to the end of the track where passengers could board Pierce's Stage Line for the remainder of the trip to Bingham. It was then possible to leave Salt Lake City on the 7:00 a.m. Utah Southern train, transfer to the Bingham train and then to a stage, and be in Bingham by 9:30 a.m. One could spend six or seven hours in Bingham and return to Salt Lake City on the same day. The company reported that from October 16 through November 1, it carried 643 passengers on the completed portion of the road.[17]

All construction work on the road, with the exception of the grading which Hugh White had agreed to finish, became the responsibility of Alex McClellen who had been appointed superintendent of construction when the ownership of the company changed hands. McClellen proved to be without equal in his ability to lay track with speed, economy and excellence.[18]

By the 10th of November, 1873, sufficient rails to finish the road to Bingham had arrived; and the work was again pushed rapidly ahead. The last rail was laid on November 22, and the first train to travel on the little railroad from Sandy all the way to the Bingham Canyon Station completed its run on the morning of November 23, 1873.[19] The editors of the Salt Lake Tribune had great praise for the Bingham Canyon Railroad management, as reported on November 29:

The Bingham Canon Railway has been finished to a point within one-fourth of a mile of the Winamuck smelter and mine, although nature has presented but few obstacles to the execution of the work, it has encountered in its progress impediments, the removal of which demanded an unusual share of financial and mechanical ability. In September last, a ridge of dirt, varying in depth from three inches to seven feet, and running from a point on the Utah Southern, about one mile below Sandy Station, to its present mountain terminus, represented what was known as the Bingham Railroad, and a more unpropitious period for the completion of the undertaking has not presented itself during the last sixteen years.

Railway securities had shrunk from visionary to below their actual value. That colossal enterprise, the Northern Pacific, that had been timbered with Jay Cooke's reputation, had collapsed. The solidest monied institutions in the country could scarcely keep the clamorous multitude from the door. In short a panic has blocked the wheels of business and a tender of railway bonds as an investment, would have been considered equivalent to an insult. Such a condition of affairs would have paralyzed the energies of any but Western financiers. The road must go ahead and the main desideratum was economy in construction, and to attain this end, the appointment as Superintendent of Construction was given to a mechanic in their employ - Mr. Alex. McClellen - who combined in his operations economy with durability and dispatch to a degree unprecedented in the history of railroad building in the West.[20]

Both McClellen and White had served the Bingham Canyon Railroad well. They had completed twenty-five miles of track, including the double track from Sandy Station to the Galena Smelter; four bridges, one over three hundred feet in length; a substantial station; one engine house; over a mile of switches; two water tanks and one well about one hundred feet deep; all constructed for the cost (excluding ties and rails) of $7,000. The laying, tying, spiking and surfacing of track cost less than $140 per mile, only a tenth of the normal cost for narrow gauge railroads at that time.[21]

The Bingham terminus of the railroad was located about a half mile east of the business and residential district of the town and about a mile below the main concentration of mines in the canyon. This site had been selected because of the reluctance of claim holders to grant a right-of-way across their claims and because of the failure of the City Council to provide an adequate terminal facility within the city limits. As might be expected, several businesses, including the wells Fargo Freighting and Banking Offices, moved from the main part of town to the railroad terminal. This caused a considerable disturbance in the city; and the City Council hurriedly made arrangements, favorable to the railroad, for providing a right-of -way to extend the road through the town and to the mines.[22]

Work on a one mile extension was begun in the spring of 1874. This road was built on a side cut in the canyon wall and passed about sixty feet above the main street of Bingham. The last rail of this extension was laid in November of the same year.[23]

In addition to the one mile extension, a branch two miles long was also begun in the spring of 1874 which was to run to the property of the Utah Mining Company. This branch had a grade in excess of 300 feet to the mile and was built to be operated by mule power. It was constructed, however, on the three-foot gauge and had track, ties and roadbed heavy enough to support a locomotive, should one be developed capable of use on the steep slopes.[24]

Unexpected difficulties delayed and finally halted progress on this branch in the summer of 1874. John Murphy, a quick-tempered Irish prospector, held a mining claim which the railroad had to cross in order to reach its destination. He objected to their building across his claim; and when work gangs ignored his "No Trespassing" signs and started grading on his property, he effectively halted them by taking pot shots at the officers and workers of the Bingham road with his trusty rifle. The railroad officials initiated legal proceedings against him on the criminal charge of assault with intent to commit murder. The case was tried in Third District Court on December 19, 1874, with Chief Justice James B. McKean presiding. Murphy's lawyer, Mr. McBride, made a strong case that Murphy had not actually shot at the railroad people, only near them in an attempt to frighten them away from his claim. At the conclusion of the testimony, the jury retired and then returned a verdict of "guilty with intent to commit intimidation. " Judge McKean promptly informed the jury there was no such offense and sent them back to deliberate again. In a few moments they returned with a verdict of "not guilty."[25]

Despite the not guilty verdict, the case effectively ended opposition to the railroad's progress; and while there was an occasional blockade by an angry miner, the branch was finished and was hauling ore by the summer of 1875.[26]

The rolling stock for this line consisted of dump cars capable of holding one ton of ore each and equipped with mule hitches. The empty cars were pulled up to the mine by mules or horses, and the loaded cars descended by means of gravitation as motive power. There was a $1 charge per ton of ore carried on the branch from the mines to the main line.[27]

In November of 1876, the Salt Lake Tribune carried an article which gave hope to the people that a locomotive had been perfected which could conquer the steep slopes of Bingham, thereby allowing retirement of the corps of mules serving the railroad on the steep mountain sides of the canyon. This unbelievable "iron horse" was to make its maiden run on the 17th of November. The Bingham correspondent of the Tribune described the event in fun-poking humor, typical of the mining camp of that day:

Every house-top, every tree and stump, even the telegraph poles, were crowded. The Tribune, seems, in a late issue, said that on a certain day the Scofield-steam-grade-double-humped-camel-backed -locomotive would make a trial trip up the Bingham tramway, and sure enough this was the day. McQueen was in town, ripping and tearing. The whole Telegraph crew had deserted, and he could not hire a man for love or money. McEdwards, of the Revere; Pease, of the Last Chance; Hutchins, of the Winamuck; Collins, of the Bully Boy - in fact, every superintendent in camp, was in town. 'Twas no use, they said there wasn't a man left to go on shift; they were all down to see the new engine. Standing room on the Dixon stoop was two dollars an hour. The Mayor chartered thirty chairs for the children of the district school, the magnanimous soul paying the cash cheerfully out of his own pocket. He said that one hour's study, one glance at this mighty machine, that laughed at our steep mountain sides, and walked along with tons upon tons of freight with the ease and grace of a straddle-bug - was more valuable to the youthful mind than all the "Readers" on the Coast. It was a rare sight, it was better than a picture to see that procession march silently out of the school house. When jack had them comfortably seated, they burst forth into one of those beautiful hymns, which even in these stirring times turn our thoughts back to our schoolboy days. When one forgets those days he is not fit for much - not even fit for private secretary to the "dogpelter." And I know that in the years to come, when these children are thrown upon their own resources, occupying the pulpit, the tripod or a penitentiary, the greenest and sunniest spot upon which their memories can hover, is the bright autumn day in the long, long ago, when they made the crisp air of Bingham wild, laden with that beautiful song:

My ore was shipped safe to Cooley's,
An' alone I roved by the Jordan strame,
I fell asleep on a bed of tules,
Whin a purty damsel came in my drame.

Chorus: --

O, her eyes wor blue, like Salt Lake water,
An' her little heart, like the snow was pure,
For 'twas there I saw the bishop's daughtor,
A scrapin' carrots be the kitchen dhure.

Her flowin locks wor--

There was a shout on the street, then someone said the locomotive had started. Everything now was wild confusion, and the boys tried to grab the heels of their more fortunate neighbors and pull themselves up to the already overcrowded housetops. The telegraph operator had a man stationed on a pole near the Thrush mine, to wave his hat when the train came in sight. With his finger on the key, and an eye on that hat, the operator's hand trembled in his anxiety to send the pulsation whirling along the net-work of wire conveying to America the glad tidings of another Centennial achievement, "She comes I" "Hear her cough!"

All eyes were now directed towards the bend above the Kelsey Tunnel. Not one in that great multitude would dare wink. Johnny's knees shake; but the man on the pole did not wave his hat. He seemed rooted to that pole like an insulator. He gazed paralyzed at the sight. And so did that whole crowd as slowly and steadily came the long string of cars, and on ahead, with a solemnity equal to the occasion, tugging bravely along, with a symmetrical grace in every line, puffing, snorting as though the honor of the camp were at stake, yet seemingly unconscious of the many eyes riveted upon her, came- a big roan mule.[28]

The Bingham Canyon and Camp Floyd Railroad began regular service in December of 1873. Its internal operation, from the first, appeared to be smooth and profitable; but difficulties were soon experienced in its relationship with the Utah Southern Railroad. Claims were made that the Utah Southern refused to cooperate; they would not sell through-tickets to passengers, would not publicize time tables and took numerous other actions to disrupt the smooth flow of freight, ore and passenger traffic on the Bingham Canyon road. Officers of the Bingham Canyon realized that the Utah Southern held a virtual choke hold on them as long as they had to depend on that railroad to make connections with Salt Lake City.[29]

The non-Mormon officers of the Bingham Canyon felt that the actions of the Mormon-controlled Utah Southern were serious enough to prompt them to make plans to build their own narrow gauge line to connect with Salt Lake City. Accordingly, on November 23, 1875, President C. W. Scofield and the other officers of the Bingham Canyon road filed articles of incorporation for the Salt Lake City and Bingham Railroad Company to accomplish that purpose.[30] This threat of a competitive road was apparently effective enough to cause the officers of the existing lines to discuss and solve their differences for the new road was never built, and complaints about the lack of cooperation disappeared from the newspapers.

The cost of construction of the Bingham Canyon and Camp Floyd Railroad was a little over $13,000 per mile,[31] or a total cost, including equipment, of $360,000. This included twenty-seven miles of track and sidings, all necessary buildings and fixtures, three locomotives, four passenger cars, one baggage and mail car, five box cars, twenty platform or flat cars and seventy-five ore cars.[32] To finance construction $240,000 of first mortgage 8 percent bonds were sold on July 1, 1873, immediately after Scofield purchased control of the company. These bonds carried a maturity date of July 1, 1903. Additional funds for construction were realized from $45,000 cash paid on stock.[33]

As the road was expanded to the mines, the capital stock was increased from $300,000 to $600,000. This made a total funded debt of $1,200,000 by 1876.[34]

Passenger service consisted of two passenger trains in each direction daily which were scheduled to make connections with the Utah Southern Railroad at Sandy.[35] The trip from Salt Lake City to Bingham took just two hours to complete.[36] Passenger fare for the one-way trip was $1.50 until March of 1874 when it was raised to $2.00.[37]

The road was financially successful from the time it opened for business as its revenue reports indicate. The following tables reveal the scope of the operations of the Bingham Canyon and Camp Floyd Railroad:

Year Ending December 31, 1877

Product Tons Lbs.
Bingham Ores 40,150 194
Sandy Ores 5,794 227
Bullion 3,669 850
Coal 963 1,183
Charcoal 718 1,337
Iron Ore 2,515 1,439
Lime Rock 2,310 704
Coke 2,632 448
Clay 465 1,887

Source: Salt Lake Tribune, January 1, 1878.

Year Ending October 31, 1874

Gross Earnings . . . . . . . . . . . $103,247.39
Operating Expenses . . . . . . . . . 40,711.76
Net Earnings . . . . . . . . . . . . . 62,535.53

Year Ending December 31, 1875

Gross Earnings . . . . . . . . . . . $202,534.25
Operating Expenses . . . . . . . . . 107,441.78
Net Earnings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 95,092.47

Year Ending December 31, 1876

Gross Earnings . . . . . . . . . . . $138,753.56
Operating Expenses . . . . . . . . . 58,890.79
Net Earnings . . . . . . . . . . . . . 79,862.77

Source: Poor, Manual of Railroads, 1877-78 (1878),p. 797; Poor, Manual of Railroads, 1875-76 (1876), p. 724.

The management of the road changed very little through the 1870's. C. W. Scofield remained as president and principal stockholder and B. W. Morgan and William B. Welles as officers and directors. George Goss continued to manage the affairs of the company as general superintendent.[38]

The Bingham Canyon and Camp Floyd Railroad lost its identity as an individual road in April of 1879 when it was consolidated with the Wasatch and Jordan Valley Railroad under the name of the latter. C. W. Scofield had been president of both roads since 1875 and found that consolidation of the two lines was the only economically feasible way of continuing the operation of the Wasatch and Jordan Valley Railroad to Alta, where the mines were failing.

Thus, the name of one of Utah's most profitable mining railroads passed from existence. The rails remained, however, until near the middle of the twentieth century.[39]

The Wasatch and Jordan Valley Railroad

Little Cottonwood Canyon in the Wasatch Mountains east of Sandy was the destination of the second mining railroad to form a junction with the Utah Southern. Unlike the other two mining roads which were chartered strictly by gentile businessmen, this road was incorporated by both Mormons and non-Mormons since both were interested in extending a railroad into the canyon. The gentiles were anxious to build a road to the rich mines that had been developed around Alta at the head of the canyon. They believed that the mines of Cottonwood were as permanent as the mountains they were in. The problem, as they saw it, was to get the ore out and to market at a profit; and this was impossible with the use of wagons over the deplorable roads in the canyon.[40] The Mormons had two reasons to support their interest in such a railroad. The first was to realize the profit that could be expected from carrying the ores of the canyon. The second, and probably more significant in the minds of the church leaders, was to reach the granite quarries at the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon in order to carry the huge granite blocks to Salt Lake City where they were needed in the construction of the Mormon Temple.[41] This mixed body of incorporators chartered the Wasatch and Jordan Valley Railroad on October 24, 1872, in an attempt to realize their respective desires.

The road was to run from a junction with the Utah Southern at Sandy Station, east to the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon, then through the canyon to a convenient terminus, a distance of about twenty miles. The estimated cost of construction was $500,000 and the company issued $500, 000 of capital stock. The list of initial stockholders contained the names of both Mormons and non-Mormons. These were:[42]

William H. Hooper Salt Lake City 50 shares
I. Knowlton Salt Lake City 10 shares
M. A. Baldwin Troy, N. Y. 30 shares
Isaac R. Thompson Brooklyn, N. Y. 30 shares
Hiram B. Clawson Salt Lake City 30 shares
Frank Fuller Salt Lake City 30 shares
James T. Little Salt Lake City 30 shares
John T. Caine Salt Lake City 30 shares
H. S . Eldredge Salt Lake City 30 shares
William Jennings Salt Lake City 30 shares

The five seats on the board of directors were filled by William Jennings, William H. Hooper, Horace S Eldredge, Frank Fuller and Hiram B. Clawson.[43] Jennings also served as president of the road; William H. Hooper, vice president; Frank Fuller, secretary; James T. Little, treasurer; and Charles W. Hardy and Jesse W. Fox, engineers.[44] The first decision reached by these new officers was to build their road on the narrow, or three-foot, gauge.[45]

Shortly after the Wasatch and Jordan Valley Railroad (W&JVRR) was incorporated, Jesse Fox conducted a route survey to determine the exact location of the road. He found that the distance from Sandy to the planned terminus at Alta was about sixteen miles.

The survey also disclosed that Alta was 4,160 feet above Sandy Station, or an average of 260 feet to the mile [4.6 percent] over the entire route. From the projected junction point of the road at Sandy to the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon, the grade averaged 146 feet to the mile [2.76 percent], which was quite gradual. From the mouth of the canyon to Alta, the grade varied from 155 [2.93 percent] to a difficult 333 feet [6.30 percent] . Switchbacks were planned in the canyon to lessen the grade, but these turns added extra miles to the length of the road. Most of the road was planned for the north side of the canyon floor where it would receive the greatest amount of sunshine, an aid in keeping the track clear of snow. The engineer also noted that snow sheds would be necessary over much of the road if it were to be kept open during the severe winter months.[46]

The route of this new line ran eastward from the small, wind blown town of Sandy, which was just developing into a busy railroad junction and mining center in the late autumn of 1872, and climbed slowly for about seven miles to the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon. The newly finished Davenport Smelter, which served several of the mines of Alta, was located at that point. Just above the smelter were the granite quarries where industrious Mormon elders were at work cutting and blasting huge granite stones from the mountainside for use in the construction of the Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City.[47]

About a mile into the canyon was the squalid little town of Granite, situated unnaturally in a most picturesque setting beneath towering gray granite cliffs.[48] In 1873 a newspaper correspondent described the town as follows:

This place has substantial surroundings, the granite extending four miles up the canyon on either side and about half that distance perpendicularly up. This is the first time I ever saw Granite City, and its my opinion a certain amount of earthly happiness can be obtained on my part if I should never see it again. Granite City borrows its name from the adjoining hill sides, for nary a granite has yet found a resting place in the material forming the town. Board, slab and waney-edged shanties with here and there a half-breed dugout, appear to constitute the available encumbrances on the real estate of the city. It is built on the principle of a Salt Lake gull, having but one slightly curved avenue throughout it, and that like a shepherd dog's tail very short and stumpy . . . .

Owing to the inflammable nature of the material composing the city, some fears are entertained of its probable destruction by fire some day; but this danger could be easily guarded against, if the authorities would hire a couple of boys with medium sized syringes or squirt guns, to stand at the head of the street supplied with a couple of tubs of water. In case a rival town should spring up at the proposed terminus of the Wasatch and Jordan Valley Railroad, five miles up the canyon, I don't think it would set Granite City back in any respect, as they could couple the town together in an hour and move the thing up in the evening.[49]

Five miles above Granite was Tannersville, reported to be a pleasant little community where a good hotel served fine meals. During much of the year, when the snow was deep, this was the end of the stage run; and from Tannersville, the traveler set out for Alta some five miles distant by means of the "raw hide train" (mules), or when weather permitted, by wagon or coach.[50]

In 1872, Alta was a new town, not yet incorporated, that in two years had grown in size from four or five miners' shacks to more than 180 buildings. Many sizes, shapes and styles of homes and buildings were represented there, ranging from rude slab shanties to a well-built, attractive two story hotel. The town was surrounded by high and rugged mountains wherein a storehouse of precious metals had attracted large numbers of miners. These men had filed over two thousand mining claims and had established at least fifteen producing mines. The town was laid out in 116 oblong square blocks, generally 300 by 175 feet in dimension. There were ten streets running east and west, and eleven streets running north and south.[51]

Ore was hauled from the steep mountainsides to a central dump in town where it awaited shipment down the canyon. A bucket tramway served some of the mines for this short haul. Forty-nine buckets weighing about 150 pounds each and capable of carrying about 100 pounds of ore were attached to a cable tramway at a height of about thirty-five feet above the ground. As the buckets were loaded with ore the brakes on the tram were released, allowing the loaded buckets to move downhill under their own weight. The force of descent was sufficient to carry the empty buckets back uphill, thus eliminating the need for other sources of power. The tramway was about 2,500 feet long, could haul ten tons of ore an hour and had cost about $8,000 to construct.[52]

Alta, as a mining camp in the 1870's did not welcome the thirty to forty feet of snow that accumulated each winter, as it does today as a noted ski resort. Snow began in November, and for eight months of the year, part of it remained. Huge avalanches and snow slides occurred frequently, and on several occasions swept part of the town away. Each year the local newspapers carried reports of several people losing their lives in these devastating slides.[53]

The grading for the roadbed of the W&JVRR was started on November 4, 1872, after a short ground-breaking ceremony which was held east of Sandy. The westernmost three and a half miles of roadbed had already been graded by the Utah Southern Railroad. This had been done during the summer of 1872 under the provision of that road's charter which authorized construction of branch lines to the mouth of both Big and Little Cottonwood canyons. The Utah Southern, however, had decided to concentrate its efforts on the main line and leave the building of branches to others. The Wasatch and Jordan Valley was able to secure the rights to this roadbed, thus saving themselves a considerable amount of labor.[54]

Construction plans called for the completion of the road to Granite by the end of 1872. In mid-December the graders were only a mile short of this goal; but winter was upon them, and the remainder of the route which rose about 100 feet onto a bench area, was covered with huge boulders. The last mile of grade to Granite was slowly completed as the work crews fought the snows and hitter winter cold while they cut dugways and built fills through rocky, frozen ground.[55]

It was at this time, as the local papers began reporting the progress of grading on the Wasatch and Jordan Valley, that the proposed Little Cottonwood Railroad first came to the attention of the residents of Utah Territory. This road had filed articles of incorporation on September 10, 1872, a little more than a month prior to the incorporation of the Wasatch and Jordan Valley. The purpose of the Little Cottonwood Railroad Company was to build a line from Sandy Station to Little Cottonwood Canyon and then up the canyon as far as possible. Directing the activities of this company were I. Wentz Wilson, George Field and W. C. Hendrie; these men had chartered the Bingham Canyon Railroad and the Cottonwood road on the same day.[56]

Apparently Wilson and his associates had gained the backing of United States Congressman Negley of Pennsylvania who was known as an advocate of strong anti-Mormon legislation and had encouraged President Grant to launch a crusade against the Saints.[57] Negley introduced a bill in the House of Representatives on December 16, 1872, to grant the Little Cottonwood Railroad a right-of-way from Sandy to Alta. If approved, this federal bill would nullify the Utah charter granted to the Wasatch and Jordan Valley Railroad. Negley's bill also provided for an award of six sections of land per !me mile for the company. Speculation in Salt Lake City ran high. Was the purpose of the bill favoring the Little Cottonwood Railroad designed to lay claim to the road being laid by the Wasatch and Jordan Valley.[58] All indications were that this was not the basic intention of the bill, although its passage certainly would have had that result. It was designed as an attempt to make a sizeable land grab, and in many quarters the action caused indignation as the public was just becoming fully aware of the great tracts of public domain that railroads had previously been granted. The St. Louis Republican carried the following article:

Now comes Mr. representative Negley, asking congress to incorporate the Little Cottonwood railroad company. The request seems modest enough, until we find hidden away in the belly of the Little Cottonwood bill a clause giving said corporation five or six sections of public land for each mile of road built. Then we see why Negley, and those for whom he acts, are so exceedingly anxious to be incorporated, and why Little Cottonwood should be promptly kicked out of court.

The people are heartily tired of these land grabbing schemes; they have seen their ancestral domain filched from them by a horde of hungry speculators, until but a comparative fragment yet remains. . . .[59]

Negley's bill did not reach the floor of the House for consideration. The unfavorable national publicity, and the work of Utah's Territorial delegate to Congress, William H. Hooper--who was also an officer and director of the W&JVRR--were adequate to kill the bill in committee.[60] This action ended the plans of the Little Cottonwood Railroad Company.

The Wasatch and Jordan Valley Railroad had also submitted a bill to Congress at about the same time as the Negley bill requesting a right-of-way through the public domain. The bill did not contain provisions for land grants or any other financial considerations; it passed and became law in 1874.

All this occurred shortly after the first of January, 1873, just as the first track of the W&JVRR was being laid. By mid-February three miles of track had been laid,[61] and by the first of April the rails extended five miles from Sandy to the Davenport Smelter and the granite quarries.[62]

On April 4, 1873, as soon as possible after the rails had been laid to the granite quarry, a Mormon excursion party traveled to that point. The group included President Brigham Young, George Q. Cannon, William Jennings, Bishop L. D. Young, John Sharp, H. B. Clawson, Jesse W. Fox, David McKenzie, Thomas Williams, T. G. Webber, Orson Arnold and W. Rossiter. They traveled by Utah Southern Railroad to Sandy and then boarded a car of the Wasatch and Jordan Valley Railroad and proceeded to the granite quarry. The little locomotive pulled its light load at a rapid speed of fifteen miles per hour and arrived at its destination in about an hour. After a tour of the quarry, the party reboarded their car; and the first block of granite to be hauled from the quarry by rail, an arch stone weighing 3 3/4 tons, was loaded on a flat car and carried to Sandy by the excursion train.[63]

Brigham Young, in a letter to Albert Carrington, reported the event and expressed his pleasure with this "blessing" of a railroad:

April 19, 1873

President A. Carrington

Dear Brother:

You will be gratified to learn that we are now shipping granite from the quarry to the Temple Block by rail all the way. A narrow gauge road is building, mostly by our own people, running up from a junction with the Utah Southern at Sandy Station. On April 4, I witnessed the loading of the first rock shipped over this road, and we brought it on our train...[64]

On April 28, 1873, the last rail to complete the road to Granite was spiked. With this accomplished, the company began regular passenger and freight service between Sandy and Granite. Passengers were carried on brightly painted, narrow gauge passenger cars pulled by a small efficient locomotive that was kept bright and shining by its crew. A one-way fare of seventy-five cents a person was charged; and the freight charge was fixed on ore, bullion and merchandise at a dollar per ton.[65]

Tannersville, five miles above Granite and five miles below Alta, was the next construction goal of the railroad company. Work could not begin on this section of the road until June when most of the snow would be melted. William Jennings, the president of the W&JVRR, also served as superintendent of construction; and during the summer months of 1873 he personally supervised the work. Under his guidance grading was accomplished over some of the most rugged terrain in the canyon.[66] The road wound upward amidst huge granite boulders on the north side of the stream. About a mile and a half above Granite, the elevation was so steep that it was necessary to build a switchback 1,400 feet long. In that distance the road rose forty feet.[67]

At the end of August, track had been laid only two and a half miles beyond Granite. Jennings decided to fix the winter terminus of the road at Fairfield Flat, a half mile beyond the end of the track and twelve miles above Sandy. Rails were laid into the Flat in mid-September, and there the terminus remained for several years.[68] In the autumn of 1873 a substantial station and a number of switches and side tracks were constructed at Fairfield Flat, and the place gave every appearance of becoming the final terminus of the road.[69]

Two factors combined to prevent the construction of the Wasatch and Jordan Valley Railroad beyond Fairfield Flat. The first of these was the terrain. For two or three miles beyond the Flat the canyon rose so rapidly that the company's engineer felt that the road would be too steep for any steam locomotive to climb. The company owned three locomotives, all of the type known as miniature moguls. They had six thirty-six-inch driving wheels connected by a pony track. The boiler and fire box were of ample size to provide a large steam capacity for maximum power for climbing, and the water tank held six hundred gallons of water. The overall design, ornamental work and cab of black walnut gave the little engines an elegant appearance.[70] The local newspapers had carried reports that a special locomotive had been ordered which had great steam capacity with less than the usual weight of iron. This engine provided for mechanical adhesion or traction in place of adhesion induced by weight of the locomotive. This was achieved by the use of a device invented by Col. James S. French who had been president of the Washington and Alexandria Railroad. A third or supplementary pair of driving wheels was placed to the rear of the ordinary drivers and connected with the latter so that they revolved at the same rate of speed. These additional drivers had a grooved tread and could be lifted from the track at the discretion of the engineer. When climbing grades or starting, the grooves sat astride the rail and compelled advance motion with each revolution of the drivers instead of allowing the wheels to slip as they normally did on steep grades or heavy trains. In tests, a locomotive so equipped was run up a grade of 1,000 feet to the mile.[71] However, whether this locomotive could perform such marvels remained unknown in Utah since no such machine was every delivered to the W&JVRR.

The second reason for not continuing construction was lack of revenue. From August of 1873, when the road had been finished to Fairfield Flat, until June of 1875, the company had failed to meet operating expenses by $26,000. It had also failed to pay the interest due on its $240,000 of outstanding bonds for the period from July 1, 1873, to June 30, 1875. While future prospects looked promising for realizing adequate income to meet these back expenses and continuing operations at a profit, the company was faced with an immediate financial crisis.[72]

The solution to this crisis came from Charles W. Scofield and his associates when they offered to purchase the road in June, 1875. Scofield, as previously noted, owned and operated the profitable Bingham Canyon and Camp Floyd Railroad.[73] The sales agreement called for Scofield to purchase 1,000 shares of the railroad's unissued stock for $26,000; this amount would be used to pay the company's floating debts. He further agreed to assume the back interest payments on the bonds and provide the funds to finish the line to Alta. In return, he was to receive all remaining unissued stock and bonds and was to buy all outstanding stock from the stockholders at the current market value.[74] According to Scofield all portions of this sales agreement were carried out, and he became the sole owner of the company. Later some of this stock was distributed to George Goss, George M. Young, Benjamin W. Morgan and other business associates of Mr. Scofield.[75]

Scofield's first step after purchasing the Wasatch and Jordan Valley Railroad was to begin the construction of a narrow gauge tramway from Fairfield Flat to Alta. Plans were to use horses or mules to pull the cars up and to use gravitation as the means of locomotion on the downward run.[76] This was the same principle that he was using successfully on his branch lines at Bingham Canyon.[77]

Work on the tramway was started in the middle of August, 1875, and the road had been completely graded and track laid the eight miles to Alta by September 12. The total cost of the tramway was $50, 000. Heavy rail was used and construction. was prosecuted in a manner that would permit a locomotive to be used on the line should one be manufactured that had sufficient power to climb the steep grades.[78]

The tramway was officially opened on September 12, 1875, and passengers were carried from Alta to Sandy for $2.50 fare each way.[79]

Actual supervision of construction of the tramway had been under the direction of Superintendent George Goss who also served as superintendent of the Bingham road and had an excellent reputation as a railroad manager. However, the completion of the tramway did not complete Goss' job since all eight miles of the tramway had to be covered by snow sheds in order to make possible the use of the line through the winter.

Unfortunately, only the portion of the road between Fairfield and Tannersville was shedded before the very severe winter of 1875-76 closed in, and a portion of that shedding was destroyed by an avalanche.[80] The tramway was closed in December by the heavy snow and, despite continual efforts on the part of the company, could not be opened all the way to Alta until late June, 1876. But while snow kept the tramway closed, Goss had enough timber prepared and hauled in to shed the entire road during 1876; this was accomplished at a cost of $60, 000.[81] Thereafter, it was possible for the railroad to remain operational most of the winter. From time to time slides and avalanches destroyed portions of the shedding and caused the road to be shut down for short periods; but as quickly as a section of shedding was swept away, a crew was moved in to make repairs and open the road again.[82]

In 1879 the ride to Alta, which began with the regular Wasatch and Jordan Valley train and then continued in horse-drawn railroad cars through snow sheds for eight miles, was indeed an experience. The following is a first-hand report from a hapless traveler:

We leave Salt Lake City by the Utah Southern and a short and pleasant ride brings us to Sandy, where we take the Wasatch and Jordan Valley. Although the cars are not so roomy as the Southern, nevertheless we have a pleasant ride. It is astonishing to see how the little iron horse, with its heavy load, will climb the hills. He pulls us away up in a short time, where we can overlook the whole country; but we are not allowed to view it long for the engine dashes us into the canyon where we can see nothing but the high cliffs on either side. Here we halt at once at Wasatch, where we are again transferred, but instead of the iron horse they hitch on a pair of animals, which go single file. Away they go; they rush us into a tunnel or snow sheds, some eight miles long. The natural feeling of a person going up for the first time is that the tunnel is without end. It is narrow and far from straight, and in places, where the worst snowslides occur, the massive granite walls and the darkness make it look like a huge dungeon. But when those blinding snow storms and slides come it is decidedly pleasant; without them, in fact, in time of slides it would be hardly possible to travel. Finally we reach the end and are dumped down a shute or a long narrow flight of stairs into the lively, rustling little town of Alta.[83]

With the completion of the track to Alta, a new source of revenue found its way into the coffers of the W&JVRR. This came from Big Cottonwood Canyon to the north. The miners of that canyon found it much closer and cheaper to ship their ore by wagon through a divide in the mountains which separated the two Cottonwood canyons and then by tramway and train to the smelters. The mines in Big Cottonwood Canyon added hundreds of tons of ore to the shipments over the road each year.[84]

The tramway, perhaps, also brought about Utah's first pollution problem. In June of 187 8 the Salt Lake Tribune complained that the W&JVRR Company had stabled about seventy horses, used to operate the tramway, right on the bank of what had been a crystal clear stream. Piles of manure had been stacked up and were polluting the water and turning it into a smelling, yellowish unwholesome thing not fit for human or animal consumption.[85]

On April 29, 1879, Charles W. Scofield officially combined the Bingham Canyon and Camp Floyd Railroad with the Wasatch and Jordan Valley under the name of the latter. The new company had a combined capital stock of $1,100,000 divided into 11,000 shares of $100 each. Charles W. Scofield, Charles Lockhart, Benjamin W. Morgan, J. G. Kennedy and George M. Young were elected directors.[86] Scofield also served as president; B. H. Morgan, vice president; J. O. Kennedy, secretary treasurer; and G. M. Young, general superintendent.[87]

Records of the operation of this railroad, both before and after the consolidation of 1879, are sketchy. Two financial and operations statements have been found; one covers operations of the old W&JVRR Company for the period from 1875 to 1878, as follows:

The Wasatch and Jordan Valley Railroad Company
Operations and Financial Statement

Three six-wheel locomotives, three passenger and 250 freight cars, eighty horses and mules, sleights, wagons, etc. The line has four station houses, one engine house, repair shops, stables, boarding house, water tanks, scales, etc.

Freight Rates:
Rates up the Canyon, 18 miles - $10.00 per ton
Rates down Canyon, 18 miles - 4.50 per ton
Passenger Fares - 2.00 each.

Report of Earnings:

  Receipts Expenses Net Earnings
6 months, 12/31/1675 42,000.00 24,985.00 17,015.00
Yr Ending, 12/31/1876 115,616.56 63,487.70 52,327.86
Yr Ending, 12/31/1877 146,842.65 75,072.18 71,770.47

Source: Report, Wasatch & Jordan Valley Railroad, 1878, Utah State Archives, filed with Articles of Incorporation.

The Wasatch and Jordan Valley Railroad Company
Operation Statement as of December 31, 1879

Line of Road
Bingham City to Alta, Utah . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44.20 miles
Sidings & other tracks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13.00 miles

Rolling Stock
Locomotives . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
Freight & Ore Cars . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 300
Passenger Cars . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . not reported

Operations Statement for 1876, 1877, 1878 [a]

Gross Receipts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $ 734,021.80

Operating Expenses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 340,462.66

Net Earnings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 393,559.14

Average Net Earnings Per Year . . . . . . . . . . 131,186.38

Interest On Bonds . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 61,800.00

Undivided Remainder. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 67,306.38

Financial Statement as of December 31, 1878 [a]

Capital Stock . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $1,100,000.00

First Mortgage Gold Bonds at 7% Interest . . . 884,000.00

Total Stock & Bonds . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1,984,000.00

[a] Figures reflect totals for the consolidation of the Bingham Canyon & Camp Floyd Railroad and the Wasatch & Jordan Valley Railroad.

Source: Poor, Manual of Railroads, 1879 (1879), p. 925.

The Wasatch and Jordan Valley Railroad did not remain in existence long after the consolidation of 1879. The road, as may be seen from the financial statements, was able to show a profit after expenses and interest payments on its bonds through 1878. In 1879, however, the mines of Alta on which the road was dependent for its income began to fail. Income during 1879, 1880 and 1881 was large enough to meet operating expenses; but interest on bonds could not be paid, and foreclosure action was taken in August of 1881.[88] The road was sold to the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad on December 31, 1881.[89] The portion of the road between Sandy and Alta was closed sometime in the 1880's because of the failure of the mines, but the Sandy to Bingham portion was made standard gauge and remained in profitable operation until the 1950's.[90]

Alta, once the eastern terminus of the Wasatch and Jordan Valley Railroad, is today one of the world's finest ski resorts; and it is visited by thousands of skiers each year. As they glide down the slopes these present-day adventurers can still clearly see the scars of the mining operations of the 1860's and 1870's.

The American Fork Railroad

One of the most spectacular canyons in the Wasatch Mountain Range is the American Fork Canyon, located in Utah Valley about six miles northeast of American Fork City. The mouth of the canyon is a narrow limestone chasm about 200 feet wide, walled on either side by perpendicular rocks rising from one to three thousand feet above the canyon floor. This narrow, deep, spectacular canyon continues almost unchanged for five or six miles eastward until the south fork of the American Fork River is reached. At this point the canyon widens, and the sheer rock walls give way to heavily timbered mountains of a more rolling nature. Many people feel that this is the most beautiful of Utah's many scenic canyons.

During the early 1870's this canyon was bustling with mining activity. The center of this activity was the Sultana Smelting Works located twelve miles up the canyon and centered in an amphitheatre within a few miles of the divide between American Fork Canyon and Little Cottonwood Canyon to the north. It was owned and operated by the Miller Mining Company and was one of the most extensive and costly smelters in Utah Territory.[91] The smelter occupied a building 120 by 88 feet and contained four furnaces that were kept in constant operation. The Works also included a superintendent's office, an assayer's office, a blacksmith shop and a carpenter shop. In 1871 the company employed from 250 to 300 men, among whom were included engineers, miners, smelters, charcoal burners, teamsters, carpenters, blacksmiths, road makers, laborers and coal miners.[92]

Several mines were located within a five-mile radius of the smelter where their ores were shipped for processing. The most productive among these was the Miller Mine located about two and three-quarter miles to the north.[93] A ton of ore from the Miller Mine produced about $100 in silver bullion, $20 to $28 in gold and a small percentage of copper.[94] A narrow gauge railroad, or tramway, about two miles in length, connected the mine with the smelting works and was operated by mule power. The grade of this road was extremely steep, and on the downhill haul the loaded ore cars were prevented from running over the mules by use of a "fan tail brake." This brake consisted of a drag which was attached to an ore-loaded wheel car; excessive speed was inhibited by shifting ore into the drag.[95]

A village known as "Forest City" lay adjacent to the smelting works, and late in 1872 its population was estimated at approximately 500 people. The town was composed of a few hotels, some neat frame houses, a saw mill, a billiard hall and two general stores.[96]

In 1871 the mineral wealth of American Fork Canyon was moved by wagon and team to the nearest railroad for shipment to the East. This was the Sandy terminus of the Utah Southern Railroad, located thirty miles away in the Salt Lake Valley. The management of the Miller Mine and Sultana Smelting Works was aware that the Utah Southern was scheduled to extend its track over the Point of the Mountain and down through Utah Valley in 1872. These officials decided to construct a narrow gauge railroad to form a junction with the Utah Southern about six miles west of the mouth of the canyon at or near American Fork City. Edmund Wilkes, an engineer and the general manager of the Miller Mining Company, conducted a preliminary survey to locate the best route for the road. This was completed by April of 1872.[97]

While the survey was being completed, a draft of a bill granting a right-of-way through the public domain was prepared. This was introduced in Congress in June of 1872. It was sent to the Pacific Railroad Committee, approved, and debated on the Floor of the House on two different occasions in 1872. Although there were no serious objections to the. bill, it was not passed until June of 1874.[98]

The American Fork Railroad Company was incorporated on April 3, 1872, with a capital stock of $300,000 divided into 3,000 shares of $100 each. The purpose of the railroad, as set forth in the articles of incorporation, was to:

. . construct, operate, and maintain a railroad with the necessary branches from a terminus located somewhere on the Utah Southern Railroad at or near American Fork City and running northeast to the mouth of American Fork Canyon, then through the canyon to the Sultana Smelting Works a distance of about twenty miles.[99]

The appointed directors of the road were General Lloyd Aspinwall, G. G. Howland, H. W. Gray and A. C. Kingsland, all of New York City, and Colonel E. F. Wilkes of Salt Lake City. Colonel Wilkes was also appointed chief engineer.[100] It should be noted that the principal stockholders in the Miller Mining Company were also the principal stockholders in the American Fork Railroad Company, and they were already realizing substantial profits from their mining operations.

These men readily provided the capital to expedite the construction of the railroad. Within a month of incorporation, the company had purchased rolling stock, engines and rails, and had let contracts for ties and grading.[101]

Ground-breaking ceremonies were held on May 20, 1872, and work commenced immediately thereafter. The work was slow as numerous cuts and fills were required; but by the first of June over two miles of roadbed, below the mouth of the canyon, had been graded and made ready for the laying of ties and rails.[102]

The company, having decided to employ a large work force in order to finish the project as rapidly as possible, advertised for 500 men to work on the grade of the road at a wage of $2.75 per day. About 300 men were employed as a result of this advertisement,[103] and this large crew had completed eight miles of roadbed by July 8, 1872.[104] By mid-July eleven miles had been completed and rails enough to lay seven miles of track had arrived. The number of men employed was increased to 550 to hasten, even more, the completion of construction. Most of the men employed were residents of the communities of northern Utah County, and their employment on the construction aided greatly in providing the residents of that area with ready cash. Track laying progressed rapidly and by the 4th of August track had been laid from the planned junction with the Utah Southern Railroad--at American Fork City--to the mouth of the canyon, a distance of six miles. Track was laid three miles up the canyon by September 3.[105]

It was not a simple task to build a railroad in American Fork Canyon. The walls were often perpendicular and in some places the canyon floor was as narrow as fifty feet. The bottom of the canyon was full of huge rocks and debris which had fallen from the overhanging cliffs. In addition, the American Fork River wound down through the canyon and had to be bridged sixteen times in the first five miles. As the snows melted in the spring, this gentle autumn stream could change into a rushing torrent, capable of sweeping boulders, trees, and railroads before it.[106]

There was a difference of 1900 feet between the elevation at the mouth of the canyon and the elevation at the eastern terminus of the road, twelve miles up the canyon. This meant an average grade of nearly 200 feet per mile which, from an engineering standpoint, was extremely steep. In some places the grade reached as much as 315 feet per mile. The last four miles, which were graded but never completed, were so steep that it was necessary to cut switch-backs into the side of the mountain to make ascent by steam locomotive possible.[107]

The builders of the American Fork Railroad encountered an interesting problem when several flat cars and an engine for the road arrived in Salt Lake City in July of 1872. The Utah Southern Railroad was progressing slowly and the road had been extended to only a short distance south of the Sandy Station. It was easy to carry by wagon the rails that had arrived for the road, but the officials of the American Fork Railroad had to devise a different means of transporting their rolling stock the several miles beyond the terminus of the Utah Southern to the beginning of their road. They solved the problem by propelling the new narrow gauge locomotive and some of the cars south from the terminus on temporary track that was laid in sections. After the equipment had passed over a section it was taken up, moved forward, and laid again.[108]

Progress in moving the locomotive and cars was slow, but by August 20, 1872, the people of American Fork City stood by while the little engine was put on the tracks. Within the amazed view of many local residents, who had never seen an engine before, it made its first run.[109] It was found that despite the very heavy grades, five loaded cars could be pulled up the canyon, and that the brakes of the engine would hold, even on the steepest grade, on the downward trip.[110]

As the winter of 1872 approached, the railroad had been completed to Silver Lake City, a town located about eight miles up the canyon and four miles below the planned terminus at the Sultana Smelting Works at Forest City. Grading was completed nearly to Forest City, but the work of laying track over this last four miles was not planned to be undertaken until Spring.[111] Thus in less than a year the narrow gauge American Fork Railroad had completed and put into operation fourteen miles of road from American Fork City to Silver Lake City, deep in the canyon.

The planned junction with the Utah Southern Railroad had to be temporarily changed to Lehi inasmuch as the Utah Southern had only been extended to that city. Lehi is located about five miles north of American Fork City, where the roads were scheduled to connect, and about a mile west of the American Fork Railroad track as it swung south from the mouth of the canyon to American Fork City. A temporary track was laid between the closest point on the American Fork Railroad and Lehi to complete a junction with the Utah Southern at that city. The Utah Southern did not push south of Lehi for nearly a year, and during that time the American Fork Railroad carried much freight for the Utah Southern Railroad from Lehi to American Fork City.[112]

Winters in the Utah mountains have always been severe, and it was normal for mountain mining operations to be suspended for a period of two or three months each year. Because of flooding in the canyons, this shutdown was often followed by delays in removing ore in the spring once mining had resumed. The Salt Lake Tribune described a typical situation in January of 1873:

The American Fork Railroad is laid up for the Winter. We are also informed the Sultana Smelting Works have closed for the Winter, and Major Wilkes, Superintendent and Manager of both railroad and furnace, has gone East. The cause of this is said to be the snows are so deep the ores cannot be got to the furnace, and hence the furnace cannot run, and hence there is no business for the railroad, and hence the railroad "shuts down", and hence American Fork Mining District becomes inaccessible, and hence all hands that can get out of it, and hence it is a rough joke on that section of the country and all enterprises therein. All of which we very much regret, as we were in hopes that, by the aid of, and facilities afforded by the railroad, every enterprise in this district would be kept moving all Winter.[113]

As all activity in American Fork Canyon closed down in mid January, 1873, the rolling stock of the railroad company was stored for the winter at American Fork City. In March, Major E. F. Wilkes, the key figure in the construction of the railroad and general manager of the company; Mr. Lowell, resident secretary; and other officials connected with the railroad, the Sultana Smelting Works and the Miller Mining Company, resigned. There is no record of the reason(s) for this. Wilkes was replaced by Mr. M. S. DeWolfe, who was a law partner of R. N. Baskin and one of the leading non-Mormon citizens of Salt Lake City.[114]

When spring came to the mountains and valleys of Utah in 1873, the rolling stock of the American Fork Railroad was again put into running order. It was decided that the railroad's one engine, which weighed fourteen tons, was too light to be used effectively on the steep grades. The engine was placed on the block for sale and Mr. DeWolfe initiated a mule train run until a new and heavier engine could be obtained; such was delivered in the autumn of 1873.[115]

There was little news of American Fork Canyon or its narrow gauge railroad during 1873. The plan to finish the road to Forest City and the Sultana Smelting Works, four miles beyond the terminus at Silver Lake City, was abandoned.[116] Sloan commented on this by noting in 1874 that the officials of the company felt that, in spite of the fact that the roadbed was graded and ready for ties, the industries of the canyon did not warrant the expenses of construction that would be involved in finishing it.[117]

In addition to hauling mining supplies and ore , the scenic canyon provided another market for the railroad; that of tourist trade.

The year of 1874 was the high point for this business over the little railroad. Several articles appeared in the local papers describing the handsome little tourist cars, the well constructed roadbed, and the little engine which one writer called an "iron colt," if a full size engine was an "iron horse."[118] Much was also said of the majestic scenery of the canyon itself. Precipitous cliffs, worn by time into fantastic and rugged shapes 2,000 feet above a narrow rocky gorge, worn by running waters and filled with rock enough to build a million cities, greeted the eyes of the tourist.[119]

However, while the tourist trade was excellent and timber from the mountains was transported over the road in abundance, the real future of the railroad depended on the ore from the mines of the canyon. It was in 1874 that signs first began pointing to a diminishing of the rich ore veins which had brought initial prosperity to the canyon. The famous Miller Mine, largest and most productive of the mines of the canyon, was employing only twenty men and was producing no ore at all. Other mines had also played out, or the ore assayed out to so small a percentage that it could not be profitably mined. Nevertheless, some new strikes had been made and some ore was being shipped, enough at least to keep the smelter and railroad in operation for a while longer.[120]

The same conditions continued in 1875 even though the tourist trade was not as brisk as it had been; and the train, for those wishing to visit the canyon, ran only three days a week.[121] In the late summer there was a little spurt in mining activity, and the Miller, again producing, was shipping from five to ten tons of ore a week.[122]

The years of 1876 and 1877 witnessed continuing tourist business in American Fork Canyon, and the newspaper correspondents reported that a little ore was coming from the canyon. They always tempered their articles with the optimistic hope that a new strike which had just occurred would change the complexion of things. In 1877, to encourage tourist business, a Captain Parsons erected a hotel and cafe at Silver Lake City (Deer Creek). This trade and the decreasing ore shipments provided enough revenue to keep the little railroad running with a skeleton crew of workers.[123]

As spring blossomed in 1878 the usual predictions that better days were at hand for the American Fork mines again appeared in the newspapers. In April the railroad resumed operation after the normal winter shutdown, hoping to ship large quantities of ore and carry many tourists.[124] It soon became apparent, however, that the mines in the canyon were not sufficiently rich to warrant continued operation.[125] In June the Deseret News printed the obituary of the American Fork Railroad:

The scenery in American Fork Canon, for rugged grandeur, is surpassed by but few spots in this country. However, it is not likely to be visited in future, to any extent by tourists. The railroad up the defile is now being tom up. It was a losing concern financially. The citizens adjacent are, however, building a good wagon road. The rails, ties, etc., which composed the American Fork Canon Railroad are being removed to the vicinity of Sandy. The proprietors have not yet come to a def finite decision as to what use will be made of the materials. The advisability of laying it from Sandy to the vicinity of a point called the stairs, in Big Cottonwood Canon is under consideration.[126]

Thus the American Fork Railroad became the first operating road in Utah to be terminated. Its life was dependent upon the richness of mines of the canyon; and when those mines played out, the demise of the railroad was assured.


[1] Utah Mining Gazette (SLC), August 30, 1873; Salt Lake Tribune, January 6, 1873.

[2] Bingham Canyon Railroad Company, Articles of Incorporation, September 10, 1872, Utah State Archives.

[3] See Appendix I of this paper for a list of railroads, along with their directors, incorporated in Utah between 1869 and 1883.

[4] Bingham Canyon and Camp Floyd Railroad Company, Articles of Incorporation, September 10, 1872, National Archives, Social and Economic Records Division, Records of the General Land Office, Records Group 49, Division F, Box 3. The organization of a railroad company in Utah in the 1870's was big news and was given considerable space in the local newspapers. This was not the case, however, with either of the proposed roads to Bingham that were chartered in 1872. As already stated, no reference in the papers could be found to the Wilson company. Nothing appears in the papers regarding the second company until December 10, 1872, more than a month after the route survey had been completed, and when more than five miles of roadbed had been graded.

[5] Salt Lake Tribune, January 6, 1873) Bingham Canyon and Camp Floyd Railroad Company, Amendment to the Articles of Incorporation, November 27, 1874, National Archives. The amount of capital stock was increased to $600,000 on November 27, 1874, to provide funds for the expansion of the line.

[6] Bingham Canyon and Camp Floyd Railroad, Articles of Incorporation; Salt Lake Tribune, December 10, 1872, January 6, 1873.

[7] Salt Lake Tribune, December 10, 1872; Salt Lake Herald, May 20, 1873; Corinne Daily Reporter, May 21, 1873.

[8] Salt Lake Tribune, December 10, 1872.

[9] Salt Lake Tribune, January 6, 1873.

[10] Salt Lake Tribune, December 10, 1872.

[11] Salt Lake Tribune, January 6, 1873.

[12] Salt Lake Tribune, January 6, 1873.

[13] Salt Lake Herald, June 28, 1873; Corinne Daily Reporter, June 28, 1873.

[14] Salt Lake Herald, June 28, 1873; Corinne Daily Reporter, June 28, 1873.

[15] Salt Lake Tribune, October 30, 1873.

[16] Edward L. Sloan (ed.), Gazetteer of Utah and Salt Lake City Directory, 1874, p. 47.

[17] Salt Lake Tribune, October 16, 18, November 8, 1873; Ogden Junction, November 13, 1873; Deseret Evening News (SLC), October 15, 1873.

[18] Salt Lake Tribune, November 29, 1873.

[19] Ogden Junction, November 22, 1873; Salt Lake Tribune, November 15, 23, 1873.

[20] Salt Lake Tribune, November 29, 1873.

[21] Salt Lake Tribune, November 29, 1873; Ogden Junction, December 6, 1873. The Junction quotes the cost per mile at $141, a little over the cost of any ordinary wagon road.

[22] Salt Lake Tribune, January 16, 1874.

[23] Salt Lake Herald, June 16, November 25, 1874.

[24] Salt Lake Herald, June 16, November 25, 1874.

[25] Utah v. John Murphy, Utah 3rd Dist., Utah State Archives, (1874); Salt Lake Herald, November 25, 1874; Deseret Evening News (SLC), December 5, 1874; Ogden Junction, December 9, 1874; Salt Lake Tribune, December 20, 1874.

[26] Salt Lake Tribune, July 16, September 1, 1875; Salt Lake Herald, August 12, 1875.

[27] Salt Lake Herald, June 16, November 25, 1874.

[28] Salt Lake Tribune, November 18, 1876.

[29] Salt Lake Tribune, December 7, 1873.

[30] Salt Lake and Bingham Railroad, Articles of Incorporation, November 25, 1873, Utah State Archives; Salt Lake Tribune, November 26, 1873.

[31] Howard Fleming, Narrow Gauge Railways in America (Oakland, California: Grahame H. Hardy, 1949). First published in New York in 1875.

[32] Poor, Manual of Railroads in the United States, 1874-75 (1875), pp. 269-270.

[33] Letter, C. W. Scofield to Secretary of Interior, July 10, 1873, National Archives, Social and Economic Records Division, Records of the General Land Office, Records Group 49, Division F, Box 3.

[34] Poor, Manual of Railroads, 1877-78 (1878), p. 797.

[35] Salt Lake Tribune, January 18, 1874.

[36] Salt Lake Herald, June 16, 1874.

[37] Ogden Junction, March 11, 1874.

[38] Salt Lake Tribune, November 28, 1874, October 6, 1875; Poor, Manual of Railroads, 1877-78 (1878),p. 797.

[39] Wasatch and Jordan Valley Railroad Company, Articles of Incorporation, April 29, 1879, Utah State Archives. Letter, C. W. Scofield to Secretary of Interior, National Archives, Social and Economic Division, Group 49. The letter informed the Secretary of the proposed merger and requested a change of right-of-way.

[40] Salt Lake Daily Tribune and Utah Mining Gazette, May 23, 1871.

[41] Salt Lake Daily Tribune and Utah Mining Gazette, May 23, 1871, January 27, 1872.

[42] Wasatch and Jordan Valley Railroad Company, Articles of Incorporation, October 24, 1872, Utah State Archives. This company was one of the two parent companies of the railroad of the same name referred to on page 168, and in footnote 39.

[43] Wasatch and Jordan Valley Railroad Company, Articles of Incorporation.

[44] Salt Lake Herald November 5, 1872.

[45] Salt Lake Tribune, November 21, 1872.

[46] Salt Lake Tribune, November 21, 1872.

[47] Salt Lake Herald, March 11, 1873.

[48] Salt Lake Herald, March 11, 1873.

[49] Salt Lake Herald, August 5, 1873.

[50] Salt Lake Herald, March 11, 1873.

[51] Utah Mining Gazette (SLC), August 30, 1873.

[52] Salt Lake Tribune, October 23, 1872.

[53] Utah Mining Journal (SLC), December 27, 1872, January 11, 1873; Corinne Daily Reporter, May 8, 1873; Salt Lake Tribune, January 29, 1874, January 1, 1878; Salt Lake Herald, December 28, 1875.

[54] Deseret Evening News (SLC), November 5, 1872; Salt Lake Herald, November 5, 1872; Salt Lake Tribune, November 6, 1872.

[55] Salt Lake Herald, November 12, 30, December 17, 19, 1872; Utah Mining Journal (SLC), January 11, 1873.

[56] Little Cottonwood Railroad Company, Articles of Incorporation, September 10, 1872, Utah State Archives.

[57] Deseret Evening News (SLC), February 26, 1873, citing The Pittsburg Leader, February 16, 1873.

[58] Deseret Evening News (SLC), February 26, 1873, citing The Pittsburg Leader, February 16, 1873.

[59] Salt Lake Herald, February 22, 1873, citing the St. Louis Republican.

[60] This was the third bill relating to Utah railroads or mining interests that Representative Negley had introduced in Congress. The two earlier bills were claimed to be necessary for developing Utah and rescuing the Gentiles from the blighting grasp of Mormon monopoly. The first bill was presented on April 18, 1872, to incorporate the Great Salt Lake and Colorado River Railway Company which was to have a right-of-way south from Salt Lake City to a connection on the Pacific. This would have conflicted with the interests of the Utah Southern Railroad. The second bill was to incorporate the Utah Railroad, Mining and Land Company. Its purpose was to develop the resources of the Territory of Utah; and to do this it was to be authorized to build roads, railroads and telegraphs, to open mines, erect smelting works, manufacturing establishments, etc., in Utah or almost anywhere else. This bill provided privileges that even the Credit Mobilier did not have. Deseret Evening News (SLC), February 26, 1873, citing The Pittsburg Leader, February 16, 1873.

[61] Ogden Junction, January 1, 1873; Salt Lake Herald, February 21, 1873.

[62] Salt Lake Herald, March 12, April 3, 1873; Deseret Evening News (SLC), April 1, 1873.

[63] Deseret Evening News (SLC), April 5, 1873.

[64] The L.D.S. Millennial Star (Liverpool), May 20, 1873.

[65] Salt Lake Herald, April 17, May 1, 1873; Salt Lake Tribune, April 29, May 13, 1873.

[66] Salt Lake Herald, June 14, July 19, August 27, 1873; Ogden Junction, June 18, 1873; Deseret Evening News (SLC), September 19, 1873.

[67] Salt Lake Herald, April 17, May 1, 1873; Salt Lake Tribune April 29, May 13, 1873.

[68] Salt Lake Herald, June 14, July 19, August 27, 1873; Ogden Junction, June 18, 1873; Deseret Evening News (SLC), September 19, 1873.

[69] Salt Lake Herald, September 17, 1873; Salt Lake Tribune, November 19, 1873.

[70] Salt Lake Herald, March 1, 1873.

[71] Deseret Evening News (SLC), November 5, 1872; Salt Lake Herald, November 5, 1872; Salt Lake Tribune, November 6, 1872.

[72] Young, Wasatch & Jordan Valley Railroad v. Spackman, case 5210, Utah 3rd Dist. (1882).

[73] Salt Lake Daily Tribune, June 25, 26, 1875.

[74] Young, Wasatch & Jordan Valley Railroad v. Spackman.

[75] Young, Wasatch & Jordan Valley Railroad v. Spackman.

[76] Salt Lake Tribune, June 25, 26, 1875.

[77] For a discussion of this operation see the section of this chapter on the Bingham Canyon and Camp Floyd Railroad.

[78] Salt Lake Herald, August 18, September 4, 14, 1875.

[79] Salt Lake Herald, August 18, September 4, 14, 1875. It is interesting to note that before the completion of the W&JVRR, the cost of transportation by coach from Sandy to Tannersville had been $2.00 and from there by sled or wagon to Alta, $1.00. Salt Lake Tribune, April 6, 1872.

[80] Salt Lake Herald, December 31, 1875.

[81] Salt Lake Herald, August 18, September 4, 14, 1875, May 30, June 6, 28, 1876; Salt Lake Tribune, November 18, 19, 1876; Deseret Evening News (SLC), December 30, 1876.

[82] Deseret Evening News (SLC), December 30, 1876; Salt Lake Tribune, January 12, May 9, June 10, 1877.

[83] Salt Lake Herald, September 18, 1879.

[84] Salt Lake Herald, December 11, 1878.

[85] Salt Lake Tribune, June 5, 1878.

[86] Wasatch and Jordan Valley Railroad Company, Articles of Incorporation, April 29, 1879, Utah State Archives.

[87] Poor, Manual of Railroads. 1879 (1879), p. 925.

[88] Young, Wasatch and Jordan Valley Railroad v. Spackman.

[89] U. S. Interstate Commerce Commission, Valuation Report, Denver and Rio Grande Railroad Company, Valuation Docket no. 960 (1929), pp. 806, 896, 901.

[90] U. S. Interstate Commerce Commission, Valuation Report, Denver and Rio Grande, pp. 806, 896, 901; Robert v. Sloan, ed., Utah Gazetteer and Directory of Logan. Ogden, Provo, and Salt Lake Cities for 1884 (Salt Lake City: Herald Printing & Publishing Company, 1884), pp. 107, 110; J. Cecil Alter, Utah the Storied Domain (Chicago: The American Historical Society, 1932), pp. 498, 499.

[91] Salt Lake Herald, November 4, 1871.

[92] Salt Lake Herald, October 22, 1871.

[93] Salt Lake Herald, November 4, 1871.

[94] Salt Lake Tribune, November 19, 1872.

[95] Salt Lake Herald, November 4, 1871.

[96] Salt Lake Herald, November 4, 1871.

[97] Salt Lake Herald, April 27, 1872; Salt Lake Tribune, November 21, 1872.

[98] U. S. Congressional Globe, 42nd Cong., 2nd sess., pp. 4185, 4331; U. S., Congressional Record, 43rd Cong., 1st sess., p. 4323; Salt Lake Herald, June 9, 1874, citing Denver News.

[99] American Fork Railroad Company, Articles of Incorporation, April 3, 1872, Utah State Archives.

[100] Salt Lake Tribune, April 30, 1872.

[101] Salt Lake Tribune, April 27, 1872.

[102] Salt Lake Tribune, June 3, 1872.

[103] Salt Lake Tribune. May 29, June 3, 1872; Salt Lake Herald, June 29, 1872.

[104] Salt Lake Tribune, July 8, 1872.

[105] Salt Lake Herald, July 14, August 4, 1872; Utah Mining Journal (SLC), September 3, 1872.

[106] Salt Lake Tribune, November 21, 1872: Salt Lake Herald, September 5, 1872.

[107] Salt Lake Tribune, November 21, 1872.

[108] L.D.S. Millennial Star (Liverpool), September 3, 1872; Salt Lake Tribune, July 18, 1872; Salt Lake Herald, August 6, 1872.

[109] Salt Lake Herald, August 23, 1872.

[110] Utah Mining Journal (SLC), September 3, 1872.

[111] Salt Lake Tribune, November 21, 1872.

[112] Utah Mining Journal (SLC), October 14, 1872; Salt Lake Tribune, November 22, 1872; Deseret Evening News (SLC), November 25, 1872.

[113] Salt Lake Tribune, January 17, 1873.

[114] Salt Lake Tribune, March 13, 1873.

[115] Salt Lake Herald, April 17, May 11, 1873.

[116] Salt Lake Herald, July 8, 1873.

[117] Edward L. Sloan, ed., Gazetteer of Utah, 1874, pp. 45-46.

[118] Salt Lake Herald, August 25, 1874.

[119] Salt Lake Herald, June 28, August 25, September 4, 1874; Deseret Evening News (SLC), October 2, 1874; Salt Lake Tribune, August 9, 1874.

[120] Salt Lake Herald, October 10, 1874; Salt Lake Tribune, August 4, 1874.

[121] Salt Lake Herald, June 25, 1875; Salt Lake Tribune, June 20, July 21, 1875.

[122] Salt Lake Herald, August 6, 1875.

[123] Millennial Star (Liverpool), October 16, 1876; Salt Lake Herald, August 13, 1876, July 13, August 3, 1877; Salt Lake Tribune, May 1, June 3, July 14, 1877.

[124] Salt Lake Tribune, April 12, 1878.

[125] Salt Lake Tribune, May 26, 1878.

[126] Deseret News (SLC), June 12, 1878.