American Fork Railroad (1872-1878)

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(Based on the research of George Pitchard)


The American Fork Railroad was organized April 3, 1872, and the incorporation papers filed on April 16, 1872, with the Auditor of Public Accounts. Its route was to be from a point on the yet-to-be-built Utah Southern, at or near American Fork City, to the Sultana Smelter, which was near the head of American Fork Canyon, being a distance of about 20 miles. Most of the incorporators were New York men, the railroad being essentially an extension of the Miller Mining and Smelting Company. Major Edmund Wilkes, of Salt Lake City, was manager of the mining company, and of the railroad upon it being organized. Surveys of the route were in progress by April 30th, and grading had begun by June 3, 1872. Enough rail for some seven miles of track, and 10 flat cars, had been received by July 14th, but the laying of the track had not yet begun. The 'Herald' of the 21st said tracklaying would begin the next day.

The route of the railroad, from a junction point in American Fork city with the Utah Southern, followed the American Fork river on a northward course, curving to the north-east in the process, and entered American Fork Canyon by way of a fairly large fill, parts of which could still be seen in 1986. Where the canyon divides, going north-east and south-east, the railroad followed up the northeast branch, intending to go as far as the Sultana Smelter, in Forest City, which place appears to have been at or near that spot now called Dutchman Flat.

The grading was completed to Forest City, but the railroad only got as far as Deer Creek city, which was about four miles below the smelter, and the spot now being occupied by a small reservoir. In the 'Herald' of September 29th is the information, from Major Wilkes, that the railroad was by that date completed to Deer Creek. A few days before, the Utah Southern had arrived in Lehi, about three miles to the north-west of American Fork, and the Utah Southern let it be known that they were not going any farther at present. So, the Utah Southern and the American Fork railroads came to an agreement, and the A. F. R.R. laid its track on the Utah Southern grade to Lehi. This lasted until September of 1873, when the Utah Southern resumed its southward march, and the narrow gauge track was taken up and the wider variety put in its place, as far as the junction in American Fork.

The railroad was not a resounding success. Its grades were extremely severe, being 296 feet per mile at a maximum, which is just over a 5.5 percent grade, very steep indeed, and the little Mason locomotive, weighing all of 14 or 15 tons, was entirely inadequate to the task. Horses and mules were more often used to pull cars up the hill; going down was no problem at all, it being possible to get from Deer Creek to American Fork on a flatcar by judicious use of the brakes! The road was not operated in the winter seasons, and in 1875 seems to have been run only Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays in the summer season. With the failure of the mining enterprises to keep the railroad in dollars, more interest was shown in running the railroad for tourists, and that diversion became quite popular with the local residents as well. But it did not pay the bills, either, so in the late spring and early summer of 1878, the American Fork Railroad was torn up. From some newspaper items and other information, it appears that the rail and cars were sold to Charles W. Scofield, then owner of the Bingham Canyon and Camp Floyd and the Wasatch & Jordan Valley railroads, and getting quite involved too in the Utah & Pleasant Valley, to which line the rails of the A. F. went in August of 1878 when work began on the U&PV track.

The Deseret Evening News, June 5, 1878, in commenting on the removal of the railroad, says that the canyon " not likely to be visited in future, to any extent, by tourists." Anyone trying to drive up that canyon on a summer's afternoon nowadays can quite readily attest to the fact that the News missed the mark on that one!

The following comes from American Narrow Gauge Railroads, by George W. Hilton, pages 529-537 (Stanford University Press, 1990)

The Miller Mining Co. operated the Sultana Smelting Works northeast up American Fork Canyon from Lehi on the Utah Southern. The smelter mainly, though not exclusively, served the Miller Mine, which produced about $100 in silver bullion, $20 to $28 in gold, and a small amount of copper from a ton of ore. A mule tramway of about two miles connected the mine and smelter. Officers of the company formed the American Fork Railroad on April 3, 1872, to provide a rail connection to the Utah Southern at American Fork City, about three miles south of Lehi. Ground was broken on May 20. The six miles approaching the canyon were easy to construct, but the canyon itself was narrow, tortuous, and subject to flooding. The American Fork River had to be bridged 16 times in the first five miles. By the end of 1872 rails had reached an end-of-track called Deer Creek, about 16 miles from the projected Utah Southern connection. The actual connection had to be made temporarily at Lehi, for the standard gauge railroad did not reach American Fork City until 1873. The Miller management graded an additional four miles beyond Deer Creek to the Sultana plant, but this trackage would have entailed switchbacks with grades thought to be beyond the capacity of the line's early Mason Bogie locomotive. The existing line gained 1,900 feet, with a ruling grade of nearly 6 percent. The railroad was shut down for the winter, but in the spring of 1873 the management decided against laying rail on the extension. Mining in the area declined, and the railroad found itself dependent largely on tourist traffic. The canyon was spectacular, and a hotel was built at Deer Creek in 1877. The railroad was regularly closed for the winter, and opened for the last time in the spring of 1878. Ore movements proved very meager, and operations were shut down in May. Track was removed in June.

Reference: Clarence A. Reeder, Jr., The History of Utah's Railroads 1869-1883 (New York: Arno Press, 1981), pp. 193-208. This railroad was initially shown in Poor's Manual of 1873-74 as 3'-0", but thereafter as 3'-6". The latter is apparently in error. The Railroad Gazette uniformly reported the line as 3'-0". The builders' lists of Mason and Porter show the railroad's two locomotives as 3'-0", and they served on 3'-0" railroads following the American Fork's abandonment. Extensive newspaper research by George E. Pitchard brought forth evidence only of 3'-0" gauge. See his A Utah Railroad Scrapbook (Salt Lake City, Utah: George E. Pitchard, 1987), p. 24.

The Gauge of The American Fork Railroad

Prior to George Pitchard's research, previous researchers repeatedly gave the gauge of the American Fork Railroad as three feet and six inches, or 42-inches. However, Pitchard found that all available references in local and contemporary material, if the road's gauge was mentioned at all, stated the gauge to be three-feet. The Salt Lake Herald, April 27, 1872: "It will be of three feet gauge,..."; the Deseret Evening News, July 17, 1872: "The railroad will be three feet gauge,..."; the Herald again, for July 21, 1872: "... this locomotive for a three-foot narrow gauge..."; the Mason Machine Works record for the road's first locomotive says "Gauge - 3 ft."; and one of local photographer Charles W. Carter's notebooks says the road was three feet wide in gauge. Pitchard regarded this as conclusive, in spite of the listing in the Poor's Manual of Railroads, 1876-1877, page 767, and 1877-1878, page 754, giving a gauge of 3' 6". The reliability of the locomotive builder's records and the local press should be considered much greater in these matters than that of Poor's, whose primary concern was financial. The earlier Poor's Manual of 1873-1874 gave the gauge as three feet.


April 27, 1872
"American Fork Railroad." "The announcement of this railroad enterprise will take the general public by surprise, and yet so far have the arrangements progressed for constructing the line, that the iron, engines and rolling stock have been purchased, and will soon arrive from the east. Major E. Wilkes, who got back on Thursday night after three weeks absence during which he visited New York and Washington, proceeds at once with the work of letting contracts for grading, and is desirous that the labor of Utah county and that region should build the line. It will be twenty-two miles is length, twelve miles of it being in the canyon, from the Sultana smelting works to the mouth of the canyon, and ten miles further down into the valley to connect with the Utah Southern road. It will be of three feet gauge, and designed principally for the transportation of bullion and ores from the Miller mine and Sultana smelting works; but it will also afford an excellent facility for parties visiting the beautiful scenery in that canyon, one of the finest in the west. The grading will be easily done, and the calculation is to have the road in running order by the first of August. The new enterprise has our best wishes for its speedy completion." (Salt Lake Herald, April 27, 1872)

April 27, 1872
"Notice to Contractors" "American Fork Railroad" "Proposals will be received at this office until May 25, 1872 for grading and bridging the road from the Utah Southern RR up to the Sultana Smelting Works." "E. Wilkes, managing director" "Office of Sultana Smelting Works, Kimball Block" (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, April 27, 1872)

April 27, 1872
"American Fork Railroad", an item of no especial importance, so early in the road's history, except it says, quite clearly, that "It will be of three feet gauge,..." (Salt Lake Herald, April 27, 1872)

April 30, 1872
Col. E. F. Gray, chief engineer of the AFRR, is now locating the line; grading to commence in two weeks. (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, April 30, 1872)

May 4, 1872
"American Fork Railroad. This company is constructing a railroad of 3-feet gauge to extend from a junction with the Utah Southern (also of 3-feet gauge) to the Miller mine, a distance of 15 miles. It is intended specially for the use of the mines. Mr. Wm. Mason, of Taunton, Mass., has recently concluded a contract with Mr. Edmund Wilkes, the General Manager of the company, for the construction for this road of two single-boiler Fairlie locomotives." (The Railroad Gazette magazine, May 4, 1872, page 197)

June 3, 1872
300 men at work on the grade of the AFRR, and about two miles now completed. (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, June 3, 1872)

June 28, 1872
"Miller Mine. This extensive mine, situated in American Fork, has been sold by R. N. Baskin and Lloyd Aspinwall to the Miller Mining Company of New York for $2,700,000. This company is incorporated under the laws of the State of New-York. The American Fork Railroad is now disconnected from the Miller Mining Company." (This item also appeared in one of the Salt Lake papers; no explanation) (Utah Mining Journal, June 28, 1872)

June 29, 1872
"The Sale Of the Miller Mine -- The sale of this valuable property was for $3,000,000, instead of $2,000,000, as we announced yesterday morning; and includes the Miller mine and Sultana smelting works. The property is now owned by the Miller Mining and Smelting company; and the officers remain the same as before. The American Fork railroad company is a different corporation, but the officers are the same as those of the M. M. & S. Co., Major Wilkes having charge of both enterprises." (Salt Lake Herald, June 29, 1872)

July 5, 1872
"The Miller Mining and Smelting Company has been organized by the election of the following officers: Francis Skiddy, of New York, President; Gen. Lloyd Aspinwall, New York, Chairman of the Executive Committee; Messrs. Howland and Aspinwall, commercial agents; Henry Horner, New York, Secretary and Treasurer; Edmund Wilkes, Salt Lake City, General Manager. The Company is in a flourishing condition. Its property in American Fork is unquestionably of great value and must prove under Major Wilkes' management a great financial success. There is no such mass of ore in the Territory, if we except the Emma, as is developed in the Miller. One furnace was started June 30th and is running splendidly and on the 8th another furnace will be fired up. The ore smelts with extraordinary ease. The Miller will have out a heap of bullion this year." (Utah Mining Journal, July 5, 1872)

July 12, 1872
"American Fork Notes - The work on the narrow gauge is progressing rapidly. The grade is completed to within five miles of the Miller mine, and the iron will soon be laid." (Utah Mining Journal, July 12, 1872)

July 14, 1872
On the American Fork Railroad, about 11 miles of grade are done; 10 flat cars have already been received, and also rail for seven miles of track; at present about 550 men at work; tracklaying will start in 10 days or less. (Salt Lake Herald, July 14, 1872)

July 16, 1872
Durant & Cutting have received 17 car loads of rail for the American Fork Railroad, in Salt Lake City, and it will be forwarded at once. (Salt Lake Herald, July 16, 1872)

July 17, 1872
"American Fork Narrow Gauge -- No. 1 Narrow Gauge Locomotive, 'American Fork', built by Wm. Mason, Taunton, Mass., arrived this morning by U.C.RR. Two more locomotives are on the way. Twenty flats and twenty-five car loads of iron have been received. The railroad will be three feet gauge, and E. Wilkes, who exhibits untiring energy in its superintendence, says running will commence on it by the 15th of August. It is expected the Utah Southern will be completed to American Fork before that time." (Deseret Evening News, July 17, 1872)

July 18, 1872
"A locomotive for the American Fork Railroad and a large quantity of iron have been received by Durant & Cutting, and will go forward immediately, after which track-laying will commence." "A number of flat cars have been received for use on the American Fork Railroad." (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, July 18, 1872)

July 21, 1872
"American Fork R.R. -- We saw at the U.C. depot yesterday the 'American Fork', No. 1, arrived for the American Fork railroad. It is a handsome locomotive, constructed on the Fairlie principle,' and the second of the kind built in the United States. People who talk of the rolling stock of narrow gauge railroads disparagingly should go to the trouble of examining some of it before exposing their ignorance, and a sight of this locomotive for a three-foot narrow gauge would be a lesson to them. Major Wilkes informs us that the 'American Fork' will be moved down tomorrow. Spikes and iron for the track are arriving at the rate of thirty to forty tons a day; the flat cars have all been received, and the tracklaying will commence tomorrow. The road is being pushed forward with energy." (Salt Lake Herald, July 21, 1872)

July 26, 1872
"American Fork -- Dr. Spoerry...dropped in to see us yesterday, and tells us this camp is becoming very lively. At present the Narrow Gauge is being graded by different gangs clear to the Sultana works, and the iron is already being laid, commencing at the mouth of the canyon, it being the purpose of Major Wilkes to have the road from that point to the smelter in working order first." (Utah Mining Journal, July 26, 1872)

August 4, 1872
Item reports that track is laid on the American Fork Railroad from the connection with the Utah Southern to the mouth of the canyon, and "the first locomotive for the road, ... left this city several days ago..." (Salt Lake Herald, August 4, 1872)

August 6, 1872
"The narrow gauge locomotive for the American fork railroad is now being propelled around the point of the Big Mountain south. It was taken down by rail on the U.S.R.R. as far as the track on that road was completed, and from there it is being run on a temporary track laid down in sections for the purpose. The progress is rather slow, but it keeps moving towards its destination." (Salt Lake Herald, August 6, 1872)

August 6, 1872
"The locomotive for the American Fork narrow gauge railroad is now being taken around the point of Big Mountain." (Utah Mining Journal, August 6, 1872)

August 19, 1872
Letter to the editor, from J. B. Wilson, dated August 12, 1872 at Alta City: "Traveled by railroad to Sandy station, and then took the stage here [Alta]... I started for Forest City, American Fork, on Friday morning... The track is laid within four miles of Forest City, and they are grading both ways... I started back again the same day." signed J. B. Wilson. He commented somewhat on the various businesses at Forest City; the Forest City Hotel, run by C. A. Washington, has been enlarged; the Railroad House has been started up by B. F. Whittemore; T. Osborn will open a saloon and billiards parlor in a few days; Burnet & Co. run a butcher's shop. The smelter is running one furnace at present; the Miller mine employs about 40 men; at Forest City there are 12 charcoal kilns in use, with three more to be put in use soon. One cord of wood will yield 45 bushels of charcoal." (Utah Mining Journal, August 19, 1872)

August 21, 1872
"American Fork RR -- Eight miles of rails of this line are now laid, and the locomotive was expected to be on the track yesterday doing duty. The work is progressing rapidly, and the Utah Southern company is pushing ahead to make a junction with it." (Salt Lake Herald, August 21, 1872)

August 23, 1872
Letter to the Editor, dated 21 August, from American Fork: "News in our little town is, under the best of circumstances, rather scarce; hence it is almost impossible to get together sufficient to predicate an article for a paper upon. We have at this time, however, that which attracts our attention, in the immense amount of railroad iron and other material for the American Fork railroad. The sight of the locomotive, as it majestically moved up our main street, excited a great deal of curiosity, especially among the hundreds who had never before seen a locomotive. The superintendent put it on the track yesterday, and made the first trip under the immediate superintendence of Mr. Parrott. The building of this road is certainly a praiseworthy enterprise..." (Salt Lake Herald, August 23, 1872)

August 24, 1872
"The American Fork Narrow Gauge Railroad, under the management of Major Wilkes, will probably be in operation next week. The construction of this great enterprise is being pushed forward rapidly by the chief engineer, Col. Gray." (Utah Mining Journal, August 24, 1872)

August 26, 1872
"American Fork Railway." "We learn from Major Wilkes that the new locomotive, American Fork, is on the track and running about two miles and a half up the canyon. The little trooper is a diminutive Goliath in pulling heavy loads and ascends steep grades apparently with ease, while it winds around the curves like a snake. The work on the road is progressing finely. In a couple of weeks the locomotive will awaken the echoes of Deer Creek with its shrill whistle." (Utah Mining Journal, August 26, 1872).

August 30, 1872
"...the cars on the American Fork Railroad are making three trips per day from the town to the terminus of the track, just above the mouth of the canyon, freighting iron, ties, &c." (Deseret Evening News, August 30, 1872)

September 1, 1872
In an interview with Major Wilkes yesterday morning, he noted that ten miles of track had been laid, and eight miles of grade was or would soon be completed. The item goes on to say: "The locomotive has been successfully run over the heaviest grade on the road, 296 feet to the mile, at the rate of twelve miles per hour and carrying forty tons. This is accomplishing more than the projectors of the road anticipated. On the down grade, they can hold the locomotive under perfect control." "The iron for the balance of the road is already here, and the passenger equipments were shipped from the East on the 17th ult., and may be expected to arrive now any day." "The American Fork Railroad company are very anxious for the Utah Southern to make connection with them at American Fork, as there is a large pile of bullion accumulating in the canyon awaiting shipment. Success to the American Fork." (Salt Lake Herald, September 1, 1872)

September 3, 1872
American Fork City is six miles from the mouth of the canyon, grade between is relatively easy; track is laid on it, Greatest grade in the canyon is 296 feet per mile. (5.6 percent) "From the mouth of the canyon the track is now laid nearly three miles up the narrow valley, to the site of an old shingle mill, recently destroyed by fire. The grade on this portion of the road is very steep. It includes in fact some of the heaviest grades on the whole work, 296 feet to the mile being the greatest." "We are indebted to Col. Gray, the chief engineer, and Mr. Parrott, the engineer in charge of the track-laying, for a ride on the infant monster, the 'American Fork.' Five loaded cars are drawn up easily, though of course not at lightning speed, and on the down trip the train was stopped several times at the very foot of the heaviest grades, fully showing the power of the brake to control the train at any point. The grade is about completed as far as Deer Creek, nine miles up the canyon,..." "It is expected that the railroad will be completed to Deer Creek by the end of the present month,..." (Utah Mining Journal, September 3, 1872)

September 5, 1872
Article on the American Fork Railroad -- says the engine can pull six to eight loaded cars up the hill -- the stream is crossed 16 times in the first five miles of the canyon, some of them 30 feet above the water. Col. Gray ran five lines from Deer Creek to the smelter before finding one he liked, and it will have a bridge requiring 500,000 board feet of timber! The item further states that "a branch to Little Cottonwood is determined upon", which will have to cross the divide between the two canyons. (Salt Lake Herald, September 5, 1872)

(The proposed American Fork line to Little Cottonwood may have been in response to the Utah Southern's grading of a line that summer from Sandy to the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon, and the organization of the Wasatch & Jordan Valley line from Sandy to Alta on October 24, 1872.)

September 6, 1872
A correction to an item yesterday, neither one of any particular importance, does say that E. Fairfax Grey, Colonel, now with the American Fork Railroad, was in command of one of the regiments in Hood's division. (Salt Lake Herald, September 6, 1872)

September 8, 1872
A letter from Deer Creek City, dated 5 Sept 1872, says that track has been laid for a total distance of 12-1/2 miles from American Fork city, grade is all done to Deer Creek, and track will be laid this week. Letter signed E. H., who is likely E. Humphrey, who "built over four miles of the road." (Salt Lake Herald, September 8, 1872)

September 17, 1872
"Local Intelligence." "Two handsome passenger cars for the American Fork railway have arrived at the Utah Central station and will be sent forward as soon as the Utah Southern track is laid to American Fork. The cars are about the size of the city street cars, will accommodate sixteen persons and are very comfortably fitted up. Other cars have been ordered and will soon be here, together with a new locomotive. Work on the road is being pushed with great vigor." (Utah Mining Journal, September 17, 1872)

September 24, 1872
"American Fork Railroad." "This road is now completed as far as Deer Creek, and the locomotive whistle is now heard in that romantic spot. Grading is being done between Deer Creek and the Sultana works,... Passenger trains will be running in a few days." (Utah Mining Journal, September 24, 1872)

September 28, 1872
"Railroad Progress." excerpt: "The American Fork narrow gauge will be completed in a few days from Lehi, its junction with the Utah Southern, to Deer Creek, American Fork canyon, nearly twenty miles in length." (Utah Mining Journal, September 28, 1872)

September 28, 1872
"Local Intelligence." "The American Fork Railroad is swinging along in fine style. The grading is completed-to Lehi and by Wednesday next the track will be laid and a close connection made with the Utah Southern Railroad." "Passengers will then be able to go by rail as far as Deer Creek, American Fork canyon. The road promises to have all the work it can attend to for some time to come. We hope to enjoy a glimpse of canyon scenery some of these days with Major Wilkes and Col. Gray." (Utah Mining Journal, September 28, 1872)

September 29, 1872
"American Fork R.R. -- Major Wilkes informs us that the A.F.RR. is completed to Deer Creek, up the canyon, and that he is running his line to connect with the Utah Southern at Lehi. He hopes to make the connection on Wednesday." (Salt Lake Herald, September 29, 1872) ("Wednesday" would have been October 2, 1872)

October 14, 1872
"American Fork." excerpt: "Deer Creek is the terminus of the railroad at present,... The narrow-gauge rattles down the canyon in a famous way, more than surpassing the company's anticipations. Connection has been made at Lehi with the Utah Southern." (Utah Mining Journal, October 14, 1872)

October 15, 1872
A special excursion was run from Salt Lake City to Lehi on Utah Southern, where the party changed to the narrow gauge American Fork Railroad for a trip from Lehi to the Sultana Smelter Works in American Fork Canyon. Among the excursionists were Brigham Young and several other dignitaries, and for the trip in the canyon itself, they rode on a specially-equipped flat car ahead of the locomotive. The trip was sponsored by Major Wilkes of the American Fork Railroad. (Deseret News Weekly, October 23, 1872, "from Wednesday's Daily, October 16" "yesterday")

October 16, 1872
An excursion over the American Fork RR, with Brigham Young, D. H. Wells, and sundry others; the train was a flat car with chairs on it, went up the canyon about 12 miles. (Salt Lake Herald, October 16, 1872)

October 16, 1872
"Local Intelligence." "Quite a large party, consisting of Brigham Young, ..., and others indulged in a pleasant excursion over the American Fork narrow gauge railway yesterday. They greatly enjoyed the magnificent scenery of that grand canyon, and were much pleased with the road and the engineering skill developed in overcoming so many natural difficulties. Major Wilkes, manager of the road, accompanied the party and made their trip as pleasant as possible. The new caboose cars were run on the occasion for the first time. Trains for passengers and freight are now running daily in connection with the trains on the Utah Southern." (Utah Mining Journal, October 16, 1872)

October 24, 1872
"Local Intelligence." "We learn that the locomotive American Fork, on the railroad of that name, will be repaired and in running order tomorrow. The other engines ordered for the road are expected daily, and when they arrive the road will be busily occupied in transporting bullion, of which there are more than six hundred tons, to Sandy, and in carrying ores to the smelters at the head of the canyon. The road will be run as long as possible." (Utah Mining Journal, October 24, 1872)

October 28, 1872
In an item headed "The Utah Southern," "... the American Fork Railroad ... had a misfortune with the engine on Friday, in the bursting of the exhaust pipe, in consequence of which trains have not run on the American Fork RR since, but it was expected that the engine would be repaired and at work tomorrow. Portions of the American Fork grade up to and in the canyon are very steep, and heavy work has been put upon the present small engine. One of greater power appears to be requisite, and there is some talk of such a one being obtained." (Deseret Evening News, October 28, 1872)

November 14, 1872
"American Fork Railroad -- through the courtesy of Colonel E. Fairfax Gray we have examined a profile map of the American Fork railroad,... The road is constructed about sixteen miles from the terminus at American Fork to Deer Creek, in the canyon, and within six miles of the smelter works; while they are within a mile and three-quarters of the famous Miller mine. The elevation of the smelting works above the junction of the road with the U.S.RR. is 2,684 feet, which has to be attained in 19 miles. Of this altitude, the heaviest grade occurs within the first four miles, where it reaches 297 feet to the mile. As this is something new in railroading, we commend the fact to engineers." (Salt Lake Herald, November 14, 1872)

November 19, 1872
A very long letter dated Monday 18 November, split into three sections on three days, November 19, 20, and 21, 1872, all on American Fork Canyon, etc -- the Sultana Smelter is in Forest City, the Miller mine being about 2-3/4 miles north of Forest City, and about two miles south of the divide; the part of the letter in the November 21st issue is mostly AFRR -- preliminary survey ordered by Major Wilkes, then with mine, in early spring of 1872, was done by J. C. Cameron, Jun., who wrote this letter; following the survey, AFRR was organized by Wilkes and others, and E. F. Gray began the final location. Cameron says in his letter that the grade in some spots reaches 316 feet to the mile; north end of track is presently at Deer Creek, a.k.a. Silver Lake City, but grade is almost complete to Sultana Smelter, and in some areas switchbacks are required. "The work of laying the track and completion of the road to that point will be accomplished early next spring." Most of the road will be 'easily' kept open in winter, but "the upper portion will be subject to some expense during three months of the winter season." Some of the officers are: Major Edmund Wilkes, general manager; E. M. Parrott, superintendent; J. F. Lowell, paymaster; J. Van Dyke, superintendent of construction; C. F. Basino, agent at Lehi; T. M. Smith, agent at American Fork; and J. H. Smails, agent at Deer Creek. (Salt Lake Tribune, November 19, 21 and 22, 1872)

November 25, 1872
"The American Fork Railroad's little engine runs along on weekdays with passengers between Lehi and American Fork, which is an accommodation to be thankful for." (Deseret Evening News, November 25, 1872)

(Utah Southern reached Lehi on September 24th, but had not yet reached American Fork. Apparently, the AFRR was operating on narrow gauge trackage laid on the USRR right of way.)

December 2, 1872
"American Fork." excerpts "One of our reporters, who has been airing himself in American Fork Canyon for a few days, gleans the following in relation to the business and prospects generally of the camp: ...The railroad is a great feature,... From Mr. Church, conductor on the road, we learn that Major Wilkes is now on a trip to New York to increase the rolling stock, and two or three new engines, and passenger coaches are expected daily. ... The passenger coaches are very complete for a narrow gauge. Passengers desiring views of the most superb canyon scenery Utah affords, can do so with as much ease as on any railroad line." (Utah Mining Journal, December 2, 1872)

January 6, 1873
"Land Slide.--Four charcoal kilns of the American Fork Wood and Fuel company, at the mouth of Deer Creek, were badly damaged by the late storm. The late heavy rains caused a slide near the foundations of the kilns. The American Fork railroad is uninjured, and is running on time. Two feet of snow is reported in the canyon with an open road to the Miller mine." (Utah Mining Journal, January 6, 1873)

January 15, 1873
"Local Intelligence." "American Fork Canyon is open and trains are running on time." (Utah Mining Journal, January 15, 1873)

January 16, 1873
"American Fork R.R. -- ...Major Wilkes has deemed it advisable to tie up the railroad for the season."? "...the work of transporting freight by rail to and from the canyon is suspended." (Salt Lake Herald, January 16, 1873)

January 16, 1873
"Local Intelligence." "Closed for the Season. -- The American Fork Railroad Company have suspended operations for the present and excepting their own transportation will carry no freight over the road until further notice. The heavy fall of snow and continued storms of the last month greatly increased the expenses of running the road and there is not sufficient business at this season to justify the outlay. The road will be kept free from snow however, and communication with the Sultana smelters uninterrupted." (Utah Mining Journal, January 16, 1873)

January 17, 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." (Salt Lake Tribune, January 17, 1873)

January 18, 1873
"Not Gone.--We were yesterday misinformed as to the departure of Major Wilkes for the East, as we learn he is still in the city and has no intention of making such a trip at present. We learn also that the A.F. R.R. Co.'s engine has been only temporarily withdrawn from service in order to make some necessary repairs. Mules, however, will be used for hauling the cars in the interim and will be found sufficient for the business, as the severe weather in the canyon has caused almost a suspension of operations." (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, January 18, 1873)

January 31, 1873
"Local Intelligence." "American Fork Canyon is virtually closed. The Miller mine is working about forty men, but all other operations have been suspended on account of snow. The rolling stock of the railroad is all housed." (Utah Mining Journal, January 31, 1873)

February 3, 1873
"Local Intelligence." "Resigned.--Major E. Wilkes has resigned his position as General Manager of the American Fork Railroad Company." (Utah Mining Journal, February 3, 1873)

February 21, 1873
"The American Fork railroad is not running,..." "It is tied up for the winter,..." (Salt Lake Herald, February 21, 1873)

February 26, 1873
Major Edmond Wilkes has resigned from the Miller Mining and Smelting Co., and from the American Fork Railroad; had been manager of both. (Salt Lake Herald, February 26, 1873)

February 27, 1873
Maj. Edmund Wilkes, General Manager of the Miller mine and the American Fork Railroad, and John F. Lowell, secretary of the Railroad, have both resigned. The new General Manager will be Stephen DeWolfe, and the new secretary will be John McNamee. (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, February 27, 1873)

February 28, 1873
"Appointed. -- The Miller mine and the American Fork railroad which we spoke of recently suspended operations on account of the snow. The place left vacant by the resignation of Major Wilkes is now filled by S. DeWolfe. ... The company were very fortunate in the selection of Mr. McNamee as Secretary. As head book-keeper of the firm of Walker Bros., ..." (Utah Mining Journal, February 28, 1873)

March 13, 1873
The American Fork Railroad is still shut down. DeWolfe is the manager, and McNamee is the secretary, having been earlier head bookkeeper for Walker Brothers bank. (Salt Lake Tribune, March 13, 1873)

April 17, 1873
"To Narrow Gauge RR Men -- Mr. DeWolfe, manager for the American Fork Railroad company, offers a fourteen ton narrow gauge locomotive for sale, built for that company, and only disposed of because too light for the road. See advertised notice." (Salt Lake Herald, April 17, 1873)

(this notice elsewhere in same issue):

"Locomotive For Sale." "A narrow gauge fourteen ton Locomotive, in complete running order, built for the American Fork Railroad Company, and offered for sale only because too light for that road. Apply to

S. DeWolfe,

Manager, 92-1/2 Main Street

April 24, 1873
Baskin and DeWolfe came down from Deer Creek on a flat car, on the 22nd, making a speed in places of 30 miles per hour, says the paper. (Salt Lake Herald, April 24, 1873)

May 11, 1873
"American Fork.-- Arrangements are being made by Mr. run a mule train in the canyon until a heavier locomotive is obtained, the present one, which is for sale, being too light for the work on so heavy a grade." (Salt Lake Daily Herald, May 11, 1873)

May 31, 1873
"American Fork. -- Arrangements are being made by Mr. DeWolfe,..., to run a mule train in the canyon until a heavier locomotive is obtained, the present one, which is for sale, being too light for the work on so heavy a grade." (Salt Lake Herald, May 31, 1873)

July 8, 1873
"The American Fork Railroad is now open, and trains are running daily, Sundays excepted, between Lehi and Deer Creek." "Trains leave Lehi at 9:30am on the arrival of the Utah Southern train, and returning leave Deer Creek at 2:30pm, in time to connect at Lehi with the 5 o'clock train for this city." (Salt Lake Herald, July 8, 1873)

September 13, 1873
A letter, dated at Salt Lake, September 8, 1873:

"Editors, Mining Gazette

"Can you tell me the reason why the American Fork Railroad is run by horse power, with the locomotive laid up? Is it owing to defects in the engine, or is there not sufficient trade for steam power? According to the published reports when the engine first arrived, it mounted the heaviest grades with ease; if so then, why not now? (s) Engineer.

"(We were not aware that such was the case; perhaps some one of the officials can reply to 'Engineer's' query.)" (Utah Mining Gazette, September 13, 1873)

September 14, 1873
"American Fork Canyon." "Salt Lake City, Sept. 13th, 1873." "Editors Herald:" "For the benefit of health or pleasure-seeking tourists, I think it well to 'do up,' in Murray's style, the American Fork canyon... The ways of getting there are simple and not perilous, although they involve six dollars worth of all the ancient and modern styles of traveling. The broad-gauge U. S. R. R., thirty-six miles to Lehi, thence the narrow gauge A. F. R. R., by steam eight miles to the mouth of the canyon, and thence by patient, plodding mule power through a narrow, ever winding and ascending road, eight miles to Deer Creek, the terminus of the railroad." DEER CREEK "This place, notwithstanding its beauty of scenery, has no other celebrity than that of being the terminus of the A. F. R. R. Its inhabitants dwell in the fifteen or twenty cabins that make the village,. and peacefully follow the pursuits of wood and tie hauling and charcoal burning. " FOREST CITY "I only tarried one hour at Deer Creek and took passage on an ore wagon for Forest City, four miles distant, where I arrived at 5 p.m.,... I registered at the 'Railroad House,' well kept by Mr. E. J. Andrews." "At Forest City are located the Sultana Smelting works (three furnaces), belonging to the owners of the Miller mine, of the A. F. R. R., of the fifteen masonry charcoal kilns and their 6,000 cords of wood, and of everything else in the long canyon worth awning." "The principal imports of the canyon are supplies, invalids, and superintendents; the exports are bullion, charcoal, lumber, lime and railroad ties." (This is just a few items from a long letter, and all of the railroad material therefrom, which letter is signed 'Heidelberg.') (Salt Lake Daily Herald, September 14, 1873)

September 23, 1873
"Roundabout." "The depot was opened at American Fork on Saturday. [20 September]" (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, September 23, 1873)

January 10, 1874
Letter from American Fork, dated 7th, and he says "I am informed that a new engine and several cars are expected from the East for the narrow gauge railway,..." (Salt Lake Herald, January 10, 1874)

May 5, 1874
"A new locomotive is daily expected for the American Fork Railroad. It is to be larger and more powerful than the one they have been using, and will tend to expedite matters on that line." (Provo Tri-Weekly Times, May 5, 1874)

May 8, 1874
"American Fork Railway," a correspondent from Forest City says that the first train since last fall went up the road on the 6th of May, and will now run regularly every day out of American Fork, in connection with trains on the Utah Southern. He also notes that "A new and more powerful locomotive will soon be added to the rolling stock." (Salt Lake Tribune, May 8, 1874)

May 16, 1874
"Arrived" "We learn that the new locomotive, made expressly for the American Fork Railroad, has arrived and will commence running on that road next week." (Provo Tri-Weekly Times, May 16, 1874)

June 9, 1874
Item lifted from the Denver News: "The Senate has passed a bill giving the right-of-way over the public domain to the American Fork Railroad." (Salt Lake Herald, June 9, 1874)

June 28, 1874
On and after 28 June 1874, the American Fork Railroad will run regular trains over its road, daily except Sunday. (Salt Lake Herald, June 28, 1874)

August 25, 1874
"Trip to American Fork", letter 22 August 1874 by "our Mr. Dunbar", with C. R. Savage, G. M. Ottinger, and others; left SLC Wednesday last week, raining, in afternoon Savage took photograph of Germania works, sun having appeared; on Thursday went up the American Fork Canyon, at 10:30 "we seated ourselves in a handsome little car on the A.F.R.R. narrow gauge"; E. Humphreys, manager of the road, provided a handcar and a man to operate it, and Savage, Ottinger and Dunbar wandered over the line, with Savage and Ottinger "viewing and sketching everything found here, from an old tumble-down saw mill, or a miner's hut, to a rough jagged mountain." (Salt Lake Herald, August 25, 1874)

September 4, 1874
Estimate of the cost of the American Fork Railroad, including the rolling stock, is $400,000.00; Howland & Aspinwall, NYC, are the principal owners; item says the railroad crosses the creek 15 times in nine miles to Deer Creek. Also says that the grade is completed four miles beyond Deer Creek, to the Miller Mine. Of the railroad, Howland & Aspinwall are the owners, Lloyd Aspinwall the president, and E. Humphrey the manager. (Salt Lake Herald, September 4, 1874)

September 22, 1874
Jno. J. McNamee has resigned, effective 1 October 1874, as secretary of both the American Fork Railroad and the Miller Mining & Smelting Company, after 18 months' service. (Salt Lake Daily Herald, September 22, 1874)

October 10, 1874
"The American Fork Railroad is shipping timber, lumber, 'Queen of the West' ore, and charcoal." (Salt Lake Herald, October 10, 1874)

June 25, 1875
"The American Fork railroad, narrow gauge, has again been opened to the public,..." Trains run Monday, Wednesday, and Friday in connection with trains on the Utah Southern. (Salt Lake Herald, June 25, 1875)

August 13, 1876
Puffy piece on an excursion up American Fork Canyon, on the railroad, on the 10th of August; conductor was Mr. Smails. (Salt Lake Herald, August 13, 1876)

September 21, 1876
"The American Fork Railroad company is running daily trains into the headquarters of romantic scenery, American Fork Canyon." (Salt Lake Herald, September 21, 1876)

May 19, 1877
"American Fork. -- We learn that the railroad cars are now running up American Fork Canyon, and business is opened for the season. A good and prosperous time is expected." (The Utah County Enquirer, Provo, May 19, 1877)

July 13, 1877
An item on American Fork Canyon refers in passing to "...its serpentine narrow-gauge railway,..." and also comments that E. H. Parsons is now building a hotel in the upper reaches of the canyon. (Salt Lake Herald, July 13, 1877)

July 28, 1877
"Excursion trains are now running daily to American Fork Canyon, and Captain Parsons has his hotel at Deer Creek in full blast." (Salt Lake Herald, July 28, 1877)

August 3, 1877
"American Fork Canyon" item speaks of the "Mountain Glen House" of Capt. Parsons, at Deer Creek, as being nearly completed. And there is yet another story about coming down the American Fork Railroad on a car, without engine, on which the conductor is again Mr. Smails. (Salt Lake Herald, August 3, 1877)

August 4, 1877
"American Fork Items. -- ...and at the depot of the Utah Southern and American Fork Railroads, there is quite a stir on the arrival of the trains, and a large number of men are constantly employed in transferring freight from the cars of one road to the other." (The Utah County Enquirer, Provo, August 4, 1877)

May 26, 1878
"The picturesque American Fork Canyon will practically be closed to tourists after a few weeks, as the railroad into it is to be torn up and removed, the rails having been sold to the Wasatch & Jordan Valley company. Tomorrow morning regular trains will commence running into the Canyon, when the work of removing the track will begin, and continue for about ten days." "It is a great pity that the mines in American Fork have not proved sufficiently rich and extensive to warrant the continuous operation of the canyon road." (Salt Lake Tribune, May 26, 1878)

May 29, 1878
"Those who wish to avail themselves of the opportunity to witness the grand scenery of American Fork Canyon, should do so, before the rails are all taken up from the road." (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, May 29, 1878)

June 1, 1878
"City Jottings." "It is understood that the rails of the defunct American Fork road are to be laid on the Big Cottonwood extension of the Jordan Valley. This is an important movement,..." (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, June 1, 1878)

June 5, 1878
"Splendid Scenery" "The scenery in American Fork Canyon, 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 torn up. It was a losing concern, financially. The citizens adjacent are, however, building a good wagon road." (Deseret Evening News, June 5, 1878)

June 5, 1878
"The work of tearing up the American Fork railroad track began at Deer Creek yesterday. The switches and sidings were torn up last week. A few days will see the work of destruction completed." (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, June 5, 1878)

June 7, 1878
"It is possible that the rails now being taken from American Fork Canyon will be laid from Sandy to the foot of the Stairs in Big Cottonwood Canyon, and tourists will visit that point accordingly." (Salt Lake Daily Herald, June 7, 1878)

June 8, 1878
"Removing It" "The rails, ties, etc., which composed the American Fork Canyon Railroad are being removed to the vicinity of Sandy. The proprietors have not yet come to a definite decision as to what use will be made of the material. The advisability of laying it from Sandy to the vicinity of a point called the Stairs, in Big Cottonwood Canyon, is under consideration." (Deseret Evening News, June 8, 1878)

June 18, 1878
A letter from American Fork, dated June 17, 1878, shows that rail was still being taken up. (Salt Lake Herald, June 18, 1878)

June 23, 1878
"The rails of the American Fork road are stored for the present at the town of American Fork." (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, June 23, 1878)

July 20, 1878
"Although the railroad is no longer in American Fork Canyon, the grand scenery is still there,..." (Salt Lake Daily Tribune, July 20, 1878)

1878 or 1879
According to a notebook of commercial photographer Charles W. Carter, of about 1878-1879, the American Fork Railroad was three feet wide in gauge. (Carter Notebook, page 125, on microfilm at USHS)

October 17, 1880
An article of one and one-half columns on the decision in the Aspinwall vs. Scofield suit (Aspinwall was the president/owner of the American Fork Railroad, and Scofield the president/owner of the Wastach & Jordan Valley and Bingham Canyon & Camp Floyd, as well as the Utah & Pleasant Valley. The suit was over the non payment of some $11,000 for railroad materials Scofield obtained of Aspinwall); as the original judgment against Scofield was obtained by the plaintiff in the New York Supreme Court, and not made a part of the current (Utah) proceeding, decision is against plaintiff. This is said to be an important precedent. (Salt Lake Herald, October 17, 1880)


(Read more about the locomotives used by American Fork Railroad)

More Information

Clarence Reeder -- Information about American Fork Railroad from Reeder's manuscript

William Mason's Onward -- Information about the American Fork Railroad's Mason locomotive, from Garrie Tufford's article in "Western Railroader."