Salt Lake & Mercur Railroad
This page was last updated on June 10, 2019.
Letter, Larry M. Southwick to Sam Goodwin, November 18, 1991
I just received your letter of Nov. 11. Thode is indeed a first rate fellow, although I've never met him, he has been most helpful and friendly. There are several of the railroad fraternity in Denver that are pleasant to deal with, and an enormous fund of useful information, not only on the Colorado lines, but much on Utah as well.
Most of my on the spot work on Utah railroads was done in the late 60's, when I was in grad school out there. I have something on nearly every line in the state, it was an amazing variety. As to the SL&M, I've recently picked back up on writing a history, all I had written before was a brief paper for a history class at the U. A copy of that earlier paper is enclosed.
Regarding your questions, I'll see what I can do to answer them. My article, when complete, will cover all of these subjects and more, with photos and more thorough explanations. But I will attempt to summarize the gist of things for you.
(1) Map: See attached sketch of Fairfield Switch interchange. This is based on UP maps of the area and an SL&M map.
(2) I am not sure what the concrete ruins were for, perhaps for the later working of the mines in the 1930's. They do not appear on any map I have of the SL&M era. This UP line was taken up in the early 40's, I believe.
(3) I have perhaps 5 or 6 pictures of the Manning area during SL&M days, they follow the sketch map I have enclosed. There was a station and a water tower, as well as a bunk house, handcar house etc.
(4) I am not aware of any transfer facility at Fairfield during SL&M days. Remember, the Golden Gate milled all of the region's ores. Haulage was via the electric tunnel leading from most of them into the hill under the mill to a shaft house. The Manning mill, some time after the Golden Gate was finished, served to treat tailings. There was no need to send bulk ore out of the region, although bulk coal would have been brought into the camp.
(5) All photos I have showed the engines headed in the same, uphill direction. No turning facilities were provided, which was confirmed by Lucius Laudie, the receiver of the railroad, as well as by other old-timers. Going uphill kept the loco crown sheets covered with water, lessening the chance for boiler explosions.
(6) There may have been a siding between Fairfield and Manning, although I do not know what it was for. Perhaps gravel for ballast, or ore loading ramp for ore from the West Dip or Sunshine areas.
(7) I have perhaps 8 or 10 photos of the Manning area, although some of them are from old RGW or UP travel brochures. These don't copy too well. One of my questions to Thode was to try and track down some of these to obtain better copies. The Manning mill changed at least twice during the life of the railroad, with some change in the siding to it.
(8) Again, the best pictures I have of a train at the Manning mill are from the old brochures. There is also several in some old mining magazines, the Salt Lake Mining Review as well as, for example, one issue of the Mining & Scientific Press, May 28, 1896.
(9) The engine house appears to have been a two stall affair. By the way, your spelling of "Mercer" appeared on the first ore cars the SL&M had built, obviously a "typo" by the builder! Mercur of course is correct, as it comes from the original mercury ores in the region.
(10) There had to have been at least a small bridge or culvert where the line crossed Manning Creek, but I don't think it was very large - it doesn't show on any photos I recall. The grade here was very steep, it took triple headers to make it through this section sometimes!
(11) The only company records I ever found were minimal and were in the possession of Lucius Laudie, the receiver of the line. I copied what he had, or what he showed me, he was pretty far gone at the time and died shortly thereafter, I understand. Some court records exist, if the clerks will take the time to find them. But these were not company files as such, at least I never saw any. You never know though, you might try the Utah County Court House in Provo. I never got anything out of Tooele County, they should have had some things though.
Some of the earlier participants, such as Wall, Jacobs, Nunn or De Lamar might have left something. I never had much time to track those guys, and others, down. They might be worth a search, at Brigham Young University, the Utah State Historical Society, the LDS church historian's office, or other states (Nevada and Idaho, for example, where De Lamar, Wall and others were also active).
There are a number of details which I haven't sorted out yet, but I think I have enough for the Colorado Railroad Museum to use - if they still want to. The main thing for them is more in the way of photos. My total is less than 30, plus several in the printed or newspaper variety, which don't reproduce too well.
I once tried to chase down the Salt Lake Mining Review files, but never had any luck. It's current owner, it goes under a different name, had nothing from that era, although further checking might have turned up something. The owner of that magazine during the Salt Lake & Mercur era, Corydon W. Higgins, retired to Eagle Rock, California. I lived in that area for a while (near Pasadena), but could never trace him.
His son, Will C., died in an accident in Utah - he went into a room which was being fumigated with cyanide before it was adequately aired out and was immediately killed. I don't believe he left a direct descendent then, although I did give some of the Higgins's in the Eagle Rock area a call. I even tried to find his old house out there, but could not do so.
Some of my responses above were not all I would have wished them to be, and I must apologize.. Part of the reason is that most of my files are still up in Pennsylvania, as we are in the process of moving down here to Louisiana. The newspapers are a great source of information, as you have found out. However, they must be balanced with other sources to round out the story and confirm many of the details.
But the old papers are such interesting reading too, editorial policies were much more lax in those times, making for more candor, or slander, whichever's your preference. I found some of the Mercur papers on microfilm, but they were all after the initial activities and had little to contribute to what I got from the Salt Lake City and Provo papers. They should be a great source of anecdotal material, and are, but I can use only so much of that in my article.
I'm curious what you've uncovered. In writing to Pitchard, he seems to have found some stationary of the line, and thus I suspect some of their papers. Laudie and some of the area old-timers had a little of that stuff, but nothing real substantive that I could use, and they were reluctant to give much of it up. I copied all of the photos I could find, but there must be a lot more. I think the Mercur old-timers group still occasionally has their yearly meets, you might try them some more.
As for the loco rosters, I think I have them pretty well filled in. The Koch books have most of it, although they didn't buy some of the details which I got from newspapers etc. I wrote to Dan Ranger, who put much of the original shay rosters together, and to Percy, and pretty well satisfied myself as to the accuracy of what I had.
I was up in Mercur about a year ago. Walking along the Manning Canyon side, all the rail, ties and tie plates (on the one section that diverged from the part later used as a road) were gone. I'm glad you were able to dig some up in your searches, I was afraid it was all lost - I only have a couple of the plates, and there were several lengths of rail left.
Letter, Larry Southwick to Sam Goodwin, January 6, 1992
I just received your letter of Dec. 30. It sounds as though you and Pitchard have spent a good deal of time out in the field. When I was there, not only were Manning and Fairfield accessible, but so too was Mercur and the Golden Gate Mill.
Regarding your questions, I'll attempt to answer what I can. As I said in my letter, my sketch map is based on a SL&M map. This was dated 1897 and definitely showed no wye at Fairfield and had the building arrangement in Manning as shown.
As for the wye at Fairfield, it too was very evident when I was digging around the area. Its apparent existence was why I asked Laudie and the others about turning facilities. They all said that there was none, I never saw any evidence of any outside of Fairfield. Except at Manning, there was precious little room for one and all the photos I've seen appear to have the locos headed uphill, even when running downhill. My belief, and I don't see how the evidence allows any other, is that the wye at Fairfield, as there does indeed appear to have been one, is of a later construction, after the SL&M, and was part of the LA&SL (old SL&W).
The old tax records were indeed a real boon, especially regarding building size and numbers of locomotives. They were not always what they seemed, as often equipment that should have been present was not, and that which should not have been was. Part of these differences, if real, could have been due to honest mistakes, or even to surreptitious efforts to avoid paying taxes on equipment that was disposed of near (even after?!) the end of a year. Or perhaps not purchased until late in the year, and perhaps honestly not really operating or set up until the next year.
Anyway, one thing to keep in mind when evaluating this kind of evidence is that there is no certainty which of the various contemporary sources is correct, the records are hardly ever in the form desired by a researcher coming along a century later. For that reason, negative evidence (i.e., the lack of any information regarding a subject) is always the hardest to evaluate and credit.
Regarding the loading facility at Fairfield, it certainly shows up on all of the photos I took, but again I don't think it dates to SL&M days. As I said in my earlier letter, there does not appear to have been contemporary to "our" railroad. It's concrete (which wasn't all that common until after about the first decade of the century - for which see the big article in the Salt Lake City papers about the opening of the Portland Cement plant in Parley's canyon in, I think, about 1908), it's not convenient for wagons, being more of a truck type of setup, I think, and why build it on the LA&SL and not on the SL&M. It makes a lot of sense for the timeframe of the 30's, when the Manning and Mercur dumps were being reworked by Snyder and hauling of concentrates or ore to the railroad was necessary.
As to the second water tank at Manning, I can offer no other information. It does not appear until the 1898 Board of Equalization report (filed May 24, 1899), and the map is dated 1897, so it would obviously not show. By the way, the bunkhouse appears at the same time, so that's why it is not on the map. One of the water tanks shows up in the photo of Shay #5 in the article, which from its general location I think may be the first one. Though it seems to be on the opposite side of the tracks, the spout on the right side indicates the track curves to the right before it reaches the tank. However, my photos in general do not adequately cover the region of Manning to properly locate several of the buildings.
Regarding the enginehouse, several photos confirm the location as shown: uphill from and next to the mainline, oriented so that locos would back in and with at least two other sidings above it. The main would be the light track shown to the left of Shay #9 in the one photo in the article. There does appear to have been at least one additional siding, but this was on the other side of the mainline. That's easily explainable from the early date of the map, 1897, and the late date of the relevant photo, 1913, as a later addition.
But there are still some uncertainties, as another photo taken at the same time seems to show the enginehouse below the main. To wit, what on my map should be a siding is, in this photo, more prominent, higher out of the ground than the nearly buried "main" in the article photo. The angle is so low though that whether this higher track is indeed better built, or whether the slope of the hill makes the lower side of the ties stand out more, I don't know. Further, in the background what may be the main proceeding towards Mercur also appears, much closer to the enginehouse than the map indicates. No photo I have, however, shows more than the two tracks below the enginehouse, but again the views are not complete.
Maybe you could send me a sketch of what you and George came up with and if possible some photos you may have taken. Manning was a frustrating area for me, what with all of the later milling activity there burying everything, I never had the time to make sense of some of the conflicts in the materials I had gathered. There was always another railroad line to track down, I think some 250 of them (incorporated in Utah) before I was done. My one far-away shot of Manning, from the hill, seems to have things as on the map, but I don't have that with me to check out the arrangement.
The enginehouse was definitely not large, I doubt it was used for anything more than maintenance. The locos were generally outside. My one interior view shows no engine. One exterior view shows ashes dumped on one of the enginehouse leads, but there's no way to determine if that was a regular exercise or not.
The other buildings you mentioned, with the insulators etc., I think was probably from the 30's. While there was electricity in the mills early on, the concrete floor and other construction argues for a later date. The parallel with the Eureka Hill would also support this, as it dates from near the end of the Salt Lake & Mercur era almost to the 30's. There's a U. S. Bureau of Mines Technical Paper, #588 (1938) which has a photo of the later Manning operations conducted by Snyder Mines. They are every bit as substantial, more so even, as the earlier facilities. Power poles and lines are much in evidence in that photo.
I don't really have a decent photo of the Manning depot. Photos showing the bunkhouse do make it appear to be on the uphill (north) side of the main. It had a porch right up next to the track. A photo of the old Manning mill site, complete with sawn-off pilings and remnants of a building, appear in the 1938 USBM article.
As for the loco numbering system, I've found no reference to the whys and wherefores of the skipped numbers. None of my interviews could help either. The newspapers are not a lot of help here, for while they may give some details of the engines when received, their numbers are usually not given. The first engine was numbered 10 when originally received. It was eventually renumbered 1, of course. Another, lighter engine had been borrowed early in 1895 from a Salt Lake City street line, the Great Salt Lake & Hot Springs. It was returned to that line as being too light for the "Switzerland Trail" hills and the second shay was then ordered.
I have found absolutely no evidence of any mill locos carrying the missing locos numbers. The Golden Gate mill used an electric haulage railroad later on, referred to as the "Electric Tunnel". That line (all 2500 ft. of it) was finished in July 1900, and the first loco received early in 1901 (mules were used first). This was almost three years after Shay #5 and several months after Shay #7 had come on board, so the missing numbers could not have been a "mill motor". Besides, it would make absolutely no sense that these should be confused or mixed in with the railroad locos. I think the railroad just wanted higher numbers to make it look like they had a lot of engines! Nothing said they had to have them numbered consecutively.
As to cars, you can follow some of them in the Board of Equalization reports. I haven't sorted all of the details yet, but what I have on the passenger cars is as follows. Their first passenger car looked like an old narrow gauge car, I think, placed on standard gauge trucks. I don't know it's number. Perhaps it was numbered 20, as they later added another coach, #21, a baggage-coach, #22, and then another combine, #23. Combine #23 is the one shown in the wreck and #22 is the car on the tag end of the train headed by Shay #9 at one of the hill loops.
They also had an open excursion car, sort of like an open trolley trailer, numbered 31. Numbers 23 and 31 were around until the end, when the Salt Lake and Alta bought the combine. The SL&A had also rented Shay #9 during 1913 and 1914, damaging it at Midvale during December, 1913.
As to ore cars, the road started with six, then added two more the next year. A photo of two of them appears in the Dec. 30, 1899 Salt Lake Mining Review. They appear to have been numbered in the 50's. A couple of coal cars were later added, one of which was numbered 101.
The six steel cars mentioned in the Salt Lake Mining Review ended up on the Copper Belt in Bingham, as did Shay #7. While that Shay first carried SL&M markings, I don't know if the ore cars did. All seem to have run on the SL&M throughout 1900, being transferred in early 1901. This is a case where the Board of Equalization documents can be misleading, as Shay #7 and these cars never show up in them for the Salt Lake & Mercur, only for the Copper Belt. They were received in 1900 (early May), but transferred up to Bingham before that year's tax report was filed. They do show up on the CB tax report, so no hanky panky was involved.
I appreciate your continued interest, and envy your ability to search the grade and other sites up around there. There is no substitute for on site investigations. My last visit was over two years ago and involved only a drive up to the summit. I had no time to stop off at Manning and prowl around any, perhaps had I done so I would have seen signs of your excavations!
I got a letter from Pitchard right after I had written you. He indicated his new book would be further delayed and some of the reasons for it. I hope he soon overcomes his problems. There are a lot of other lines that no one knows much about and Edwards and Carr's book, while welcome, was a bit of a disappointment. But then, I should talk.
Anyway, I hope the above helps and look forward to learning further about what you and George have found.