Tooele Valley Railway (1908-1982)

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This page was last updated on June 29, 2019.

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(Seven miles, total of 9.42 miles, 7 steam locomotives, 2 diesel locomotives; AAR reporting mark TOV)

Gordon Cardall wrote the following about the Tooele Valley Railway:

They apparently had four cabooses but not all at one time. They came down the hill from International, locomotive first, thru town and down to the interchange with the W.P. and the U. Warner,Utah. They came back up thru town, caboose first, with the brakeman standing on the platform, the headlight on the deck, horn on the roof, a rope in one hand, his other on the brake valve. In visiting their line a few times, I saw they had quite a collection of two-bay hoppers. They were in bad shape paint-wise, all just dirty black, well-used and mickey-moused number on the step sill.


November 18, 1908
Tooele Valley Railway was incorporated in Utah on November 18, 1908. (Tooele Valley Railway incorporation records on file at State of Utah)

January 1909
News item about the beginning of grading of the Tooele Valley Railway. (Salt Lake Mining Review, Volume 10, number 20, January 30, 1909, p.26)

April 1, 1909
First train operated over Tooele Valley Railway, using SPLA&SL locomotive 3605, operated to Middle Canyon trestle. (Mining, Smelting and Railroading in Tooele County, page 72)

October 15, 1909
Tooele Valley Railway commenced operation. The railroad operated 6.235 miles of line between Tooele Junction and International, along with 1.698 miles of yard tracks and sidings. maximum grade was 2.4 percent, and maximum curvature was 14 degrees. The railroad was incorporated on November 18, 1908; construction began on November 18, 1908 and the railroad was opened for operation on October 15, 1909. The construction was fully financed by International Smelting Co., which also furnished substantially all of the railroad's freight consignments. (Interstate Commerce Commission, Valuation Reports Volume 110, Valuation Docket 9, pages 310-322)

July 14, 1910
First ore was received at the International smelter by way of the aerial tramway from Highland Boy. The tram was 20,000 feet long and was constructed to transport ores from the Utah Delaware Mining Co. in Highland Boy in Bingham Canyon. (Mining, Smelting and Railroading in Tooele County, page 72)

Ore arrived at the Tooele smelter by three methods:

March 1, 1911
Construction started on a new lead smelter. While the original smelter had been constructed for copper, the supply of copper ore from the Utah Consolidated mine in Bingham Canyon dropped severely in 1910. A new lead smelter was constructed using much of the existing machinery from the copper smelter. The International smelter stopped processing copper completely in 1946, but continued to process lead (and zinc) until 1971. (Mining, Smelting and Railroading in Tooele County, page 75)

December 1916
News item about Utah Construction Company having been awarded the contract to build the Western Pacific's Tooele Branch. (Salt Lake Mining Review, Volume 18, number 17, December 15, 1916, p.34, "Trade Notes")

Mid 1920s
By this time the International smelter had become a custom smelter, processing copper and lead concentrates and ores from Bingham, Park City, Tintic, nearby Bauer, and from Idaho. At times there were 85 to 90 rail cars from all over the west, unloading at the smelter's rail yards. (Mining, Smelting and Railroading in Tooele County, page 74)

April 11, 1925
Tooele Valley Railway was approved to receive $30,343.81 from the U. S. government as settlement for the period of time that the railroad was under the control of USRA, from April 1, 1918 to February 29, 1920. The railroad operated 7.27 miles of track, from Warner to International, Utah. ICC Finance Docket 3052. (94 ICC 757) (Research done on August 22, 1988)

April 1926
A full description and valuation of Tooele Valley Railway was completed for the federal Interstate Commerce Commission in April 1926. This description included two new locomotives built in 1910, two secondhand locomotives built about 1893, along with 60 freight cars (which it does not use, being rented to International Smelting Company), and seven passenger cars. (Interstate Commerce Commission, Valuation Reports Volume 110, Valuation Docket 9, pages 310-322)

Tooele Valley Railway completed a 2.33 mile branchline to serve the transportation of personnel and materials for the construction of Elton Tunnel, being built by National Tunnel & Mines Company. The branchline connected with the mainline at a point about three miles west of International, which itself was about five miles east of Tooele. (Utah Public Service Commission Case 2444)

August 21, 1941
The Elton Tunnel was formally opened during a ceremony on August 21, 1941. The tunnel was named for J. O. Elton, General Manager of International Smelting and Refining Company, and its National Tunnel and Mines Company subsidiary which built the tunnel. The tunnel was 24,000 feet long (about 4.5 miles) and took four years to complete. (Deseret News, August 21, 1941)

In August 1941, the Elton Tunnel opened as a way to transport the ore from the mines in Carr Fork across the ridge in Bingham Canyon, underground through the 4.5 mile tunnel, to a spur on the Tooele Valley Railway for shipment to the International smelter.

(Read more about the Elton Tunnel)

September 5, 1941
Tooele Valley Railway was given regulatory approval to discontinue passenger service. With the completion of Elton Tunnel in early September 1941, the railroad projected an increase of freight traffic between the portal of the tunnel and the International smelter. Continued operation of passenger trains would interfere with the projected increase of freight trains. A motor carrier (J. W. Wells, doing business as Tooele-International Bus Company) was planning to offer passenger service over the adjacent highway, including a planned addition of 375 persons between Tooele and the Elton Tunnel. (Utah Public Service Commission Case 2444)

Non-common carrier passenger operations continued until 1946, with the operation of daily smelter shift trains between Tooele and the smelter, solely for smelter employees. (See Mining, Smelting and Railroading in Tooele County, pages 114-119)

September 1941
Operation began on what was called the Slag Treatment Plant to extract the zinc content from the slag dumps that had accumulated over the past 30 years. The Slag Treatment Plant continued in operation until early 1972. (Mining, Smelting and Railroading in Tooele County, page 77, 79)

June 1943
"During last week..." all three of Tooele Valley's 2-8-0 steam locomotives were used for the first time to pull a train of 17 loaded ore cars and a caboose up a 2.4 percent grade, from the UP connection at Warner, east to the International smelter. Operation of all three locomotives on a single train had previously been blocked by weight limitations of the "Middle Canyon fill". The wooden trestle was filled in using waste rock from the digging of the Elton Tunnel. (Salt Lake Telegram, June 16, 1943, with photo)

October 4, 1948
The holdings of the National Tunnel and Mines company were sold at auction October 4, to the Anaconda Copper Company for $500,000. The properties, including the Elton tunnel, buildings and more than 5000 acres of patented mining claims, had been estimated to have a value of $6,000,000. The 23,000-foot tunnel, running eastward from Tooele to connect with the workings of the Apex and Highland mines on the Bingham side of the Oquirrh mountains, was completed in 1941. In addition to draining 2500 gallons of water per minute from the mines, 800,000 tons of ore were moved through the tunnel during World War II. When government subsidies on copper and lead were dropped, it was said, the ore was not of high enough grade to pay for its mining. (Desert Magazine, December 1948, citing the Salt Lake City Tribune)

Tooele Valley Ry. purchased a former D&RGW 01100-series wooden caboose in 1957. Purchase price of $795.60 for the caboose and, in addition, paid $8.20 for inspection, $22.40 for freight, and preparation for service costs of $295.80 for labor and $51.40 for supplies. (information from Tooele Valley Railway records, ICC Completion Records, courtesy of Larry Deppe)

May 20, 1963
Tooele Valley steam locomotive no. 11 was run for the last time. The locomotive was stored at the locomotive shops at the smelter until retired and moved to Tooele's Liberty Park in September 1964.

December 31, 1971
"Tooele Valley Railway. The seven-mile Tooele Valley Railway Company seems an excellent candidate for total abandonment, according to sources with the Anaconda Company who owns the rail line. The railroad existed to serve an Anaconda lead smelter at International, Utah, connecting this industrial complex, by way of Tooele, with both the Union Pacific and the Western Pacific at Warner, southwest of Salt Lake City. Anaconda announced in November that the smelter, which produced two-thirds of Anaconda's lead output in 1970, would be closed December 31st." (Pacific News, February 1972, page 10)

January 28, 1972
The smelter of International Smelting and Refining Company was scheduled to close on January 1, 1972, but reduced production work continued for another three weeks. On January 28, 1972, the Tooele Valley Railway made its last run between the smelter and the interchange at Warner. Throughout its history, the railroad had made the trip at least twice daily. The last trip was made with only a single boxcar and a caboose. The boxcar had been used to bring the last load of newsprint paper for the Tooele Transcript newspaper. (Tooele Transcript, February 11, 1972)

When the Tooele smelter closed, it left over 30 mining properties without a nearby smelter. These mines were forced to close due the high costs of shipment of their ores to the nearest custom smelters at El Paso, Texas, East Helena, Montana, or Kellogg, Idaho. (Mining, Smelting and Railroading in Tooele County, page 111, citing Deseret News of November 9 and 13, 1971)

The smelter was closed to save costs to Anaconda following the loss of its properties in Chile, which were taken over by the Chilean government in 1971. To save the company, its unprofitable properties were either closed or sold. The sell-off did not work, and by 1975, Anaconda was purchased by Atlantic Richfield. (Mining, Smelting and Railroading in Tooele County, page 118)

(Read more about the end of lead, zinc, and silver smelting in Utah)

May 1972
"Tooele Valley. EMD SW1200 #100 has been sold to parent Anaconda's Butte, Anaconda and Pacific Railroad at Butte, Montana, and as such is now at Butte. The unit, serial #20640, built in May, 1955, was acquired new by the Tooele Valley Railway. Ex-Pickering Lumber Corporation SW900 #104 is still on the Tooele Valley where it will remain as, for the time being, the railroad will continue in operation for the few cars still available each week. Pending an uncertain future now that the International Smelting and Refining plant that provided the bulk of the railroad's revenue is closed, Anaconda intends to maintain the railroad in limited service Both the now closed International Smelting and Refining smelter and the Tooele Valley Railway are subsidiary operations of Anaconda Copper. The #104, serial 25343, built in April, 1959, is now the railroad's only locomotive to remain on the roster. (Pacific News, May 1972, page 13, reported by Keith Ardinger)

Railroad operations continued after the smelter was closed. Until about 1975, the railroad was used to ship outgoing scrap from the dismantling of the smelter, and until 1981, the railroad was used to accept inbound shipments of construction materials for the development of the new Carr Fork Mine. (Mining, Smelting and Railroading in Tooele County, page 118)

Tooele Valley Railway was used to haul away the scrap as the International smelter was torn down in 1972-1974, and remained to move inbound material for the construction the new Carr Fork mine and mill in Pine Canyon. It was finally shut down and abandoned when Anaconda's Carr Fork Project mine and mill shut down, with its last day of operation being on August 28, 1982.

Tooele Valley Railway never carried any of the copper concentrate mined at Carr Fork. The materials were transported by large dump trucks to a load-out in Erda on Union Pacific where the contents were dumped into rail cars. During the planning for the Carr Fork project, a proposal was made to abandon the Tooele Valley right-of-way through the middle of Tooele City and lay track along the base of the Oquirrh Mountains so that the Tooele Valley would meet the Union Pacific without having to travel through the middle of Tooele City. The decision was made to use trucks instead. (Larry Deppe, email dated September 26, 2016)

(Read more about Anaconda's Carr Pork Project)

Tooele Valley Railway ceased operations in 1980. Officially abandoned by owner Anaconda Copper in August 1981. (Extra 2200 South, Issue 80, May 1984, page 33)

July 7, 1980
Tooele Valley Railway ended its operation as a freight railroad. A last boxcar was moved from the Tooele freight depot to the connection at Warner. (email from James Belmont, dated February 9, 2012)

The following comes from Pacific News, Issue 233, publication date of March 1981, published in January 1982:

Tooele Valley Railway Abandonment Approved -- Utah's Tooele Valley Railway received Interstate Commerce Commission authority for the complete abandonment of its 9-mile railroad during late summer (1980). The railroad has seen little activity in recent years, having lost its main customer with the closing of parent Anaconda Copper's smelter at International, where the enginehouse is located. The one surviving locomotive, an EMD SW900 built in 1959, serial 25343, as the Pickering Lumber Corporation 104, has been offered for sale but may be transferred to another Anaconda property after dismantling of the railroad, which has itself been offered for sale intact.

Primary operation on the railroad during the nearly ten years since the closing of the smelter has been the outbound transportation of material resulting from scrapping of the facility and other related properties. Inbound shipments have been limited to construction material for Anaconda's Carr Fork Mine and Concentrator, a project now finished.

August 1981
"Dismantling of the Tooele Valley Railway in Utah. which discontinued operations in August, 1981 on its seven miles of trackage, is now in progress; the railroad's last locomotive. SW900 104, originally Pickering Lumber Corporation, is now in storage on the Salt Lake Garfield and Western in Salt Lake City. (Pacific News, Issue 242, publication date of December 1981, published in October 1982, page 21)

August 28, 1982
Tooele Valley operation ceased on August 26, 1982. (Larry Deppe; The Mixed Train, September 1982, page 14)


Tooele Valley Railway -- A Google Map for Tooele Valley Railway, completed in 1908 and abandoned in 1982; served the International smelter owned by Anaconda.


Tooele Valley Railway -- A Youtube video of Jacob Lyman's excellent presentation on behalf of the Tooele Valley Railway & Mining museum at the 2018 Western Pacific Historical Society convention in Salt Lake City.


Tooele Valley Locomotives -- Roster listings of the locomotives of the Tooele Valley Railway, both steam and diesel

More Information

International Smelter -- Information about the International Smelting Company and their smelter near Tooele, along with information about the parent company, Anaconda Copper Company.

Elton Tunnel -- Information about the Elton Tunnel, completed in 1941 to transport ore from Bingham Canyon, under the Oquirrh mountains, to the International smelter near Tooele.

Tooele Valley Railway corporate information -- Information about the incorporation of the railroad.

Tooele Valley Railway Operations

(First published to the blog at on April 24, 2012, following an exchange on the Utah Railroading Yahoo discussion group)

Jeff in Nevada asked: "I have two slides from the late 1960s, showing two UP coal hoppers, two DRGW coal hoppers, four two-bay hoppers and three UP 50 boxcars. Another slide shows four DRGW coal hoppers, two UP coal hoppers, three two-bay hoppers and three UP 50' box. One slide clearly shows the coal cars loaded with coal but in the other slide nothing shows on two of the cars. Could they have been limestone? Is limestone used as a flux in the kind of smelting that took place at International?"

Those hoppers without visible loads during the mid to late 1960s could also be ore from other mines, such as either Eureka or Silver City. The International smelter was always in the market for what it called fluxing ores, to balance the majority of its ore that came from the Bingham district. From the late 1940s to the end of operations, ore from Bingham came by way of the long Elton Tunnel, the west portal of which was about a mile northwest of the smelter itself. TVRy had a spur to the Elton, as shown in this map.

Keep in mind that the Tooele Valley Railway handled just a small fraction of the smelter's ore for most of its history. The smelter, from day-one, got most of its ore from Bingham by way of the 3.8 mile long aerial tramway over the Oquirrhs, and after 1941, from the Elton Tunnel. There were several mines on the west side of the mountains that furnished ore by wagon (and later by truck), and as I mentioned, a few that shipped ore by the car load from other mining areas in Utah, including from the Silver King in Park City. At most, this would be the equivalent of one or two carloads a day. The International was a custom smelter, and was in the market constantly for ore to keep the operation going. It was mostly a copper smelter until the mid 1940s. It processed lead ores almost from the first, but in 1958 became the only lead smelter in Utah. At that time, Anaconda and United States Smelting made a deal for the U.S. company to do all the milling and concentrating of lead-zinc-silver ore at Midvale, and for Anaconda to do smelting at the International smelter. This change meant increased rail traffic between the Midvale plant in Salt Lake Valley, and the International smelter in Tooele, mostly by way of Union Pacific, but to some degree by way of a combined D&RGW-WP route.

So from the late 1950s, there would be lots of inbound loads of lead-zinc-silver (known as galena) concentrate on the Tooele Valley line, along with outbound metal in boxcars bound for refineries in other parts of the country. All this would have been with the use of just one locomotive, SW1200 no. 100, with a steam 2-8-0 as backup until 1963.

The smelter closed in 1972, so any business that Tooele Valley had after that was either associated with the dismantling of the smelter, or the construction of the new Carr Fork mine in Pine Canyon above the smelter site. For just a couple years after 1979, the railroad was used to ship outbound concentrates from the Carr Fork mine, which was shut down in 1981. As a side note, Kennecott bought the Carr Fork mine in 1985, and just in the last couple months, they announced that it will be the starting point for Kennecott's developing underground operations that are to replace its current open pit operations.

During the late 1970s, several 50-foot gondolas were received with concentrate from Kennecott's Nevada operations.

Jeff in Nevada added: "So limestone was never part of the operation or at least not after the copper portion shut down. Doesn't Kennecott use limestone as a flux for copper. I assume that coal was used up till the end. It looks like, if all the cars are loaded to capacity it is roughly 1 to 1 the amount of coal versus ore. I didn't think about 70 ton three-bay coal cars being used for ore. In "Crossroads of the West" there is a photo that shows DRGW GS gondolas being used for lead ore up till '71. I have a slide that shows a N&W 50 ton two-bay hopper going down Vine street in Tooele behind No. 100. Also a slide that shows what may be a D&H two-bay hopper in black. Makes me wonder were those cars from."

Jeff, you are right about ore traveling in GS gondolas. I doubt ore was shipped in three-bay hoppers.

I forgot to mention limestone in my previous message. Utah's other smelters (ASARCO and U. S. Smelting) got their limestone from the quarries in North Salt Lake, in Parley's Canyon, and at Topliff, on UP's Boulter Branch. The quarries at Topliff opened in 1906. When the economical limestone at Topliff ran out in 1937, the quarries were closed, and UP abandoned the branch.

Anaconda got its limestone from Topliff at first, but soon the quarries at Dolomite and Flux on the WP, across the Tooele Valley, became the smelter's major source, traveling solely via the WP to its interchange with TVRy at Warner. The quarries were opened in 1917, and furnished the International smelter, as well as the Salt Lake Valley smelters and smelters in Washington and Montana.

The use of limestone is vital to all metal smelting processes, as well as steel making, and making sugar from sugar beets. Quarried limestone is also as a flux to add pure limestone to cement limestone for the manufacture of Portland cement. Powdered lime is also sprayed on the interior walls of coal mines to reduce the explosion danger of coal dust.

(Read more about limestone mining in Utah)