Western Pacific Branches in Utah

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This page was last updated on December 5, 2023.

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August 1954
The following summary of operations comes from the October 1954 issue of Western Pacific Mileposts magazine.

Over on the east end of Western Pacific's eastern division, for example, the "Tooele Valley Local" plays an important role in the railroad picture working two branch lines with little or no fanfare.

The Tooele Branch is only 15-1/2 miles in length. It begins at Burmester, Utah, 33 miles west of Roper Yard in Salt Lake City and runs southerly, passing Marshall and the Tooele Ordnance Depot, and terminates at Warner.

The Ellerbeck Branch begins at Ellerbeck, four miles west of Burmester, and runs 4.7 miles to Dolomite, passing stations Wye and Flux.

The "TV Local," so named long before the advent of television, makes a round trip over both branches three times each week; on Tuesdays and Thursdays the Tooele Branch only.

To cover the 118-mile round trip on August 11 [1954], the crew was called for 7:30 a.m., and before returning to Roper Yard just 12 hours later, this busy little local had switched, spotted, set out, picked up and delivered 40 loaded cars and 39 empties. They came into Roper Yard with 12 empties and 1,200 tons of gravel, scrap, phosphate, merchandise and machinery loaded in 14 cars; loads which would soon be hitching a ride on faster freights to various destinations, all good business for our railroad. (Western Pacific Mileposts, October 1954, Issue 63, page 3)

Marblehead Branch

Marblehead Branch Built

October 1957
"Contractor laying rail on new five -mile Marblehead spur." (Western Pacific Mileposts, October 1957, Issue 99, page 10)

January 1958
"New spur track - A 4.8-mile spur track to serve a future plant of the Marblehead Lime Company at Marblehead, Utah, was completed last month. The new track leaves Western Pacific's main line 59 miles west of Salt Lake City, near Delle, Utah, and proceeds in a northeasterly direction. Its first use will be the hauling of construction materials for the Marblehead plant." (Western Pacific Mileposts, January 1958, Issue 102, page 11)

June 1958
Jeff Asay wrote the following about the Marblehead Branch in his book, The Iron Feather.

Marblehead Spur Constructed - WP latched onto another source of traffic early in 1958 with the completion of the 4.7-mile spur track from Marblehead station (between Delle and Low, Utah), northeast to Utah-Marblehead Lime Company's kilns, crushers and loaders. (Asay footnote: "Physical construction of the spur was completed in December 1956, after which the spur was used to bring in material to build the new plant that went into operation in June 1958. Western Pacific Mileposts, January 1958.")

There, Utah-Marblehead loaded what was called "dead- burned dolomite" (lime rock) into hopper cars for transport to U.S. Steel's Geneva (Utah) Mill, where it was used to line the mill's open-hearth furnaces. The Tooele Valley Local provided service to the branch as needed. This track was identified as a spur in WP's Eastern Division timetables from 1958 until 1970 when it was included in the Salt Lake District as a branch. This is another example of what seems to be confusion on the part of WP management as to what constitutes a spur as opposed to a branch line. This track appears to be an industrial spur as it served just one shipper at a facility that was fairly close to the main line and was in WP's existing service territory. ICC approval would not be needed under the circumstances and there is no indication that WP sought such authority. It is not clear whether WP paid for the spur or if Utah-Marblehead did, but by this time the normal practice was to require the industries to build spur tracks at their sole expense. In all probability, the industry paid for the spur under what is called a GO 15 provision (one of McAdoo's USRA ideas that survived the USRA itself) whereby the cost of the spur was refunded to the industry by the railroad on a car-by-car basis until paid off. At that point, the railroad became the owner of the spur. That may explain why the line was put into the timetable as a branch in 1970. (Asay footnote: "WP also spent $390,000 in 1958 to order forty covered hopper cars to transport the dead-burned dolomite to Geneva. Steel traffic from Geneva to Pittsburg was one of the railroad's most important sources of freight revenue, so WP had every incentive to make sure U.S. Steel was happy.")

After the UP merger the Marblehead Branch was downgraded to an industrial lead (a UP term for a minor branch or spur that operates on restricted speed rules) and is still shown in UP's Salt Lake Region timetable although there is no business on the line. The plant was demolished and removed in 2009. (Asay footnote: "Western Pacific Mileposts, January 1959, p 10")

January 1959
The following comes from the January 1959 issue of Western Pacific Mileposts magazine.

Dolomite rides our rails - Since June, 1958, a new industry located about five miles northeast of Delle, Utah, has provided added revenue for our railroad, added employment for local workers, and better service in supplying refractory needs for the U. S. Steel Corporation's mill at Geneva, Utah.

From the time the Geneva steel mill began operation about 15 years ago, dead-burned dolomite, used to line open hearth furnaces, was shipped by Marblehead Lime Company from its plant at Thornton, Illinois, a distance of some 1,500 miles.

Geoprofessional Services, Inc., of Salt Lake City, located a deposit of this ore, a calcium, magnesium carbonate (referred to by mining operators as "lime rock") in the Lakeside Mountains of Utah's desert country of Tooele County. Utah-Marblehead Lime Company erected a $3 million mill, and a five-mile spur track was laid from the plant to Western Pacific's main line. The Tooele Valley local now hauls carloads of the crushed ore a short 105 miles between the plant and the Geneva mill.

[Photo] Western Pacific covered hopper cars are spout-loaded from storage bins which straddle the track.

There is enough of the pure dolomite in the Lakeside Mountains for the company to mine in excess of 20 million tons. The plant's capacity will be sufficient to supply not only the dead-burned dolomite requirements of western steel markets, but also to produce railroad ballast and commercial grades of crushed stone.

The hard, slate-gray ore is mined from an open pit 5,300 feet above sea level. Four end-dump quarry trucks, each carrying about 15 tons, carry the mined ore downhill about one mile to the plant located at an elevation of 4,900 feet. A series of crushers reduce the original "stone" to "chips" before it is further processed. Final processing involves the elevation of the product to a pug-mill, where it is dedusted by oiling. It is then distributed by a shuttle conveyor to four shipping bins, having a combined capacity of about 2,400 tons of the dead-burned product. The bins straddle the loading track at considerable elevation, enabling the product to be spout-loaded by gravity at a rapid rate into the covered-hopper cars beneath. (Western Pacific Mileposts, January 1959, Issue 114, page 10)

Marblehead Branch Removed

Delle/Rowley Branch

Ellerbeck/Dolomite Branch

Jeff Asay wrote the following summary of the Ellerbeck Branch in his book, The Iron Feather.

The Ellerbeck Branch was directly related to the Tooele Branch and was constructed in 1917 also. It extended southwest from Ellerbeck station on the main line at MP 892.9 two and a half miles to Dolomite Jct. where one track went north to the Dolomite Quarries and one south to Flux station for the lime rock. Tracklaying took place from October 1917 to January 10, 1918 and service began soon thereafter. All told, the branch was about five and a half miles long. International Smelting took about 200 tons of lime rock daily from the Ellerbeck Branch, yielding WP over $18,000 annually. Lime rock, Dolomite and sand were major commodities moved off the branch in subsequent years.

Tooele/Warner Branch

Tooele Branch Built

The following summary comes from Jeff Asay's book, The Iron Feather.

Tooele (Warner) Branch -- The next branch built by the WP under Krech's guidance was more successful than the Deep Creek and was quite long-lived. This was the branch running southeast from Burmester on the main line at MP 896.7 to a connection with the Tooele Valley Railway Company at Warner (originally Tooele Jct.), 15.5 miles. (Asay footnote: When the line was built, Burmester was known as Grants. The name was changed on August 16, 1917 when landowner Frank T. Burmester and his wife sold additional right of way to the WP. Tooele Jct. became Warner about 1917 as well but the details are lacking. It was likely not at the instance of the WP.)

The line was built on an ascending 2 percent grade with 75-lb. rail between April 5 and September 25, 1917. The cost was a modest $275,560, with service starting November 1, 1917. WP expected to handle a significant amount of ore, coal, coke, lime rock and merchandise inbound to the International Smelting Company located in the hills above Warner. WP planned to interchange traffic to and from the Tooele Valley Railway short line at Warner, but the Los Angeles & Salt Lake Railroad main line blocked WP's access. WP was required to build an overcrossing over the LA&SL to reach the short line interchange.

Competition for the smelting traffic with the LA&SL was significant but WP managed to hold its own. (Asay footnote: "Prior to construction of the Tooele Branch, WP traffic for the smelter was interchanged to the LA&SL at Garfield, with the latter railroad taking a cut of the rate. WP expected to gross over $150,000 annually by having its own branch to the TV short line.")

The line was known as the Tooele Branch (and never the Tooele Valley Branch) until mid-1962 when it became the Warner Branch. During World War II in January 1943, the Army opened the Tooele Ordnance Depot at Warner, having direct track connections to both WP and UP (LA&SL). The last traffic from the Tooele Valley Railway was received in 1979, and after the WP was merged into UP in late 1982, the Warner overcrossing was removed. The branch was demoted to spur track status in 1985 and cut back to Marshall station in 2003. Currently, there is just a stub left at Burmester for car storage.

Warner Branch Removed

WP Utah Branchline Operations

A WP GP7 was kept at D&RGW Roper and was used on the Tooele Valley Local. They also ran an occasional Marblehead Local, as needed. On days that both locals were running, the Marblehead switched the Dolomite branches, along with the Delle/Rowley Branch after it was completed in 1972, and the Marblehead Branch after it was completed in 1958. The TV Local ran every day, and did all the local work on days when the Marblehead was not run. The TV always switched the Chevron potash plant at Garfield, usually running acid cars from the UP interchange at Garfield, into the plant itself.

In Ken Meeker's WP book, "The Western Pacific," published in 2011, on page 225, WP GP7 703 leads the Tooele Valley Local as it crosses U. S. 40 near Grantsville. There are a few other photos of WP in Utah, on pages 220-227.

Motive Power

The GP7/9 assigned to the TV Local was unique because each winter season, it was sent to Stockton to have its huge snowplow attached. Bob Jarvis, who was a brakeman on WP in the late 50s and early 60s, does not recall seeing the large snow plow, so the locomotive assigned may have been equipped only as needed.

The TV Local usually had a single locomotive assigned to it in the form of a GP7 or GP9 during the 1950s to the 1970s. After the older units were bumped from the locals for assignment in California as switchers, the TV Local usually had a GP35 as power.

By the late 1970s and early 1980s, with the combination of leased UP power, new GP40-2s, and rebuilt GP40s as mainline power, the Utah locals began operating with unrebuilt GP35s and unrebuilt GP40s. The WP locals in Utah also at times operated with a UP caboose during this time.

With UP's control of WP in late 1982, they began keeping one or two locomotives stationed at Burmester.

Bradley Ogden wrote on September 9, 2009 that on Christmas Eve 1981, the eastbound Wendover Local came through Burmester, switched some cars and then met the Marblehead Local at Garfield and traded locomotives. By this time the TV Local was being called the Warner Local. From a conversation with a conductor assigned to the UP locals in about 2006, Bradley added that the UP locals would switch Warner, Morton Salt and Marblehead one day then the next they would switch Ellerbeck and the Rowley Branch. They never mentioned leaving a local power out at Burmester. (Bradley Ogden, email dated September 9, 2009)

Tooele Valley Local

(usually known as the TV Local)

Throughout its history, the TV Local (later known by UP crews as the Warner Local) was operated on a daily basis out of D&RGW's Roper Yard. Until the Tooele Valley Railway shut down in 1981, Warner served as the WP connection with the Tooele Valley Railway, adjacent to UP's similar connection.

Warner was also the location of the U. S. Army's Tooele Army Depot, a vast storage facility for all manner of military ammunition and explosives, as well as being one of the U. S. Army's largest vehicle repair locations, known as "depots"..

The TV had one GP7/9, and regularly ran with a second GP7/9. There are photos of an occasional F unit booster being run as a second unit, but that would have been in the late 1950's and early 1960's.

The Tooele local left from Roper mid morning and seemed to be back late afternoon. (Keith Ardinger, email dated September 9, 2009)

Wendover Local

Wendover Local, D&RGW Roper to Wendover, one day out, one day back. Did pickups and setouts at WP-served industries from Salt Lake City to Wendover, except those served by the daily TV Local. Generally used regular road power.

The Wendover job at times had secondary motive power such as a GP35/U30B combination. In August 1976, Ted Benson saw the train outside of Burmester heading for Warner with the units trailing a caboose, boxcar and two flat cars, all for set out at the Tooele Ordnance Depot. On its return the power was shoving a boxcar and the caboose down the hill back to the mainline. It seemed logical that the Wendover crew had their Tooele cars on the end of the train immediately ahead of the caboose. Upon arrival at Burmester, it would be a simply move to go into the siding, cut off, come back against the train at the other end of the passing track and depart for Warner. Repeating this move on the return would make it easy to get their train back together and on the road for Wendover. Since it was a Sunday, and since the TV apparently did not operate on Sundays, that pretty much eliminates the TV crew and there was certainly no need for that much power (two units) on a TV job. (Ted Benson, email dated October 2, 2009)

EMR (Ellerbeck Marblehead Rowley) Local

The 1970s-vintage Ellerbeck Local based at Burmester to work the Ellerbeck, Marblehead and Rowley lines.

Mike Mucklin wrote on February 20, 2009:

Prior to 1955 caboose pooling agreements on the WP, cabooses were assigned either to a specific conductor, or to a specific train if it was a turn, local, road switcher, etc. These latter cars were not always stenciled with their assignment.

After pooling started, through trains had one caboose generally from the initial terminal to the final on-line terminal. Sometimes they even ran through onto other railroads which is why you often see WP cabooses on the UP in the 1970s, and UP and other road's cabooses on the WP.

Many locals though had assigned cabooses for various reasons. The Ellerbeck branch was at one point served by the EMR (Ellerbeck-Marblehead-Rowley) local and its caboose was stenciled as such. I've seen the 460 stenciled for the "E. M. R. LOCAL" but I don't know if other cars were stenciled as such. The 460 was later stenciled for "OAKLAND YARD SERVICE ONLY" but I'm pretty sure that was after the UP merger and that was a UP assignment.

More Information

Western Pacific in Utah -- Everything WP, East of Wendover

WP in Utah, Station Summary (including branch lines)