Monday, October 31, 2016

The Intermountain Train Expo - November 5th and 6th

This coming weekend, a new event will hit Salt lake City on November 5th and 6th.  The event will contain a whole heap of festivities for moderate families and train enthusiasts alike.  I am speaking of the first annual Intermountain Train Expo, hosted by the Northern Utah Division of the NMRA.  The event itself will contain 50,000+ square feet of trains, booths, and other sources of fun for the whole family.

As a bonus, representative(s) from The Desert Empire Project blog will be there to answer questions and receive feedback. Aside from that, this is your opportunity to meet many other train enthusiasts and model railroaders throughout the state, and some out of state! Please visit the Intermountain Train Expo Website to purchase your online tickets, or refer to the information on the poster.

As a representative for the Northern Utah Division of the NMRA, and a convention committee member, I hope to see you all there!

- Schon

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Has the Nevada Northern Moved to Utah?

I moved to Ely, Nevada as a 12 year old boy in June of 1992.  Almost immediately I started learning everything I could about the railroad that kept Ely a thriving community and as a result, I have held a fascination for the Nevada Northern Railway that can only be equaled by my love of the Santa Fe Railway.  Was it the fact that the railroad still had a running steam locomotive?  Was it the fact that most of the railroad's original infrastructure remained intact?  Was it both?  Who knows.  Not so long after I settled in to my new hometown and began my quest for information, I discovered that the Nevada Northern was unique in the railroad world.  The Nevada Northern was the only shortline railroad to order an SD-7 new from the factory.


NN 401 was constructed in August 1952, builder number 16842, and delivered to the Nevada Northern to replace all of it's aging steam locomotives.  For the next 30 years, the 401 would work the line bringing goods into town from the connections at Shafter and Cobre.  It would also deliver blister copper to those same connections for shipment to refineries that would finish the process to create nearly pure copper.


Then came the sad day in 1983 when the railroad closed its doors seemingly for good.  The line north of McGill Junction was eventually sold to Los Angeles Department of Water and Power for a proposed power plant that never came to be.  Unfortunately, the sale of the line included 401.  With the failed project in Nevada, what was to become of the 401?  The answer came in 1988 when the 401 moved to the new LADW&P power plant in Delta, UT.  She was prepared, sent north to the connection at Shafter and shipped off to Salt Lake City.  Then she moved to Delta where she remains to this day.  The locomotive has been promised to the museum and the railroad was sold back to the museum and the City of Ely.  When the time is right, the 401 will be repatriated to her home rails where she will live out her days with no worries of ever seeing the scrapper's torch.


So, has the Nevada Northern moved to Utah?  No.  The railroad's only diesel locomotive did, but the railroad itself is still alive and well hauling tourists in Ely, NV.


Following are some photos I took of the 401 in Delta, UT February 11, 2013.


This counts as my first official photo of the 401.  Had I been thinking about it, I would have chosen a more traditional roster shot for the first photo, but hey, we can't win 'em all, right?

View of the back end of the locomotive.

An attempt at an artsy shot.  I think it turned out alright.

Does it get any prettier than this?

After all these years, the original inspection reports for both the FRA and Kennecott are still in the cab and haven't been written on since!

Beautiful roster shot of the 401.

Detail of the front pilot and plow.  If memory serves, that is a homemade plow place on there by the NN.

Detail of the roof.

Looking up on the nose of the 401.  the light package is reminiscent of SP, isn't it?

Detail of the front of the locomotive.

Detail of the cab.

Detail of the lettering on the rear of the locomotive.


Here we see me taking measurements of the 'wings' to get an accurate angle.  All this information was used in creating decals and paint masks in HO scale to be used on Proto 2000 SD-7 models.  My wife, Angele, took the photo.





Another photo by my wife as I admire the craftsmanship of not only the locomotive, but
also the paint scheme that came to be known as the Desert Warbonnet.

In your face!  Very nice photo taken by my wife of the nose of the 401.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Provo's Ubiquitous Local Trains

 The LUL44R returning to the Provo Yard after a day of switching the Provo Industrial Lead on April 1, 2016. On this day it was led by an ex-Seaboard, ex-Southern Pacific GP40M-2.

Mainline operations are fascinating. They're big, loud, fast, and above all, exciting. I would estimate that around 80% of railroad photographs are of mainline hotshot trains, and understandably so, but often the local trains are where the true interest can be found.

Locals, on the other hand, are slow, small, and often run through isolated areas. However, they often run on a more reliable schedule than mainline operations do. While it is hard to say when a freight train will be on the Sharp Subdivision, the two local trains that ply those rails run like clockwork, leaving at the same time each day and returning at a reliably consistent hour. Through summer 2016 I generally had weekday mornings off, so around 8:30 am I was usually at Kuhni's on the south end of the Provo Yard to follow the LUL57 which left at that time. My vehicle probably became very familiar to the crews.

The LUL57 approaches the Provo Yard on June 1, 2016. After passing through the derail, the train will meet the Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Red Train, which is waiting to take its place on the Sharp Sub to head to Las Vegas, Nevada.

Provo has three main locals that originate in its yard. Two of them, the LUL57 and LUL58, run down the Sharp Sub, the 57 usually terminating at the grain elevator at Sharp and the 58 terminating at the Intermountain Power Project plant southwest of Lynndyl, where the Sharp and Lynndyl subdivisions meet. The third, the LUL41, runs down the former D&RGW Tintic Branch to Spanish Fork, then returns to switch the Provo Industrial Lead to the North. All three of these trains generally use rebuilt SD40Ns, except when accidents occur or tonnage is expected to be high, in which case SD70Ms are added. This was not always the case; the SD40N rebuilding program (starting with older SD40-2s) only began in 2011 and it has only been in the past two years that they have become common as switching and local power in Utah. Before then, SD60Ms and SD70Ms were operated in tandem, at least on the 57 and 58 which travel much further than the 41, and at one point D&RGW SD40T-2 "tunnel motor" number 5342 was assigned to the 57 in 2001.


Here, the LUL58 with 27 cars straggles into a very wet Provo at noon on September 24, 2016. The LUL57 had derailed the previous day at 9:00 am at Longview Fiber in Spanish Fork and didn't get back on the road until 1:00 am on the 24th, delaying the arrival of this train.
 
The LUL58 leaves in the afternoon, usually between 3:30 and 5:00. Here, the two trains on the left are waiting their turns to head out on the Sharp Sub, while the three light locomotives will run down the yard lead to the Intermountain Power car repair facility to pick up its train there. The LUL58 is the train on the far left with two SD40Ns and one SD70M.


An exception to this pattern occurred on July 26 2016 when the LUL41 split a switch on the Provo Industrial Lead, so until the SD40N usually assigned to the train could be rerailed, it ran with an ex-Missouri Pacific GP38-2. It is interesting to note that six-axle locomotives never ran on the Tintic Branch when it was owned by the D&RGW; after testing an SD7 in 1976, the Grande decided that the rigid trucks were just too long to traverse the branch. Now that the branch as been severely truncated, the little remaining track seems to handle it.


The LUL57 runs daily on weekdays, leaving at 8:30 am and depending on how many trains it meets on the Sharp Sub will arrive in Lynndyl around noon. This is the general service train, switching out all of the industries between Provo and Lynndyl. The 58 departs in the afternoon on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, arriving in Lynndyl sometime around midnight. This train services the IPP plant and Magnum facility (which are next to each other), dropping off empty covered hoppers and picking up filled ones full of fly ash (a byproduct of burning coal) from IPP and delivering tank cars of Liquid Natural Gas to Magnum. If either industry needs service on an off day another train will be dispatched under the symbols LUE88X or LUL58X. The LUL41 switches the Tintic Branch on Tuesdays and Thursdays; any other day it operates only on the Provo Industrial Lead.

Spanish Fork's UP Harriman Standard depot is sadly dilapidated, but the tracks that pass in front of it are well-used. Here the LUL57 speeds by on its way south. On this day, the normally predictable power was interrupted by the addition of an AC4400CW and an AC45CCTE.
After escaping the yard limit in Provo, the 57 books it from one industry to another. Unless it stops to switch somewhere, it's hard to keep up with it on the rural roads.


It is interesting to observe the differences between the commodities carried by these trains. The 41 is guaranteed to have bulkhead flats full of lumber on the days it runs on the Tintic Branch; the 57 generally consists of TTX boxcars and covered hoppers badly rusted by salt; and the 58 is generally almost a unit train consisting exclusively of two-bay fly ash hoppers and tank cars of liquid natural gas.


For more information about these locals, Spencer Peterson has compiled everything you could possibly need to know about them on his website at UCrail.com, including radio frequencies, locations, and a map.


Sunday, October 16, 2016

Where Did the Western Pacific Go?

National Train Day 2013, Ogden. This photo shows locomotives representing the various Class One railroads of Utah, but one historical Class One railroad is missing from this collection...

3/25/16, Marshall, Utah; the abandoned Warner Branch was part of WP's system in Utah's West Desert. The WP mainline and several other branchlines are still in use as part of the Union Pacific system, although most of the Warner Branch pictured here has been abandoned.

During the heyday of rail transport, Utah was crossed by four famed Class One railroads; the Union Pacific, the Southern Pacific, the Denver & Rio Grande Western, and the Western Pacific. At the Utah State Railroad Museum there is a display meant to represent this era. The Union Pacific is well covered with an FEF class steamer, a 0-6-0 switcher, a DDA40X, and a Gas Turbine. The Southern Pacific has two locomotives on site, a older GP model, and a SD45. The Denver and Rio Grande is represented by a SD40T-2 which was the last unpatched DRGW diesel to run on home rails; and a narrow gauge 2-8-0 (DRGW 223) currently under restoration.

8/1/2011, Portola, California; the WP 805-A is a FP7A. The P in the designation denotes it is equipped with the heating units necessary for passenger service. The WP used different variations of paint schemes to help easily identify if a unit was an FP7A or the similar F7A. Locomotives such as this pulled the California Zephyr between Oakland and Salt Lake City.

8/1/2011, Portola, California; WP 917-D a F7A unit was used for freight service on the Western Pacific. This locomotive has probably made many countless trips between Oakland, California and Salt Lake City during its lifetime. It is now preserved at the Western Pacific Railroad Museum, where this photograph was taken.

There is a noted absence in this collection, the Western Pacific. Not a single one of the units in the Ogden Museum display came from that railroad. Not a single boxcar or other piece of rolling stock is present (compare that to the several DRGW and SP cabooses on property). Inside the museum display there are a few WP timetables and other souvenirs, but not enough to really memorialize the railroad.

8/1/2011, Portola, California; part of the extensive preserved collection of WP equipment in California includes these classic freight units which are maintained with meticulously clean paint. WP 2001 on the far end of this photo is a GP20 and the first EMD unit to be turbocharged during production. Many of these GP units worked freights over the WP mainline and branchlines throughout California, Nevada, and Utah.

A trip to Utah's other railroad preservation sites doesn't yield any better results. The Heber Valley Railroad has a large amount of UP equipment, and their ex-military units are painted in honor of the DRGW. Yet there is not a single piece of WP equipment at Heber, with perhaps only a few old timetables on display inside the station lobby. The Tooele Valley Railroad Museum fares only slightly better, with a few WP photos on the walls. Between the photos of the Tooele Valley Railway and the Union Pacific, those few Western Pacific photos are sort of a "blink and you might miss it" type of phenomenon.

8/1/2011, Portola, California; a preserved WP rail speeder.

The most glaring lack of the Western Pacific is at one of Utah's preserved railway stations, the Rio Grande depot in downtown Salt Lake. The neighborhood is known as the "Rio Grande District," people refer to the station as the "Rio Grande Depot," and people go inside to eat at the "Rio Grande Cafe." It is often ignored that the Rio Grande shared their depot with the Western Pacific, in fact it was at this depot that the most famous train to travel either the DRGW or the WP was interchanged, the original California Zephyr. When Amtrak took over WP passenger operations while the DRGW ran their swansong passenger train, the Rio Grande Zephyr; it seems the Grande had the neon Western Pacific signage removed from the building. There remains little evidence in the present day to show that the depot was once used by the Western Pacific.

8/1/2011, Portola, California; the extensive collection of WP artifacts seen in California makes the lack of WP units in Utah pale in comparison.

What makes this lack of Western Pacific history preserved in Utah strange is that the Western Pacific is a rather well preserved railroad, although the majority of the preservation work is almost exclusive to California. The Western Pacific Railroad Museum in Portola has a large collection of WP units. The California State Railroad Museum also has a WP unit, and so does the Niles Canyon Railroad. Several Sacramento Northern units (a subsidiary of the WP) and a WP 4-6-0 are preserved at the Western Railway Museum (which also interestingly enough houses other Utah railroad related relics from the Bamberger, the Salt Lake Garfield and Western, and the Kennecott mine). There was even a brief time at the Disneyland Resort where a replica of the Western Pacific hauling California Zephyr was on static display. Even one Western Pacific GP unit made it to preservation outside of California at Elko, Nevada along with an ex-Sacramento Northern NW2 engine in Boulder Nevada (more on that engine later...).

So how did Utah get so shorthanded?

Part of it can be that in railfan culture, the Western Pacific is seen as a "California Railroad." Although the Southern Pacific has a similar reputation, and the Denver and Rio Grande is similarly viewed as a "Colorado Railroad," it seems the WP was been affected by this type of view far more-so than the other mentioned railroads. The reasons for this narrow view are two-fold, the scenery along the WP route in California is world famous. The area surrounding the WP route in the Feather River Canyon in Plumas County is dense forest, with sharp ravines and long bridges built to span obstacles. The Keddie Wye, a large two pronged bridge on this route, is world famous as an unique engineering achievement.

The other factor which contributed to the WP being viewed as a "California Railroad" can be attributed to the population centers near the route. The WP routes in California passed through large cities such as Sacramento, Oakland, and San Francisco. Railfans who wanted to chase the WP in its canyon routes could easily drive up from Sacramento and railfan the area (they could also visit the nearby SP Donner Summit route, making the area a magnet for railfans looking for some good mountain scenery).

8/1/2011, Portola, California;WP 725 a GP9 unit; was repainted into UP colors after the merger, but its working life as a UP locomotive was short. It ended up on the Iowa Interstate railroad before it was brought to Portola for preservation.

Utah didn't fare well in those two aspects. The Utah portions of the WP passed only through Tooele and Salt Lake counties. The area surrounding the track is desolate desert, in some cases far away from civilization. Beyond the Garfield and Tooele areas, the rest of the WP was viewed towards the Nevada border as "inaccessible." Once in Salt Lake City, the WP hardly fared better. The moment the WP track hit Grant Tower it was no longer considered WP property, but was instead track that legally belonged to the Rio Grande. The WP ran through borrowed space in Rio Grande's Roper Yard. Local railfans often ignored the WP, focusing instead on the far more enticing UP route through Echo Canyon, or the spectacular DRGW route over Soldier Summit.

When the WP was merged into the Union Pacific in 1982 and 1983, there weren't many historical societies which might have been interested in preserving the railroad. The Utah State Railroad Museum wouldn't be founded for another few years. The Tooele Valley Railroad Museum was just barely starting and was focused on the immediate task of preserving the remaining Tooele Valley Railway rolling stock.

The only group in the area that could have taken in Western Pacific equipment was the Heber Creeper (The name was shared by several successive organizations including the Wasatch Mountain Railroad, Heber Creeper Inc, and the Timpanogos Preservation Society). In fact an ex-WP unit did make it to Heber for a time, Sacramento Northern 607 in 1983 (the Sacramento Northern was a regional railroad in California wholly owned by the WP). But the Heber Creeper of this era was financially unstable, and only a few years later the Heber Creeper name fell and the railroad was reorganized as the Heber Valley Railroad in 1990 (which began operation in 1992, with excursions running by 1993). In 1993, the SN 607 was sold to the Nevada State Railroad Museum (Boulder Nevada), where it continues to operate as Nevada Southern Railway 1000 (SN 607 wasn't the only ex-Heber Creeper locomotive to end up in Boulder, Pacific Lumber 35 and UP 6246 are also ex-Heber Creeper equipment that are now on display in Boulder).

So Utah was left without any preserved pieces of WP history in the state.

 8/1/2011, Portola, California; The author posing for a photo inside the cab of an old WP GP unit. No I didn't get to drive it, although this museum famously offers a rent a locomotive program. Maybe someday on a future trip. ;)

We are fortunate though for the work of the California preservation groups that took so much of the old WP under their wings. Without them we might have lost much of the WP to the scrapper's torch. However it is upsetting that so much of the preserved WP is such a long trip for a Utah based railfan.

Could something cause the lack of WP units preserved in Utah to change in the future? It seems at present unlikely. The rail display at Union Station is near capacity, and probably could not accept anymore pieces of equipment. The Tooele Valley Railroad Museum doesn't have any additional capacity. Perhaps the Heber Valley Railway could try and get a piece of WP history in their collection, but between their two 2-8-0 engines under restoration, a 0-6-0 in dire need of a cosmetic restoration, an ex-UP NW2 being rebuilt, and the ex-UP GP now in restoration there too, it seems Heber won't be able to take on many more acquisitions anytime in the near future. Of course, if interest for a piece of WP history ever came to these groups, they could possibly make a trade deal to acquire one of the many WP units currently in California.

Some plans have been considered which might turn this forlorn ALCO S-1 ex-military unit on display at Ogden's Union Station into a representative of the Western Pacific.

Another option to bring some representation of the WP into Utah involves using a locomotive currently owned by the Utah State Railroad Museum. USAF 7277 is an ALCO S-1, a model which was operated by the Western Pacific too. Dan Kuhn a local rail historian (who was highly involved in the acquisition of DRGW 5371) suggested that this unit could be painted in WP colors, to recreate the units once used as switchers at Wendover. While this wouldn't be the most authentic preservation of a unit, it would be the fastest route to getting WP history recognized in Utah.

Utah Railway 3002 might look like another G&W owned locomotive on the Utah Railway; but it started out its life as a Western Pacific locomotive, and is the only ex-WP unit currently working in Utah.

If interest for an authentic WP unit to be preserved in Utah ever surfaced, maybe the search wouldn't have to extend beyond the state borders. The Utah Railway currently rosters an ex-WP GP40 (Utah Railway 3002, ex WP 3525), which is currently working freight service. Perhaps a museum in Utah could petition for the acquisition of this ex-WP unit once it is retired in the far off future. Under this scenario once Utah Railway decides to stop using the unit, this locomotive could be restored to its original WP appearance, and become Utah's first WP unit in preservation. Until then, the Utah Railway 3002 could be perhaps viewed as the WP's sole ambassador in Utah, even if it is dressed in Utah Railway/G&W paint! ;)

Until the current status quo involving WP history in Utah changes, we will have to just wait patiently for the WP name to resurface in Utah; and let our imaginations suffice in the interim.

Until Next Time,
-Jacob Lyman

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The 'Other' Wendover Local

While many Salt Lake area railfans might be familiar with Union Pacific's Wendover Locals, the LUE-50 and LUE-51, only a couple are familiar with the 'other' Wendover local, license plate NV2840.  Every two weeks, my wife and I trek from Ely to Wendover to go grocery shopping at the Smith's Food and Drug store in West Wendover, NV.  Then we head over to the Subway restaurant just inside the Utah border to eat.  If we have time before we go back home, I'll head trackside to see what, if anything, might be moving or parked at the west end of the Wendover yard by the yard office.  Most days are a dud, but others can usually catch a one off locomotive or a stray piece of maintenance of way equipment.  Sometimes I get really lucky and see an actual train.  Below are some examples of what has been spotted when the 'other' Wendover local arrives in town...


The 'Other' Wendover Local, license plate NV2840




A classic paint scheme that has really seen better days.  01Aug16


A rare sight south of the border, eh?  This GMD-1 currently works the
KGHM Bulk Transfer facility in Wendover.  01Aug16

Westbound grain train that was stopped.  No crew, no signal to
proceed.  01Aug16
DPU of the westbound grain train.  01Aug16



OLS Deadhead move through Wendover, UT.  SD70ACe 9054 leading
SD70ACe 9051, dome coach 'Columbine', coach 'City of Salina', and
observation 'Cheyenne'.  10Aug16

Dome coach 'Columbine on OLS deadhead.  Wendover, UT 10Aug16

SD70ACe 8561 parked in Wendover Yard.  15Aug16

Tamper and aligner also parked in Wendover Yard on 15Aug16.
Herzog work train parked on house spur at Wendover Yard on 12Oct16.

Tail end of Herzog work train.  12Oct16
I have never seen a speeder trailer with six wheels on it before.  It is marked
with a two ton capacity, though I hardly think that is accurate given its
current condition.



Monday, October 10, 2016

Trekking Around Kennecott's Abandoned Railroads

October 3, 2016; the crown jewel of "The Desert Empire"? The history of railroading to extract copper in the American West is rich and detailed. In fact the documentary The Desert Empire for which this blog is named, spent a large segment about copper mining in Bingham Canyon. Although the Rio Tinto/Kennecott Copper Mine no longer is crisscrossed by tracks, its history with railroads is still around, hidden in plain sight.

"Mining in the American West." That short phrase instantly calls forth pop culture ideas deeply rooted in the minds of many American's. The ruthless barons, the prospectors who traveled great distances to find gold and silver deposits. The men who became rich, and those who lost everything. Outlaws such as Butch Cassidy robbing trains loaded with gold, while being hunted down by county sheriffs and federal marshals. It seems the thought makes us want to yell "There be gold in those hills!" and try our hands at panning for gold. Even our favorite theme parks take us on the "The Wildest Ride in the Wilderness!" with roller coasters based on failing gold mines. Considering it has been over a century since that era, it is still deeply rooted in the collective psyche of the American experience.




October 3, 2016; abandoned railroads aren't the only artifact in Copperton. The Bingham City cemetery is located near the abandoned tracks. Many of the graves were relocated from cemeteries which were in locations that were swallowed up as part of the ever expanding mine operations. The town of Bingham no longer exists itself, having been destroyed by the ever growing copper mine.

With all of our pop culture conscious of western mining, we also have an attached image of ruin and failure. The mines that died up, the towns that vanished, the people that moved on, and the history lost as nature reclaimed the area for itself. (Perhaps the more cynical mind might recall the image of EPA Superfund programs to clean up polluted sites that have resulted because of those abandoned mines.) Some of these abandoned or less active mining areas have put themselves on the map as tourist attractions, such as Virginia City, Butte, Ely, and Utah's own Park City. 

Of course there is one mining discovery from the old west that has not died, and is still at work many years later; the famed Bingham Canyon copper claims. The Oquirrh Mountains were once full of other mines which have since dried up and vanished, such as the mining districts in Ophir and Mercur; but Bingham continues to work, despite the changes in ownership, stricter environmental laws, and even the oddball natural disasters. The Bingham Mining District has produced Gold, Silver, Copper, and Molybdenum through out its long history. 

October 3, 2016; the abandoned Copperton Yard was part of Kennecott's busy electric freight railroad; which was later converted to a diesel operation. The majority of the railroad was shut down at the turn of the 21st century, leaving behind only the switching tracks still in use at the Garfield Smelter.

May 31, 2016; for a time the electric railroad operations in Bingham Canyon and its environment were ruled by these tall 125 Ton electric units which were nicknamed "Magna Motors." KCC 402 is pictured here, preserved near Grantsville, Utah. To my knowledge this is the only "Magna Motor" that is still in Utah, the other members of the class have been preserved elsewhere or scrapped.

Of course one rapidly vanishing aspect of Bingham Mining history is its railroads. A system of conveyors and slurry pipes have replaced the need for a railroad in the area; what once required many ore trains is now done with building-sized dump trucks and pipes which send copper ore on a journey from the Copperton Concentrator to the Garfield Smelter. Kennecott's Utah operations were one of the last mining railroads in the inter-mountain west. Now the railroad's tracks sit abandoned, their right of way mostly intact; but without having hosted any rail movement in over a decade. In a way the history of the Kennecott railroad mirrors the fates of other mining and smelting railroads such as the Virginia & Truckee, the Tooele Valley Railway, the Nevada Northern, the St. John and Ophir, and the Butte Anaconda & Pacific. As technology has changed, so has the need or use of these railroads.

 October 3, 2016; the Denver and Rio Grande's Bingham Branch has been cut from reaching the mine it once served. A few parts of the line (and its sister routes in the area) do remain in use as part of UTA's Red Line for TRAX light rail trains. At night Savage and Utah Railway switch a few of the rail served industries along  the UTA route, and also operate a branchline which still connects to the Garfield Smelter.

October 3, 2016; these abandoned foundations of a roundhouse were once part of DRGW's Welby Yard in South Jordan. This roundhouse appeared to have five stalls, and would have serviced engines that worked the branchlines to Bingham and Garfield. Part of Welby Yard remains in use by Savage and the Utah Railway as evidenced by the tank cars in the background.

Fortunately, parts of the history of the Bingham Canyon railroads are still with us. Kennecott has promoted its history rather extensively in the Intermountain West, with displays in several locations near their operations. The Utah State Railroad Musuem has part of a former Kennecott caboose preserved as an interior exhibit highlighting the history of cabooses. A few Kennecott pieces of rolling stock are preserved near Grantsville, Utah. Even the Nevada Northern Railway Musuem was created when Kennecott donated the operation to the citizens of Ely, Nevada. It seems Kennecott was well aware that preservation of its history makes for a great publicity tool!

 March 10, 2016; although the majority of the history of the Nevada Northern was as a separate entity from the history of Kennecott's, it was Kennecott who owned the operation in its final years and ultimately donated it for the purpose of historical preservation.

However, the most interesting remnant of Kennecott's Utah railroading operations is the Garfield Smelter. Unlike the pit railroads, or the ore line between Copperton and Garfield; the track within the Smelter remains constantly busy even in the present day. Rio Tinto (Kennecott's modern day owner) has continued to grow the operations at Garfield. Some of the locomotives that once worked within the mine, and hauled ore trains out of Copperton; have found new life as the switchers which keep the busy smelter supplied and operating. The tracks within the smelter are vital to the process of refining copper ores. After the ore is smelted and cast into anodes, the anodes are loaded into open flatcars. A cut of locomotives will haul these heavy flatcars the short distance to the refinery building, where electric baths will extract any trace mineral within the anodes, and purify the product into 99.9% pure copper. Passerby's on I-80 and Highway 201 might catch a glimpse of this process as the flatcars are moved from building to building.  From the refinery, the finished anodes are loaded into unassuming boxcars which are then shoved down to the interchange track with the Union Pacific. The plant also generates sulfuric acid, which is loaded into tank cars and switched to form a unit train block which is sent out via the Union Pacific. Individual car loads of sulfuric acid can be taken by Savage and Utah Railway to be delivered to BNSF's yard operations in Provo. A large portion of the yard tracks at the Garfield Smelter are full of cuts of these sulfuric acid cars, waiting to be loaded and shipped out. (A virtual tour of current Rio Tinto/Kennecott operations; including the anode flat cars, can be found at this website.)


October 18, 2015; the last class of locomotives to rule Kennecott's ore trains between Copperton and Garfield were these GP39-2 units. Originally these units were used on tracks within the mine itself, the high cabs allowing crews to have high visibility while traveling the track within the pit. The large numbers painted on the sides allowed crews working in the pit the ability to easily identify the locomotives. A handful of these unique engines are still in service at Rio Tinto/Kennecott's massive Garfield Smelter. Here they are seen hauling tank cars of sulfuric acid from the interchange track and into the the smelter complex. 

Perhaps in an ultimate twist of irony, ore trains have indeed began to return to Garfield in the 21st century. But they are no longer hauled by Kennecott itself from their own mine, instead they originate in copper mines across the county; hauled by Union Pacific to be delivered to Garfield. At times the locomotives to transfer those ore trains from Union Pacific tracks and into the smelter, are the veteran GP39-2's which were built to haul ore trains for the bygone Kennecott railroads. Sometimes the past finds a way to repeat itself in the present day.

July 2, 2016; the OGLGD an ore train bound for the Garfield Smelter, travels through Erda, Utah, on Union Pacific's Lynndyl Subdivision. These modern trains could perhaps be seen as the reincarnation of the ore trains which once fueled the Garfield Smelter many years ago.

September 8, 2015; one of Kennecott's largest outbound shipments is Sulfuric Acid, which often travels in a unit train from Garfield to a fertilizer processor in Idaho. That train is seen here at Cache Junction on the Ogden Subdivision, as it makes its journey north.


Septemeber 11, 2016; not all of Kennecott's outbound shipments are part of unit trains. Here on a BNSF Provo-Lincoln manifest on the former Rio Grande north of Thistle, is a Kennecott marked Sulfuric Acid tank car being shipped to points out east.

Even though the sprawling operations of Kennecott's ore hauling railroad have come to an end, the rail traffic in and out of the Garfield Smelter attests to the successful history of mining in Bingham Canyon, and the continued use of railroads to transport the mine's finished goods.

Hasta la proxima vez,
-Jacob Lyman

For more information on Rio Tinto/Kennecott's history I would recommend visiting Don Strack's To Move A Mountain page on his Utah Rails website.