Monday, March 27, 2017

March "Train" Madness

March 13, 2017; the LUE46 works the Garfield Yard track while a M.O.W. train rolls by. The Garfield Smelter stands in the distance.

This month has been rather busy for myself. School, work and doing stuff with my family has kept me occupied.. While I have been able to upload to the Desert Empire Project Facebook page, I really have been putting the blog on the backburner. Furthermore, the change of seasons means that many days are so sunny that I would rather be outside chasing trains instead of inside writing about them! The change in weather is such a relief after a long winter season.

It feels like our blog posts are piling up into a massive "to do list" right now too! We are working on a trip report to the Hostler's Train Show earlier this month, and the Echofest event we had at the end of Febuary where Josh, Schon, and I all went to Echo Canyon with several other railfans for a morning of railfanning. Josh is busy working on rendering and editing film segments to form the final footage for Trackside. On top of this, Union Pacific officially announced the steam schedule for 2017 which will include Union Pacific 844 steaming through Idaho and northern Utah at the end of April! I gotta say I am rather excited for this, and hope to grab plenty of photos for use on the blog here! 

So in a way, this post is meant to be a brief "hobby recap" of the month from me, excluding the forthcoming Hostler's write up. To put it simply, the following is what has kept me busy over the last few weeks!

March 13, 2017: Opportune Railfanning at Garfield, Utah

I had a swing shift scheduled at my work later in the afternoon this day, and had to make the drive from Tooele to Salt Lake to make it to work. I left a bit early though, and had the fortune of encountering LUE46 (Warner Local) working the interchange tracks in Garfield, Utah. Garfield is one of my favorite spots to railfan, with the saline Great Salt Lake to the north, the division between the former LA&SL and WP mainlines, and the massive copper smelter forming a backdrop in the distance. While watching LUE46, a PTI crew van delivered crew to a rail train in a distant siding. There has been a lot of M.O.W work on the Lynndyl Subdivision the past few weeks, and it seemed the rail train had been part of those efforts. I waited long enough to see the rail train depart, and enjoyed the sight of four EMD engines split between the two trains.

UP 1616 (SD40N) and UP 4421 (SD70M) were the power for the LUE46 as it was working the yard tracks at Garfield.

Head shots of UP 1616 and UP 4421 reveal how weathering affects the roofs of the locomotives. I was standing on the side of a lightly trafficked bridge to get this aerial perspective of the duo of engines.

I have grown so accustomed to seeing Kennecott's ubiquitous fleet of sulfuric acid cars that I was surprised to see that there were additional reporting marks on the roof of the car! An interesting detail indeed.

Sulfuric acid is created as part of the copper smelting process at Kennecott, and shipped to distant points where it is often processed into fertilizers.

The M.O.W. train had some pleasant surprises riding on it, a DRGW hopper, and an SP two bay hopper. Classic rolling stock from two fallen flags!

The LUE46 drills the yard as the rail train pulls out of the siding.

March 18, 2017: HO Scale Railroad Operations

One of the funnest parts of the railroad hobby is getting together to operate large model railroads to emulate how real railroads run trains. I have been fortunate enough to now join two operating sessions at Gary Peterson's Salt Lake Southern model railroad. The Salt Lake Southern is a freelanced bridge route between the Western Pacific and Chicago North Western, from Utah to Wyoming in a world where neither railroad had merged into Union Pacific. It is interesting to note the Salt Lake Southern was the name of a shortlived railroad operation in Salt Lake City, although Gary's layout predated the "real" Salt Lake Southern by several years! Gary's layout was last really featured in the hobby press in the 1980's, but some recent rebuilds and the installation of DCC means his current set up is a far more evolved version than the version magazine readers might have seen back in the day... As always, I am grateful when I get to join these model railroad sessions and I always have a blast! 

The small town of "Lander" is a favorite area to switch of fellow DEP editor Schon when he visits Gary's layout, and he was switching it while I was running other trains across the aisle.

A brewery rests at the entrance of an industrial lead in "Hudson" while the mainline snakes through in the foreground.

A CNW Operation Lifesaver Special waits at the "Hudson" station, while a neighbooring locomotive has somehow managed to get itself into a grade crossing incident while resting on a spur...

Salt Lake Southern and Western Pacific power mingle together as helper units in "Hudson."

"Sego" is the Western Pacific's main yard in the fictional and miniaturized world that rests in Gary Peterson's basement.

March 14, 15, 16 and 17th; fun in Salt Lake City

While I was kept busy with work in the afternoons, I went on many early morning railfan adventures during these few days, checking out the sights in a city known as "The Crossroads of the West." From squashed chickens, to industrial parks, to gleaming streetcar lines, Salt Lake has a bit of everything!

March 14, A few rules I try to follow when shooting train photos; "Don't shoot into the sun casting shadow over the subject." "Avoid obstructions blocking the subject" "Get as close as possible to the subject." Sometimes though, those rules can't be followed, and such was the case when I was watching this duo of Utah Railway GP's switching in the Small Arms Industrial plant area alongside the Jordan River.

A closer look at this rail in the Small Arms Industrial plant near the Maverick gas station reveals an interesting detail; "ILLINOIS G IIIII 1917 USA." Yes, this piece of track has been in use for 100 years now!

March 15, After hearing from follow DEP editor Matt Liverani that he saw Salt Lake Garfield and Western DS. 10 at work the other day, I went out early in the morning to watch the engine switching the SLGW yard near the Gadsby power plant. This unit started life as a SW9 for the Union Pacific, before being rebuilt into a SW10 in 1982. It has been working at the SLGW since the turn of the century. It has recently received some touched up paint work, its red pin-striping being rather appealing. 

One of the most surprising finds as I railfanned the SLGW was seeing a few dead chickens resting inbetween the tracks. Is this a sign of "fowl play?" In truth, sacrificing chickens on railroad tracks is part of the Santaria practices originating from Latin America, and is common in places with a heavy Latin population such as Miami (so much so that modeler Lance Mindheim included a dead chicken in 1/87 scale on his Miami based layouts!) Seeing these chickens in a place such as Salt Lake, is a reminder of the increasing diverse cultural scene in the city. 

March 16th was a reminder of the ever present dominance Union Pacific has over railroading in the state of Utah. I watched a duo of older GE units pull a grain train into North Yard early in the morning.

Union Pacific's downtown track to their station and former mainline is now gone, but their presence remains. The Union Pacific station is part of the Gateway Mall complex and is visible driving westbound on South Temple from several blocks away. It is a dominating structure (much in the same way the DRGW depot is for those driving on 300 S). A bikeshare station in downtown is sponsored by UP, their familiar red and blue shield resting among green bikes, instead of the normal Armour Yellow locomotives it normally associates with!

March 17, UTA's S-Line is a single track streetcar line which runs a set of small white LRV's along the former right of way of the DRGW's Park City branch. It is an interesting case as to how a former freight line can be revitalized and incorporated into a growing modern urban area, with a large portion of the line surrounded by gardens, art displays, and a bordering trail.

Josh mentioned he thinks these white LRV units look like "albino banana slugs." I don't think I can argue with him on that! ;)

My own Railroad? Ongoing from February into March.

The visit to the Hostler's train show and to Gary Peterson's layout, along with diving into local industrial parks is part of my efforts to prepare for building myself my first model railroad. My dad and I are working on the project. It is going to based on the West Deerfield Industrial Park layout plan which was featured in Model Railroader magazine, and it has been a driving force behind some of my recent railfan excursions. 

The shelving for the model railroad shortly after installation in late February.

Insulation foam was installed on 3-25, as a subroadbed base for the layout. I left a lot of tools and boxes on the layout to keep pressure on it as the glue dries to the foam. In a twist of irony, some of the boxes I put on the settling foam as weight contain my childhood toy trains!

I've also been building up a fleet of freight cars and weathering them. This Accurail kit was one of my first experiments using pastels to weather a car, and I felt it was rather successful; other than the realization that pastels capture every fingerprint I left on the car while weathering! 

March 24, 2017; A day of Classic Standard Cab power!

My latest railfanning adventures were around Salt Lake City and Garfield. In a strange way, all the trains I was catching in motion that day were powered by classic EMD locomotives! A fun way to end a week! 

UPY 613 working the southern end of North Yard on remote controlled yard switching duty.

UP 533 arrives with loads from the Chevron Local at North Yard, crossing over the mainline tracks in reverse to reach the yard lead.

UP 1708 and 1831 lead a late running Wendover Local train through Garfield, Utah; approaching the I-80 overpass.

What seems to be an abandoned signal stands guard next to abandoned track grade in Garfield, Utah; with a Loram rail grinder resting in the distance.

Well I hope you enjoyed my little adventures around Utah the past few weeks! From model railroading, street cars, historic structures, to strange sights; it has been a blast!

-Jacob Lyman

March 19th, a westbound stacker departs from Erda, Utah; its rear DPU facing back as the train rolls into the distance.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Debunked Myths: Is Utah Railway Dead?

With our recent coverage of one of the final Utah Railway coal trains and the recent news we broke on our Facebook page that the MK50-3 units on the Utah Railway are soon going to the Kyle Railway (EDIT: On March 14, 2017 after this article was published, four of the MK50-3 units left Utah on a BNSF Provo-Denver freight. The other two were left behind, perhaps to continue work on the Utah Railway); we have been seeing a lot of comments from people out of state who aren't familiar with the modern Utah Railway operations who are readying to play funeral dirges for the line. While the situation on the Utah Railway is changing and adjusting, it is far from dead.

The assumption Utah Railway is dead in the water reminds me of the scene in the famed movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail where a man is passing through a town with a wheel barrow full of bodies asking the villagers to "Bring out their dead." One character brings out an old man and tries to convince everyone that the he is dead, despite him yelling; "I am not dead yet!" throughout the scene. In a sense the Utah Railway, despite showing its age and a few gray hairs, is screaming too: "I am not dead yet!" Although it seems in the digital age of conjecture and speculation, those cries are falling on deaf ears.

Myth One: With the MK50-3 units gone, Utah Railway has no engines left

Status: False

The Utah Railway has always been a road which has picked up second or third hand engines, worked them hard, then traded them off. Before the MK50-3's even came and left the property, Utah Railway had rostered and dropped many engines such as their SD40 units, F45's, ALCO's, and a large fleet of lease units the Utah Railway borrowed in the 1990's. Utah Railway shuffles through power on a cyclical nature every generation. While the MK50-3 units represent half of the Utah Railway's six-axle locomotive fleet, the line still rosters a healthy dose of four axle units. As of early 2017 the line rostered (excluding the six MK50-3 units) the following units:

8 GP38-3 units
3 GP40-3 units
5 SD50S units

While the lack of six axle units beyond the five SD50S units might seem strange, the fleet of GP units is appropriate for the traffic loads Utah Railway is handling (more on what that traffic is later...) Furthermore, Utah Railway doesn't hesitate to borrow engines from Union Pacific or BNSF, regularly using mainline BNSF power to switch trains in Provo Yard. Furthermore, as part of the Genesee and Wyoming corporation, Utah Railway could in theory receive units from other G&W lines depending on traffic needs. 

While the thought of four axle units hauling freight of the Summit seams strange, it should be remembered that the Denver and Rio Grande Western which once ran the same route rostered a large fleet of four axle units itself and ran most of its flagship trains using exclusively 4-axle power. If the four axle power isn't sufficient, again the Utah Railway has easy access to pool with BNSF or UP.

A good look at the modern Utah Railway roster can be found on UC Rail.

Myth Two: With coal traffic collapsed, Utah Railway no longer has any spource of freight traffic

Status: False

BNSF produced this video on the Utah Railway to honor them as their "Shortline of the Year" in 2014. As explained in the opening moments of the film, Utah Railway acts as BNSF's agent in the state of Utah since 1997, connecting BNSF freight to various industries and other shortline roads such as the Salt Lake Garfield and Western, and the Utah Central Railway. Furthermore the video discusses in 2014 how the Utah Railway was seeking to expand in the energy business "beyond coal" and was looking into the expanding crude oil operations in the state.

One of Utah Railway's local freight trains with a cut of crude oil tankers heading north through Salt Lake City in November 2016.

While coal traffic ended on the Utah Railway earlier this year, the Utah Railway still has several commodities to haul. As BNSF's agent in the state of Utah, the Utah Railway hauls freight to various industries across the state. BNSF has a set of regularly manifests which come from Stockton, California; and Denver, Colorado; to the rail yard they share with the Utah Railway in Provo. Utah Railway crews handle those BNSF freights from Provo to Union Pacific's Roper Yard in South Salt Lake City; where the UP crews the trains over the former Western Pacific mainline to points west. BNSF also brings in unit trains of crude oil or copper ore to Provo, which Utah Railway then crews to bring to their final destination. Along Utah Railway's route from Provo to Ogden, the line interchanges with several local railroads, the Salt Lake Garfield and Western, the Savage Bingham and Garfield, and the Utah Central. 

In addition Utah Railway's trackage rights through Utah are extensive. While the Utah Railway rarely uses their trackage rights all the way to Grand Junction, Colorado, they extensively use the routes from Provo to Ogden. Along the way they have access to the former Union Pacific mainline currently in use by UTA, the former Denver and Rio Grande Garfield Branch, the industrial parks west of Salt Lake City via the former Los Angeles and Salt Lake/Western Pacific tracks, access into Ogden's 21st Street Yard, and routes over the former Southern Pacific Railroad line to Little Mountain on the shore of the Great Salt Lake. Utah Railway has full access to the Wasatch Front, able to reach the majority of customers in the area.

Furthermore, the Utah Railway maintains its routes over the former Denver and Rio Grande mainline it shares with UP, BNSF, and Amtrak. This allows them access to a crude oil load out near Wellington, Utah. The Utah Railway also maintains a portion of their line south-west of Martin which goes to the former Wildcat coal load out, which has been converted to loading crude oil trains.

These multiple points of access means Utah Railway is hauling a diverse amount of cargo goods right now, a few examples of freight Utah Railway might be seen hauling:

Sulfuric Acid
Copper Anodes
Rocket Components
Low Level Nuclear Waste
General Goods and Raw Materials
Crude Oil 

In a way the 1997 union of the Utah Railway as a partner with BNSF has prepared the Utah Railway to survive; even thrive, in a post-coal economy.

The HUTAHJ running on the 19th of December last year. Filmed by Josh Bernhard.

Myth Three: Utah Railway won't run over Soldier Summit anymore

Status: Partially false; expect some changes

As mentioned previously, the Utah Railway is finding new business in the oil industry growing in central Utah. While many people have jumped to the conclusion Utah Railway isn't running freight over the former Denver and Rio Grande since they stopped hauling coal, that is far from the truth. Two or three times a week the Utah Railway will send out the HUTAHJ over the former DRGW mainline, primarily to transfer crude oil tankers and hopper cars full of sand which are used in fracking. In addition, the HUTAHJ can also be seen transferring sulfuric acid from Kennecott down to Carbon County. The Utah Railway still runs trains on occasion from Martin to Wildcat to load oil tankers. In addition the unused portions of the Utah Railway line are being used as rental space for rail car storage, requiring the Utah Railway to head out and drop off cars from time to time. The HUTAHJ train will keep Utah Railway in Carbon County for the foreseeable future.

The Martin engine house as seen on December 26, 2016.

The situation in Carbon County though, isn't nearly as vibrant as it was ten years ago or so. So yes, the Utah Railway has cut back its work force in the area. Only two permanent employees are still stationed in Martin, Utah; the rest of the Utah Railway work traveling to the area from their bases of operation in the Wasatch Front. The Martin engine house, a classic relic of the steam era; is still in use. However, due to its age and location far away from the main Utah Railway operations, Martin is not currently the most strategic location for an engine house in the modern Utah Railway system. Despite that, it seems it will remain in use for the time being. The HUTAHJ still comes to Martin Yard on a frequent basis, giving hope that the area will still be in use for a long time to come.

Myth Four: There are hardly any original Utah Railway painted locomotives still in service.
Status: True

The difference between the classic Utah Railway paint scheme and the G&W orange and black is demonstrated in these two photos from September 11, 2016.

The departure of the MK50-3 units from the Utah Railway is part of a long process of assimilation into the Genesee and Wyoming corporation that has been going on since the Utah Railway was bought out by the G&W in 2002. Five of the MK50-3 units wore the classic Utah Railway paint scheme at the time they were sent to the Kyle Railroad. The sixth MK50-3, 5005, was the first Utah Railway unit to be painted in G&W orange and black as of 2003. Since then, G&W has converted all of the GP units to their corporate scheme; and has also painted two of the five SD50S units into that scheme. With the MK50-3 units gone, only three SD50S units will remain to represent the pre-G&W paint scheme. If anybody wishes to photograph the classic Utah Railway paint scheme on home rails, now is the time.

I hope you enjoyed this update on the current status of the Utah Railway, and I hope it clarified some of the misinformation about the Utah Railway that is currently making the rounds in railfan circles right now! Until next time,

-Jacob Lyman

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Common Interests and New Friendships

On February 20,2017,  I set off for Utah for my one year surgical follow-up, but instead of taking I-80 into Salt Lake City like I usually do, I decided to get to Salt Lake through Delta and Provo for a change of scenery and to finally put a face to the name of Josh Bernhard.  That said, upon my arrival in Delta, I spotted a waiting northbound with a Norfolk Southern unit in the consist so I flipped around real quick to get some photos.
I also checked around for the ruins and remains of the old terminal in Delta, such as the water tank foundation and what I believe to be the foundation of the original station in town.  There was also a small building built inside four small concrete footings that still has some hardware and the remains of the supports to some structure that is long gone.  I have no idea what the footings could have supported, but I am still searching.

I left Delta on US highway 6 to Lynndyl and wound up meeting Josh chasing a southbound at Brush Wellman Road, which leads to the Intermountain Power Project.  What was interesting was that this train also had an NS unit in the consist.
Josh Bernhard photo

Once the train passed, we moved a mile or so up the road to a little private crossing and filmed the train that was waiting in Delta as it was now on the move north (that's me in the yellow M&M jacket).
Josh Bernhard photo
After it passed, we made our way into Lynndyl and immediately spotted a string of gondolas with a caboose tacked on.  Continuing into town, we found out way to the one and only grade crossing and spotted a pair of classic SD70M's that were in the siding dead.

Josh Bernhard photo

We then explored around and found several items of note, one of which is the old foundation to the station that sat between the Sharp and Lynndyl subs at the junction.  According to, the station was double sided with a bay window on each side.  It is unclear when the station was demolished.

We next found our way to the caboose.

Continuing our 'urban archaeology', we located and examined the remains of the once extensive roundhouse and machine shop, which of course only the foundation and ruined brick remain.  Information we were able to locate online about Lynndyl indicates the roundhouse was built in 1915 with ten stalls with a 75' turntable.  The facilities at Lynndyl were capable of handling heavy repairs of locomotives and that work lasted until May 1948 when the roundhouse closed.  All but two of the stalls were removed as was the turntable.  The turntable was relocated to Salt Lake City to replace the pin-connected turntable there.  While surveying the site, Josh helped me locate an intact brick that had some asphalt stuck to it.  I fully intend to clean it off and display the brick in my train room when I finally get one.  Further examination of the site revealed an additional curved 'foundation' that actually turned out to be the turntable pit wall, which I believe is fully intact, just the pit has been filled in.

Josh Bernhard photo
Josh Bernhard photo

Josh Bernhard photo

Josh Bernhard photo
Josh Bernhard photo

Josh Bernhard photo

After watching the LUL57 arrive and drop off a cut of hoppers for the grain elevator, it was time for me to part ways and finish my drive into Salt Lake City.
Josh Bernhard photo

I turned onto UT132 and followed the road through Leamington which led me through some beautiful country, with plenty of beautiful, old buildings and a pair of preserved charcoal kilns.
On a side note, the train I spotted in Delta, which passed us just north of Brush Wellman Road, made one more appearance to me in the Orem area as I travelled north on I-15, but I was unable to stop and film it again.  Kinda neat that I saw the same train three different times in three different parts of Utah.  At the end of the day, I was left with more than some photos of trains and buildings.  I was able to cement a new friendship out of a common interest and that to me is more important than any photo I could ever take.  Until the next adventure...

I would like to thank Josh Bernhard for the use of his photos in this post.