Utah Railway Company

The Utah Railway (reporting marks, Utah) is still based in its original headquarters located near Martin, Utah and reached its 100th birthday in 2012 having been incorporated in early 1912. Today it continues to carry on in much of the same way as it did when the company first opened over 100 years.  Ironically, however, with a severe downturn in the coal industry in the 2010's this particular traffic has dried up as of January, 2017.  Today, the railroad's business primarily consists of aggregates, petroleum products, cement, brick, chemicals, and general merchandise.  In addition to operating its original main line the company also has expansive trackage rights over Union Pacific, operating the former Rio Grande main line between Grand Junction, Colorado and Salt Lake City/Ogden.   As a result, the Utah currently operates about 131 miles.

Known as the Provo Subdivision this trackage is also utilized by BNSF Railway while UP itself uses the corridor considerably less with the downturn in coal. In 2002 the Utah Railway as no longer a privately owned short line when it was purchased by shortline conglomerate Genesee & Wyoming, Inc. 

Utah Railway SD40 #9010 (ex-Louisville & Nashville #1230 built in 1969) leads empty hoppers out of the Kyune Tunnels in 2002. Mike Derrick photo.

The Utah Railway has its beginnings dating back to January 24, 1912 when it was incorporated by the State of Utah, originally as the Utah Coal Railway Company but later shortened to just the Utah Railway in May of that year. By 1914 the Utah had completed its main line stretching from Provo to a connection with the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad (D&RGW) called Utah Railway Junction and south, to Hiawatha, Utah. In total the Utah operated roughly 100 miles of railroad, which included its main line between Provo and Hiawatha. It also operated three branches; the Spring Canyon Branch which stretched nearly four miles from a connection at Jacobs northwesterly to Spring Canyon; the Mohrland Industrial Spur which stretched south form Hiawatha to Mohrland, a distance of three miles; and finally the Wattis Industrial Spur, which stretched over two miles from Wattis Junction to Wattis.

The company may not be particularly large.  However, thanks to its propensity to utilize large steam locomotives (2-10-2's, 2-8-8-2's, and 2-8-8-0's) and American Locomotive diesels it gained a large following among railfans.  For instance, Trains Magazine covered the road quite a bit between the 1950's and 1990's.  While large, articulated steamers always draw a crowd the railroad's decision to purchase new six-axle road-switchers, the RSD-4 and RSD-5, in addition to second-hand units from other carries also drew interest.  These locomotives were never a big seller for Alco making them a relatively rare sight wherever they were in service.  Today, much of the charm and fascination with the Utah Railway has long since subsided (the MK50-3's were an interesting footnote) as modern diesels have taken over and coal is no longer its number one commodity.

One of the best places to catch Alco's rare RSD4 road-switcher in service was the Utah Railway, which purchased six new and acquired another from the C&NW. A few are seen here in Martin, Utah in 1975.

Over the last century little has changed on Utah Railway. However, beginning in 1981 things have changed somewhat on the railroad. That year the Utah Railway tore down its engine house in Provo. Then in 1995 the railroad requested, and received, permission to abandon both its Wattis Industrial Spur and Spring Canyon branch, totaling about six miles.  Finally, the merger of the Union Pacific and Southern Pacific Railroads in 1996 greatly expanded the Utah's operations. The following year in 1997 the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, after receiving trackage rights between Denver and Stockton, California contracted with the Utah Railway to operate is local and switching operations between Ogden and Provo. To meet the demand for this new service the Utah hired forty more employees and leased an additional thirteen diesel locomotives.

Led by an SD40-2 an empty string of coal hoppers is bound for the Wildcat mine during August of 2002. Much of the Utah's system is located in remote and rural regions of the state. Mike Derrick photo.

Later, in September of 1999 further expansion for the Utah Railway occurred when it took over the 25-mile long Salt Lake City Southern Railroad, headquartered in Murray, Utah.  In 2002 the railroad was sold to the Genesee & Wyoming family of shortlines, although it continues to wear a version of its original livery, much of the reason because of its long and storied history. Today the Utah Railway hauls more than 90,000 annual carloads and operates over 400 miles of track although only 45 of those are actually owned (the rest are leased from the BNSF Railway and Union Pacific).

Utah Railway Locomotive Roster (Historic)

Builder Model Type Road Number Notes/Date Built Quantity
AlcoRSD4300-305, 307 (#307 was Ex-CNJ)1952-19537
AlcoRSD15400-4031959-1960 (Ex-AT&SF)4
AlcoRSD12600-6011956 (Ex-C&O)2
EMDGP38-22000-2009Ex-D&RGW, Ex-SP, Ex-SSW10
EMDSD50S6060-6064Ex-Hammersly Iron (Australia)5
EMDF456606-6608, 6613, 90131969 (Ex-GN)5
EMDSD40M9001-90111969-1970 (Ex-C&O, Ex-CRR, Ex-WM, Ex-L&N)11
MKMK50-35001-5006Ex-SP, Ex-MK Demonstrators6

The same train as pictured above is now navigating the Price Canyon at Kyune, Utah. While the railroad may be rural it offers some spectacular scenery as noted here. Mike Derrick photo.

Of note, the railroad also owns the Salt Lake City Southern Railroad, which itself serves over 30 customers between downtown Salt Lake City and Draper, Utah (about 25 miles away).   The railroad currently uses mostly EMD diesel locomotivess in the way of second-generation Geeps and six-axle SDs.  It also operates the only road-switchers Morrison-Knudsen built which were meant to compete against EMD and General Electric, the MK5000C (now classified as MK50-3s).  Considering the railroad’s success over the past 90+ years it will likely continue to serve under the Genesee & Wyoming flag for years to come.

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Header Photo: Drew Jacksich

Researching Rights-Of-Way

A popular pastime for many is studying and/or exploring abandoned rights-of-way.  Today, there are tens of thousands of miles scattered throughout the country.  Many were pulled up in the 1970's and 1980's although others were removed long before that.  If you are researching active or abandoned corridors you might want to check out the United States Geological Survey's (USGS) Historical Topographic Map Explorer.  It is an excellent resource with thousands of historic maps on file throughout the country.  Just type in a town or city and click on the timeline of maps at the bottom of the page!

Studying Diesels

You will be hard pressed at finding a better online resource regarding diesel locomotives than Craig Rutherford's TheDieselShop.us.  The website contains everything from historic (fallen flags) to contemporary (Class I's, regionals, short lines, and even some museums/tourist lines) rosters, locomotive production information, technical data, all notable models cataloged by the five major builders (American Locomotive, Electro-Motive, General Electric, Fairbanks-Morse, and Baldwin), and much more.  A highly recommended database!

Electro-Motive Database

In 1998 a gentleman by the name of Andre Kristopans put together a web page highlighting virtually every unit every out-shopped by General Motors' Electro-Motive Division.  Alas, in 2013 the site closed by thankfully Don Strack rescued the data and transferred it over to his UtahRails.net site (another fine resource).  If you are researching anything EMD related please visit this page first.  The information includes original numbers, serials, and order numbers.