IT IS A REAL PLEASURE while traveling to find a small railroad museum, unknown to all but the locals (and rarely, if ever, featured in the Steam Passenger Directory) with excellent displays and interesting exhibits. The Tooele County Railroad Museum of Tooele, Utah, is just such a place (don't call it "Too-lee;" Utahns pronounce the place "Too-ill-uh.") Well off the beaten path, and despite an outstanding collection of equipment, photographs and artifacts, the museum remains unknown even to many railfans in Salt Lake City, just 40 miles to the east. Those who have discovered it, though, know it as one of the most comprehensive railroad displays in the intermountain west.
The museum celebrates the heyday of the Tooele Valley Railway, a now-gone short line dating from the early 1900s. In 1907, a subsidiary of the giant Anaconda Copper Company, International Smelting and Refining, purchased 2000 acres of land in the Oquirrh Mountains east of Tooele to build a modern nonferrous metals smelter. While the smelter was under construction in November 1908, Anaconda incorporated the Tooele Valley Railway to build a line from the smelter site at the mouth of Pine Canyon, through Middle Canyon, down to the main line of the San Pedro, Los Angeles & Salt Lake (Union Pacific) at Warner, a distance of seven miles. The only drawback was that the tracks would have to pass directly through downtown Tooele City.
Although the line was short, the Tooele Valley built a first-class railroad. Heavy rail was used throughout, and at International (the site of the smelter) a three-stall enginehouse and maintenance shop were constructed along with a water tower, boiler house, and other facilities. Due to the location of Middle Canyon, the tracks had to be laid directly up Vine Street in downtown Tooele, resulting in some interesting street running. It was a steep climb out of town, requiring a 2.4 per cent grade and a large trestle to reach the smelter. A single-story tan brick depot was erected at 35 North Broadway in 1909, which not only served passengers but was used as the management headquarters of the railway.
For years, the Tooele Valley Railway was the lifeline of the International smelter; both were 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week operations. Ore and concentrate from local mines, as well as ore from such far-away places as Canada and Australia which was picked up from the UP at Warner, was taken up to the smelter to be refined into gold, silver, lead, zinc and copper. Finished products from the smelter were moved out over the Tooele Valley in gondolas or boxcars.
There was general freight to move, too; mostly newsprint, oil and carloads of coal to fuel the smelter furnaces and the TV's locomotives. As was common practice on many industrial and logging railroads, the Tooele Valley pushed, rather than pulled, its trains to the smelter in order to better maintain control of the cars and prevent the possibility of a runaway. Cabooses at the head end of trains were equipped with horns to warn motorists while running along Vine Street.
Passenger service was offered beginning in 1909. Prior to that, Tooele was a farming and ranching community with little over 1000 residents; after the smelter was built, Tooele's population swelled to over 5000. The majority of the community worked at either the railroad or for International Smelting & Refining; most were European (mainly Greek and Italian) or Asian immigrants. The smelter operated three shifts a day, employing some 1000 laborers per shift, and the railroad's "shift train" was essential for getting the workers to and from the plant. The fare was five cents each way. "Regular folk" could also ride the train; most traveled from downtown Tooele to the connection at Warner, where they could catch a ride on the Union Pacific into Salt Lake City for $1.00. Passenger service to Warner ended in the early 1940s, and soon after, with more and more folks owning automobiles, service to the smelter was discontinued in 1946.
Six steam locomotives were owned, including a Brooks 2-6-0 and Brooks 0-6-0, along with a fleet of four Alco (Brooks) 2-8-Os that served the Tooele Valley for many years until they were all replaced in 1955 by a lone EMD SW1200. One 2-8-0, No.11, remained in standby service and occasionally operated until 1963, making it the last steam locomotive in the state of Utah in regular service.
The end of the Tooele Valley came in 1982, when permission to abandon the line was granted by the ICC. By this time the TV was but a shadow of its former self. The marginally profitable International smelter had been shut down in 1972 in an effort to rescue the corporation from financial ruin, following political unrest in Chile that led to Anaconda Copper losing its Chilean properties to nationalization. Over the next few years the huge smelter complex was dismantled and its components hauled out in gondolas. Then in 1975, Atlantic Richfield purchased Anaconda and made an effort to develop new business for the Tooele Valley with a copper ore project at Carr Fork that would have kept the railroad in business for years. Unfortunately this was not to be, and the railroad shut its doors for good on a hot summer day in August 1982.
Thankfully, two citizens of Tooele realized that the historical importance of the International smelter and the Tooele Valley was too important to let fade away. Don H. Lee, the Tooele Valley's last superintendent, and Claude Atkin, a longtime smelter foreman, convinced the city to erect a museum to honor the county's rich industrial heritage. After all, at one time or another just about everyone in town had worked for either the smelter or the railroad, or knew a relative who had. Atlantic Richfield was receptive to this idea, and in July of 1983 donated the original Tooele Valley depot, including the land it sits on, along with several pieces of original TV rolling stock to the city of Tooele. Thus was created the Tooele County Railroad Museum.
The centerpiece exhibit at the musuem is 2-8-0 No.11, the last of four Consolidations owned by the Tooele Valley in existence. No.11 was built by the American Locomotive Company's Brooks Works at Dunkirk, New York in April 1910 (C/N 47784) as part of an order placed in January 1910 by the Buffalo & Susquehanna Railway (research shows that the engine was originally to have been Buffalo & Susquehanna No.169). In April 1910 the B&S cancelled the order, but since several engines were already under construction the decision was made to complete them for stock. In April 1912, after sitting at Dunkirk for two years, a pair of the Consolidations was sold to Anaconda Copper and were delivered to the Tooele Valley numbered 11 and 12. The remaining engines were eventually sold; those that had been delivered to the Buffalo & Susquehanna before the order was canceled ended their days working for the Baltimore & Ohio.
No. 11 11 and 19 were the most modern steam locomotives on the Tooele Valley. Both featured Walschaerts valve gear, piston valves, 51-inch drivers, and 190-psi. boilers. They had air-operated butterfly firebox doors, electric headlights mounted high off-center on the smokebox fronts, steel cabs, non-lifting injectors, and power reverse gear. Perhaps their only outdated features were the two single stage air compressors that were used in place of a cross compound pump; these proved more than adequate for the six- to seven-car trains which were the norm on the TV.
In comparison to Nos.11 and 12, the Tooele Valley's two hand-me-down ex-Butte, Anaconda & Pacific 2-8-Os, Nos.9 and 10, were absolutely ancient, with their slide valves and Stephenson valve gear. It is no wonder, then, that when the steam era ended on the TV in 1955, No. 11 was retained for stand-by service and the rest of the engines were spirited away to the scrap yard. Why No.11 itself was chosen remains something of a mystery; in all likelihood it was in better condition than No. 12, whose tender was later modified for use as a snowplow after the locomotive itself had been cut up.
Coal smoke continued to linger over Tooele on occasion, as the Tooele Valley fired up No. 11 from time to time when the diesel was down or if a surge in business warranted an extra train. Few photographers outside the intermountain west ventured to the area to catch No. 11 at work, but those who did were rewarded with an outstanding display of steam and smoke as the 2-8-0 always put on a good show.
Unfortunately, by the early 1960s No.11 needed major repairs if it was to continue in operation. The boiler was in bad shape, an the engine needed running gear and other shop work to keep it running. However, there was no reason to keep it in service with two diesels on the property. The writing was on the wall: steam on the Tooele Valley would soon be a thing of the past. The 2-8-0 operated on an as-needed basis until 1963, when it was fired up for a ceremonial last run before its boiler was condemned. When No. 11 went cold, steam not only we gone from the Tooele Valley, steam was gone from the entire State of Utah.
For the next year the 2-8-0 was stored inside the smelter engine house, emerging only once in 1964 for display, dead, at a mining expo. Eventually, the decision was made by the railroad to preserve No.11, since the Tooele Valley had played such a prominent role in the city's history, and in September 1964 No. 11 was eased onto a concrete pad in Liberty Park along Vine Street. Efforts to move it under its own power using con pressed air failed, and it was shoved into the park with a diesel, where it sat, neglected, for the next two decades. Parts disappeared, gauges were smashed, and deterioration soon set in. In the 1970s the Heber Creeper tourist railroad attempted to acquire the Consolidation and return it to operation, but their efforts were rebuffed. Then, when the Tooele County museum project began in the early 1980s, former TV brakeman and fireman Marion Bevan spearheaded an effort to remove No. 11 from Liberty Park before the tracks were removed. The plan called for the locomotive to be moved alongside the Tooele depot and put on display with other items.
In one of the last moves on the railroad before its abandonment, 5W900 diesel 104 (acquired from the Pickering Lumber Company in 1966) gingerly pulled No.11 from the park and up Vine Street in July 1982. This move was not without incident. After several unsuccessful attempts to move the 2-8-0 using No.104, it was discovered that its brake rigging had been welded in place back in 1964. Once this obstacle was overcome, the engine was finally towed from the park but promptly derailed on the temporary track and sank into the pavement. A tractor was called in to help the diesel, and No.11 was finally towed to the depot later that day. Today No.11 rests on an original remnant of the Tooele Valley main line, the only part of the TV to survive. A water plug salvaged from the smelter and a bucket-type coaling crane are displayed nearby.
Two cabooses are on exhibit, one of which has been recently repainted as a Boy Scout Eagle project. Caboose 03, displayed directly behind No.11, is an outside-braced wood model that was transferred to the Tooele Valley in 1937 from the Butte, Anaconda & Pacific; it is equipped with large side doors for loading LCL freight. Wood caboose No.04 was originally Denver & Rio Grande Western No.01100, and was purchased in 1957. In service until the end of operations, a careful look reveals that it still has its air horn from street running days.
Other equipment on display includes the aforementioned snowplow converted from No. 12's tender, an older-model hi-rail truck, several motor cars, a miniature mine train and two U.S. Army passenger cars from the Tooele Army Depot that currently house an HO scale model railroad being built by a local club, the Salt Lake Trackers. A 7.5-inchgauge miniature railroad surrounds the museum, and rides are offered most Saturdays during the summer. Nearly all equipment is open for viewing, and visitors are encouraged to enter the cab of No. 11 and to view the interior of the cabooses.
Inside the Tooele depot, which still sits in its original location, visitors will find photos of all the Tooele Valley steam locomotives, the smelter, and various artifacts relating to railroad and smelting history. Examples of the products moved by the railroad are on display, as are other items relating to local history, especially the "New Town" area of Tooele that was the center of the Greek and Italian communities.
Keeping up a museum of this size requires a good deal of work. Volunteers, many of them senior citizens, are the lifeblood of the organization. Marion Bevan, Larry Deppe, Jean Mogus and countless others have made the Tooele County Railroad Museum what it is today. Bevan, 79, has donated thousands of hours of volunteer time towards the cosmetic restoration of No.11 and other equipment, and still serves as a tour guide. In 2002, during the 20th anniversary of the museum, he was awarded the Mayor's Award by the Utah Humanities Council in recognition of his efforts.
Nothing remains of the smelter; its site is but a patch of black earth usually seen only by wildlife or the occasional history buff. Much of the Tooele Valley's right of way remains intact, however, and although there has been talk of rebuilding the railroad and getting No.11 running again to pull tourist trains, nothing has ever come of the idea.
The Tooele County Railroad Museum is open from Memorial Day through Labor Day only, from 1:00-4:00 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. No admission is charged, but donations are gladly accepted. The museum is located at 35 North Broadway, a short distance from downtown. It is surrounded by a tall chain-link fence that still affords a good view of the displays if you happen to be in the area during the off season. The museum has no website, but can be reached via mail at 90 North Main Street, Tooele, UT 84074.
Little River Back in Steam
An 0-4-OT, formerly Youngstown Sheet & Tube No. 124, recently returned to service on Michigan's Little River tourist line at White Pigeon. The engine, now lettered Little River No. 1, was built by the Vulcan Iron Works in 1926 and spent its entire working life in industrial service. After retirement, it was sold to the La Porte County Historical Steam Society of Hesston, Indiana, where it was displayed for many years in an open field, at times painted in shades of blue and yellow. Inspections revealed the engine to be in very poor condition, so it remained a static exhibit at Hesston.
A few years ago the 0-4-OT was sold to the Bloom family of White Pigeon, Michigan, and has since been beautifully restored complete with brass handrails, electric headlights, air brakes, and a brass chime whistle. Originally built to operate at a boiler pressure of 175 p.s.i., today No.1 is set to operate at 150 p.s.i., more than enough to move its one caboose over the one-mile line.
The 0-4-OT operated over several weekends this past July, and is expected to do the same in 2005. Incidentally, the Blooms also own Little River 4-6-2 No.110, regarded as the "smallest Pacific-type ever built," which until recently operated trips over the Michigan Southern out of White Pigeon. It will eventually be returned to operation, but for the time being is in storage.
The Fraser Valley Heritage Railway Society of Surrey, British Columbia, has purchased British Columbia Electric interurban car No.1225 from the Orange Empire Railway Museum and plans to return it to Canada and eventually operate the car out of Surrey. Hampton & Branchville 4-6-0 No. 44 has been cosmetically restored by the South Carolina Railroad Museum of Rockton; it last steamed alongside Southern Railway 630, 722, and 4501 at the 1970 NRHS Convention in Charleston, South Carolina. The recently-restored Kansas City Union Station complex in will soon house a collection of vintage railroad cars and memorabilia purchased from a Milwaukee collector.