MP 625.30 Spring Glen

MP 625.60 East Helper Crossover

MP 626.40 Helper Station, Yard, Wye

Helper marks the beginning of the climb to Soldier Summit and is also home base to Helper locomotives. These engines are coupled into the middle or to the rear of long coal trains going up the 2% climb to help push the train up the pass. On the way down, they add additional braking power to a long train. The first such helper locomotives were already used here in 1880. That’s where the town got its name from.

Helper is also a station on the Utah Railway. Originally, both railroads (the Rio Grande and the Utah Railway) owned a track each. Soon they consolidated their operations and used each others tracks, one for the uphill climb, the other for the downhill run.

Several coal mines are located close to Helper. The Rio Grande served the Kenilworth mines to the east, the Spring Canyon Mines to the West and the Latuda, Rains and Mutual mines.

Between 1920 and 1930, the base for the helper units was moved to the summit. This did not prove to be successful so that the “Helpers” returned to their namesake town.

In town, there is a small museum about the history of mining and the railroad. Helper is starting point for extra heavy coal trains fighting their way up the pass amidst black clouds of diesel smoke.

MP 627.30 West  Helper Crossover

The line up Soldier Summit is double tracked. Occasionally, there are switches (crossovers) allowing trains to switch from one track to the other.

MP 628.80 Utah Railway Junction

This is a junction for the Utah Railway’s Mohrland branch. Several coal mines are served here, for example the Hiawatha Mine, King Mine, Wattis Mine and the Mohrland Mine.

In Hiawatha and Mohrland, the railroad meets the grade of the old Castle Valley Railroad from Price. 

MP 630.40 Castle Gate

This is the starting point  of Price River Canyon. Castle Gate once consisted of two large rocks resembling a gate to a castle. When Highway 6 was built, one of the rocks was blasted so nowadays only one gate remains.

Just beyond Castle Gate a large coal mine is located which is owned by the Utah Power & Light. A disused road on the right leads to the tracks just opposite the mine. Everything looks so compressed into the gorge that one feels reminded of a model railroad layout.

The railroad follows along the right side of the canyon whilst Highway 6 stays on the left at slightly higher elevation. There are occasional parking areas allowing for excellent photos of all the railroad’s sights. 

Westbound trains will announce themselves by large black smoke plumes from their exhaust pipes. For once rail fans will not have to hurry as a loaded coal train will be so slow that you could almost walk next to it.

MP 632.00 Lynn

MP 632.70 Lynn Crossover

MP 634.70 EST Nolan

MP 635.00 EST  Nolan Tunnels

These tunnels are also known as the "Twin Tunnels". These are two separate tunnels - one built for each track. On the right side of the highway there is a car park / rest area that provides you with an excellent photo location. Whilst the right portal shows heavy soot stains, the left doesn’t. The reason for this is that westbound trains running uphill will usually take the right track.

MP 638.50 EST Kyunne Tunnels

These two separate tunnels are similar to the Nolan Tunnels, one tunnel built for each track.

MP 638.70 EST Jennings Junction

This once was a junction, however now it is gone from timetables. The Rio Grande Western used to operate a standard gauge branchline to Jennings Quarry and Porters Quarry.

MP 638.90 Kyunne Siding Length: 5230ft

At this point the grade increases to 2.5%. Trains going uphill will have to fight hard all the way to Colton as the gorge is too narrow  to allow for any criss crossing.

MP 639.00 EST unknown Junction

This once was a junction for the Rio Grande Western which operated trains to the Greystone Quarry. However, the branchline does not exist anymore.

MP 644.40 Colton Junction

This is a junction with a Utah Railway branchline to the south west where several coal mines are served. Originally this line was 23 miles long and led to Clear Creek. The mine at Clear Creek was closed and the branchline shortened to 21.10 miles. It ends near the Skyline Mine today.

Other mines along the branchline include the Valcam Mine (MP 17.00) and the Scofield Mine (MP 15.50). There used to be a Denver & Rio Grande Western line intersecting the branchline near MP 16.00 to Winter Quarters and the UP Mine.

Due to the construction of a dam at the Scofield Reservoir, the branchline was relocated between Hale (MP 09.80) and Scofield. At midpoint the railroad used to intersect with the Utah & Pleasant Valley Railroad, which reached the location from Tucker using adventurous switchbacks to climb down the mountain.

MP 644.80 Colton Crossover

MP 650.10 East Summit Crossover

MP 651.50 Summit Wye, Siding Length: 7840ft

This summit was named after Soldier Creek which runs down the west flank of the pass. Between 1920 and 1930, a nine track roundhouse was located here. The plan had been to relocate the helper engines from Helper to Summit. The cost involved in maintaining the location at high altitude and the perils of operation made the railroad abandon the facility and relocate the helper engines at their original home where they could be used for yard switching as well.

A wye located at Summit is used to turn snowploughs.

MP 651.90 West Summit Crossover

MP 661.00 Gilluly Siding  Length: 7900ft

This siding is located on the famous Gilluly Loops. Originally, the tracks followed Highway 6 down the mountain which meant a 4% grade. In 1913, the tracks where re-located using a number of 180° horseshoe curves and reducing the grade to 2%. Taking photographs here is difficult as the loops come close to the road (and even pass under it). A wide angle lens is definitely a must.

A parking area is located close to the underpass.


MP 663.05    Tucker Junction (abandoned)

The station of Tucker used to be located on the original grade between Gilluly and Detour. Here the Utah & Pleasant Valley Railroad to Scofield intersected. After the construction of the Gilluly loops Tucker disappeared, together with its tracks.

MP 665.10    Detour

MP 672.30    Narrows Crossover

After having passed the Gilluly Loops, the railroad again follows Highway 6 closely. The valley closes in and one passes the so-called “Narrows” rock formations

MP 676.70    Rio Crossover


MP 680.80 EST   Thistle Junction (buried under landslide)

Thistle cannot be found on today’s timetables and you will not find it on maps either as it was buried in a landslide in 1983. This not only put a mountain of gravel on top of the railroad but also closed down the road. The railroad grade was moved slightly uphill and two tunnels were constructed to go underneath the landslide location.

Originally, this was a station where helper units were based for the western approach to the summit. There used to be a three track engine shed located here.

From 1890 onwards Thistle was junction point to the Marysvale Branch, a narrow gauge railroad built by the Rio Grande Western. The line led to Manti which is located about 61 miles away from Thistle. In 1891, the branchline was regauged to standard gauge.  Another railroad company, the Sevier Railway, extended the branch to Salina and in 1896 further on to Belknap. The last 6 miles to Marysvale were constructed in 1900 extending the length of the branchline to 132 miles. In 1908 the Sevier Railway was bought by the Denver & Rio Grande Western. In 1976, the Marysvale Branch was abandoned.

MP 680.80    Thistle Tunnels Length: 3009ft

These tunnels were necessitated by the landslide at Thistle. They run parallel, one for each track.

MP 684.00 EST   Diamond Junction (abandoned)

This junction is not on the timetables anymore. Once it was the junction to a short branchline that led to the Diamond Quarry.

MP 684.50    Castilla

MP 684.70    Castilla Crossover

MP 688.60    Gomex

MP 690.70    Sutro

MP 695.80    Springville Crossover, Junction

The railroad enters the wide Jordan River Valley. This location used to be a junction with the Salt Lake & Utah Railroad which led north to Lehi via Provo and south to Payson where the railroad kept its maintenance facilities. This commuter line was bought by the Denver & Rio Grande Western in 1946 and later abandoned.

Other lines intersecting in Springville are the Union Pacific line to Lyndyll via Nephi, where the mainline to Las Vegas is reached and the former Denver & Rio Grande branchline to Pearl (also known as Eureka Branch)

MP 698.60    Ironton Crossover Crossover

MP 698.80    Ironton Junction, Wye, Yard

MP 700.80    Provo Junction, Yard

This is a large freight yard. Once the Salt Lake & Utah RR used to branch off here (see also Springville). The so-called Provo Canyon line also intersected here serving some farms in the vicinity of Heber City. The Provo line ceased operations in 1969 even though some of the tracks are still used today by the Heber Creeper Tourist Railroad, notably the section from Vivian Park to Heber City.

MP 704.20    Gatex

MP 704.60    Scaliey


MP 705.70    Lakota Junction

This is the junction with the Union Pacific line to Pearl (Eureka Branch, see also MP 695.80) which runs parallel to the tracks until Springville.

MP 706.90    Geneva Junction

Geneva is the location of a large steel works which can be spotted from Interstate 15. The industry complex belongs to U.S. Steel.

At Geneva Junction, the railroad divides into two separate lines running parallel to Salt Lake City, one the former Union Pacific line, the other the former Rio Grande line.

MP 707.10    Geneva Crossover

MP 708.40    Pipe Mill

MP 715.00    American Fork Siding Length: 8820ft

MP 717.00    Lehi

MP 720.30    Mesa Siding Length: 7240ft

MP 722.80    Nash

MP 728.60    Riverton Siding Length: 6470ft

MP 734.90  Midvale Junction, Wye

This is a junction with a branchline to Smelters in Magna and Garfield. Part of the branchline leads to Bingham Canyon which is the largest open pit mine in the world. According to some locals, Bingham Canyon Copper Mine is visible from the moon. Although this may be a little exaggerated, you can get a really breathtaking view of this huge mine by driving around the mountain to Tooele and taking a gravel road up to the edge on the mountain top. A four wheel drive vehicle is recommended.

MP 735.90  Midvale Crossover

MP 739.10  Fireclay

During the early merger years between the Denver & Salt Lake and the Denver & Rio Grande Western this name was often mixed up with Fireclay Siding near Denver (see MP 021.20). Eventually, the latter was renamed Clay to make things easier.  

MP 740.80  East Roper

MP 742.00  Roper  Yard, Wye

Roper used to be one of the most important maintenance facilities of the Rio Grande.  Here locomotives were rebuilt and equipment repaired. Some of the Western Pacific’s locomotives and rolling stock were serviced here.

Today Roper Yard is losing importance in the light of the massive network of lines of new owner Union Pacific.

MP 743.50  13th St. South Crossover

MP 744.20  9th South Crossing Automatic Interlocking Facility

MP 745.10  Salt Lake City Station, Yard

The tracks reach Salt Lake City Station. The railroad continued from here to Ogden, where it met with the Union Pacific. Today, Salt Lake City is a stop on the route of the California Zephyr.



Last Update: Mar 1st 2008

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