Part 3: Rio Grande’s Incredible Tintic Branch

 
Blair Kooistra captured this image of Union Pacific's Iron Mountain
bound ore train.  Kooistra is one of our generations most talented railroad photographers.
Some of his images on may be found at Flickr under his
account entitled Blair Kooistra.    

 

We have a friend who visits our offices from time to time, and my blog about the Tintic branch gave him cause to reminisce about being young and living near the branch. One of the signature features of the line is 120’ trestle where the Tintic branch crosses Union Pacific’s Sharp sub. One afternoon in the early 1960s, he and some friends were passing time at the bridge. There was a flange greaser at this location, and nearby, there were buckets of grease. The doldrums of summer demand creative invention, and in time, aimlessness turned to a balancing competition. The challenge was to step into the grease and see who could walk the furthest along the rail. The summer day was long, and untold minutes were spent as the young kids tried again and again to outdo each other.

At this time, Union Pacific operated heavy, iron ore trains from Iron Mountain, Utah (in the southwestern corner of the state) to Geneva Steel and Ironton near Provo, Utah—a distance of about 230 miles. Typically, these trains were powered by SD7s, and, due to their weight, they were long, slow moving drags. When the headlight of the day’s train came into view, the young boys stepped from the rail and eagerly awaited its passing—the thought of the greased rail already long absent from the fickle consciousness of youth.

The grade is uphill.  Of course, when the train reached the section of rail greased with a thousand footsteps, it spun to a halt. And of course, the conductor sees from his window the toothless smiles of the feckless summer vagabonds of perfidious toil. Their soiled shoes and pant legs leave no doubt as to who perpetuated the crime, notwithstanding their friendly grins. According to my friend telling the story, the conductor had “a come apart”—meaning he emerged from the cab and, with a violent slur of words, commanded the attention of each one of those young boys. 

In the Utah desert, anthills can be large. Our friend recalled with a memory reinforced from a dozen stinging ant bites how the conductor marshaled the boys to use the anthills to sand the rails. Imagine what that looked like: four or five young kids dancing around, swatting ants, and pouring sand atop the rails underneath a massive iron ore train from cups and little pieces of tin they found scattered about. Meanwhile, the conductor stood from behind, a twinkle of schadenfreude in his eyes, while the day’s wrongs were made right. It is almost a Norman Rockwell painting, right?

God bless the railroads.

Blaine Hadfield


7 Responses

Brad Donovan
Brad Donovan

December 24, 2016

Reminds me of a boss I had as an electrical apprentice, he as an apprentice to his father took a 5 gallon bucket of “cable pulling grease” and spread on the rail lines near there house, this is a heavy grade with slow moving steam loco’s, they didn’t hang around too long once the first train hit the grease, would love to have see it. Merry Christmas to all and a prosperous New Year.

Robert R Harmen
Robert R Harmen

December 18, 2016

The light gray color of the text is quite hard to read for this old phart. Please consider a darker type!

Robert

Rich Wilcox
Rich Wilcox

December 18, 2016

I’m curious about the ore cars utilized by the UP at this time. Were they home built cars like the PRR G38 & G39 ore cars of the 1960’s & beyond or were they puchased by UP from an outside builder ? Interesting blog at any rate.

David Patch
David Patch

December 18, 2016

Iron Mountain is in southWEST Utah, not southeast.

Karl Scribner
Karl Scribner

December 18, 2016

Pretty good tale, until you got to schadenfreude….never heard a railroader use that hi brow language. After a trip to Google, yep that pretty much sums it up.

C E Hunt
C E Hunt

December 18, 2016

Great story and awesome blog Blaine! Merry Christmas to you and the Exactrail crew.

Donald Kubicki
Donald Kubicki

December 18, 2016

Boys will be boys, I remember putting pennys on the rails watching how flat they would get after a freight passed over them.

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