Have you ever had something you thought was really neat, but didn't have the time to look into it so it sat dormant in your mind? Thats how it was for me with a photo of a trestle bridge along the Tintic Range Railway(AKA Eureka Branch Rio Grande Western Railway).
Over 10 years ago i was wandering out in the desert when i came across a tunnel i could drive though. What a find i thought, and what an awesome experience to unexpectedly stumble across something like that! Well that tunnel turned out to be Tunnel 1 of 3 along a section of the Tintic Range Railway even though i didn't know it at the time.
Years later a photo was shared of a amazing "Double Circle" trestle bridge with 4 trains in the picture and a statement that it was from that area. This piqued my interest, and i told myself to keep an eye out in the area for a spot that looked similar to where it was taken but i didn't devote much thought to it.
Finally a few weeks ago the thought crept back into my mind about the train, and things sort of fell into place for me about where i suspected the location was. I jumped on google earth, drew out a map of where i suspected the route was and the tunnels based off the terrain, made a guess where the photo was taken, and headed out to see if my assumptions were correct.
For this trip i managed to con my wife and kids to assist me along with my friend Coy. We started out by parking Coys truck down near tunnel 1, then all piled together in my Jeep and headed up to the suspected photo location. Coy and i hiked up to the spot and took dozens of photos while trying to guess exactly where the original photographer was standing.
We took a bit more time than intended, and my kids were getting a bit restless so we all went and hiked up to the second tunnel area to get some of the kids energy burned off. Afterwards we all took a drive up the canyon to the north end of Eureka where Coy and I were dropped off to begin our 6.7 mile hike following the grade i had conned him into.
This section of the railway was constructed in 1891, and after a hike down the canyon a ways we came to the area where Tunnel 3 was located. This tunnel was closed in 1924 after a fire damaged the support timbers causing stability issues and the track was re-routed around the hill. We followed the original route and hiked up and over the tunnel. At the top there was a slight cave in of the tunnel, and i started climbing down in but it was turning into quite the squeeze and the surrounding rock didnt seem entirely stable so i backed out.
Our journey continued on to Tunnel 2, which lead to some neat photos due to its dramatic cut through the mountain. This tunnel was also collapsed/sealed on both ends, but as we climbed over the top it too had a cave in but a much larger one. Even though the rock seemed a bit unstable here as well, we decided to climb down in and check it out. Inside it was relatively the same as Tunnel 1 in dimensions, but there were piles of rock scattered about where sections had come down over the years.
Nearing the "back" of the tunnel now made into a cave, Coy spotted what looked like fiberglass slivers strewn about. Upon closer inspection we determined the slivers came from larger fibrous clusters that appeared to be "growing" on some rocks. At the time i wondered if it was a type of fungus, however we later discovered it was natural asbestos. With that in mind i highly recommend bringing some sort of mask if you plan to enter Tunnel 2, or just look in from the outside.
After leaving Tunnel 2 we had an uneventful hike down the rest of the grade, through some more neat cuts into the mountain, passed the photo location, down to tunnel 1, and back to the truck. All along the route we came across old spike, metal plates, building foundations, and other railroad items pulled up and left behind which kept you always on the lookout.
Overall it was a great adventure and nice to finally have knocked it off my backlog.
The next time you are looking through old photos and one piques your interest, maybe seeing if you can track it down will lead to your next adventure!
Til' Next Time!
The original photo i used was taken by Charles Roscoe Savage. I found it on the BYU digital collections library page. Their site has tons of historic photos and is quite interesting to browse through. I highly recommend it.
Courtesy, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library,
Brigham Young University, Provo, UT 84602
There is quite a bit of information around this section of the train grade, additional sidings along the route, ownership changes, and tons more easily found on the internet. To keep my post short(ish) i have left quite a bit out but recommend reading up on this interesting piece of history if you have the time.