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Heber Valley Railroad   

Adventurers in Utah for Spike 150

 Promontory Summit - 150 years later

A Sesquicentennial

Chapter Three

 Riding the Heber Valley Railroad

 May 4, 2019



Robin Bowers

Text and Photos by Author

The author retains all rights. No reproductions are allowed without the author's consent

Comments are appreciated


    Today began with a relaxing start as we didn't have to pack up and load the car which I enjoyed because we were spending the night again. It is nice to be able stay a few nights in the same place. Heading out of Park City we met up with US 40 going southbound. Route 40 is an old friend as I crossed it twice every day going to high school. It was Main Street in my home town.


Views along US 40 southbound going to Heber City.



Heber City

    Founded in 1859 and named for Heber C. Kimball, counselor to Mormon leader Brigham Young, Heber City is the farming and livestock center of the pastoral Heber Valley. Glider and sailplane rides are available spring through fall. Snowmobile and dog sled races are popular winter events.

Heber Valley Railroad

    The Heber Valley Railroad is a heritage railroad based in Heber City, Utah. It operates passenger excursion trains along a line between Heber City and Vivian Park, which is located in Provo Canyon. The HVRX carries over 94,000 passengers a year.

    The railroad line is approximately 16 miles long. A typical round trip ride on the train takes about 3 hours. There are a total of four passing sidings outside of the Heber yard limit.

    Notable landmarks seen from the train include Mount Timpanogos, Cascade Mountain, Deer Creek Dam and Reservoir, Provo River, Sundance Ski Resort, Tate Barn, and Soldier Hollow. A variety of wildlife including deer, eagles, fox, moose, turkeys, hawks, mountain lions (cougars), and beavers, have all been seen from the train as well.


    The Heber Valley Railroad has two 1907 Baldwin 2-8-0 Consolidation-type steam locomotives: former Union Pacific No. 618 and ex-Great Western No. 75, although they are both out of service pending completion of their 1,472 day inspections and service. Also on display is former Columbia Steel Company 0-6-0 No. 300 built by Baldwin in the 1920s.

    The HVRX is home to four EMD diesel-electric locomotives: Ex-Union Pacific EMD NW2 No. 1011, Ex-Union Pacific EMD NW2 No. 1043, Ex-Union Pacific EMD GP-9 No. 296, and Ex-USATC EMD MRS-1 No. 1813. As well as Ex-United States Army Transportation Corps Baldwin (rebuilt with a Caterpillar prime mover) RS4TC-1 number 4028. It also has a former United States Army Davenport 44-ton diesel-electric locomotive No. 1218, which is very similar to a GE 44-ton switcher. Recently in 2018, the railroad purchased 3 GP9's which are numbers 52, 72, and 77 from New England's Pan Am Railway. With the arrival of the GP9s, the Heber Valley's former U.S. Army MRS-1 will be retired.


    The line operated by the HVRX was formerly part of a Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad branch line that connected Heber City to Provo, Utah. The branch line was completed in 1899 and operated freight (and passenger) service until the line's abandonment in 1967.

    The line was saved for tourist use and was reopened in 1970 when No. 618 and other equipment was brought up the line from Provo. The track between Provo and Vivian Park was later removed and converted into a recreational trail. During the 1970s and 1980s the railroad operated as the "Heber Creeper". In the late 1980s this railroad went out of business.

    Citizens in the Heber area successfully petitioned the State of Utah to help save the railroad, leading to creation of the Heber Valley Historic Railroad Authority in the early 1990s. Since this time the railroad has seen considerable growth. The railroad operates as a non-profit 50 organization.

    During the 2002 Winter Olympics the railroad was part of the Olympic Steam Team, carrying spectators to the Soldier Hollow Olympic venue. The railroad's No. 618 and 75 steam-engines, were joined by the Nevada Northern Railway Museum's No. 93 steam-engine, in pulling eight-car trains full of passengers, to the Soldier Hollow depot where they disembarked and continued to the venue entrance on a horse-drawn sleigh. The day prior to the Opening Ceremony of the games, all three locomotives were combined into one triple-headed train, and used to transport the Olympic flame from Soldier Hollow to Heber City as part of the torch relay.

Current operation

    The railroad's main depot is located in Heber City. Other passenger terminals are located at Soldier Hollow (near Midway, Utah) and Vivian Park. The railroad operates year-round, and features special event and evening train rides. Among its named trains are the Provo Canyon Limited, a three-hour round trip excursion to Vivian Park and the shorter Deer Creek Express to Deer Creek Reservoir. The railroad can be seen from various points along U.S. Highway 189 between Heber City and Vivian Park and the whistle can be heard throughout the valley.

    Locomotive No. 618 was used in the 2006 film, Outlaw Trail: The Treasure of Butch Cassidy. The locomotive, 100 years old as of July, 2007, ran from 2008-2010 in limited capacity and was then taken out of service for a major overhaul and restoration, as required to meet Federal Railroad Administration safety standards. The non-profit railroad raised the $750,000 required for the project and the 618 engine will not be retired. The rebuild should give the engine another 30 years of service. As of July 2018 No. 618 is out of service while a 1,472-day inspection and rebuild is completed. Locomotive 75 has been under restoration since 2003 (15 years as of 2018).

After finding the rail yard, we parked and started looking around.



US Army RS4TC # 4028 and US Army 44 ton # 1218.


D&RGW hopper car 17488, Union Pacific caboose 3950 and Heber Valley caboose 12300.




SLG&W wooden box car 100.


Northern Pacific wooden box car 11111.

UTLX tank car 85302.


Union Pacific wooden caboose 3270.


HVRR Coach 3568 and HVRR Coach 3598.


HVRR lounge 7508.


Loco # 296, our power for scenic sightseeing tour of Provo Canyon with cars coupled up and ready to depart soon.



HVRR coach 4066 John L. Martinez and Union Pacific combine 2700 concession car.


Minerva Scenic Village of Minerva coach 3227.


HVRR coach 324.


From here we drove over to the station parking lot.


Heber City Station.



Boston & Maine GP-9 77.





New engine house under construction.




HVRR coach 7510.


HVRR baggage car 7504 with HVRR baggage car 7503 and Rio Grande caboose 0141.







New engine house under construction.


US Steel Columbia Geneva Div. Ironton Plant 0-6-0 300.

Parking lot side of station. Elev 5569.


Station platform and snack car.


    At Heber Valley Railroad Station it was at 10:47 AM they started boarding the train. The train consisted of Great Western GP-9 296, Minerva Scenic Village of Minerva coach 3227, HVRR Coach 4066 John L Martinez, Union Pacific Chair combine 2700 concession car and HVRR Coach 324. We boarded and took seats in the Village of Minerva coach 3227. The train would leave on time at 11:00 AM.


Inside our coach, Village of Minerva # 3227.


A contented author ready to make his first trip on the Heber Valley Railroad.


Chris is also making his first trip on the Heber Valley Railroad.


    Today we are taking the Provo Canyon Limited excursion and will travel all 15.5 miles on railroad track around the Deer Creek Reservoir and along the scenic Provo River to Vivian Park. A three hour round trip.



The Provo River.


A large bird.



    Each car had a host/guide that gave us information on their railroad's history and information about what was passing by the windows. One of their paramount points was that this year was 120th year as a railroad that started in 1899. They have a good reason to cerebrate as this is an excellently run operation.

    Somewhere in route, the train pickup several train robbers known as Krazy Ani and the Soldier Hollow Gang and they were going from car to car looking for a strong box of cash and gold. They were also prone to ask the passengers for their cash and valuables. Then a shout was heard that the strong box was found so the gang was happy.    

    Later the gang reappeared sans their bandana mask and talked to the passengers and telling stories and jokes. I was interested in the stories about Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Butch took his name because he was a butcher and Cassidy was the last name of his best friend. Kid's story was he was in the area and heard about a widow in danger of losing her farm. So he rode out to her place to visit. She invited him to dinner and explained her troubles. Her husband had passed away and she was left with children to raise and no income. Also the banker was coming in the next morning to foreclose on her land. It was, pay off the loan or leave without a home. The Kid took his saddle bag inside and gave the widow enough money to pay off the mortgage and said not to worry about paying him back. In the morning when she got up the stranger was gone and later the banker showed up, expecting to foreclose and gain some land. When he arrived the widow said she had the cash and wanted to pay off the loan and keep her farm. So the banker left with the money and no deed. On way back into town the banker was robbed by a highwayman. We can only speculate as to who the highwayman might be.


A penthouse with a bird's eye view. Sorry, no stairs or elevator.


Deer Creek Reservoir.


The Provo River.


US 189 along side the Provo River.


We arrived at Vivian Park. We would be here for 30 minutes while the engine switched ends on the train, so we detrained and walk around the park.




The engine ran around the train at Vivian Park.


Great Western GP-9 296.



After the engine was reconnected to the train, we boarded and left for the return trip.


The Provo River.


Looking forward.


Looking back at Mt. Timpanogos.


Overpass of US 189.


Deer Creek Reservoir.









The Heber Valley Railroad also was more involved in history.

Solider Hollow

    Soldier Hollow is located 53 miles (85 km) southeast of downtown Salt Lake City, in the Wasatch Mountain State Park near Midway, Utah. Soldier Hollow was the furthest venue from Salt Lake City with an estimated drive time of 2 to ​2 12 hours from downtown during the games. The venue was one of only three which was built and designed by Salt Lake Organizing Committee  specifically for the 2002 Winter Olympics. Soldier Hollow was chosen by SLOC as an Olympic venue in October 1997, over several other possible locations including Sherwood Hills near Logan, Utah. Preliminary work began soon after the venue site was chosen, but major construction didn't start until 1999. Work at the venue had been completed enough (80% complete) to host its first major event, U.S. Cross Country Championships, on January 8, 2000. Construction on the venue's day lodge began with a groundbreaking ceremony on July 5, 2000. The lodge was completed in December 2000 and dedicated on January 5, 2001. The venue cost SLOC $22 million to construct, and is still in use today.

    During the 2002 games Soldier Hollow hosted the biathlon, cross-country skiing, and Nordic combined events. The venue itself hosted 64,160 biathlon spectators, 99,320 cross-country spectators, and 1,794 Nordic combined spectators during these events. During the 2002 Winter Paralympics the venue hosted the biathlon and cross-country events.

    In order to help cut down on vehicle traffic in the canyons, and to give spectators a unique experience, SLOC reached an agreement with the Historic Heber Valley Railroad to transport spectators to the Soldier Hollow venues. A special station was constructed along the railroad's tracks near the venue which would allow two to four trains carrying 200 passengers each per day. The former Union Pacific No. 618 steam-engine would pulled eight-car train carrying the passengers to the Soldier Hollow depot where they disembarked and continued to the venue entrance on a horse-drawn sleigh.


Conductor escorts the train robbers off at the Soldier Hollow Station.



Single family or multi family residence? Or commercial building? Anyway, it is very nice in a lovely setting.




    All to soon we had arrived back at the station. What a great ride and adventure. After getting in the car and leaving the station we decided to have an early diner here in Heber City. We headed to The Old Goat - Heber's Neighborhood Eatery- and were seated on the outdoor back patio which was surrounded by a facsimile of a pioneer western town that could pass as a movie set. The food was good with Chris having the House wings while I had the Blackened Salmon BLTA with fries. It was much to big to eat in one seating for me so I took half with me to eat later in the day.

    As we were leaving the restaurant we saw a caboose so we drove over to check it out and found three things of interest to us.




Heber City Rio Grande Station.


The Heber Valley Railroad emblem. Heber Creeper, Provo Canyon Wasatch Mountain, Scenic Line of the World.


Utah Railway wooden caboose 53.



Heber City Rio Grande Station.


    Then we drove back to Park City. Later, after finishing my take home meal, I needed a drink so I decided to walk to the nearby 7-11 for a Pepsi and some ice cream, if I could remember the way.  Coming back I took a long way for sightseeing. Then it was time to pack for leaving in the morning. Going to Ogden and Promontory Summit tomorrow, that and more.

Thanks for reading.

Next Chapter - Lagoon Amusement Park, Golden Spike Heritage Site and the Spiral Jetty.

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