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Big Boy at Evanston,WY

Adventurers in Utah for Spike 150

 Promontory Summit - 150 years later

A Sesquicentennial

Chapter Five

  Big Boy at Evanston WY, up close

 Echo Canyon scouting for photo shoot on Wednesday of the Big Boy going to Ogden

  Chasing Up trains on Soldier Summit

Spending the night in Helper, UT

 May 6, 2019



Robin Bowers

Text and Photos by Author

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Chris and I left the Howard Johnson Motel in Brigham City, stopped by MacDonald's for breakfast then drove on I-15 to I-84 East and then stopped at Devil's Slide for some photos.


Devil's Slide

    Devil's Slide is an unusual geological formation located near the border of Wyoming in northern Utah's Weber Canyon, near the community of Croydon in Morgan County, Utah, United States. The slide consists of two parallel limestone strata that have been tilted to lie vertical, protruding 40 feet out of the mountainside. Intervening layers have eroded more quickly, forming a channel some 25 feet wide running hundreds of feet down the mountain.

    I-84 runs right past Devil's Slide, which can be clearly seen from the road. The Weber River flows between the formation and the freeway. There are parking areas on both sides of the highway for viewing the slide.


We passed five westbound Union Pacific trains on our way to Evanston this morning. We arrived and set up for the arrival of Big Boy 4014 and the 844. As we were early and Elizabeth told us the train was 42 miles away we decided to go visit the Evanston Roundhouse Museum.


Evanston Station.



Evanston Roundhouse Museum

    The Independence Day Celebration in Evanston in 1871 included the dedication of the Union Pacific Roundhouse and Machine Shop. In 1912, the present brick roundhouse and turntable were constructed to accommodate the larger steam locomotives being brought into service. The Roundhouse and associated structures served the UPRR as a main rail car and engine repair station and later as a reclamation facility.

    In 1971, the UPRR officially vacated the Roundhouse, and the following year, deeded the properties (with the exception of the Power House) to the City of Evanston. From 1972 to 1998, the Roundhouse continued to be utilized as a repair station as several companies leased it from the city. In 1998, the last business vacated the site.

    In 2004, a Master Plan was created designating the Roundhouse as a future public building and as a future city hall. With the completion of the nearby Machine Shop in 2005 and its parking area in 2006, it became evident that the time had arrived to save Section One of the Roundhouse. In 2007, the city was awarded a Wyoming Business Council grant to help renovate the 65,000 sq. ft. first section, and by January, 2008, project had begun.

In 2009, the community held the first event in the renovated first section of the Roundhouse: The 27th Annual Renewal Ball.







Evanston Roundhouse.


Evanston Turntable.




Old steam house.


UTC GE 44 Tonner 1301.


UTC GE 65  Tonner 1303.


Evanston Machine Shop.


Union Pacific work train dining car  906215.

After leaving the roundhouse we drove over to the other side of the train yard to watch the arrival of Big Boy.


A creek adjacent to the tracks.


Station across the tracks.


Roundhouse across tracks.



First look at the Big Boy.


I stood in place while the parade passed me bye.

















Before we left town we re-fuelled the car and headed to our next stop of the day which hopefully will be a good photo location on Wednesday to see Big Boy traveling to Ogden.


Welcome on I-80 leaving Wyoming.


Echo Canyon.


Looking east toward WY, part of the Mormon Pioneer Trail. Many a wagon came through that pass.


Looking west toward Ogden.

    After leaving the pass we then stopped at a KFC with lunch to go and drove down through Provo Canyon then by BYU University and headed next to Solider Summit.


Soldier Summit, Utah at US 6 and SR-96.

    Soldier Summit is the name of both a mountain pass in the Wasatch Mountains in Utah and a ghost town located at the pass. Soldier Summit has been an important transportation route between the Wasatch Front and Price, Utah, since the area was settled by the Mormon pioneers. It is on the route of both U.S. Route 6 and the old main line of the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad (D&RGW), now owned and operated by the Union Pacific Railroad. Located where the road makes a brief bend through the extreme southwest corner of Wasatch County, Soldier Summit historically had more to do with nearby Utah County.

    At one time both the state highway department and the railroad had operations at the summit, but with the exception of a gas station that is sometimes open, the town site is now abandoned. Today it is a popular rest stop and photo spot for railfans. Many railfans also take pictures of the Gilluly loops, a series of horseshoe curves on the western approach to the summit. The California Zephyr Amtrak passenger train uses this route.


    Spanish Friars Francisco Atanasio Dominguez and Silvestre Velez de Escalante are credited with discovering the pass in 1776, but it was certainly used by Native Americans before them. The summit takes its name from a group of soldiers who were caught in an unexpected snowstorm on the summit in July 1861. These soldiers were Southerners, previously under Union General Philip St. George Cooke at Camp Floyd, on their way to join the Confederate Army. A few of them died in the storm and were buried on the summit.

    In 1919, a real estate promoter named H.C. Mears surveyed a town site at Soldier Summit and began to sell building lots. The town was incorporated in 1921. There were stores, hotels, saloons, restaurants, two churches, and a school. Growth was driven by the D&RGW moving some of its machine shops, used for servicing helper engines, to Soldier Summit from Helper. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints organized a branch in the new town on June 21, 1921, with Parley Bills as branch president. The number of Mormons in the town was large enough in June 1927 to organize a ward with Walter S. Groesbeck as bishop. The population of Soldier Summit peaked at 2,500 in the 1920s, but began to decline as the railroad decided to move its operations back to Helper due to the severe winters and high cost of doing business at the summit. The introduction of diesel locomotives, and the realignment of the tracks through Tucker and Gilluly which reduced the grade from 4% to 2%, eliminated the need to place helper engines at the site, and further hurt the town's fortunes. The railroad moved many employees' homes to Helper, leaving only the foundations. By January 1930, the ward was reduced to a branch.

    Over the next few decades, the town dwindled away. In 1948 there were 47 students at the Soldier Summit school. The next year enrollment dropped to 11, but the school stayed open. It was not until 1973 that the school was closed and the last few students sent to schools in Carbon County.

    By 1979 there were only about a dozen adult residents left, but Soldier Summit still had four part-time police officers enforcing a community speed limit on the stretch of highway passing through town. When motorists complained of a speed trap, the state attorney general and the Utah Chief of Police Association investigated. They determined that the only reason for having a police department in Soldier Summit at all was to generate revenue for municipal services through traffic tickets. The police department was disbanded.

    The town was finally dis-incorporated in 1984. Other than the gas station and two or three occupied houses, Soldier Summit is uninhabited. An old two-room jail, a few deserted houses, and several acres of foundations and crumbling walls are all that remains of the former town.


    Depiction of a Denver and Rio Grande Western train climbing the summit, circa 1915. There are 5 locomotives used-four at the front and one at the back.

    Helper derives its name from Soldier Summit. During the age of steam, the railroad stored helper engines at Helper. They placed the helpers on freight trains to climb the grades to the summit.     Soldier Summit is the fifth-highest summit or pass on a U.S. transcontinental railroad main line after Tennessee Pass, Moffat Tunnel, Sherman Hill Summit, and Raton Pass.

    We drove US 6 east to the Summit of Solider Summit then found an eastbound empty Union Pacific coal train and stopped at the next grade crossing and waited for him to arrive.




Union Pacific 6569 East which after passing us went onto the Pleasant Valley energy spur. We went east but had to turn around when we saw another train crossing.







Union Pacific 2664 West at Emma Road.




Union Pacific 2664 West along Price River.







Green light ahead at Solider Summit, UT.





Union Pacific 2664 West at Solider Summit.



All red now.


After leaving the summit we then refueled the car and drove to Helper and checked into the Riverside Motel, after which we then went to explore Helper.


Western Mining Museum displays.





Utah Railroad Caboose 55.

We returned to the Riverside Motel and I did our laundry and after that chore was done we drove over to Price for dinner at Wingers then stopped by the Amtrak station for a look around.


Helper Amtrak station or waiting area.



Union Pacific trains in Helper.


Helper was settled in 1870 by a coal prospector who later sold his property to the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad. From Helper we drove west but alas had no trains while waiting on this cold and windy night.



We returned to the motel with a small river just outside our bedroom window. Later we watched the westbound California Zephyr leave Helper over 1 hour 35 minutes late. Chris walked over to the tracks but I could see it just as well standing in the door way of our warm room.

The end of day.

Thanks for reading.

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