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Helper, Solider Summit, SLC rail

Adventurers in Utah for Spike 150

 Promontory Summit - 150 years later

A Sesquicentennial

Chapter Six

 Early morning east bound California Zephyr

Chasing coal trains through Solider Summit

 Arriving in our convention city

Riding Salt Lake City's light rail

 May 7, 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


     This morning Chris G. was up early checking the status on Amtrak's Train 6, the eastbound California Zephyr which was schedule to be in Helper at 6:37. As it was running close to one hour late, he awoke me near 7:00 a.m. and we proceeded out to Castle Gate on US 6 on a still very cold windy morning.


California Zephyr bound for Chicago at 7:10am at Castle Gate.





From here we drove into Helper to catch Train 6 going under the signal bridge and into the yard.






At US 6 crossing in Helper next to our motel.



    California Zephyr will make its station stop out of sight. We crossed the street and returned to the Riverside Motel and I started gathering our items. While I was doing that, a ten unit Union Pacific loaded coal train left the yards at Helper. After we checked out, we took US 6 north and after Guilly, we came upon our UP coal train minus the six helper units that cut off at Soldier Summit. We found a reverse curve with proper lighting and stopped and set up to get the pictures.



Union Pacific 5413 West at our photo spot.






We decided to follow him west and then stopped west of the Thistle Tunnels.






Union Pacific 5413 West coming out of the Thistle Tunnels.






After this stop we continued west and Chris joked that he wanted a BNSF train. A few miles down the road his wish came true.


BNSF 4565 East right before Union Pacific 5413 West blasted him.


    We took off in chase mode and almost beat him to another spot but as Chris turned off the road, he came up right below us. A quick U-turn and we went to the east side of Thistle Tunnels and set up there and waited less than a minute for him to pop out of the tunnel with plenty of smoke to add to the picture.












    BNSF 4565 East exits the Thistle Tunnels putting on a great show for Chris and I. From here, we drove down to Provo and stopped at a Walmart Neighborhood Store for some cold medicine for me because of standing out in cold and wind last night and more Coca-Cola for Chris. From here we drove Interstate 15 North to Utah 85 to Utah 68 to Jordan Narrows Road and parked in Jordan Narrows Park then found the trail that took us to the edge where we waited for the FrontRunner trains to come by.



Northbound FrontRunner train at Jordan Narrows.





Southbound FrontRunner train Jordan Narrows.




After this train we hiked back to the trail head and the car with stormy weather to our north.


Chris needs to buy a R to make his handle -Mudrock.


Information board near parking lot.


Good use of side panel.

    We drove back to Interstate 15 and hit major rainstorms starting at Murray all the way to Salt Lake City. We made it to the Radisson where we checked in then parked the car in the basement and took the elevator to the lobby then up to the seventh floor and Room 725. We went back down and checked into the convention, met Elizabeth and Bob and later Bob would join Chris and I on a light rail tour of their system.


The old Union Pacific Station, now known as Gateway Center, does not have any tracks any place near it anymore, which is a real shame, Arena streetcar platform in front.


Rasisson Hotel on center right.



    TRAX is a light rail system in the Salt Lake Valley of Utah, in the United States, serving Salt Lake City and many of its suburbs throughout Salt Lake County. Its official name is Transit Express, though this name is rarely used. The system is operated by the Utah Transit Authority (UTA). All TRAX trains are electric, receiving power from overhead trolley wires.

    TRAX has 50 stations on three lines. The Blue Line provides service from Downtown Salt Lake City to Draper. The Red Line provides service from the University of Utah to the Daybreak Community of South Jordan. The Green Line provides service from Salt Lake City International Airport to West Valley City.

    All of UTA's TRAX and FrontRunner trains and stations, streetcars and streetcar stops, and all fixed route buses are compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and are therefore accessible to those with disabilities. Signage at the stations, on the passenger platforms, and on the trains and streetcars clearly indicates accessibility options. Ramps on the passenger platform and assistance from the train operator may be necessary for wheelchair boarding on Blue Line trains. These ramps are not used on the Red or Green lines. In accordance with the Utah Clean Air Act and UTA ordinance, "smoking" is prohibited on UTA vehicles as well as UTA bus stops, TRAX stations, and FrontRunner.

Service characteristics

    TRAX operates seven days a week, with the exception of some holidays. It operates Monday through Friday from approximately 4:30 am to 11:30 pm with a fifteen-minute headway on each line during the entirety of operating hours. It operates weekends from approximately 5:00 am to nearly midnight with a twenty-minute headway.


    The first line, running from downtown Salt Lake City south to Sandy, was completed in 1999. The second line from downtown to the University of Utah was completed in 2001 and extended in 2003. An extension to the Salt Lake City Intermodal Hub was completed in April 2008. In August 2011, two extensions to South Jordan and West Valley City were completed. With the opening of these two extensions in 2011, the TRAX lines were renamed as colors instead of destinations, with the Blue Line running from the Salt Lake City Intermodal Hub to Sandy, the Red Line running from the University of Utah Medical Center to the Daybreak community in South Jordan, and the Green Line running from the intermodal hub to the West Valley Intermodal Hub.

    In 2013 the Green Line was realigned slightly north and away from the Salt Lake City Intermodal Hub, allowing for the opening of the extension to the Salt Lake City International Airport. Several months later, in August 2013, the Blue Line was extended further south to Draper (which opened August 18, 2013). The extensions to South Jordan, West Valley City, Draper, and the Airport were funded in part by a Salt Lake County sales tax increase that would pay for all four of the proposed TRAX extensions. A letter of intent signed with the Federal Transit Administration on September 24, 2007 secured the remaining funding for the light rail lines. Both the University Line and its extension to the University Medical Center were completed ahead of schedule. A daily ridership of 15,000 was expected for the initial 15-mile line in 1999. By the beginning of 2008, the expanded system of 17.5 miles served an estimated 40,000 passengers each day. Ridership for the fourth quarter of 2012 was reported to be at 60,600, making it the ninth-busiest light rail system in the country.

    Light rail in the Salt Lake Valley was first seriously discussed in the late 1980s to provide an alternative to traffic congestion on I-15, but the idea was met with criticism. On October 10, 1988, Congress approved $5 million in funds to preserve land along the proposed light rail corridor. Funding for the light rail line, however, remained uncertain. After Salt Lake City won the bid for the 2002 Winter Olympics in 1995, UTA used the city's host status to accelerate obtaining funding through the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). Construction began in 1997. Protesters at the groundbreaking insisted light rail would be dangerous and a waste of money. Public opinion remained divided and businesses on Main Street in downtown Salt Lake City suffered during the construction period.

    After the north-south line opened in late 1999 with sixteen stations, ridership expectations were quickly met. The system was enthusiastically embraced by valley residents, to the surprise of many, and once-skeptical communities soon began clamoring for extensions.

    Funding for the University Line to Rice-Eccles Stadium allowed it to be completed in 2001 with four new stations, ahead of schedule and the Olympics. An extension to the University Medical Center that added three new stations was completed on September 29, 2003, fifteen months ahead of schedule. An infill station at 900 South in Salt Lake City was constructed in 2005, and a second infill station, at 9400 South in Sandy (Sandy Expo), opened in August 2006. On December 13, 2006, the UTA Board of Trustees voted to change the name of the station next to the Delta Center to "Arena" in response to the renaming of the nearby indoor arena to EnergySolutions Arena.

    On February 23, 2006, plans for extending the main line westward to the current Salt Lake City Intermodal Hub near the Gateway were approved. Two stations were built near the Gateway, as well as one at the Salt Lake Central Station (Salt Lake Intermodal Hub). They opened in April 2008, bringing the total number of stations to 28.

    UTA has two service centers for TRAX maintenance: the Lovendahl Rail Service Center, which is just off the Red Line in Midvale, southwest of its junction with the Blue Line, and the Jordan River Service Center, which is just off the Green Line northeast of River Trail. The Salt Lake City Southern Railroad, a subsidiary of the Utah Railroad, operates freight service over TRAX tracks via trackage rights.

FrontLines 2015 expansion

    On September 21, 2006, a property tax hike proposal was replaced with a general transportation quarter-cent sales tax hike that was voted on and approved on November 7 of that year. On December 21, 2006, the Salt Lake County Council created a priority list for the sales tax, saying TRAX and commuter rail should take priority. A letter of intent signed with the Federal Transit Administration on September 24, 2007 secured the remaining $500 million in funding for the light rail lines. These funds were used to finance the FrontLines 2015 expansion project, which added four TRAX extensions by 2015 (as well as an expansion to FrontRunner commuter rail).

    In order to support planned TRAX expansion, UTA ordered 77 Siemens S70 light rail vehicles from Siemens AG. It is the company's largest light rail contract in the United States to date.

West Valley and Mid-Jordan extensions


Am happy that I have a home away from home.


West Valley and Mid-Jordan extensions

    In 2008, construction began on two new extensions: one extension of 5.1 miles (8.2 through West Valley City (now part of the Green Line) and another extension of 10.6 miles through the southwest portion of the Salt Lake Valley (now part of the Red Line). Both extensions were debuted in ceremonial openings on August 2, 2011, and permanently opened for regular service on August 7. Both extensions were completed ahead of schedule and under budget. Upon completion of these expansions UTA adopted a color-code line names in place of their old destination-based line names.

    After the first year of operation, ridership on these portions of the Green and Red lines was less than was projected by UTA. However, UTA has stated the projected ridership was for the year 2015. Since these lines were opened for service years earlier than originally planned, the anticipated growth on the west side of Salt Lake Valley has just not happened, yet. UTA affirms that by 2015 ridership will meet the original projections.

Airport extension

    A line from Salt Lake City International Airport to the University of Utah was in the original plans for the system to be completed before the 2002 Winter Olympics, but funding shortages only allowed the eastern portion to be constructed. The airport line eventually came to fruition, however, and ground was broken on October 22, 2008. The extension opened on April 14, 2013, adding 6 miles and six additional stations to the Green Line, including a transfer station to the FrontRunner.

Draper extension

    On November 14, 2006, the Draper City Council approved the TRAX extension into that city. Neighbors in the area have continually fought the route suggested by UTA. The route follows an old rail line and UTA already owned the right of way. An alternative route that would run down the middle of State Street was also studied by UTA. Use of the UTA right of way for the line was challenged in court and later approved by the Utah Supreme Court on July 12, 2008. UTA published a draft Environmental Impact Statement for the new line that names the UTA right of way as the preferred route. The extension's first phase, which includes 3.5 miles and three new stations, opened on August 18, 2013. A second phase will extend the line further south to 14600 South (near I-15, Exit 288), but the UTA has not announced the dates for the construction and completion of this further extension.

The FrontRunner

    When the FrontRunner (UTA's commuter rail train) started running on April 26, 2006, the only transfer station between the FrontRunner and TRAX was Salt Lake Central (Salt Lake Intermodal Hub), with the FrontRunner running north from that station to Ogden. However, with the opening of the FrontRunner South extension on December 10, 2012, with service south to Provo, Murray Central was added as second transfer station. Although not part of the FrontRunner South extension, FrontRunner service at the new North Temple Bridge/Guadalupe station also began on the same day. When the Airport extension of the Green Line opened for service on April 14, 2013, this station became the third transfer station between FrontRunner and TRAX. The FrontRunner portion of this station was built to provide a transfer station between FrontRunner and the Green Line, since the reroute of the Green Line for the Airport extension would have left the Green Line without any common station with FrontRunner.

S Line

    For several years a TRAX spur into the Salt Lake City neighborhood of Sugar House had been contemplated. A series of community meetings were held in Sugar House as part of a larger transit study undertaken by UTA. Several transit alternatives were presented to the neighborhood, including bus rapid transit, light rail, and a streetcar. The streetcar seemed to be the preferred alternative. On October 20, 2010, the S Line (known then as Sugar House Streetcar) received a $26 million federal grant that allowed the street car to be completed in less than two years. It used an existing rail line running along 2200 South from the Central Pointe TRAX Station to approximately 1100 East, near the primary Sugar House shopping district. The first phase of the S Line opened on December 8, 2013.

Our tour

    As the want of many conventioneers, that is to ride as many miles of Salt Lake City rail as possible during their visit, our plan was to buy a Day Pass today, Tuesday and use the Event Transit Pass included in convention packet after. The five day pass will be good Wednesday through Sunday, good for going to the airport on Sunday if you need.

    Bob, Chris and I walked over to the Arena station to wait for a trolley to come in that would take us to Gallivan Plaza. This was due to construction at the junction of the Green, Blue and Red Lines. Passengers had to walk three blocks to continue a trip to Draper or West Valley Central or a block and a half to a temporary stop called West Library, just short of the construction zone. UTA is rebuilding the junction switches at this location. We boarded the West Valley Central train to Gallivan Plaza. On this train we stopped at Temple Square, Civic Center and of course, Gallivan Plaza.Turning the corner between Temple Square and Civic Center. We arrived at Gallivan Plaza then walked the three blocks to Courthouse where we would board the next train that arrived. We walked by the construction site to the Red Line train at its temporary station of West Library.Our train came in for Draper. We stopped at 900 South, Ballpark, Central Pointe, Millcreek,ews of the construction as Meadowbrook, Murray North, Murray Central, where this is a connection to the FrontRunner, Fashion Place West, Midvale Fort Union, Midvale Center, Historic Sandy, Sandy Expo, Sandy Civic Center, Crescent View, Kimball Lane and ended up at Draper Town Center.


slc rail


North American Dispatch refrigerator car NADX 6199.


    The Draper fake water tower. We rode back north to Fashion Place West where Chris and I detrained and Bob kept going as he needed to ride the S Line Streetcar which Chris and I would do later.





The Red Line shuttle train, due to construction, would only run from Fashion Place West to Daybreak Parkway.



    Our train stopped at Bingham Junction, Historic Gardner, West Jordan Center, Sugar Factory Road, Jordan Valley, 4800 West Old Bingham Highway, 5600 West Old Bingham Highway, South Jordan Parkway and the end of the line at Daybreak Parkway. We returned to Fashion Place West.



Savage Railroad locomotives out along the Red Line that we stumbled upon.


Utah Railroad locomotives.


UTA shops on the Red Line on the way to Center Pointe.




The one-car train at Center Pointe which would be the Green Line connecting train which would take us out to West Valley Central.


Union Pacific Roper Yard, the former Denver and Rio Grande Western yard for Salt Lake City.


The UTA shops for the Red Line. On this train we would make stops at River Trail, Redwood Junction, Decker Lake and West Valley Central






We returned to Central Pointe and would now wait for the S Line Streetcar to arrive.


    The S Line streetcar built by Siemens arriving at Central Pointe. This streetcar would stop at South Salt Lake City, 300 East, 500 East, 700 East, Sugar Mount and Fairmont. We called Elizabeth who told us there was a Habit within walking distance at Fairmont so Chris  and I enjoyed a very good meal with Chris having his plain Tri Tip Sandwich on sourdough and I had the Chicken sandwich with a shake. So bad. Immediately after finishing his meal, Chris took off for the streetcar station. After finishing eating and washing up, I walked the couple blocks to the Fairmont Station where I saw a waiting streetcar and rushed to board it. The S-Line Streetcar 720 runs every 20 minutes and takes 10 minutes end to end.



At Central Point Station I was stepping on the platform just as Chris' train pulled away. I caught the next one heading to the hotel, walked the detour, re-boarded and arrived at the convention hotel like I knew the way. In the room I unpacked, settled in and got ready for an early start in the morning for our trip to Echo Canyon and the Big Boy.


Angel on east side of temple.



On South Temple looking north towards old Union Pacific Station.


Usually don't take many photos of hotel hallways, but this one outside our room seemed restful and welcoming.

Thanks for reading.

Tomorrow - Photo shoot of Big Boy in Echo Canyon and then the chase ending with riding the FrontRunner.

<< Evanston, WY, Echo Canyon, Helper, UT.

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Text and Photos by Author, Robin Bowers

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

Comments are appreciated