As with metals and coal mining, efficient transportation proved necessary to the commercial development of Gilsonite. The Uintah Railway Company was begun in 1903 by the Barber Asphalt Paving Company. The Barber Company was owned by the General Asphalt Company, which was itself owned by the Gilson Asphaltum Company.
In 1902 the Barber Company began the development of the Black Dragon vein, and in 1904 the Uintah Railway completed its fifty-three-mile narrow-gauge railroad to the mines. The Unitah RY was one of the last narrow gauge railroads built in the U.S.
The line ran across the Book Cliffs from Dragon, Utah, to Mack, Colorado, where it connected with the Denver and Rio Grande Western main line. The 34 miles of track traversed 7% grades and 65 degree curves plus the treacherous Baxter Pass. It is still possible to drive over the line in the summer.
Wagon freighting costs in 1900 were reported to be from $10.00 to $15.00 per ton to carry the ore to the railhead, with rail costs at $10.00 per ton to Chicago or St. Louis.
In 1911, the railway was extended to Watson, then four miles southwest to the Gilsonite mine at Rainbow. A wagon road called the Uintah Toll Road was built to carry freight and passengers over the sixty miles between Vernal, Fort Duchesne, and Dragon.
The Uintah RY had various motive power over the years. Among them were seven Shays numbered from #1 thru #7. The first six were either bought new from Lima or second hand. #7 was built using spare parts and a new boiler bought from Lima. For more information on them, click on the Shays Link below.
In addition to the seven Lima Shay engines, the Uintah RY had ten different rod type engines all built by Baldwin as follows:
I would like to thank Mike Lehman for the rod type information. This was derived from the Henry Bender book "Uintah Railway-The Gilsonite Route", Heimburger House recent reprint of 1970 Howell-North original, pg. 213.
Bill Pratt has a web site that is very good. It is called The Uintah Railway. The Crookedest Railroad in the West.
Last Update 10/27/04
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