Ballard & Thompson Railroad History

Ballard & Thompson Facts
From: Thompson, UT
To: Ballard/Sego, UT
Miles: ~5.25
Built: 1911-1912
Abdnd: 1950

The Ballard & Thompson was constructed in 1911-1912 by the American Fuel Company from the Denver & Rio Grande Utah desert mainline at Thompson, Utah (otherwise known as Thompson Springs or Thompson's Spring at various points in history), north up Thompson and Sego canyons to a coal mine. The line was a 5.25 mile standard gauge branch, consisting of 3.3 miles of light 45-57 pound rail and the rest of 65 pound, and having grades as steep as 4%. Only a year after its opening, the American Fuel Company contracted with the Denver & Rio Grande to operate the line. Maintenance was, apparently, left with the coal company.

The company town at the northern terminus - the mine site - was originally named Ballard, after Harry Ballard, who discovered this particular coal deposit. He sold out to the American Fuel Co in 1910, which then began to expand the mine, as well as construct the railroad. One source (John W. Van Cott, via, states that sometime after the AFC purchase, the town was renamed Neslin (or Neslen, the spelling is disputed), after Richard Neslin, president of American Fuel. Regardless, in 1915 (after Neslin's firing), the town was renamed Sego, after the Utah state flower, the sego lily.

The mine itself was sold by American Fuel to Chesterfield Coal Company in 1925. (Strack's notes suggest a possible intermediate sale to the Pacific Steamship Co in 1919.) Sometime circa 1925, the D&RGW and Chesterfield Coal agreed that the railroad was in bad shape, and maintenace was handed over to the D&RGW on the condition that they could remove any rail laid by the D&RGW and thus cease operations with only a six month notice.

Mining continued until 1947, when the Chesterfield Coal Company closed, presumably as a result of bankruptcy. The mine was sold at auction on 1-Nov-1947 to the miners, organized as the Utah Grand Coal Company. On 1-Jul-1949, the mine loadout tipple was destroyed by fire. Another fire further damaged the mine in 1950. With the D&RGW, one of the mine's major customers, switching to diesel, the railroad decided that it wasn't worth doing the maintenance necessary to continue service on the branch. In 1950, the D&RGW served its six month notice and later ripped up the rails. The mine continued for another five years by trucking coal down to Thompson for loading, but in 1955, the Utah Grand Coal Company itself closed down and was sold.


  • Don Strack's Sego Mine notes at
  • Utah Ghost Rails, Stephen L. Carr and Robert W. Edwards
  • Rio Grande... to the Pacific!, by Robert A. LeMassena
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  Last modified on March 19, 2006, at 01:51 PM
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