Castle Valley Branch Facts
Castle Valley Branch History
The Castle Valley Railway was originally envisioned in 1901 as a cutoff between the Rio Grande's Utah Desert mainline at Green River, UT, and the San Pedro, Los Angeles & Salt Lake (later just the Los Angeles & Salt Lake) at Milford, UT. This tied in with Gould's plan to build the Salt Lake - LA link, since he already controlled the Missouri Pacific and Rio Grande, and would only need this shortcut to connect to his planned link to California. However, plans fell through for the Gould railroad empire. The SPLA&SL wound up under rival Union Pacific's control, eliminating it from possibly completing the Gould transcontinental empire. As a result, Gould started building west from Salt Lake with his Western Pacific. This rendered the Green River-Salina cutoff irrelevant.
The Castle Valley Railway eventually only wound up building from Salina, where the line connected with the Marysvale Branch, 20 miles due east to Nioche. The line had an average grade of 3%, and passed through four tunnels in this short distance. At Nioche, there was a Colorado Fuel & Iron coal mine that was expected to justify the expense. However, due to some problem with the permitting paperwork, the US Government shut down mining operations after only a single revenue train had moved over the line. To make matters worse, a flash flood in 1904 ripped out much of the branch. The branch remained in this impassable, unused state for nearly a decade.
In 1913, the branch was again repaired, for reasons unknown. There was still no traffic to be had, and reconstruction was never finished. 12 years later, in 1925, more repair work was started, but apparently never finished. Finally, during 1929, the line was restored as far as Crystal (approximately MP 18), and some coal the Sevier Valley Coal Co. mine was finally hauled out. This lasted for approximately four years before operations again shut down.
The final two miles from Crystal to the end of track was removed in 1936. The rest of the branch survived until 1942, but never saw another revenue train. At that point, all of the rails were pulled. Today, two of the four tunnels remain (tunnels #3 and #4) and are visible from I-70 as you drive through the canyon, as is much of the old grade. The other two tunnels were obliterated by the construction of the freeway.
Castle Valley Branch Timetable