D&RG / D&RGW Little Cottonwood Branch History

Little Cottonwood Branch Facts
From: Midvale, UT
To: Wasatch, UT
Miles (SG): 10.2
Built: 1913 (SG)
Rebuilt: 1913-17 (SG/NG)
Abnd: 1943

The Alta Branch and the Little Cottonwood Branch shared the same roadbed, but were separated in time. The Alta Branch was built first, and allowed to fall into disrepair in roughly 1900-1903. The line was never formally abandoned, however, and thus the RGW / D&RG retained ownership of the grade. The line was then rebuilt in 1913 as the Little Cottonwood Branch.

The Little Cottonwood Branch

In 1913, the D&RG leased the grade of the former Alta Branch to the Salt Lake & Alta Railroad?. The line was rebuilt as standard gauge from Midvale to Wasatch. The intention was to transport granite from an online quarry near Wasatch, as well as to handle ore and supplies for the mines further up the canyon.

The SL&A didn't make ends meet, and by 1917 the Rio Grande assumed operations of the branch. D&RG operations on the branch lasted until around the same time the SL&A shut down, and the standard gauge rails were pulled back 6.8 miles from Wasatch? to a large sand/gravel pit at Sand Pit? in 1934. The sand pit either ceased operations or switched to trucks in 1943, and the remaining 3.4 miles of the branch was abandoned.

The Little Cottonwood Transportation Company

Around 1917, as the Grande was taking over for the failed SL&A, another group approached the Grande about leasing the upper part of the branch. The new Little Cottonwood Transportation Company rebuilt the line beyond Wasatch? as three foot gauge, and used a trio of Shays. Freight traffic continued until about 1925, with limited runs after that until about 1930. In addition, Elbert Despain, a Sandy resident, rigged an old GMC truck with rail wheels, and provided mail and passenger service between 1922 and 1928. It might have continued longer, but on the fateful day of 2 Jun 1928, Elbert lost control of the vehicle and it flew off a curve near Twin Pines. The rails of the LCT from Wasatch? to Alta? were pulled in 1934.

Questions/corrections/comments welcome - email me
Please see our disclaimer.
  Last modified on May 18, 2011, at 02:33 PM
Edit Page | Page History