Sunnyside Branch Facts
The Sunnyside Branch was a 17 mile spur built in 1899 by the original Carbon County Railway from the Utah desert mainline at Mounds eastward along Grassy Trail Creek to mines at the base of the cliffs at Sunnyside. The original Carbon County Railway became a fully-owned subsidiary of the Rio Grande Western in 1900, and was officially consolidated into the parent company as part of the 1908 creation of the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad?.
Note: This Carbon County Railway should not be confused with the later Carbon County Railway, which was organized in 1922 by Utah Coal & Coke / Columbia Steel and ran south from East Carbon towards the Columbia and Geneva Mines.
Kaiser Coal Trains
Between 1968 and 1991, Union Pacific and the D&RGW teamed up to move one of the first long-haul unit trains in the west. The train would use pooled SD45s and cabooses from both railroads, running from the Carbondale Company mine (later called the Kaiser mine) at Sunnyside, Utah, to the Kaiser Steel mill at Fontana, California. The train primarily consisted of UP Coal Liners assigned specificially to the service - UP 31900-31994 and UP 32000-32099 - although the D&RGW purchased five nearly identical cars, numbered DRGW 56995-56999.
Because Rio Grande power would be pooled with UP's for the run west, the decision was made to develop a new paint scheme to help them stand out. The new scheme, which was used by the Grande from 1968 right up to the end, was the one we're all familiar with - the giant, billboard-style flying "Rio Grande" emblazoned on the side of the unit, and a smaller "Rio Grande" on the nose, set in aspen gold against a black rectagular spot cut out from the aspen gold chevrons. DRGW SD45s 5337 and 5338 were the first repainted into the "large Grande" scheme, and also the first assigned to this new pool service.
ECDC Landfill Trains
With the Carbon County Railway ceasing operations in 1982, the Sunnyside mines closing in 1988, and the last train of coal moving in 1991, prospects looked bleak. However, just as the last coal was moving, the East Carbon Development Corporation (ECDC) proposed building a landfill to the south of the railway near East Carbon in 1991. By 1992, the landfill was a reality, and trash was moving by rail from the Salt Lake City area, over Soldier Summit, and then up the Sunnyside Branch to the landfill. The trash, loaded in tarp-covered containers on flat cars, would move over Soldier Summit as far as Helper. Nearly every day (except Sundays), a local Helper crew would take the unit trash train, eventually becoming known as the Dirt Train, out to Mounds and then up the branch to Sunnyside. This train became famous, as it was the last bastion of Rio Grande SD40T-2 tunnel motors.
This traffic continued until late 2005, when the opening of a new landfille near Tooele, UT, took over most of the Salt Lake trash. As of this writing (March 2006), only a handfull cars of trash go to the landfill three times per week.