Bingham Garfield Railway - Connecting Copper and Community

Discover how the Bingham-Garfield Railway, pivotal in Utah's mining history, linked Bingham Canyon's copper mines to Garfield's smelter.

The Bingham-Garfield Railway, an iconic transportation system in Utah's history, played a pivotal role in the development of the state's mining industry. Spanning over a century, the railway connected the rich copper mines of Bingham Canyon with the bustling city of Garfield, leaving an indelible mark on Utah's economy and shaping the lives of countless individuals.

In the late 19th century, the Bingham Canyon Mine emerged as one of the largest copper mines in the world, attracting miners and investors from far and wide. Recognizing the need for an efficient transportation system, the Bingham-Garfield Railway was conceived in 1906. The ambitious project aimed to link the remote mining town of Bingham with the newly established smelter in Garfield. Construction began in 1907, overcoming rugged terrain and formidable challenges to carve a railway route that would revolutionize Utah's mining operations.

The first train ran on the Bingham-Garfield track in September 1911, marking the beginning of a prosperous era for Utah's mining industry. The railway enabled the efficient transport of copper ore from the mines to the smelter, reducing costs and increasing productivity. It required less than one shift's service of 10 hours for two train crews to handle 10,000 tons per day. The town of Bingham also experienced rapid growth as workers flocked to the area in search of employment opportunities and the railway became a lifeline, carrying supplies, equipment, and passengers to and from the mines, fostering a thriving community.

As the mining industry evolved, so did the Bingham-Garfield Railway. Diesel locomotives replaced steam engines, improving efficiency and reducing environmental impact. The railway expanded to accommodate the changing needs of the mining operations, extending its reach and connecting with other rail lines. In January 1945 the railway was temporarily taken over by the US Army as a result of a labor strike. The government control was authorized by President Roosevelt because of Utah Copper's vital place in the war effort, producing 30% of the nation's copper output. 

In September that same year the US Army relinquished control back to the company’s owners, but there were signs that the Bingham-Garfield’s life was coming to an end. In May 1946 work began on a new 14-mile electrified rail line to Magna, and in April 1948 the new Copperton Low Line began operation. This line operated at a lower gradient, allowing for longer trains and therefore more ore to be delivered to the mills.

The Bingham-Garfield Railway finally ceased operations in June 1951 - but its legacy lives on. Today, remnants of the railway can still be found - including sections of track and some equipment - and the story of the Bingham-Garfield Railway serves as a reminder of the indomitable spirit of Utah's pioneers and their role in shaping the state's economic and cultural landscape.


Topham Guerin Ltd