Kennecott Utah Copper
Roster of Electric and Diesel-Electric Locomotives
Index For This Page
This page was last updated on June 20, 2021.
The first non-steam locomotives came to Utah Copper's Bingham Canyon mine in 1924 Utah Copper placed two electric locomotives in service at the car dumpers at the mills. Additional cost reductions came after a series of motive power tests in 1927 to determine potential cost reductions if mine locomotives were changed to all-electric, with the results being that all-electric operations would provide significant cost reductions over the existing steam locomotives. In a series of purchases, additional electric locomotives were delivered starting in late 1928, and continued through 1929. More came in 1937, 1942, and 1952, after Kennecott's full control of Utah Copper in 1936. A final group of electric locomotives was delivered in 1955.
Electric locomotives were the sole source of motive power in the Bingham copper mine after 1929, when the last of the initial 42 electric locomotives were delivered in 1927 through 1929, and the last Utah Copper 0-6-2T steam locomotives were transferred to the Nevada mine. Although there was an early unsuccessful test of a diesel locomotive in 1926, diesel locomotives came to the Bingham mine in mid 1973 when Kennecott leased several diesel locomotives from three Class 1 railroads. Union Pacific, Denver & Rio Grande Western, and Santa Fe furnished a total of 14 locomotives. Kennecott used these 14 leased diesel locomotives to evaluate the use of diesels to replace electics, and to develop the needed operating proceedures. The first 11 Kennecott-owned diesel locomotives were delivered in January 1977, and 10 more in October 1978. The diesels were assigned to ore trains, and the remaining electrics were used on waste trains and miscellaneous service as needed. The final group of seven Kennecott-owned diesel locomotives were delivered in October 1980, bringing the total to 28 locomotives. The last electric locomotive at the Bingham mine was removed from service in late 1980 with the delivery of the final group of diesel locomotives.
The Bingham & Garfield remained as a steam-powered railroad until it was shut down in 1948, at which time many of the steam locomotives were scrapped. Some were retained as late as 1958 as stand-by power for the Kennecott electrified railroad.
In 1948, to replace the steam-powered Bingham and Garfield Line, Kennecott completed an entirely new, all-electric, privately owned rail line between the lowest part of the canyon at Copperton and the mills. In 1979, the locomotives on the mainline railroad were retired and replaced by new SD40-2 diesel locomotives.
Diesel locomotives were first used at the Magna and Arthur mills in 1942. The first diesels were used at the Garfield smelter in 1949 and 1950, when it was owned by Asarco. Kennecott bought the smelter in 1959, and in 1981, the three smelter locomotives were replaced by new GP39-2 diesel locomotives.
Road Number Index
(Click on a road number in the summary below to move to more detailed information.)
|80-ton Diesel Elec.||1||1949-1983||1|
|60-ton Oil-Elec. (Box Cab)||1||1926-1927||600|
|GP30||12||1973-1978||701-726 (not consecutively numbered, leased)|
|U25B||2||1973-1978||729, 731 (leased)|
|GP39-2||7||1980-2005||705-711 (high cabs)|
|RS-2||5||1978-1982||722, 729, 731, 737, 742 (ex-Nevada locomotives, and ex-902)|
|100-ton Elec.||1||1948-1982||765 (ex-600)|
|80-ton Elec.||2||1966-1974||774, 775 (ex-1000, 1001 dumper locomotives)|
|70-ton Diesel Elec.||3||1966-1982||775-777 (ex-Nevada locomotives)|
|125-ton Elec.||1||1971-1983||778 (ex-Chino locomotive)|
|GP39-2||11||1977-1983||779-789 (high cabs)|
|GP39-2||10||1978-2005||790-799 (high cabs)|
|128-ton Diesel Elec.||1||1943-1972||900|
|GP39-2||2||1983-2008||910, 911 (high cabs, ex-784, 786)|
|SW1500||3||1987-1998||912-914 (ex-714, 716, 717)|
Kennecott tested a General Electric 144-ton center cab in Bingham Mine service during November 1977. The test was a failure, with the GE taking 28 minutes to move the same train that the 700-class high cab GP39-2s took only 8 minutes to move.
Retirement dates given are taken direct from Kennecott records. Kennecott shows this information as "PDA", for Property Disposal Authority.
Roster compiled from information furnished by Kennecott. Additional information furnished by Ryan Ballard, Ken Ardinger, Allen Copeland, and Blair Kooistra.
Other Kennecott Divisions
Kennecott also owned the Ray Mines Division at Ray, Arizona, the Chino Mines Division at Santa Rita and Hurley, New Mexico, and the Nevada Mines Division at Ely and McGill, Nevada.
Kennecott and Helm at UtahRails
(First published in the UtahRails.net blog on January 1, 2012)
For several years, based on information from a trusted source, the early versions of this roster showed that most of the diesel locomotives used at Kennecott's Bingham Canyon, and the railroad to the mills, were owned by Helm Financial, of San Francisco, and leased to Kennecott. New research in the filings of the Interstate Commerce Commission, and its Surface Transportation Board successor, found new information.
Railroad equipment used on the nation's rail network is subject to numerous regulations, including a recommendation that agreements concerning equipment financing be documented and records submitted to the ICC (and after 1996, to the STB). These records are akin to filing a document at the office of your local county recorder. These are called "recordations," and are part of the public record for the nation's railroads.
In January 2005, Joe Ferguson wrote describing the ICC and STB records: "recordations are not a requirement, but are highly recommended in any transaction involving the sale of a locomotive or rail car from one party to another where the buyer does not intend to dismantle the railcar or locomotive. Unlike automobiles, there are no titles to locomotives. Recordations are the only way to keep an accurate record in the event that there is a claim of ownership by one party vs. another. Most recordations are turned in by financial institutions (banks, leasing companies, etc.) because they understand this is the only way to protect themselves in a world where possession is 9/10th of the law." (Research shows that the ICC and STB recordations are not even close to being a complete record of locomotive ownership.)
A big thank you goes to Joseph Yarbrough for helping me get started with researching these very interesting records. Among the recordations, I found lots of references to Helm Financial, and its heavy involvement with financing and leases of railroad equipment. But I found nothing about Helm Financial having any business with Kennecott Copper. There are, however, several filings for Kennecott, showing security agreements with First Security Bank of Utah. An internet search to define some of the terms used in the security agreements helped me to understand that the agreements were essentially loans to purchase the locomotives, using the locomotives themselves as collateral. While the loan was being paid, the bank leased the locomotives to Kennecott. At the end of the lien/lease period, Kennecott took full ownership of the locomotives.
The fact that Kennecott owned the locomotives at the end of the lien/lease helps explain how in the late 1990s, as Kennecott found that it no longer needed them, the locomotives started to be scattered to a wide variety of new owners. The variety showed that someone was acting as a broker agent for Kennecott, since the copper company is not in the used locomotive business. That someone was most assuredly Helm Financial, which has plenty of experience with buying, selling, and financing leased railroad equipment. Several locomotives were sold directly to Helm, which in turn leased them to several railroads. Others were sold directly to new companies. At least one Kennecott locomotive stayed in the Rio Tinto organization, and was moved to the company's borax mine in California. All of the high-cab former mine locomotives had to have their high cabs changed to standard cabs. This conversion work was done at several locations, by companies that specialize in custom work on railroad equipment.
Two weeks during December 2011 were spent researching the ICC and STB recordations, combining the new information with existing research notes, to make for a much better story of the last years of railroad equipment at Bingham Canyon.
Total of 31 locomotives; 28 unique high-cab locomotives and three standard-cab locomotives.
Kennecott 705-711 (7 units) delivered in 1980
Kennecott 779-789 (11 units) delivered in 1977
Kennecott 790-799 (10 units) delivered in 1978
Kennecott 905 (1 unit) delivered in 1976 (standard cab)
Kennecott SM-1 and SM-2 (2 units) delivered in 1981 (standard cab; later Kennecott 101 and 102)
In 1983, with the conversion of all waste removal from rail haulage to truck haulage, more than a third of the locomotives became surplus. In the original 11-unit group (KCC 779-789) delivered in 1977, two were re-assigned to Ore Haulage; Kennecott 784 became 910 and Kennecott 786 became 911.
The other nine in the 779-789 group left Bingham in 1983 and were leased by Kennecott to the Missouri Kansas Texas Railroad, which had their unique high cabs lowered to the more standard design. Some are still in service today as Union Pacific locomotives.
The remaining 19 high-cab locomotives were in service until the late 1990s as Rio Tinto's entire Kennecott Utah Copper operation at the Bingham mine, and the Magna mill and Garfield smelter went through numerous declines and changes.
In late 1999, Dry Fork shops were closed and the rail equipment storage line removed. The need for railroad equipment dropped considerably in 1999-2000 when the last reload site was relocated from the open pit mine, out to the former site of Dry Fork shops. The last ore train from inside the mine operated on March 29, 2000.
The Dry Fork reload site was closed in 2001 and the last ore train from Bingham to Magna was operated on May 30, 2001.
In 2002, three high-cab units were retained by Kennecott for its operations moving rail cars between the Magna mill, the Garfield refinery and smelter, and the Union Pacific interchange.
In 2002, there were 11 GP39-2s (10 high cabs and one low cab), along with two MP15ACs.
- McKenzie, William H., "Railroad In A Copper Mine" Trains, March 1974, page 36.
- Article about Dieselization of Copperton Low Grade line in CTC Board, January 1979, page 8.
- Kooistra, Blair. "The trains that moved a mountain" Trains, March 1989, page 40.
- Strack, Don. "Kennecott Copper Corporation" CTC Board, Issue 124, October 31, 1973 (This was the first version of Don Strack's roster of Kennecott locomotives.)