Wednesday, July 20, 2011

BINGHAM BIRDS EYE VIEW by CREEDON

A BIRDSEYE VIEW
PAST to PRESENT
B&G Bridge in Carr Fork
By John J. Creeon
            My old home at the B&G has been torn down from the site of my home for 30 years.  I was reminded of the many changes in the Canyon and the mine in the past 50 years.
            I was fortunate to have a grandstand view of these changes as well as to be a part of many of them.  From our kitchen window at the B&G we were able to view Main Street from end to end as well as the “Hill” as the mine was known then.  What an exciting and interesting parade of events it has been.
            I watched the transition of the steam shovel and locomotive to the electric giants of the present.  The new are more efficient and less noisy, but something went with the steam locomotive.  Each engine seemed to have a personality, often matching the engineer who operated it.  These engines were thought of and cared for as if they were something that lived and breathed and some even had nicknames, as “Old Fan” Engine 102 on the B&G, cared for like a faithful dog by its colorful engineer, John Brewer.
            Or, who can forget “Sunny” Jim Anders, with his ponderous frame and hearty laugh. When I was running the tram during the depression years, Sunny Jim used to be the first passenger at 5:30 a.m.  He would come out of Cyprus Hall and on boarding the car he would yell “all aboard” and you could hear his shout as clear as the signal bell.
            I have seen the “Hill” torn away by the blasting and the power shovels, until now it is the “Pit”, the largest man-made hole in the ground on this earth.
Copper Belt train
            During the early days of operation huge searchlights were used to illuminate the workings. These lights were in Copperfield on the east side and they would flash their beams on the particular area that was being worked at the time.
            Below our house on the east side of the canyon, and just above the level of the town ran the old Copper Belt Railroad with its clanging shay engines.  These engines were gear operated and you could almost walk as fast as they traveled.  They were built for steep grades and power and not speed.  It was from that kitchen window that my mother watched one of these engines run away from Copperfield and jump the track and crash down into Main Street where the Woodring Building now stands.  The engineer and two men sleeping in one of the buildings were killed.  The cars that were part of the train tipped over at the rear of the city jail, but fortunately they turned against the hill instead of rolling down on the jail.
Bingham burning
            Below our house and at the rear of the Masonic Building was the fire bell that now stands idle at rear of the City Hall and what an eerie sound that was when there was a fire and it began ringing to call the firemen out.
            We watched all of the fires from our vantage point and I little realized that I was to be one day part of the fire department, I so admired as a boy.  We could see the men running from up and down the street and pulling the hose cart from No. 1 Station.
            From our lookout we watched the spectacular fires in the upper end of Main street.  In July 1912 there was a big fire near 570 Main with damage of $30,000 and in September 1918 the Red Light district was wiped out in a $200,000 blaze that took all the shacks and shanties that covered the hill between Carr Fork and Main Street and extended almost to the old machine shop. Later part of this area was the site of the homes built by the Utah Copper for its foremen, and called Copper Heights.  Other names given this area were Brainless Heights, Poverty Flat and a few names it is better not to mention.
            In 1924 we watched the disastrous fire at the Bourgard Butcher Shop that destroyed so much property and took the lives of two men, and for a time threatened the entire upper part of town.  You could feel the heat of that fire on our back porch.
            In 1925 and again in 1927 fires of about $100,00 damage each were on display from our vantage point in the same area, 528 Main and 560 Main.
            We watched the parades that were held so often and could hear the bands with their stirring music.  My mother and father would sit on the porch and listen to John Held and his band play on the Bingham Merc. platform.  I would have a closer view by being at the foot of that historic porch.  What a thrill it was to hear John Philip Sousa’s stirring marches played by a real band in their colorful uniforms.
            During World War 1, I watched workmen stretch a cable across the canyon near the Bingham Merc. corner and hang a huge American Flag from this cable and this flag hung there until the end of the war.
            Those were momentous and thrilling days to have a birds eye view was a privilege I am grateful for.

THE BINGHAM & GARFIELD RAILROAD
By John J. Creedon
B&G Train
            One of the thrills of living at the B&G was watching the passenger train arrive twice daily, with its cargo of express and passengers from Salt Lake City.
            Most of the perishable food came in on the baggage cars of the trains, the ice cream in the large containers packed in ice, the frozen fish in long wooden boxes also packed in ice and the big baskets of bread were daily items unloaded form the express car.  The fresh meat that was not furnished by local slaughter house would be on the baggage car too.
            The express and mail would be loaded on a large four wheeled cart and taken over to the tram and loaded in.  At the foot of the tram was the American Express office and most of the load was put in this office.  The balance, including the mail would be loaded on by the local drag wagons and delivered to its destination.
            The passenger train was operated by SP LA & SL, a branch of the Union Pacific.  The conductor was Bill Blood and I can see him now with his blue uniform with gleaming gold buttons and the gold badge of his rank on his cap.  Across his middle was a huge gold watch chain and he carried his punch in a vest pocket.  I have forgotten the engineer’s last name, but Tom would let me get on the engine when it stopped to unload, and I would ride it while it turned around on the turntable.  He would let me put my hand on the throttle sometimes and that was just about the greatest thing that could happen to a little boy.
            The trip from Salt Lake City to Bingham over the B&G was advertised extensively, with flowery language describing the exciting route and the breathtaking engineering feats that made the railroad feasible.  Thirty miles that took you from the heart of Salt Lake City, past the fun spot of Utah, Saltair.  Next was the big smelter at Garfield and the mills at Arthur and Magna.  Then along the foot of the rugged Oquirrh Mountains through deep cuts and gorges and crossing Dry Fork Gulch on a horseshoe bridge over 200 feet high.  Then into a series of four tunnels and finally emerging out of the last tunnel onto another 200 foot high bridge spanning Markham Gulch and you were in the greatest copper mining camp in the world.
            I wish every boy and girl could have taken a trip over that scenic railroad, thrilling at every curve, passing the loaded ore trains en route to the mills and listening to the deep-throated throb of the powerful locomotive and the lonesome wail of the whistle.
            I acquired my love for the railroad and the men and engines connected with it, at an early age, for my first thirty-five years in this world was spent in section houses along the right-of-way. I never tired of hearing the old “Rails” tell their stories of big wrecks and snow slides and tales of heroism by the men and women who made the trains move.
            It was a thrill to arrive at the other end of the railroad in Salt Lake City.  If you have never visited the Union Pacific Depot there, do so and you will see what I mean. 
            Today the depot is not crowded very often, as there are not as many trains running as when I was a boy, but look up at the vaulted ceiling and along the walls at the beautiful murals that depict the entire story of the winning of the West.
            There you will see the huge mural of the Golden Spike Ceremony at Promontory Point when the two great railroads, Union Pacific and Central Pacific were joined and the East and the West were united by band of steel.  Governor Leland Stanford is there, and Brigham Young and General Dodge and scores of the little men, the Irish and the Chinese who laid the rails.
            In other murals you see the covered wagons and the hardy pioneers trekking their way across the prairies.  You will see the Indian and the buffalo.  The West is all there.  Pause a few moments and try to see it through the eyes of a small boy, and you will experience a feeling of gratitude and deep respect for their deeds.

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