In January 1869, the Union Pacific Railroad reached the tiny town of Echo in Utah in their efforts to build the nation’s first transcontinental railroad. Immigrants and travelers could now ride the rails and reach Utah in days instead of spending weeks crossing the plains. Warehouses sprang up and quickly filled with incoming deliveries of dry goods, general merchandise, hardware and other supplies for Summit County. Wagons brought silver discovered in Park City and coal from Coalville for outbound shipment by rail. Echo quickly became the supply depot for Summit County, and the first railroad spur line from Echo arrived in Park City in 1880.
For the next eighty years, the town of Echo served as an important stop on the transcontinental railroad, refueling steam locomotives with both water and coal. The huge coal chute towered over the homes, warehouses and shops. Given the steep grade to Evanston, Wyoming, the town also accommodated a round house stocked with helper engines that attached to the rear of the trains to “help” push them up the canyon. The Union Pacific became the life blood of the town with most of the locals working for “Uncle Pete”.
In 1941, the Union Pacific introduced the “Big Boy” steam locomotive on the transcontinental route. Considered the largest steam locomotive ever built and weighing about 1,200,000 pounds, the locomotives were hinged (articulated) because of their great length. The “Big Boy” class was designed for transporting heavy freight trains, without assistance from helper locomotives, between Ogden, Utah and Wyoming. Of the twenty five “Big Boys” manufactured, only eight remain. On Wednesday May 8 at 9:25am, the recently restored “Big Boy” No. 4014 steam locomotive will stop in Echo to celebrate the 150th anniversary of historic railroad construction that joined the east and west coasts.
Andrew J. Russell joined the Union Pacific Railroad in 1868 to document the two years of construction from Laramie, Wyoming to Utah. He had perfected the new art of photography during the Civil War. During this time period, Russell took nearly 1,000 photographs of tracklayers, laborers, teamsters, Irish, Chinese and Union Pacific officials. He ventured beyond the route of the railroad into Parley’s Park making some of the earliest images of Summit County and Snyderville.
On May 1, Utah State University Photograph Curator Daniel Davis presents “My Mule Enjoyed the Joke: A.J. Russell’s Western Adventures, 1868-1869”. Davis will explore Russell’s background and personality and how that influenced his photography. He is the author of the book “Across the Continent: the Union Pacific Photographs of Andrew J. Russell”, co-published by University of Utah Press and Utah State Historical Society in 2018. Join us for this presentation on Wednesday May 1, 5pm at the Park City Museum’s Education & Collection Center located at 2079 Sidewinder Drive.
For more information about the Union Pacific and railroads in Park City, stop by the Park City Museum, 528 Main Street.