Soldier Summit, Utah


Soldier Summit, Utah

Infobox Mountain Pass
Name = Soldier Summit
Photo = Soldiersummit2.jpeg
Caption = One of several rows of foundations left at Soldier Summit
Elevation = 7477 ft (2279 m)
Location= Utah, USA
Range = Wasatch Mountains
Coordinates = coord|39.9296|N|111.0700|W|type:pass
Topographic

Traversed by = U.S. Route 6
Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad

Soldier Summit is the name of both a mountain pass in the Wasatch Mountains in Utah and a ghost town located at the summit. Soldier Summit has always been an important transportation route between the Wasatch Front and Price, Utah since the area was settled by the Mormon pioneers. It is on the route of both U.S. Route 6 and the old main line of the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad, now owned and operated by the Union Pacific Railroad. Located where the road makes a brief bend through the extreme southwest corner of Wasatch County, Soldier Summit historically had more to do with nearby Utah County.

At one time both the state highway department and the railroad had operations at the summit, but with the exception of a gas station that is sometimes open, the town site is now abandoned. Today it is a popular rest stop and photo spot for railfans. Many railfans also take pictures of the Gilluly loops, a series of switchbacks on the western approach to the summit. The California Zephyr passenger train uses this route.

History

Francisco Atanasio Domínguez and Silvestre Vélez de Escalante are credited with discovering the pass, but it was certainly used by Native Americans before them. The summit takes its name from a group of soldiers who were caught in an unexpected snowstorm here in July 1861. These soldiers were Southerners under General Philip St. George Cooke, on their way from Camp Floyd to join the Confederate Army. A few of them died in the storm and were buried on the summit.

In 1919, a real estate promoter named H.C. Mears surveyed a townsite at Soldier Summit and began to sell building lots. The town was incorporated in 1921, with a population of over 1,000. There were stores, hotels, saloons, restaurants, two churches, and a school. [cite book | last = Thompson | first = George A. | title = Some Dreams Die: Utah's Ghost Towns and Lost Treasures | year = 1982 | month = November | publisher = Dream Garden Press | location = Salt Lake City, Utah | isbn = 0-942688-01-5 | pages = p.176 ] Growth was driven by the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad moving some of its machine shops, used for servicing helper engines, to this location from Helper. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints organized a branch in the new town on June 21 1921 with Parley Bills as branch president. The number of Mormons in the town was large enough in June 1927 to organize a ward with Walter S. Groesbeck as bishop. The population of Soldier Summit peaked at 2,500 in the 1920s, but began to decline as the railroad decided to move its operations back to Helper due to the severe winters and high cost of doing business at the summit. The introduction of diesel locomotives, which eliminated the need for helper engines, further hurt the town's fortunes. The railroad moved many employees' homes to Helper, leaving only the foundations. By January 1930 the ward was reduced to a branch. [cite book | last = Jenson | first = Andrew | title = Encyclopedic History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints | year = 1941 | publisher = Deseret Book | location = Salt Lake City | pages = pp.807–808 ]

Over the next few decades the town dwindled away. In 1948 there were 47 students at the Soldier Summit school. The next year enrollment dropped to 11, but the school stayed open. It wasn't until 1973 that the school was closed and the last few students sent to schools in Carbon County. [cite book | last = Embry | first = Jessie L. | title = A History of Wasatch County | series = Utah Centennial County History Series | year = 1996 | publisher = Utah State Historical Society | location = Salt Lake City | pages = pp.260–261 | isbn = 0-913738-08-5 ]

By 1979 there were only about a dozen adult residents left, but Soldier Summit still had four part-time police officers enforcing a community speed limit on the stretch of highway passing through town. When motorists complained of a speed trap, the state Attorney General and the Utah Chief of Police Association investigated. They determined that the only reason for having a police department in Soldier Summit at all was to generate revenue for municipal services through traffic tickets. The police department was disbanded. [Embry, pp.306–307.]

The town was finally disincorporated in 1984. Other than the gas station and two or three occupied houses, Soldier Summit is uninhabited. An old two-room jail, a few deserted houses, and acres and acres of foundations and crumbling walls are all that remains of the former town. [cite book | last = Carr | first = Stephen L. | title = The Historical Guide to Utah Ghost Towns | edition = 3rd edition | origyear = 1972 | origmonth = June | year = 1986 | publisher = Western Epics | location = Salt Lake City | pages = p.71 | isbn = 0-914740-30-X ]

Railroad

Helper, Utah derives its name from Soldier Summit. During the steam locomotive era the railroad stored helper engines at Helper. They placed the helpers on freight trains to climb the grades to the summit. Once the train had cleared the mountains the helpers would be removed and placed on a train traveling back towards the summit. Soldier Summit is the fifth-highest summit or pass on a U.S. transcontinental railroad main line after Tennessee Pass, Moffat Tunnel, Sherman Hill Summit and Raton Pass.

References

External links

* [http://ghostdepot.com/rg/mainline/utah/soldier.htm Ghost Depot]
* [http://www.ghosttowns.com/states/ut/soldiersummit.html Ghost Towns]
* [http://www.railpictures.net/showphotos.php?city=Gilluly&country=Utah,%20USA Railroad pictures of Gilluly Loops]
* [http://www.railpictures.net/showphotos.php?city=Soldier%20Summit&country=Utah,%20USA Railroad pictures of Soldier Summit]
* [http://www.utahnevada.com/driving-Hwy6-utah-price-helper/index.html Photos and Railfan Travel Info for Highway 6 over Soldier Summit]


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