Park City’s Crescent Tramway

The Crescent Mining Company’s tramway in Park City, Utah, was the home of the first Shay locomotive in the Mountain West, beating the second Shay in the West by more than two years.

In September 1882 the Crescent Mining Company was created by the settlement of several lawsuits between the Pinyon, Climax, and Rebellion mining companies on Pinyon Hill in the Park City District. Within six months the mining company advertised for bids for the construction of rail tramway to move ores from the mine down to its mill in Park City.

Crescent Mining Company | Crescent Mining Shays

Work began on the new tramway in July 1884 and was completed in November. At first, the tramway used gravity to move ores from the mine to the concentrator mill in Park City, and horses to pull the empty cars and loads of supplies back to the mine. The tramway’s owner, Frank Dyer (later a U. S. Marshall) had contracted with the Crescent Mining Company to construct and operate the line. In April 1885, while the concentrator mill was shutdown for repairs and upgrades, Dyer traveled to New Orleans for the Louisiana Cotton Exhibit, a kind of trade show for all-things mechanical. Lima Locomotive Company of Lima, Ohio had an exhibit at the show that included a Shay-patent locomotive. A Shay locomotive was a type of steam locomotive that was operated with gears rather than side rods, and allowed operations over rail lines that were steep, and which used lots of curves, a description that matched the newly completed Crescent Tramway.

According to The Park Record of April 4, 1885, after seeing the Shay locomotive at the New Orleans exhibit, Dyer traveled to Lima and selected a locomotive for use on the Crescent Tramway. The new locomotive arrived in Park City on May 25, 1885 and was the first Shay to be used in the Mountain West, or in any of the western states. (The second Shay locomotive in the West, arrived on the Gilpin Tram in Colorado in August 1887.)

The new Shay for the Crescent Tramway carried Lima construction number 130, meaning it was 130th locomotive built by them, and was in fact the 99th Shay locomotive built, following Lima’s first Shay, completed in 1880.

The Crescent Mining Shay arrived in May 1885 and was delivered by Ephraim Shay, the locomotive’s designer and patent holder. However, Mr. Shay was of the opinion that the mining company’s railroad was too steep and the the curves were “too abrupt.” Throughout the following four months, Dyer’s crews worked to get the Shay to perform its duties, including rebuilding several curves and laying heavier rail. There were several derailments and the engine tipped over at least once. The tramway returned to successful operation the next season, following a winter’s long shutdown, and continued for the next five years. In April 1891 the first Shay was joined by a larger Shay Locomotive, giving the line two unique locomotives.

Operations continued until the Crescent mine was closed, and remained closed throughout 1894 and 1895, following the Silver Panic of 1893, with the Shay-powered tramway being shut as well. The mine returned to production on a limited basis in 1896, but the Shays sat idle. Any ore brought down was moved with horses powering the movement. Limited operations continued through 1898, but all during 1899 the mine and tramway were both idle. The Crescent Mining Company went into bankruptcy, and while the mine was sold and reopened, the tramway was torn up during the summer of 1900. The two Shay locomotives were loaded on flat cars and shipped to their new owner, a used equipment dealer in Palestine, Texas.

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