What a sight: F-units leaving South Pass. . .
June 11: We awoke the next morning in the middle of dead-ass nowhere. Actually, we were near the settlement of South Pass City, not too far from Atlantic City, where US Steel operated a giant iron ore strip mine. Ore was mined, then concentrated into taconite pellets, loaded into ore jennies, and hauled over 70 miles south on US Steel's own railroad to a connection with the Union Pacific about 10 miles north of Rock Springs. From there, UP forwarded the ore to US Steel's Geneva Works near Provo. A train a day of ore traversed the railroad in relative obscurity since its construction in 1963, its notoriety gaining only as its motive power, EMD F7s, started to become more rare as the 70s progressed. By 1981, matched sets of F-units were quite rare indeed, especially in six unit sets, and quite amazingly so in A-B-B-B-A formation!
Matched A-B-B-B-B-A set--with diaphrams between units!
Not too long after sunrise, after we dispensed with the morning chill (South Pass is one of the nation's more obscure crossings of the Continental Divide, at nearly 7500'), the unmistakable sound of EMD's leaning hard on dynamic brakes to hold the 13,000 ton train of ore against the descending 2.2 percent grade pierced the clear air.
We spent the morning chasing the 106 car train powered by 724A/712B/724B/726B/723B/723A down to the UP connection, watched the direct hand-off with the UP train out of Green River (with matched C30-7's 2490/2491/2492/2493/2494), and headed back north with 109 empties, 3800 tons, departing Winton Junction at 1pm. We dashed ahead of the empties on their way back north; access to the railroad was made at occasional dirt roads that branched off the main highway several miles to the US Steel line.
We set up at MP58 well ahead of him, and were surprised when a 10-car work train rolled north, powered by F7A 726A. . . running backwards. That was a first for me! The sun played hide-and-seek with clouds all the way back to South Pass, where the train disappeared from view as it headed into the mine around 3:30pm. We headed back to Rock Springs for dinner, then east along the UP mainline, en route to Denver and the Rio Grande. Don't recall where we slept that evening, but we happened to photograph a couple of train on the Overland route, represented by a view of four SD40-2's near Hanna at sunset.
Postscript: US Steel shut down the Atlantic City operation in 1983, the railroad abandoned and the locomotives either scrapped or sold off.