The original plan was to explore the ATV trails at Little Moab eight miles north of Eureka. Little Moab was named after the famous and challenging trails found in Moab in southeast Utah.
When our little band of riders arrived, I realized that I had been here before. The area is not very big and I knew that it would not keep us entertained for very long. It is located just south and west of Lake Mountain which is on the west side of Utah Lake.
With that, we climbed a steep trail on the west side of Little Moab to the top of a ridge. I stopped to watch the other riders coming up the trail and to take in the view. I could see Utah Lake from there.
Leaving the ridge, we dropped down into a canyon and turned south. There is an old train tunnel that I wanted to take this group through.
The trail took us around the base of Pinion Peak on a fun track that twisted through juniper trees to the Elberta Slant Road. Turning west, we followed the road until we found a trail that doubled back to the east.
We were riding on an old rail bed — one of many that lace this area. This is the old Tintic Mining District and an intricate maze of rail line was laid to service the mines here.
The railroad played a big part in hauling ore out of the district and to the smelters. It took a lot of ore to extract enough precious metal to call wealth.
My son is a mining engineer and he tells me that if you can get three ounces of gold from a ton of ore, you can have a profitable operation. So an old steam locomotive pulling a line of ore cars was preferable to trying to haul the ore out by wagon train.
Riding these old rail beds is a lot of fun. I like to imagine what a passenger riding on one of those trains would have seen.
As we rode the rail bed, we passed through cuts in the mountain made for the passage of those trains. A steam locomotive pulling a string of ore cars can only handle a two percent grade so a lot of obstacles needed to be moved to maintain that grade.
We also saw dark spots here and there on the rail bed. I learned that they were caused by the old steam engines.
Due to the technology used to make the brick that lined the fire boxes, the bricks tended to breakdown in the heat produced to make the steam for the engine.
Because of that, extra brick was carried to replace the old brick. Here is where my imagination went wild. I could see being a passenger on one of those early trains and feeling the train coming to a stop in the middle of nowhere.
After waiting for the fire box to cool enough to remove the old brick, shovel it out onto the track, replace it with new brick, and then waiting for the fire to bring the steam back up, several hours would have passed. The dark spots that can still be seen today are the result of replacing that brick.
Continuing our ride, we followed the track around a turn in the rail bed and into the old Elberta Slant train tunnel. The length is about 100 feet, just enough to fit all 13 of our UTVs.
We stopped long enough to admire the work of those who built the tunnel. Looking up, we saw the blackened ceiling from the smoke of the many trains that passed through.
Resuming our ride, we looped back around to the Elberta Slant Road and headed to the Homansville Pass Road. This track took us through Homansville Canyon still following a rail bed. We could see Highway 6 on the other side of the canyon.
Coming out of the canyon, I gave the group the option of eating the cold sandwiches we packed for lunch or going into Eureka for a hot meal at Bee’s Hangout. The decision was a no-brainer, we went for the hot meal.
After lunch we took the Homansville pass road back to the trucks, finishing a ride of about 26 miles. When you go take plenty of water, keep the rubber side down, and enjoy a piece of history on the old rail beds of Eureka.