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The Tintic Mining District near Eureka was developed in the early 1870s, just after the coming of the transcontinental railroad. The silver, lead, and gold ore was of such high value that the first mines were successful even with the high cost of wagon transportation. The first railroad that arrived in the district, the Union Pacific-controlled Salt Lake and Western Railroad, was actually headed toward California in competition with the Central Pacific. Construction stopped in 1882 at Mammoth Mills in the Tintic Valley south of Eureka. Within a year the company completed a branch into Silver City, and in 1889 a branch was completed to serve Eureka. The line immediately began transporting ores out of the district. With the availability of low-cost rail transportation, many of the marginal mines became successful operations.

By the end of 1891 the Rio Grande-controlled Tintic Range Railway had completed its line into the Tintic District from Springville and gave the Union Pacific line some needed competition. Other railroad lines built to serve the mines around Eureka were the Eureka Hill Railway, the Goshen Valley Railway, and the New East Tintic Railway. Both the Eureka Hill and the New East Tintic roads used Shay locomotives, which are a special type of gear-driven locomotive designed for use on railroads with steep grades and sharp curves. The New East Tintic later came under Union Pacific control, and its two Shay locomotives, along with a third purchased later, were the only ones of their type on the Union Pacific lines.

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