Heber Creeper endures through the ages

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    By JONATHAN BURTON

    People plugged their ears as engine 618 fired out steam and slowly began rolling down the tracks.

    The engine, built in 1907, has been taking passengers up and down Provo Canyon for years.

    The Heber Valley Railroad, formerly nicknamed the “Heber Creeper” has attracted tourists from all over the world to come visit it’s unique steam-driven train.

    “There’s nowhere else in the state where you can ride a steam engine,” said Steve Weber, the retail sales manager.

    Emily Call and Joey Bentzley, U of U students, made the drive from Salt Lake to ride the train.

    “It was gorgeous. We wanted to get out for the weekend,” Call said.

    Bentzley said it was relaxing.

    “The instructor said it would go about as fast as a bicycle. He was right.”

    Tradition and history are a big part of the Heber Valley Railroad.

    The Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad, as early as 1935, not only used the track to transport people, but mainly for moving livestock, according to John Rimmasch, the fireman at Heber Valley Railroad.

    “In it’s day, it was the largest sheep railway line in the U.S.,” Rimmasch said.

    Craig Drury has been the engineer at Heber Valley Railroad for 28 years running.

    “It’s been a lifetime pursuit–something I’ve always liked. The greatest reward is being a part of the equipment and relating to the machine. You have to live this, the whole experience.”

    Drury does live the railroad experience, driving the train down Provo Canyon from Heber City to Vivian Park several times each day.

    The round-trip journey takes about three and a half hours and will take passengers through some beautiful scenery, according to Rimmasch.

    “You can see every type of Utah scenery: sagebrush, aspen, pinetrees, rivers, and cliffs. In my opinion, this is the epitome of Utah scenery,” Rimmasch said.

    According to Weber, some BYU groups have found different ways to enjoy the scenic ride.

    “One of the most fun things we’ve done is BYU dances on the train,” Weber said.

    Students brought their music and danced on the open-air cars as the train made it’s way down the canyon, he said.

    Whether it’s dancing or sight-seeing, everyone seems to enjoy the history that comes with the Heber Valley Railroad.

    “It brings to life many things that are gone–skills that are no longer in the marketplace,” Drury said.

    The Heber Valley Railroad, according to Rimmasch, brings back a piece of history that has been lost, riding trains.

    For more information, call the Heber Valley Railroad at (435) 654-5601.

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