As the only tourist railroad in Utah, the Heber Valley Railroad’s mission is to preserve great train experiences and train equipment. One of the priorities of director Mark Nelson’s is to bring back the steam locomotive. “It is a massive expensive effort, bigger than anyone expected it to be. Steam is magic,” said Mark. “The logo is the steam locomotive, and it is the icon of the whole Heber Valley. It is the heart of the railroad. It will be a huge draw for filming, and people will come from all around to watch the steam locomotive come up the canyon.”
In the 1800s, the only way for the ranchers of the Heber Valley to market their hay, dairy products and other goods produced was to use the Provo Canyon toll road, which in good weather, was a 3-day journey. The railroad was established to make the journey to Provo easier for the early residents of the valley.
Affectionately known as ‘The Heber Creeper’, The Heber Valley Railroad, first entered the Heber Valley on September 21, 1899, and began regular train service between Heber and Provo in October. Taking 1 hour and 40 minutes to get to Provo, several stops were made during the trip to replenish the locomotives water supply, which was used up quickly during the 27-mile run.
When asked what his favorite part of his role with the train is, Mark responded, “all of the people” he gets to work with. “We have hired 150 teenagers to help staff The North Pole Express. It is so great to work with them and be around them, as well as all of the passengers from all around the world that come to ride the train.”
Mark has been the director of the train for nine years. In those years, Mark has seen tremendous growth. As the train has grown, and will continue to grow, things they are doing to continue to enhance the experience. One of those is a trail that will connect from the depot to Vivian Park, and from there other trail systems. Once that is in place, Mark hopes to carry bicycles and be an important part of helping people move around. Another area of growth is the addition of dining cars. Mark hopes to have these cars operational within a few years to add a dinner train experience.
In keeping customers safe, they are following every COVID-19 guideline from the county and the state. Social distancing on the cars, including assigned seating, requiring masks, and sanitizing in between each group that boards and exits the train.
The Heber Valley Railroad is owned by the state of Utah. It has survived through all of these years and all of the hard times because of the good people of the Heber Valley. Mark gave a special thank you to Midway City, Heber City & Wasatch County and the state legislature for supporting financially and other ways to get the Railroad to this point and to keep it moving forward. “This is your railroad.”
The Heber Valley Chamber of Commerce is proud to recognize the Heber Valley Railroad as the November Business of the Month.