Tag: Buried

Buried trash at UTA construction site uncovers glimpse of 19th century rail travel

Buried trash at UTA construction site uncovers glimpse of 19th century rail travel

(Photo courtesy of Utah Transit Authority) Examples of artifacts found in a buried trash pile at the construction site of a new UTA facility offer a glimpse into what 19th century railroads used.

Finding a pile of trash on your property may not seem like reason for excitement. But discovery of one buried at the downtown Salt Lake City site of a new Utah Transit Authority bus maintenance facility is delighting archeologists.

Crews installing a storm drain unearthed a “midden” — a fancy word for trash pile — full of artifacts from trains used as long ago as the 19th century, when the site was a maintenance shop for the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad between the mid-1880s to the late 1950s.
“I have a sneaking suspicion these are the contents of a passenger car,” said Christopher Merritt, historic preservation officer for the Utah Division of State History. They include fully intact bottles and ceramic pottery, plus plates and even a soap dish.

“Sort of like a movie theater, once the movie was over, the crew went in and cleaned out all the trash and these items were deposited. That’s really unique,” he said. “I can’t think of any other similar discovery in the United States of what a passenger experience would have been like on the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad in the 19th century.”

(Photo courtesy of Utah Transit Authority) Examples of artifacts found in a buried trash pile at the construction site of a new UTA facility that offer a glimpse into what 19th century railroads used.

UTA said in a news release that when Big D Construction crews made the find during work on its new Depot District Fuels Technology Center, they notified the state. Archeologists and crews have been mapping the area where the artifacts were deposited, nestled against a long concrete foundation with embedded rails.

“Several of the bottles were still corked and had contents in them, what looks like whiskey or other hard liquor in the bottles, which is kind of a cool time capsule in itself,” Merritt said.

He adds that it’s impossible to say whether the artifacts will be the only ones found on the construction.

(Photo courtesy of Utah Transit Authority) Historical photo of Denver & Rio Grande Western maintenance shop that once stood where a new UTA bus facility is being built.

“In this area we’re just learning about this really cool railroad history. What was it like to ride in a passenger train dining car in the 19th century? What were they drinking and eating? This kind of discovery is our only window into the past,” Merritt said.

He praised the construction crews who made the discovery.

“The operators on the ground are experienced. They’re highly skilled. They know what doesn’t feel right when they’re digging with a back hoe,”

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