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Historic artifacts at UTA work site discover by construction crews

(The site of the abandoned Denver and Rio Grande Western Locomotive Shop, where the discovery was made. Credit: UTA)

SALT LAKE CITY – Historic artifacts were unexpectedly found at a UTA construction site in downtown Salt Lake City. Some Historians say the artifacts date back all the way to the 1800s. 

The discovery of the artifacts was at the site of the old Denver and Rio Grande Western Locomotive shop. It’s a place where trains were serviced and repaired between the mid-1880s and the 1950s. 

Crews demolished the abandoned building to make way for UTA’s new Depot District Clean Fuels Technology Center, which will be the new home of the Salt Lake City bus division.  Spokesman Carl Arky says UTA and Big D Construction workers are trained to be mindful of unusual finds during their digs.

Arky said, “If they put that shovel into the ground, they can almost sense or tell, maybe even beforehand, there might be something there.”

Over the weekend, crews were digging a storm drain and bumped into something.

(Photo Credit: UTA)

“There were fully intact bottles and ceramic pottery, including a soap dish,” Arky said.  Some of those bottles were still corked with the original beverages inside.”

Historians call this find a “midden,” or, essentially, a trash pile.  However, Utah Historical Preservation Officer Chris Merritt says they can glean a lot of information while digging through historic garbage. 

He said, “These materials, while they don’t look like much, can really be that clear window into the past.”

From Merritt’s perspective, this kind of discovery in a railroad yard is highly unusual.  He said he can’t think of any other find in the U.S. that would be able to paint a picture of what passengers experienced while traveling to Utah.

(Photo credit: UTA)

“The location of this material, in particular, makes me feel like this came out from the inside of a passenger car,” he said.

The historic artifacts found at the UTA site have been handed over to the Utah Division of State History.