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Locals, out-of-staters take Heber Valley Railroad for slow-paced sightseeing, nostalgia

Heber Valley Railroad creeper deer creek
Ben Lasseter
/
KPCW
Riders on the Heber Valley Railroad look out over Deer Creek Reservoir.

A train track that first carried passengers and freight to and from Heber City in 1899 now offers daily rides through the scenic valley to locals and tourists alike.

Some locals know the Heber Valley Railroad better by the name “Heber Creeper.” A typical weekend afternoon can bring out a couple hundred passengers seeking a gentle cruise through Wasatch County’s beloved pastures, the Provo River and the Deer Creek Reservoir.

Accompanying the scenery, western-themed entertainers like a train robber and a guitar-and-fiddle duet playing old-timey train favorites brought extra life to the ride.

heber valley railroad musicians
Ben Lasseter
/
KPCW
Musicians entertain passengers with favorites like "Folsom Prison Blues," emphasizing references to trains in the songs.

On Saturday, Korie Brown traveled to Heber from Evanston, Wyoming with her sister, aunt and grandmother just for the Deer Creek Express ride.

“I would probably drag my friends out here just to see it,” she said. “It’s a slow ride, but it’s actually pretty nice to see the different views and different places that were built a long time ago, I guess. I never actually got to see the reservoir this close before.”

Passengers in the breezy cabins on Saturday saw grazing horses, kitesurfers on the lake and wildlife like osprey and a bald eagle.

At the halfway point about 7 miles in, the train stopped for the “run around,” where the engine detached from the front, drove on an adjacent set of tracks around the cabins and attached to what was the caboose. For the rest of the ride, passengers rode and took in the same sights as before, but backwards.

Near the end of the ride, the tracks crossed roads between Heber and Charleston. Drivers who had to wait didn’t seem to mind. They honked and waved.

Ray and Ronda Hult first rode the train when they moved to the Heber Valley in 1988 and have lived there ever since. They said it must have been their fourth or fifth trip on it together.

“I think the nostalgia of the old train car and the engine and everything is special,” Ray Hult said. “It’s a roll-back to previous times.”

The experience reminds Ronda Hult of the fondness she and her family developed for the area during their decades spent there.

“We love the Heber Valley,” she said. “The people here are just so wonderful, and then there’s so many things to do. It’s just been a wonderful place to raise our family and have our kids grow up.”

heber valley railroad
Ben Lasseter
/
KPCW
A man looks out the cabin window at Heber Valley pastures and mountains.

The Deer Creek Express is one of several options for Wasatch Back train travel. Another daily one is the Lakeside Limited, which runs closer to Mount Timpanogos. Monday night trains and holiday-themed rides are also popular.

For more on the train’s history, and to book tickets, visit hebervalleyrr.org.

Ben Lasseter reports for KPCW in Wasatch County. Before moving to Heber City, Ben worked in Manti as a general assignment newspaper reporter and editor.