The story of how the dinosaur bones were transported from the quarry to the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh, PA is almost as epic as the excavations themselves. The bones were boxed up in wooden crates and taken down the mountain using two or three teams of mules and horses. From there they were ferried over the Green River and taken over rough and hazardous roads for 60 miles via mule cart to Dragon, UT.
In the early days of excavation Dragon was the terminus of the Uintah Railway. This narrow gage line was created to transport a mineral called gilsonite over the bookcliffs from the Uinta Basin to Mack, CO. The grades on this line were so steep that special locomotives were invited to move cargo over the treacherous terrain. In Dragon, the bones would be transferred to boxcars and transported another 60 miles over Baxter Pass. From there the bones were loaded on the Denver and Rio Grande standard gage cars and shipped to Pittsburgh.
The fossils were carefully prepared by Earl Douglass to make sure they weren’t damaged during the transport process. Never the less, the bones proved to be so heavy the wagons actually had to be lowered into a trench and the bones loaded directly onto them because they were too heavy to pick up. Even with this precaution, one of the specimens broke through the bottom of one of the wagons and another nearly tipped over.
Earl personally supervised the loading and unloading of the fossils on the railway. He took extra care to make sure that they all reached the Carnegie Museum safely and returned to Pennsylvania later that year to supervise the construction of the Apatosaurus skeleton that was transported on the first trip out of the basin. The Uintah Railway would continue to serve faithfully transporting fossils until the Carnegie ceased its quarrying operations in 1923.
Last updated: September 5, 2018