The Collinston Summit segment is significant in the early history of Utah railroads for at least two reasons. Selection of this route placed the chief engineer, James H. Martineau, and the UNR’s officers, which included John W. Young, at odds with one another. Martineau believed that a grade over Collinston Summit would be too steep, vulnerable to heavy snow fall, and more costly to build than his preferred alignment through the Bear River Pass. Nevertheless, the UNR’s officers insisted on the route.
Once constructed, Martineau’s concerns were realized. Helper engines often were needed to move cars over the summit, and snow accumulations sometimes prohibited passage. It is doubtful that the Collinston Summit grade alone made the difference between success and failure for the UNR, which was sold under foreclosure in 1878, but it almost certainly was a factor.
The Collinston Summit segment also highlights the hard work and sacrifice provided by volunteer labor. Using only hand tools and animal-drawn scrapers, local LDS Church members built the railroad feature from Hampton Ford to Mendon sometime between June and December of 1872. This was no small feat as the 10-mile segment required numerous cuts and fills, many of which were substantial.
The fill in Sleepy Hollow, for instance, exceeds 20,000 cubic yards. Construction of this segment in such a short time by an experienced crew of full-time railroad laborers would have been impressive; completion by volunteers who were also farming full-time was extraordinary.