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Chapter #155: Crescent Junction & Brendel, Utah - December 1, 2010


U.S. Hwy 191 North, approaching Crescent Junction, Utah - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com) 

Crescent Junction, Utah

It isn't Brendel Anymore 

Traveling north on U.S. Hwy. 191, it is thirty-one miles from Moab to Crescent Junction, Utah. There the motorist can travel west or east on Interstate I-70. After passing the City of Green River, twenty miles to the west, it is over one hundred miles to the next town, which is Salina, Utah. From Crescent Junction to Salina is a distance of 127 miles. Traveling east from Crescent Junction, it is over eighty miles to the City of Grand Junction, Colorado. Traveling south on U.S. Highway 191, it is 106 miles and almost two hours of windshield time to Blanding, Utah. In any event, Crescent Junction is a remote outpost on the Interstate Highway System.
 
While researching Crescent Junction on the internet, I found that Wikipedia is the primary information source for that place. References to the Denver & Rio Grande Railway (now Union Pacific Railroad) mention the place, as well. That is where railroad history and automotive history diverge.
 
In 1882, the Denver & Rio Grande Railway (D&RGR) first laid tracks through there, on its way to nearby Green River, Utah. Later, the D&RGR added the Stop & Go at Crescent Junction - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Crescent Siding to the main line, northeast of present day Crescent Junction.  In 1930, highway builders straightened the Old Hwy. US 50 route between Green River and Thompson (now Thompson Springs). At that time, the new junction with U.S. Hwy. 450 (now U.S. Hwy. 191) received the name Crescent Junction. Valley City, which was the site of the previous junction, soon disappeared from most maps.
 
Trusting Wikipedia as an unimpeachable historical source can be problematic. The current Wikipedia listing for Crescent Junction, Utah is as follows: Crescent Junction or Brendel is a small, unincorporated town within Grand County in the eastern part of the U.S. state of Utah. The community is located at 4,900 feet (1,494 meters) above sea level. Most highway maps use the name Crescent Junction, as the name given to the junction of Interstate 70 and U.S. Route 191. Most railroad maps use the name Brendel, the name of the rail siding and junction at the same location.
 
Wikipedia's error is in use of the phrase, “at the same location”. After additional research, I discovered that Crescent Junction and Brendel are unique, non-interchangeable places. Crescent Junction is a highway junction, with an adjacent gas station and mini-mart, plus a few other buildings. Brendel is a “ghost place” just northeast of Crescent Junction. Using separate map databases, both Google Maps and MapQuest locate their Brendel markers adjacent to an old rail spur to the northeast.
 

View Crescent Junction to Brendel, Utah in a larger map
 
Although I have not yet visited there, a Google Maps Satellite View helped me to picture the general area. Directions from the Stop & Go at Crescent Junction to Brendel are as follows: Head east on Frontage Road (variously called Old Hwy. U.S. 6 & 50, Old Cisco Highway and Utah Hwy. 128). In 0.2 miles, turn left (North) on Railroad Road. There, just east of Railroad Road, south of Old Railroad Road and west of the rail spur once stood the place called Brendel. Like the former town of Valley City, five miles to the south, there are few clues to help us understand what Brendel was or why it carried that name. With only 0.4 miles separating the two places, it is easy to see why writers for Wikipedia blended Brendel and Crescent Junction together.
The Book Cliffs, near Crescent Junction and Brendel, Utah - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com) 
Other than its adjacency to a rail spur, I found no historical reference to human activity at Brendel. Even so, its status as a “named place” in the U.S. Census database indicates that at one time it hosted human activity. In 1917, Floy Station, to the west of Brendel served nearby Manganese mines. Today it is as vacant and empty as Brendel.
 
Well into the twentieth century, cattle exports were the economic lifeblood of Grand County, Utah. Conventional wisdom and published history indicate that Thompson was the only cattle loading station in the area. In the early days, communities along its tracks knew the D&RGR for its fast freight and customized service. Did early ranchers from Moab herd their cattle all the way to Thompson or the shorter distance to Brendel, for loading at the rail spur?  Did fruit growers in the Spanish Valley take wagonloads of apples, pears and peaches to Brendel, as well?
 
Whatever happened there, we know that Brendel and Crescent Junction are unique and different places. How long it will take for Wikipedia and its contributors to differentiate between the two? After all, Brendel is not “a small, unincorporated town within Grand County in the eastern part of Utah”, nor is it Crescent Junction.
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By James McGillis at 12:04 PM | Travel | Comments (0) | Link

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