The Union Pacific Railroad
Part 1 (1867 - 1890) / Part 2 (1869 - 1890)
The story of the Union Pacific Railroad is also a story of Wyoming and particularly Cheyenne. One cannot be told without the telling of the other. It is no exaggeration to say that Cheyenne, Fort D.A. Russell (now F.E. Warren Air Force Base), and the Wyoming Territory were all children of the Union Pacific (UP).
In 1863, the Pacific Railroad Act was approved by Congress and signed into law by then President Abraham Lincoln, an enthusiastic supporter of railroads. Congress had finally decided on a route following the Platte River Valley and two railroad companies were chartered. The Union Pacific (UP) would lay track westward from Omaha, while the Central Pacific (CP) would lay track eastward from Sacramento and they would meet someplace in between. Nearly 1800 miles separated these two points. A contest quickly developed to see which company could lay the most track the fastest. Land grants to the Railroads were a major incentive as they were based on miles of track laid. not until late 1865, however, did workers lay the first rail in Omaha for there had been a shortage of money, materials and men due
The westward advance of the Transcontinental Railroad brought UP Chief engineer General Grenville M. Dodge and a survey party to this area in the summer of 1867 for the purpose of locating a base or "division point" for the railroad. After thoroughly investigating the area, Dodge decided to locate the point at the site of the proposed crossing of Crow Creek. The name "Cheyenne" was selected by the survey party members and was in honor of a fierce Indian tribe of the area. Dodge intended Cheyenne to be one of the most important railroad cities in North America. Massive railroad shops and facilities would be built later to maintain the railroad's equipment.
dodge himself conducted the survey of the town and many of its Avenues were named for ranking UP officials or Army officers that he knew. Some of those downtown Avenues have since been renamed. One important reason that Dodge located the UP division point at present-day Cheyenne is that this is where the gradual slope of the prairie meets the steepening grades of the Laramie Mountains )presently known as the Black Hills). The geographic feature known as "the gangplank" allowed for a reasonable crossing of the mountains at Sherman Pass, named for Civil War General Sherman
The first steam-powered locomotive reached Cheyenne November 14, 1867. By 1868 the community
When the railroad came to Cheyenne, the Army also came and established Fort D.A. Russell in order to protect the UP's workers. The threat of Indian attacks was real then as Southeastern Wyoming was the traditional hunting grounds of the Sioux and the Cheyenne, and they were outraged at the encroachment of the Iron Horse and all that came with it. As the UP construction crews reached the summit of the Laramie Mountains to build Sherman Station, the news traveled around the world. Congratulations poured in, because at over 8,000 feet above sea level, this was the highest point on the entire transcontinental railroad route.
The UP faced its greatest natural obstacle about three miles west of Sherman. Over geologic time, Dale Creek had cut an almost perpendicular
Construction took 2,580 ties, 352 rails, 5,500 spikes, 704 fishplates, and 1,408 bolts to complete one mile of track. Multiply this by 1,800 to understand the enormity of it all. Simply put, the building of the Transcontinental Railroad was America's most ambitious enterprise and greatest engineering achievement of the post Civil War 19th Century.
History was made on May 10, 1869 at Promontory Summit, Utah, when the Union Pacific's Engine 119 and the Central Pacific's Jupiter met on the tracks. UP and CP officials drove golden and silver spikes into the rails thus ceremoniously joining the East and West at last! By May 15, 1869, five days after the joining of the rails in the Utah desert, the nation's first transcontinental railroad announced the beginning of regular passenger service. In 1849 it took 166 days to go from coast to coast by wagon train. With the new transcontinental railroad, the journey took but 10.
The completion of the transcontinental railroad began a new era in American history, one of rapid settlement and the development of agriculture, mining
The Railroad would also profit from the long Texas cattle drives which brought cattle up through Colorado to be loaded on trains in Wyoming for shipment back east to slaughter houses and final distribution. Even though track would eventually find its way into the Dakotas, Kansas, and eventually Texas itself; the UP mainline would grow and prosper in Cheyenne and Wyoming.
By 1869 Cheyenne had its first permanent depot, a two-story Railroad Hotel; however, that hotel burned and was replaced in 1872 by the small depot and separate hotel you see here, only to have it burn in 1886. The small depot and hotel would not be replaced but instead UP would make good on its earlier promise to Cheyenne to build the
Begun in 1886, the new grand depot was completed in 1888 (although the clock had not been established by 1889). Described as Richardsonian Romanesque in style, the depot was designed by Henry Van Brunt, a very prominent American Architect from Boston. It has been said that the depot's location was picked so that Legislators in the State Capitol would have to look out and see each day that the Union Pacific was so important to Cheyenne and the State.
In January 1889, then UP President Charles Adams also announced that the central repair shops for the entire UP system would be located in Cheyenne. This would be very important to Cheyenne because over 3,000 people would live here and work for the Railroad. The era of Steam Trains would last through the mid 1950's; but Cheyenne remains home to the UP Steam Train Fleet to this day.
UP's story does not end here as the Railroad would be a prominent player in Wyoming's Statehood soon to follow (July 10, 1890) and the future of Cheyenne.
Erected by Cheyenne Historic Preservation Board, Cheyenne Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: Railroads & Streetcars. In addition, it is included in the Former U.S. Presidents: #17 Andrew Johnson , and the Transcontinental Railroad series lists. A significant historical date for this entry is May 10, 1869.
Location. 41° 7.943′ N, 104° 48.892′ W. Marker is in Cheyenne, Wyoming, in Laramie County. Marker is on Capitol Ave just south of Lincolnway, on the left when traveling south. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Cheyenne WY 82001, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. The first steam-powered locomotive reached Cheyenne on November 14, 1867 (here, next to this marker); The Trolleys / Cheyenne's Street Railway (within shouting distance of this marker); 1974 Downtown National Historic District (within shouting distance of this marker); Union Pacific Railroad Depot (within shouting distance of this marker); The Burlington Routes (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Historic Plains Hotel (about 400 feet away); Tom Horn (about 400 feet away); The Tivoli Building (about 400 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Cheyenne.
Credits. This page was last revised on October 9, 2016. It was originally submitted on September 15, 2011, by Bill Pfingsten of Bel Air, Maryland. This page has been viewed 1,650 times since then and 25 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on October 9, 2016, by Mike Wintermantel of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 3. submitted on September 15, 2011, by Bill Pfingsten of Bel Air, Maryland. 4. submitted on October 9, 2016, by Mike Wintermantel of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 5, 6. submitted on September 15, 2011, by Bill Pfingsten of Bel Air, Maryland.