Wyoming the Railroad and What If

The transcontinental railroad was a brainchild of Eastern businessmen and politicians in the 1830s. It took a while, about two decades before any real planning took place and another decade before work was started. It took President Lincoln to finally push through legislation to build it. The Central Pacific started building in 1863 and the Union Pacific in 1865. Promontory Summit was reached and the railroads joined in 1869.


Wyoming was a big part and a big challenge for the railroad. The original route was to follow the Oregon Trail, but the Pony Express proved there was a better route through southern Wyoming to South Pass, the only feasible way to cross the mountains. This route saved a couple of hundred miles and was no harder to build.  Although original plans called for a route that was nearly the same as the finished railroad, there was a controversy about the route. Texas wanted a southern route, using better weather as their public reason. Privately they wanted the railroad for the huge economic benefit they knew it would bring. When the Civil War started, Texas was out and the tracks through Wyoming were not far away.
Trains are a bit faster today
Not everyone was happy with this, Denver had lobbied for the railroad, but no route including Denver was ever considered. But the early people of Denver, knowing that they could connect to the railroad and reap most of the benefits of its northern neighbors. Thus was born the Denver Pacific, a bit over 100 miles of track connecting Denver to Cheyenne completed one year after the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad.

It was another 20 years before Wyoming became a state in 1890.  Most of the early population lived along the railroad, it brought jobs and with jobs came the people. It is always interesting to speculate as to what could have happened, what if.  How long would it have taken for Wyoming to become a state without the railroad? As the least populated state today, would it be even smaller if it would have taken another 20 or 30 years to have adequate rail service? Would the cattle drive era been a time when cowboys drove cattle south from Wyoming to the railroad in Texas?



I may have had too much time to think about offbeat subjects today. Hey, what if . . . . . .
Post a Comment