Wyoming And The Railroad

The month of May is important for railroad historians in Wyoming. Tomorrow, marks the anniversary, May 9, 1868,  of the tracks for the Union Pacific reaching Laramie. One year, and one day, later, May 10, 1869, the Golden Spike was driven at Promontory Point Utah as the transcontinental railroad is completed.

Wyoming Train - Circa 1890s

How Important Was The Transcontinental Railroad?

It replaced the long slow and expensive travel by wagon train. It also did away with the pony express, many stage coach lines, and long distance freighters who moved goods east and west. The railroad also eliminated most of the dangers of going west. The old trip, by wagon, would have taken six months by train one week.

Looks Like This Old Wagon Tired Out

Was it Really Transcontinental?

It could be, depends on how one looks at it,  but the tracks in the east were already quite extensive all the way through Iowa. The building of the new rails started at Omaha and ended on the west coast.  Nearly 1800 miles of tracks were laid between 1863 and 1869 by three different builders. Although the railroad is often attributed to President Lincoln, who was in office when it was started. It’s building went on through the administration of President Andrew Johnson and finished with U. S. Grant in office.

Railroads Are Still Going Stong In Wyoming Today

But Wasn’t it Expensive to Travel This Way?

No. As a matter of fact, the cost to travel west by wagon would have run from several hundred to more than a thousand dollars. By the new rail system, the cost, third class, sleeping car, was around $150, and if one started in Omaha, the cost to go to the Pacific Coast was $65.00.

For many years, I asked students, for a project, to pick two events they wish they could have been part of in the old west. After they had finished, I gave them my own list of three. I would have gone to the first rendezvous, rode in a wagon train west and taken a trip on the 1869 Transcontinental Railroad. Fun times and great adventure. 

Here I Am Hanging Out At A Rendezvous - Looks To Me Like I Fit Right In

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