Wyoming railroads date back to the Union Pacific when the railroad
reached the state’s eastern fringes in 1862 en route to its eventual
meeting with the Central Pacific Railroad
in May of 1869 at Promontory Point, Utah to complete the famed
Transcontinental Railroad. Interestingly, the state of Wyoming became
an important state to Union Pacific as Cheyenne was a major hub where
its two eastern main lines converged (and still do). Additionally, its
main line to the Pacific Northwest (Idaho, Oregon, and Washington), much
of which was controlled by its former subsidiary the Oregon Short Line,
diverged from its main route to Los Angeles in western Wyoming. While
the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy and Chicago & North Western
would also have a presence in Wyoming the Equality State was almost
entirely, and always has been the realm of Union Pacific.
While Union Pacific still mostly dominates Wyoming's rail network, the
West's other major Class I, BNSF Railway also retains a presence in the
state operating former CB&Q/C&S lines. Of course, both
companies control the lucrative PRB coal, which now is a four-track main
line shared by the two western
giants. Interestingly, with Canadian Pacific now owning the Dakota,
Minnesota & Eastern it will be curious to see if it will attempt to
complete the regional's extension into the Powder River Basin and
compete for the lucrative coal. CP has shown no such interest in doing
so to date but who knows what the future may bring.
Aside from these Class Is serving Wyoming today, there are also a few shortlines operating in the state including the Bighorn Divide & Wyoming Railroad and the Colorado & Wyoming Railway. Today's Wyoming railroads operate over 1,850 route miles, which interestingly has not significantly changed over the years due to the surging demand for the clean-burning PRB coal. During the late 1990s the state actually saw its peak mileage at over 2,050 miles and still retains much of this infrastructure. For more information on Wyoming railroads, in terms of route mileage over the years please refer to the chart below.
Historically, Wyoming lay right in the heart of Union Pacific's classic streamliner fleet, the City trains such as the Portland, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. With Amtrak not retaining even one of UP's revered City
trains the national carrier currently provides no service to the state
of Wyoming. However, to learn more about these classic UP streamliners
please click here. If
you’re interested in railroad museums and tourist railroads, while
Wyoming railroads do not feature much there are a few things to see.
First is the Douglas Railroad Interpretive Center, maintained by the
Douglas Area Chamber of Commerce in Douglas, Wyoming.
The chamber includes a small collection of equipment, such as a
Burlington 4-8-4 steam locomotive, which is housed at the restored
Fremont, Elkhorn & Missouri Valley Railroad depot.
There is also
the Cheyenne Depot Museum (also known as the Wyoming Transportation
Museum) housed in the beautiful Union Pacific railroad depot in
Cheyenne. Also, for great reading about a few now-abandoned Wyoming rail lines please click here.
In all whether you enjoy Mother Nature’s beauty, main line
railroading, or large steam locomotives that put on quite a show,
Wyoming railroads offer it all. And remember, if you tire
of the railroading just head up to Yosemite National Park to see some
of the most spectacular natural wonders in the country. It alone is
well worth the drive to see, railroads or no railroads!
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