Sacred Sites the Union Pacific: Wyoming

On my journey from California to Colorado, I had a few historic sights I wanted to sketch along Highway 80 in Wyoming. This is Union Pacific territory, and the route over the Wasatch Mountains from Ogden Utah to Green River is legendary.

The Evanston Roundhouse and the Ames Monument are relics from a different time. The roundhouse was of a time when steam was the prime motive power of the Union Pacific and the monument the Ames brothers at Sherman Summit is no longer near the mainline (the line is now three miles to the south).

The Evanston Roundhouse is notable because it is the last completely intact roundhouse left on the Union Pacific line from Sacramento to Omaha. It had 28 stalls and is 80 feet high.

The roundhouse at Evanston on the left and the powerhouse on the right. The rusted, overgrown tracks in the foreground tells us that this complex has not been used by Union Pacific for a long time. I had to walk a ways back to photograph the whole massive roundhouse.

The roundhouse and yard was build by UP from 1912 to 1914. The roundhouse was part of a 27 acre complex to service steam locomotives. When steam locomotives became more efficient, they did not need to make so many service stops and the yard at Evanston was often bypassed. The Union Pacific deeded the property to the City of Evanston. The roundhouse is now used as a conference center and a meeting place.

Standing before the red brick semicircular roundhouse reminded me of a Plaza de Toros in Spain. Looking at just one part of the structure gives no indication of it’s form. I sketched one side of the roundhouse with the roofline slowing curving around (featured sketch). To see the entirety of the roundhouse, one has to walk back from the roundhouse by at least 100 yards to take it all in.

An intermodal freight passing through Evanston. The two locomotives on point represent the Transcontinental Railroad. The Union Pacific is pointed east towards Cheyenne and behind # 8990 is a former Southern Pacific locomotive (representing the Central Pacific) facing west toward Sacramento.

The next Union Pacific site is to be found off Highway 80 near the town of Buford (population 1). This is a monument to two brothers who were essential in creating the Union Pacific side of the Transcontinental Railroad.

The Ames Monument was built by the Union Pacific and dedicated to the brothers Oakes and Oliver Ames. It marked the highest point on the original Transcontinental Railroad at Sherman Summit at 8,247 feet. Oliver was one of the first presidents of the Union Pacific Railroad (from 1866-1871) and his brother Oakes was a U.S. Representative from Massachusetts. Both brothers, at the request of Lincoln, were put in charge of financing and building the Union Pacific portion of the railroad. Without the contribution of the Ames brothers, the railroad might never have been completed.

The 60 foot pyramid was build in 1880-1882 of granite at the cost of $64,000. On two side are base-relief portraits of each brother. In 1901, Union Pacific rerouted the mainline a few miles to the south.

On my first attempt to sketch the Ames Monument, a thunderstorm rolled in from the west. This monument being 60 feet high and at one of the highest points on the original Transcontinental Railroad, I though it would be wise to head to my car and return in the morning!

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