Trains & Railroads
Long before Wyoming was officially part of the union, the Wyoming Territory played a key role in the westward expansion of the United States. In 1867, the Union Pacific transcontinental railroad laid its first rails in Wyoming, reaching the city of Cheyenne that same year. For the last 150 years, rails and train cars have been a large part of Wyoming’s history, economy and culture. In 2017 and 2018, many Wyoming towns are celebrating the anniversary of the arrival of Union Pacific. The arrival of the railroad meant that the industrial and economic opportunities in Wyoming were booming in the late 1800s which gave huge growth opportunities to communities in the soon-to-be Cowboy State.
Steam Locomotive 1242, Lions Park, Cheyenne.
As the transcontinental railroad expanded farther west along the southern corridor of Wyoming, several other towns were developed and given a boost. Laramie, Rawlins, Rock Springs, Green River and Evanston were among the new railroad towns that popped up in the late 1800s. By the end of 1868 the transcontinental railroad reached Evanston, completing its coverage of southern Wyoming.
Today, you can experience both history and current day Union Pacific operations in these southern Wyoming destinations.
Railroad history is vibrant and seemingly around every corner in Wyoming’s capital city. Here, you can visit the renovated historic downtown depot and go back in time at the Cheyenne Depot Museum. You can also tour the Union Pacific Steam Shop where UP is currently restoring historical steam trains back to their former glory. Check out these 6 places in Cheyenne for train lovers to soak up some history up close.
In Laramie, the rails run right through town and the transcontinental history can be found all over town. You can take a walk over the Garfield Foot Bridge right in the middle of downtown which spans several operating railroad tracks. If you’re lucky, you can watch from above as trains cross under your feet. You can also tour the Historic Union Pacific Train Depot and museum which are a central part of Laramie’s vibrant downtown.
Like many Wyoming rail towns, the railroad runs right through the heart of downtown Rawlins. The now renovated depot is open for business. Discover Rawlins’ fascinating history by taking a self-led walking tour of the historic downtown area.
Rock Springs’ history encompasses not only train travel, but mining, outlaws of the Wild West (Rock Springs is the town in which Butch Cassidy picked up his nickname), airmail and aviation. The combination of railroads and mining meant a lot of traffic through this small Wyoming town. Check out a self-guided tour of the Reliance Tipple, a former coal mining town north of Rock Springs to get a taste of Rock Springs history. The Rock Springs Historical Museum is also a great place to discover the rich history of the area.
Evanston is one of Wyoming’s most western destinations and the last Wyoming stop on the UP transcontinental railroad going west. Today, the historic roundhouse is the centerpiece of Evanston’s lovely and vibrant downtown. Each year, the community hosts a Roundhouse Festival to celebrate the history of the Wyoming town.