CHEYENNE DEPOT DAYS, HELL ON WHEELS & AMTRAK

Depot Days are set to take place again this May 20th and 21st at the Cheyenne Depot in Cheyenne, Wyoming. This annual event at the historic train station includes exhibits, access to the Union Pacific roundhouse and steam shop, and vendors. A special trolley, running every 20 minutes, will take visitors to and from all event locations.

cheyenne-depot-museum

Image – tripadvisor.com

The transcontinental railroad first reached what is now Cheyenne, Wyoming, on November 13th, 1867. That westward-building Union Pacific track eventually met the eastward Central Pacific in Utah on May 10th, 1869, completing the world’s first transcontinental railway. As with other communities created by that line, Cheyenne’s population grew quickly and it earned the moniker the “Magic City of the Plains” for its seeming rise out of the ground. This year, Cheyenne is marking its 150th anniversary.

Rail construction thru Cheyenne also saw the phenomenon of the “Hell on Wheels” towns. These mobile tent camps followed the Union Pacific workers with hopes of drawing money from the isolated workers. Diversions included saloons, gambling tents, and dance halls (with paid companionship available).

The recently-concluded AMC series Hell on Wheels (2011-2016) was set around the framework of the construction of the transcontinental railroad, drawing its title from those mobile towns, and even centering its fourth season in 1867 Cheyenne. Here is one clip from that season of the acclaimed railroad Western drama, in which lead character Cullen Bohannon (Anson Mount) meets a fellow Confederate soldier he once fought beside:

A current irony for Cheyenne is that passenger rail service does not presently run thru this historic railroad town. Aside from when Amtrak needs to use the route as a detour between Denver and Utah, regular Amtrak passenger service ended in 1997 on, believe it or not, the date of May 10th (i.e. the day symbolic with transcontinental rail travel).

There are ongoing grassroots efforts to restore service thru Cheyenne, as the only route thru the central American West is currently Amtrak’s once-a-day California Zephyr. Here is a map of that former Cheyenne route, as used by Amtrak’s Pioneer train:

Amtrak Pioneer Map.jpg

Image – pioneertrain.org

For further information about Cheyenne Depot Days, visit the official link at Depot Days.

(Copyright – Chad Beharriell)

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