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An Interesting Town

sunny 82 °F

A Sunny Morning to Y'all!

My tourist day began at the Visitor's Desk located in the magnificiently restored Union Pacific Railroad Station. I bought a city tour bus ticket and got an overview of the city of Cheyenne. The city, named of course, for the Cheyenne Indian nation who inhabited this region, began as a 'stake in the ground'. The site was chosen by the surveyors for the Union Pacific railroad. In those days a fuel & water stop was necessary to keep the steam locomotives powered. In 1862 President Lincoln signed the Pacific Railway Act to construct the Intercontinental Railroad connecting the east coast to the Pacific coast. The chosen route was a southerly one due to the intimidating Rocky Mountains to the north.

At the Depot Museum there is an elaborate history of the building of this railroad, a construction marvel of its time. A 'thumb-nail' sketch of how they did it.... First, they sent a 22 man, armed survey crew 120 miles ahead to lay out a possible rail route based on elevations, mainly. This was in uncharted wilderness thus, the firearms to ward off beligerent Indians and wild animals. They were required to live off the land. I mentioned elevations. A train operates most efficiently running on the flat. For every 1 degree of deviation the efficiency is reduced dramatically, consuming more fuel, and with greater elevations of say, 3 or 4 degrees, a necessary reduction in the number of freight/passenger cars which produce the income to the railroad. There is an operating cost/income ratio to meet for profitability.
The primary survey crew could complete 10-12 miles per day in finding the best route & grade. They would then spend 3-5 days marking & documenting the permanent route. The 'graders' numbering 8,000-10,000 laborers and an equal # of horses & mules would cut, fill, and level the marked grade. Imagine the logistics of feeding these men & animals on a daily basis. They worked 6 days a week from sunrise to sunset, lived in railroad dormitory cars which followed their progress. All work was done with hand tools, and the required rock blasting took many 'powder monkey's' lives.
Working quickly only 5-10 miles ahead of the rail crews were the Bridge & Tunnel gangs. Behind them came the 'Tie Layers'. Each 8' tie, many weighing more than 200# each had to be hauled by hand from wagons and set out on 19" centers. Two thousand six hundred forty (2,640) ties per mile were laid out to support the rails and hold them at exactly four feet eight 1/2 inches apart (4' 8 1/2"}. The 'Rust Eaters' or "Iron Men" positioned & anchored the rails to the ties. Each 39' rail weighed 560#. Five men would grab a rail off the waiting car, carry to position it on the tie, then other crews would set the 4' 8 1/2" gap and drive the spikes to hold in position. Laborers earned $30./day, skilled men more. One crew set a record of laying 10 miles of track in one day! The project took from 1863-1869. A 'Land for Rails' incentive was offered the two railroads whereby the government offered one mile of land on either side of the rails as a right-of-way for the project. At the fueling points settlements were established on land sold by the railroads to merchants and settlers. This land sale provided profits to the railroads, and of course the subsequent commerce of freight and passenger ticket sales provided income, as well. The overall project was funded by gov't-guaranteed bond sales.

So much for my lesson on the Intercontinental Railroad! The city tour took us by the State Capitol building whose dome is shrouded in scaffolding and canvas, closed to the public until the end of 2019. It is undergoing a 3 yr., multi-million dollar restoration. This capitol I won't be able to tour. Tomorrow, I plan to visit the State Museum and there are 10 possibilities on my list.

My chosen campground in Cheyenne is a KOA franchised RV 'resort'. They are usually pretty good to stay at, sort of like a Holiday Inn Express. You know what to expect. I went from the 'rediculous' in Breckenridge at over $200./night to the 'sublime' in Cheyenne for $45/night. The Cheyenne KOA is located just off I-25 about 3 miles from the city. The owner/developer purchased about 2 acres of land, scraped off the prairie sod, leveled the site with crushed stone, laid out the sewer, water, and electrical lines, then covered it all with crushed stone to create the campground. There is not a blade of grass in the park. Small trees were planted about every 3rd campsite, and two layers of paver brick have been laid to delineate the sites. There is a swimming pool and a few log cabins for rent, laundry facilities but that's it. Wow! The comforts are within the MH!!

With my railroad story this is getting rather lengthy. More to report tomorrow.

Posted by dixter 08:09 Archived in USA Tagged of a taste cheyenne

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