Posted at 3 p.m. March 8, 2017

Union Pacific steam shop history is Cheyenne history

Flag Raising
Flag Raising

All Aboard:

TOP: A component for the “Big Boys.” ABOVE: Part of the 838 series currently being housed in the Roundhouse.

Photos by Tara Halfhill

Cheyenne is home to a grand chunk of history, and it’s called the Depot.

Union Pacific was a major part of the start of the transcontinental railroad. The Depot museum’s website says, “the transcontinental railroad literally stitched the country together, making possible the development of the West.”

The website also tells of the year 1886, when the harsh weather killed roughly 85 percent of the cattle from each herd as they wandered until reaching the railroad’s fences. Livestock shipping was a large source of income for the railroad, and had the construction of the Cheyenne Depot been a year later, it would have more than likely never happened because of the funds that were lost with the cattle.

The building was donated to the city of Cheyenne in 1993 and was recognized as a national landmark in 2006. It currently houses the museum, a brewery/eatery and offices.

Throughout the 1900s, buildings such as the steam shop and the roundhouse were erected to house and perform maintenance on the locomotives, and by the 1970s, the Depot was no longer a stop for passengers – none of Wyoming was.

The steam shop has a portion of ceiling that stands 48 feet tall in order to fit and lift locomotives, and it currently houses the “Big Boy” No. 4014. This is a restoration project of one of the last remaining steam engines in the country. Ed Dickens, steam program manager of Cheyenne, said they are on a timeline to have No. 4014 finished by 2019. Currently, the locomotive is all but gutted to make sure the work is done thoroughly. Restoration will cost millions of dollars.

The building is the last remaining section of the roundhouse, where locomotives would be stored, turned, worked on and loaded. Once large enough to hold 48 locomotives, the building currently houses six after the majority of it was torn down.

Robert Fryml, retired Union Pacific employee and current Heritage Fleet tour guide volunteer, said when the Big Boys would be placed on the turntable to go into the roundhouse, they were so much larger than the other series, they would hang over the edge of the section that turned by almost six feet on either end. The roundhouse has one of the last locomotives in the DDA 40X series, #6936, the others are placed in museums.