Tag Archives: Wyoming

America’s North Country Trip~Part 12

6 Dec

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites

 

 

Day 12 (Tuesday)

 

This morning I headed east on I-80 to visit the Wyoming Frontier Prison located in Rawlins, WY. Construction of this facility began in 1893 as a replacement for the old Wyoming Territorial Prison, in Laramie. Even though new, the first 104 cells (cell block “A”) had no electricity or running water, and very inadequate heating when first opened. Over the years, Cell blocks “B” and “C” were added to handle the ever growing number of inmates. The prison employed several different means of discipline, including a dungeon, solitary confinement and even a “Punishment Pole” where men were secured and whipped with a rubber hose. Just one more remnant of the grizzly past of the “Old AmericannWest.”

 

 

While I was in Rawlings, i decided to check out the Carbon County Museum. This was a small museum, very nicely displaying historical artifacts and memorabilia associated with the surrounding southwestern Wyoming area.

 

 

Now I headed east on I-80 again to visit the Laramie Railroad Museum in Laramie, WY. This museum turned out to be located in the old Union Pacific train station (designated “The Overland Route”) of the Union Pacific System. Unfortunately the museum was closed today. So, I took a stroll around the small Railroad Heritage Park adjacent to the museum, where I took a photo of the restored Union Pacific locomotive # 535 pushing a snow plow and pulling a 6-man crew-bunk car and a caboose.

 

 

As I passed thru downtown Laramie, I pass the St. Matthews Episcopal Cathedral and just had to stop and take a photo of that majestic old structure. Built in 1892, it somehow reminded me of the Laramie city historical marker, I had just seen, that informed me that Laramie was founded in 1866, and was named after the fur trader Jacques LaRamie. Interesting how civilization and architecture had a way of pushing its way west, even in those early days of territorial life.

 

 

Next I visited the Wyoming Territorial Prison located west of the city on the Laramie River. Built in 1872, the prison was problem riddled with fires and jail breaks from the beginning. Of the 44 prisoners accepted in the first two years of operation, 11 escaped. Butch Cassidy was a prisoner there from 1894 to 1896. Prisoners were transferred to the new Wyoming State Prison located Rawlins, WY in 1901, the prison was closed, and in 1903 and the University of Wyoming used the facility to conduct experiments in livestock breeding until 1989. The facility was opened to the public in 1991 as the Wyoming Territorial Prison State Historical Site. If this prison was opened 11 years before the Wyoming Territorial Prison in Rawlings, I can just imagine what horrible things the prisoners had to endure in this prison.

 

 

Leaving Laramie I headed east on I-80 again to visit the old Cheyenne Depot Museum (AKA: Wyoming Transportation Museum) located in downtown Cheyenne, WY. This museum was located inside the reconditioned Union Pacific Railroad terminal which was built in 1886. The Union Pacific Railroad serviced its last passenger from this terminal in 1971, after which it was closed. The terminal was subsequently re-opened (after much renovation) to the public as a museum in 1990. The two-story museum displays exhibits related to the history of the Union Pacific Railroad, and its role in the development of the city of Cheyenne.

 

 

Across the street from the depot, is the Cheyenne Depot Plaza where you will see a number of 8’ tall painted cowboy boots. These boots are each painted to show a different part of the history of Cheyenne. You can take a cell-phone audio tour (looking for other Big Boots), that guides you to 19 different locations of interest in the city. Pretty cool idea, if you have the time and want to see the city.

 

 

Just a few blocks from the park, I visited the Nelson Museum of the West. This was a small museum, beautifully displaying artifacts and memorabilia from the surrounding Wyoming plains area, dating from the early frontier days to the present.

 

 

On my way to my next museum, I passed the Wyoming State Capital building and stopped to take a photo of that beautiful structure.

 

 

I hadn’t gone far before I saw another beautiful structure. This turned out to be the St. Mary’s Cathedral. I am always impressed with the architectural beauty of the various churches, cathedrals, and government buildings I see on my trips in different parts of this country of ours.

 

 

A little ways north of town, I decided to visit the Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum located there in Cheyenne. This is a frontier town type museum, with restored buildings set up to represent “Main Street” in the early 1800 days in the Cheyenne area. The buildings are occupied with tour guides dressed in period clothes ready to tell you all about what it was like “back in the 1890’s old west days.” I just happened to be in Cheyenne the week of the “World’s Largest Outdoor Rodeo & Western Celebration.” This is a huge annual event in Cheyenne that had a big part of the city’s streets blocked off, and I was unable to visit the CDF Museum located close to the Frontier Park & Arena because of that.

 

 

Now I headed for a quick check to see if Greta could find the Big Boy No. 4004 steam locomotive located in the Holiday Park there in Cheyenne. It was one of the world’s largest steam locomotives ever built. Big Boy No. 4004 was one of 25 Big Boy locomotives built between 1941 & 1944 for the Union Pacific Railroad. It went into service in 1941; measures 132’ long, weighs 1.208,750 lbs. & carries 25,000 gal. of water. The Big Boy locomotives were so long that their frames had to be “hinged” or articulated to allow them to negotiate curves.

 

 

I headed for the motel there in Cheyenne, and after getting checked in I relaxed and enjoyed my leftover Baby Back Ribs from last night at the Open Range Restaurant.

 

 

—–To Be Continued—–

 

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