Magic City of the Plains

Magic City of the Plains (HM1QGV)

Location: Cheyenne, WY 82007 Laramie County
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Country: United States of America
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N 41° 3.505', W 104° 52.739'

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The Settled Side of Transportation

Cheyenne was founded in 1867 as a terminal for the Union Pacific's transcontinental railway through southern Wyoming. The city grew bigger and faster than most rail towns, in part due to nearby U.S. Army Fort D.A. Russell, established in 1867, and a second rail line connecting Denver with Cheyenne in 1870. In fact, the population reached 6,000 before the railroad had even arrived, earning Cheyenne the moniker: Magic City of the Plains. Rampant gambling and violence provided its other, equally appropriate nickname: Hell on Wheels. The gambling ended, but railroads continue to dominate Cheyenne's identity and cityscape. Look east to see freight trains still traveling the tracks from Cheyenne to Denver.

Expanding the Nation
The U.S. government awarded railroad companies extensive tracts of land to build transcontinental railroads. Union Pacific received a 400-foot right-of-way plus every other 640-acre section within 20 miles of the corridor. In Wyoming alone, its land grant totaled 4,582,520 acres, much of which it could sell to settlers. When the railroad began selling land and promoting western expansion, states like Wyoming transformed from pass-through territories to settlement destinations. The 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty reflected this change by negotiating land from the Plains Indians for immigration. Bringing people, supplies, and ideas to previously remote locations quickly, the railroads became the largest influence and shaper of U.S. settlement in the West.

Conduit of Wealth
As more rails were built, Cheyenne's role as a shipping hub solidified. Cattle and sheep were shipped to both coasts, and the railroad enabled the coal industry to flourish. During the Black Hills Gold Rush, Cheyenne became a staging area for goods to and from the mines. Lavish Victorian buildings witness the considerable wealth made possible by the railroads. These and many mansions, such as the Nagle Warren Mansion and "Millionaires' Row" (now Carey Avenue), witness Cheyenne's reputation as the wealthiest U.S. city per capita in the mid-1880s.
Leaving Tracks
Still a vital shipping center, Cheyenne's railroad heritage continues to mark the urban landscape with the expansive Union Pacific rail yards and two retired locomotives. Big Boy 4004 is one of the most powerful locomotives ever built. This 600-ton, 132-foot long powerhouse hauled long trains up Sherman Hill between Cheyenne and Laramie. Known as Old Sadie, Engine 1242 was built in 1890 and is the oldest locomotive in Wyoming. The greatest monument to Cheyenne's railroad, however, is the Union Pacific Depot, housing the Cheyenne Depot Museum. The Romanesque Revival building rivals the state capital in architectural opulence and significance.
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Wednesday, January 13th, 2016 at 5:01pm PST -08:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)13T E 510168 N 4545248
Decimal Degrees41.05841667, -104.87898333
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 41° 3.505', W 104° 52.739'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds41° 3' 30.3" N, 104° 52' 44.34" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)307
Which side of the road?Marker is on the right when traveling West
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 5611 High Plains Road, Cheyenne WY 82007, US
Alternative Maps Google Maps, MapQuest, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, MSR Maps, OpenCycleMap, MyTopo Maps, OpenStreetMap

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