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Union Pacific Railroad trains on the
Overland Route in Wyoming Picture Gallery

I will be covering this portion of the Union Pacific Overland Route from west to east since most of my trips across the territory were made in that direction. This gallery includes a group of pictures my brother Steve took in September 1988 while chasing engine 3985 from Cheyenne over to Laramie. Click the engine number above to go directly to the chase.

From the time the railroad connected with the Central Pacific to the end of the century, the UP was only able to add about 17 miles of second track. The biggest changes from the original route were made over Sherman Hill west of Cheyenne. The original UP line over Sherman Hill was near the Ames Monument at an elevation of 8,247 feet above sea level. The UP built the Ames monument at the summit in 1882 to honor the Ames brothers that had helped finance the original construction. In 1901 the UP completed the first tunnel at Hermosa, built a new line three miles to the south of the original summit and added a second line between Laramie and Hermosa. UP then abandoned the original line over the summit. The new line not only lowered the maximum elevation to 8,015 but also allowed the railroad to abandon the Dale Creek bridge that had a four mile per hour speed restriction on it. The new line out of Laramie lowered the eastbound ruling grade from 1.9 percent to 0.8 percent between Laramie and the Hermosa Tunnel. With increased traffic and the leadership of Harriman the railroad transformed the single track Overland Route to mostly double track by the end of 1918. Early semaphore signals were installed between 1906 and 1917. For example, in 1909 the railroad was installing a second track on the 15 miles between Rock Springs and Green river, WY. It moved and converted the automatic block signals from one arm lower quadrant to two arm lower quadrant for double track operations. UP also installed automatic block signals from Riner to Wamsutter that same year. In 1917 it was installing GRS model 2 lower quadrant 2 arm semaphore signals between Pine Bluffs, NE and Burns, WY 17 miles, Buford to Hermosa 33 miles, and Wamsutter to Point of Rocks 53 miles. In 1909 UP was installing automatic block signals Cheyenne south to LaSalle, CO (60 miles) and ordered automatic block signals for La Salle, CO to Sand Creek (45 miles). In 1918, it installed block signals on 18 miles of double track Burns to Archer and four miles of double track between Dale Creek and Hermosa. By the end of 1919, the UP had 641 miles of single track and 905 miles of double track with automatic block signals. In 1920 UP was installing automatic block signals from Leroy to Evanston 27 miles. These lower quadrant semaphore signals were replaced with searchlight signals in the late 40s.

At the west end of the Wyoming, the first Aspen tunnel was completed in 1901 and the second Aspen tunnel opened in 1949. These tunnels are located about ten miles east of Evanston.

Union Pacific train on the Overland Route in Wyoming

Double track east of the Hermosa Tunnel was added in stages. The first installment was between Cheyenne and Borie in 1900, Borie to Buford in 1902, and then Buford to the first Hermosa tunnel in 1917. In 1918, the UP completed the second tunnel at Hermosa. Since the second line between Laramie and Hermosa was east of the original line and was the preferred route for eastbound trains, the railroad operated left hand between those points. In 1919 it added a 17 lever mechanical interlocking at Granger. It was also planning to install a 20 lever mechanical interlocking at Aspen, WY and 21 lever mechanical interlocking at Altamont to control traffic through the single track tunnel. The equipment was ordered from GRS in 1920 and work was completed in May 1921. In 1923, it added 88 signals between Granger and LeRoy 42 miles of double track. In 1924, UP rebuilt the 29 lever mechanical interlocker at Borie, WY adding 12 more levers. It also planned to add a 32 lever GRS electric interlocker at Granger. It added 8 more levers to the interlocking at Granger in 1937. In 1941, the Hanna to Lookout semaphore signals were replaced with 70 US&S color light signals on 52 miles of double track. The original semaphore signals between Cheyenne and Sherman Hill were installed in 1908. In 1943 the semaphore signals were replaced on the 28 miles between Cheyenne and Buford. Buford is where helper engines were cut off westbound trains. UP installed 22 US&S color light signals on the westbound track and 11 signals on the eastbound track to maintain safe distances between slower uphill and faster downhill trains. UP ordered US&S cab signal equipment for Laramie to Green River, WY in 1948. It would then remove 244 semaphore signals and 15 color light signals, relocate 46 color light signals and install 189 color light signals.

The new Harriman Line was completed between Speer and Dale Junction in May 1953. This reduced the grade to 0.82 percent and became the preferred route for heavy westbound trains. CTC was installed on all three tracks. Cheyenne to Dale on 48 miles of single track and Cheyenne to Hermosa on 37 miles of double tracks was completed in 1953. The CTC machine was at Cheyenne. Hermosa to Laramie CTC was finished in 1954 and the mechanical interlocker at Borie was removed. This also put that portion of the railroad into left hand operation. So now the dispatcher has to shift trains entering the region between Cheyenne and Laramie from right hand running on double track to left hand running and then return these trains to right hand running before they leave the region. The dispatcher must also get faster trains around slower going over the mountain. With three tracks between Cheyenne and Laramie you might think that would be easy. But with ongoing maintenance work and other unpredictable events, choreographing the dance that trains have to do to keep things moving and you have a massive headache. In 1954, UP installed CTC from Speer to Carr 16 miles. CTC controlled eight switches and 34 signals. In 1959 it began the installation of CTC from Denver north to Carr 80 miles. The $2M project lengthened seven siding to at least 9,000 feet. The interlocking at the CB&Q crossing at Sand Creek was transferred to the CTC machine. After installing 16 power switches and 126 signals, the work was completed in 1960. In 1974, it installed CTC between Granger and Rock Springs. In 1978 it added a second track beside the eastbound track from Laramie almost to the Hermosa Tunnels. No block signals were ever added to the Coalmont Branch.

The first segment is a short series of picture my brother Steve took while chasing engine 3985 from Cheyenne over to Laramie and back. The Wyoming picture gallery starts at Evanston and works east. This gallery also includes two side trips into Colorado, one on the Coalmont Branch from Laramie to Walden, and the other on the line between Denver, CO and Speer, WY southwest of Cheyenne.

Chasing the 3985

Evanston, WY
Leroy
Granger
Peru
Green River
Rock Springs
Baxter
Point of Rocks
Wamsutter
Creston
Rawlins
Walden, CO
Kings Canyon
Hermosa
Dale Junction
Otto
Borie
Wycon
Greeley, CO
Cheyenne
Archer
Egbert