THE C&NW

By 1895, the Fremont, Elkton & Missouri Valley Railroad had extended from Harrison, Nebraska along Niobrara Creek through Lusk, Wyoming and then Manville, where it traveled cross country to the Platte River at Orin, through Douglas and Glenrock, then finally into Casper. 

This is the first J.C. Penny store, located in Kemmerer, Wyoming. 

That's right, the very first Penny's was in a little town of a few hundred people in west-central Wyoming! How it ever got out of there and went national, God only knows! I don't think it's headquarters is in Wyoming anymore, though.

CNW Trestle GLNRK to CPR - no tracks.JPG (99215 bytes)The sad, sad present.

These remnants are all that's left of the C&NW's Cowboy Line in Wyoming - the railroad grade, some decaying trestles and a few other forgotten right-of-way elements. The C&NW line west of Casper was abandoned in the early 1980s, and the remainder of the line between Crawford, Nebraska and Casper was abandoned before the UP merger.

A few years later, I believe under the auspices of the Wyoming & North Western Railroad Company, this line, part of the C&NW's "Cowboy Line," was extended westward, through the rolling sage land of the Wind River basin all the way to Lander. It followed along the Middle Fork of Casper Creek about thirty miles, where it left the creek and was laid overland to the Powder River, about five miles or so farther west. After following the Powder River upstream just a few miles, the line again jumps overland, this time about fifteen miles to Poison Creek, which it then paralleled all the way to Shoshoni (these names aren't typos - the river is Shoshone; the town is Shoshoni. I have no clue why). From Shoshoni the line turned slightly toward the south to follow the Wind River to Riverton and Arapahoe, both on the Shoshone Indian Reservation, then followed the Popo Agie River to end of track in Lander (not on the Reservation). 

It's my understanding that the entire line from Casper westward was part of the C&NW's abortive attempt at becoming another transcontinental railroad. The line was to continue on from Lander to cross the continental divide at South Pass, then proceed westward to the Pacific.

As I understand it (I'll learn more specifically later), sometime in the early 1930s  the C&NW abandoned the line from Illco, about 15 miles west of Casper, to near Shoshoni, and entered into a trackage rights agreement to use the CB&Q's line to a point named Shobon, slightly northeast of Shoshoni, from where the C&NW constructed a short section of track to connect to the remainder of its line through Shoshoni and on to Lander. Some years later, in the 1960s or 1970s, the portion of the line from Riverton to Lander was abandoned, and then in the 1980s what was left of C&NW's lines west of Casper was abandoned. End-of-track at the time of the C&NW merger into the Union Pacific was Casper. The last remnant of the Cowboy Line between Shoshoni and Riverton is now a 23 mile long hiking trail.

Now that we know the general layout of the C&NW west of Casper, let's jump back to the CB&Q.


BACK TO THE CB&Q

The Burlington continued to parallel the existing C&NW (that part of the C&NW then being called the Wyoming & North Western, according to one map I have) westward out of Casper when it began extending its line toward its connection in Thermopolis, in the early 1900s. At the town of Powder River, located where the C&NW first reached the Powder River in its westward stretch, the CB&Q diverged from the C&NW. As described above, the C&NW line ran west through the Wind River basin, roughly following Poison Creek to Shoshoni and then along the Wind River into Riverton and finally on to Lander. 

A Burlington train approaches the station in Moorcroft, Wyoming. Moorcroft is nowhere near the area I'm modeling - it's near the Powder River Basin in northeastern Wyoming. Nice photo though, isn't it?

The CB&Q, on the other hand, took a path through the basin that took it north of the C&NW line, along Alkali Creek to Badwater River to Wind River, where it turned north to traverse the Wind River Canyon. The CB&Q did not bother with a connection to Shoshoni, even though it was 100 miles west of Casper, and Shoshoni was only about four miles south of the selected grade.

After tortuous construction through the Wind River Canyon, including blasting a right-of-way through hard igneous rock (creating several short tunnels in the process), the CB&Q Wind River line was completed when it connected with the line coming south through Thermopolis from Laurel, Montana.

History Page 1

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