Cheyenne, Wyoming

Legend Has It

Celebrate three icons of Wyoming’s heritage in Cheyenne

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Did Cheyenne build the railroad or did the railroad build Cheyenne? In 1867, tracklayers set up camp at the site of the present city. The tents gave way to rickety shanties and then to solid structures. It was truly Hell on Wheels.

The streets were muddy and chock-full of wagons, horses and mules, but the steel rails of the Union Pacific were there, too. They caused the city to grow quickly. When Wyoming Territory was established in 1868, Cheyenne was the obvious choice as the capital city.

Now a century and a half after the Union Pacific and Central Pacific linked, and fully 130 years since the capitol was built, Cheyenne is ready for some big celebrations that have been years in the making.

Big Boy Steam Engine

In 2014, hundreds of Cheyenne residents lined the Union Pacific Railroad route as Big Boy 4014 arrived to begin its restoration. This Big Boy had steamed more than a million miles before being retired to a museum in California.

This year, Big Boy 4014 will steam out of Cheyenne once again, as handsome as the day he debuted in 1941. Union Pacific will unveil the Big Boy in Cheyenne in early May before its excursion to Promontory, Utah, to celebrate the 1869 driving of the “golden spike” that joined the Union Pacific and Central Pacific lines.

Photo: David Brossard, flickr

But don’t wait until the 150th anniversary of the transcontinental railroad to visit Cheyenne. Railroad enthusiasts enjoy the city any time of year, with Big Boy 4004 on display year-round in Holliday Park. Plus, the Cheyenne Depot Museum’s collection of railroad artifacts, its spectacular model railroad and its location inside the former Union Pacific depot make it a favorite for history buffs and families.

Wyoming State Capitol

By 1889 the Union Pacific Railroad had constructed an imposing depot in downtown Cheyenne. Wyoming Territory was on the cusp of becoming a state, and to demonstrate to the nation that the region was worthy, an equally impressive territorial capitol soon dominated Cheyenne’s skyline.

While train restoration experts were at work on Big Boy, other experts were just down the street peeling back the layers of paint and development that covered the Wyoming State Capitol building over the decades. Their elbow grease brought the old building back to her former glory.

Photo: Ron Reiring, flickr

Later this year, when the scaffolding is dismantled and the Wyoming State Capitol reopens, visitors can see the astonishing interiors—high arches lining the hallways, marble floors and intricate woodwork—but most anticipated is that spectacular dome, newly gilded in gold.

The Equality State

One room inside the Wyoming State Capitol holds great significance for women nationwide. The original chamber of the Wyoming Supreme Court is where women’s right to vote was signed into Wyoming’s first constitution, opening the floodgates for equality for women. In fact, women’s suffrage was born in Wyoming even before the territory was granted statehood in 1890.

In 1869, the Wyoming Territorial Legislature heard appeals from Esther Hobart Morris to introduce legislation that would give women the right to vote. Newly minted lawmakers passed a bill establishing Wyoming as the first territory to grant women the right to vote and hold public office. That came more than 50 years before the 19th Amendment became law in the United States.

Photo: Robert Cutts, flickr

A statute of Esther Hobart Morris stands in front of the capitol, marking her significance in gaining equal suffrage for women in Wyoming and her position as the first female Justice of the Peace in the United State, a position she assumed in South Pass City in 1870. Cheyenne and Wyoming are planning celebrations during the 150th anniversary of women’s suffrage, known around here as The Year of Wyoming Women.

Over the years, Cheyenne has dominated headlines with its list of achievements. This year make your own plans to visit the state’s capital city to witness these legendary achievements for yourself.

Check the events calendar for a year full of major milestones.