Wyoming '99: Monday
At the Ames Monument we met Amber and Dixie Mathisen, who were going to be our guides as we traversed their ranch property to visit various old historical and family sites. We all piled into our cars--there were four cars now--and we headed off down dirt roads seeking adventure. First stop: Dale Creek, site of an old railroad trestle, whose abutments in and across the creekbed are still visible above.
My great-grandfather, W.H. Holliday (that's for William Helmus), made a fair amount of money cutting trees and turning them into ties for the Union Pacific railroad as it pushed across the Rockies to link the nation. He had other business ventures, but this gave him a solid beginning. He moved to Sherman, when it still existed, with his brother J.T. (Jethro Tabor) Holliday, and later on, when the railroad switched routes, they moved into Laramie and set up shop there, about a block away from the railyard.
When the Union Pacific surveyed its route across Sherman summit, the goal was to find the shortest route, not necessarily the easiest. That necessitated a few steep grades; it also meant crossing a little canyon or two. The Dale Creek trestle was a result of that effort. Three trestles were built on this site over a period of years, starting with a wooden trestle that was replaced by a couple of different steel ones. From the site of the trestle you can see two routes the train could have taken--one a mile further south, the other a mile north--that both would have been much easier to traverse. But they would have added miles to the distance from coast to coast, so at first the UP used the Dale Creek route. Finally, years later, the railroad switched paths, and the old trestle was no longer used. Today there's no trestle, no rails, no ties--just the old stonework in the bottom of Dale Creek, and the wind blowing memories across the divide.
In the distance is the route the train takes today.