Thursday March 20, 2008 - Vol. VII Issue 2

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Most of the towns in southern Wyoming are a result of construction of the Union Pacific Railroad. As the rail was laid across the United States to form the Intercontinental Railroad, towns like Cheyenne, Laramie, Rawlins and Rock Springs sprang up across the southern part of Wyoming.

The ‘Big Boys’ use to stop in Laramie and be loaded with ice at the Pacific Fruit Express (PFE) ice plant located on a railroad siding just north of town. The workers were allowed 30 minutes per car to put 2’ X 2’ X2’ blocks of ice and slush in with the loads of fruit or produce.

As a young person, I remember these giants passing through Laramie, sometimes stopping for ice and other times just high balling it through town. There was no sound like the sound of their whistle and the power in the engine, the ground shook and these huge trains puffed black smoke as they went through. If there were any still running today, and you heard or felt them coming down the track, adults and children would stop and watch in awe.

If you talk to some of the old timers here in Laramie, they will also tell you that during World War II, the 4000’s were used to move military freight across our nation. The ‘Big Boys’ were the only engines that could haul tanks, cannons, heavy artillery, etc. up Sherman Hill. During the war, soldiers were bivouacked at both ends of the Hermosa tunnel to protect it for national security reasons. If the tunnel had been exploded, a large amount of war materials would have come to a halt until the tunnel was repaired or rebuilt.


On the first website, be sure to click on the engine number and you will see actual photos of each engine.

Sherman Hill Grade Profile

Personal commentary of an excursion trip over Sherman Hill in the 3985 engine, which is smaller that the ‘Big Boys’, but gives you a good idea of what a hard haul was like coming up that hill before the grade was dropped down from 1.55% to .82%.
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