A short line with a short life, the 40-mile-long Wyoming North and South Railroad began quietly during the oil-boom years of the 1920s. It helped the Salt Creek area thrive for a time, but unsound construction, better roads for cars and trucks, bad weather and the Great Depression sealed its demise.
From 1929 to 1942, the Warm Spring Canyon tie flume carried 300,000 railroad ties per season down from mountain tie camps to the Wind River near Dubois, Wyo., for floating to Riverton and the railroad in big log drives each spring. The flume was abandoned in 1942; dramatic chutes and trestles remain.
Since it first entered the state in 1890, the Burlington Railroad has helped connect Wyoming with the world. Burlington officials were drawn here by Wyoming’s marketable natural resources and by its geography: Wyoming offered the best routes for transcontinental lines from the Midwest and South to the Pacific Northwest.
Billy Owen never saw a railroad until he was eight years old. His mother had told him about railroads. But in his mind as he traveled east by wagon train across Wyoming in the spring of 1868, he had imagined railroad wheels that looked something like wagon wheels. They rolled in grooves. Each groove was made by two rails. That meant it took four rails, as he imagined it, to make a track.
The railroad hailed once as the “only line to the great Wyoming copper mining district” in the upper North Platte Valley failed to arrive in time for the copper boom—but still carried passengers and cattle for decades, and lumber for nearly a century.