#Lookback: Riverton, Chicago and Northwestern Depot

A County 10 series in partnership with the Fremont County Museum System
where we take a #Lookback at the stories and history of our community and
presented by Mick Pryor, Financial Advisor with Edward Jones.

By the end of 1868, the Union Pacific Railroad was completed through Southern Wyoming. The Union Pacific Railroad looked at the South Pass as a way over the mountains in Wyoming. In the end, the Union Pacific took a southern route through Cheyenne and Rock Springs. The railroad constructed on the railroad through Central Wyoming was completed through to Casper by June 15th, 1888. Railroad companies would often create subsidiaries for constructing a railroad line that they would eventually lease the tracks back to the parent company. The tracks to Casper were constructed by the Wyoming Central Railway Company, which was a construction subsidiary of Fremont, Elkhorn, and Missouri Valley Railroad (The Elkhorn). After the railway was completed through Casper, the Wyoming Central Railway had served its purpose as a construction company and was consolidated with The Elkhorn. In 1897, the Wyoming and Northwestern Railway Company was incorporated to continue the construction of the railroad west from Casper over South Pass to the western border of Wyoming. As the railroad was heading towards Riverton in 1903, The Elkhorn was acquired by the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad (C&NW).

In April of 1904, James McLaughlin was sent by the United States Government to the Wind River Reservation to negotiate the secession of 1.5 million acres of land north of the Big Wind River from the Wind River Reservation in exchange for cash payment under the Homestead Act. This agreement, which was known as the McLaughlin Agreement, would open the land around Riverton for settlement and for the construction of the railroad over South Pass. On March 3rd, 1905, Congress approved the McLaughlin Agreement. Two weeks before the Wyoming and Northwestern Railway Company construction crews reached Riverton, on August 15th, 1906, the land ceded from the Wind River Reservation was opened for settlement. People moved into the townsite, laid claim to lots, recorded the claims with a government agent, and began establishing businesses along what is now Main Street in Riverton. Two weeks later, the railroad construction crews completed the track through the new townsite and continued west to Lander, Wyoming. Construction of the railroad through Central Wyoming ended in Lander, instead of crossing the entire state because the C&NW made a deal with the Union Pacific Railroad.

Some of the first supplies shipped to the new town of Riverton was lumber for the construction of a railroad depot. By the fall of 1906, the construction of the depot began to replace a temporary structure that was located north of the railroad crossing. The permanent building was going to be located on the south side of the railroad crossing. In 1907, the railroad depot was completed. The town of Riverton grew along the tracks of the C&NW tracks.

During the operation of the railroad station, the train brought commercial products to Riverton that were sold in local businesses. E.T. Glenn, the first merchant in Riverton, received goods to sell at his store. Lumber for C.H. King’s lumber yard was also brought into town via the train. Natural resources, such as coal and oil were shipped from Riverton to other commercial hubs in the United States. During World War I, coal from Fremont County was shipped to industrial sites to fuel the wartime economy. Crude oil in oil tankers from several fields in the area was loaded onto the train in Riverton during World War II. Passengers also traveled on the railroad through Riverton. One interesting antidote from the passenger train was about Otto Jones and Martha Day who eloped aboard the passenger train through the Depot on February 13th, 1909. The Galloping Goose, pictured above, was a diesel-powered engine, baggage and passenger car that arrived in Riverton daily at 5:30 pm. The train whistle announced the arrival of the train and the time. During the Great Depression, the Galloping Goose was the only daily train from Casper to Lander.

In 1974, the Depot in Riverton was the last train depot in Wyoming south of Casper. In December of that year, the C&NW announced the sale of the depot structure to a local who was going to demolish the building and retain the land as an investment. A group of local citizens came together to save and restore the structure. Letters were written to the President of C&NW, Senators, and Governor of Wyoming. However, the building was still sold. The local citizen who bought the building, offered the building to a newly formed Wyoming Centennial Commission to move it to a new location. The Wyoming Centennial Commission received a 10,000-dollar matching grant with the goal of convincing the railroad that the building could stay in place and purchase the land from the local resident. After, raising the money to match the grant and receiving a bank loan from First National Bank, the Wyoming Centennial Commission purchased the property for $24,000. After purchasing the property, $5,000 was left for the restoration of the building. In March of 1976, the railroad finally agreed to let the building stay in place and restoration of the property began, using mostly volunteer labor. By June 26th, 1976, the building was partially restored, and a formal dedication ceremony was held. At that time, The Depot Management Board owned the property and rented space to businesses to repay the bank loan. Today, this building is a Mexican restaurant named, The Depot.

(Photo is of the Galloping Goose parked at the Riverton Depot.)

Next up for the Fremont County Museums

June 12, 2-4 pm at the Riverton Museum, “Dig into the Field of Archeology”

              Baily Tire/Pit Stop Children’s Exploration Series

June 16, 9 am at the Dubois Museum, “Archaeology Dig”

              Bailey Tire/Pit Stop Children’s Exploration Series

June 23, 10 am at the Dubois Museum, “Flint Knapping with Rock Candy”

              Bailey Tire/Pit Stop Children’s Exploration Series

June 24, 7 pm at the Pioneer Museum, “Wyoming: A History of the American West” By Sam Lightner

              Wyoming Community Bank Discovery Speakers Series

The Dubois Museum, the Pioneer Museum in Lander, and the Riverton Museum need your financial support. In the current economic environment, the museums are more reliant than ever on donations from the private sector to continue to provide the quality programs, collections management, exhibits, and services that have become their hallmark over the last four years. Please make your tax-deductible contribution to be used specifically for the benefit of the museum of your choosing by sending a check to Fremont County Museums 450 N 2nd Rm 320 or taking it directly to the museum you choose to support.  

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