National Register of Historic Places


Union Pacific Railroad Complex

Evanston, Wyoming

Date Added to Register

Tuesday, February 26, 1985

Smithsonian Number

48UT971

Read all about it

The main Union Pacific tracks, as well as numerous spurs, bisect the railroad complex in Evanston, Wyoming. The complex contains frame and brick industrial buildings located in their original surroundings on the northeast side of Evanston. Most of the brick buildings were constructed in 1912-1913 while the frame structures date from the late nineteenth century to the 1920s. The construction materials and architectural designs act as unifying elements within the Union Pacific industrial yard. Today the names of the architects and builders remain unknown, yet each building represents typical construction techniques and designs for industrial buildings such as the roundhouse.

Construction on the Union Pacific Railroad began in 1863. On November 23, 1868, Harvey Booth erected a tent on what is known as Front Street in Evanston, Wyoming. There he opened a restaurant and saloon in anticipation of the arrival the the Union Pacific Railway. The first cars reached Evanston in December, 1868 and, in the space of a few weeks, nearly 600 people, some living in tents, populated the area. Then came an order from the railway managers to move the end of the line and the base of supplies to Wasatch, twelve miles further west. The shanties and tents were torn down and within 24 hours, most of the citizens of Evanston picked up and moved to Wasatch. Within three days, the town was entirely depopulated. Evanston appeared to be destined to suffer the same fate of other ''end of the tracks'' towns.

The following June, however, the headquarters moved back to Evanston and the town began to grow. The Union Pacific Railway provided a dependable economic base for the resident population, and the opening of the coal mines near Evanston at Almy provided also a source of regular income for workers. The Union Pacific roundhouse and shop complex was completed on July 4, 1871. With the completion, Evanston became the major maintenance facility for the U.P. Division between Green River, Wyoming and Ogden, Utah. In 1912-1913 new, larger facilities were built. A new roundhouse was erected, consisting of 27 stalls, each 100'' deep, along with a steam heating plant, electric lights, and a new turntable.

The development of diesel engines made the Evanston facility obsolete, and the roundhouse and shops were closed. Union Pacific maintenance crews were transferred to Green River. In 1927, the Union Pacific Reclamation Plant opened at the Evanston complex. There, rolling stock was repaired and refurbished. This plant employed over 300 men, making it Evanston's largest employer. In 1971, modern production methods and lower prices for new equipment caused the final closure of the roundhouse as a Union Pacific facility.

In 1974, the railroad deeded the land and facilities to the City of Evanston; local businessmen formed a corporation to develop the area. The same year, the plant was leased by the Wyoming Railway Car Corporation, for the purpose of preventive maintenance, painting, sandblasting, and designing of railroad cars. More than seventeen railway companies sent cars to Evanston for repairs. In 1979, the Lithcote Company purchased Wyoming Railway Car Corporation.

The Union Pacific Railroad saved Evanston from becoming another ''end of the tracks'' town. The remaining roundhouse and associated structures serve as a visible reminder of the important role played by the railway in the growth and development of Evanston.

Department of State Parks & Cultural Resources