Engine, Engine – #4004 & #1242
Two railroad relics rest in Cheyenne parks commemorating the importance railroads have played since Cheyenne’s founding. The massive Big Boy steam engine #4004 proudly stands in Holliday Park. The coal-fired Big Boy was designed to pull a 3600-ton train over the steep Union Pacific grads between Cheyenne and Ogden, Utah. Ranked as the world’s largest steam locomotive, Engine #4004 ran from 1941 – 1958 and is one of only eight remaining Big Boys on display in the United States.
Wyoming’s oldest locomotive is retired to Lions Park on the north end of Cheyenne Botanic Gardens. Nicknamed “Ol’ Sadie” by Union Pacific crews, #1242 was built in 1890 in New Jersey. The coal/steam powdered engine ran the Walcott-Saratoga-Encampment spur line until 1954.
While visiting “Ol’ Sadie” note the unique fence created by Floyd Young, the last engineer to operate the locomotive. In retirement Young collected Western and railroad relics, forming them into a fence around his home. After his death the family donated the fence to the Botanic Gardens to enclose Young’s beloved #1242.
Stories from Big Boots
Eight-foot-tall cowboy boots dot the Cheyenne landscape. Created as a fundraiser for the Cheyenne Depot Museum Foundation in 2004, 19 boots were painted and decorated by local artists. Sponsorships and auction made nearly $100,000 for the museum. The boots are displayed throughout the community – parks, businesses, and public spaces to the local community college.
The project’s theme was “If this book could talk, what story would it tell?” Governors of Wyoming and Where the Deer and the Antelope Play appear fairly obvious. A free audio tour relates the story of each book in the artists’ own words. Simple to use, the tour is accessed by calling 307-316-0067 followed by an assigned boot number and the pound key. While the tour is free individual cell plan charges may apply.
Of the boots we visited my favorite was Licensed to Boot installed outside of the Wyoming State Museum. The top part of the boot is painted with scenes from past Wyoming state license plates. The toe of the boot is cover with a mosaic of pieces cut from actual license plates donated to the project. Upon investigation I discovered Licensed to Boot was an after school project of the Carey Junior High Art Club. A shout out to the students for their creative and accomplished Big Boot!
A free “These Boots are made for Talking!” brochure is available at the Cheyenne Visitor Information Center in the Depot.
Highlighting ”The Daddy of ‘em All
The world’s largest outdoor rodeo and Western celebration captures Cheyenne’s essence each July. For 10 days there’s nothing quite like “The Daddy of ‘em All”. Year round, Cheyenne’s visitors can capture that Western tradition and spirit with a stop at the Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum & Store.
Permanent and changing exhibits demonstrate the multiple facets of the world famous event, saddle bronc riding to championship belt buckles, grand parades to rodeo queens. A current exhibit, “Bullfighters: The Risky Road to Glory!”, features not only the daring and determined bull riders but also the important role of rodeo clowns and legendary careers of Mr. T and Crooked Nose – bulls rarely successfully ridden.
The museum houses a historic collection of horse-drawn carriages and wagons, many that make appearances in the Frontier Days parades. Visitors can climb aboard one designated carriage for a photo op complete with a “becoming” hat. “Hole in the Wall” is an interactive gallery giving kids an opportunity to practice roping and Western themed activities.
Shoppers find a plethora of Cheyenne Frontier Days branded merchandise in the Old West Museum store. Need a souvenir belt buckle, t-shirt or etched martini glass? You’ll find it here.
When You Go: The museum located at Frontier Park is open year round except major holidays, 9am-5pm weekdays, 10am-5pm weekends. Admission is $7/adult with children 12 and under free.
Trolley Ride Through Cheyenne History
On our first afternoon in Cheyenne we hop aboard the bright red and green Cheyenne Street Railway Trolley, an easy and relaxing intro to the city’s history and attractions. As our driver/guide Ron spins stories of a colorful past I make a list of locations I want to revisit, either to explore or take photographs.
As we pass the century-old Plains Hotel Ron explains the reasoning behind the smaller-than-average elevator. In the early 1900s when cowboys came to town to let off a little steam they would frequently ride their horses into bars and hotels. The Plains Hotel owner wanted an elevator that would hold only four men at a time – too small for a horse, effectively keeping horses out of the guest rooms. Later when we stopped by the Plains Hotel we watched four adults squeeze into the elevator that still keeps horses at bay.
The 90-minute trolley tours run daily from early May through September. For those wanting a car-free day passengers can stop at several attractions and join the next tour in 90 minutes. Weekday stops include The Nelson Museum of the West, the Wyoming State Capitol and Museum, the Frontier Days Old West Museum and Cheyenne Botanic Gardens, and the Historic Governor’s Mansion. Check the website for tour times and weekend tour details.
Tours cost $10/adult and $5/children 2-12. The Trolley Plus pass valid for two days includes admission to the Old West Museum, Nelson Museum and the Depot Museum, plus the trolley tour all for $15/adult.
Halloween Ghost Tours and Christmas Light Tours offered yearly.
Visit Cheyenne Info Center
We made the info center in the restored Cheyenne Depot a first stop on our discovery trip to Wyoming’s capital city. Well stocked with printed info for all tourism interests, the selection covers all of the state not just Cheyenne. Staff gladly answers questions, offers suggestions and gives directions.
Purchase tickets for the Cheyenne Street Railway Trolley tours. Or, pick up the free booklet for the Historic Downtown Cheyenne Walking Tour which covers 55 buildings along a 23-block stroll through the core of the city.
The information desk is open 8am-5pm Monday – Friday, open weekends with varying seasonal hours.