The Laramie Historic Railroad Depot is set to showcase model railroads and railroad art this week to help kick off the 150th anniversary of the founding of Laramie.
The city was founded May 4, 1868, with the arrival of Union Pacific railroad tracks. A couple weeks later, the city had 2,000 residents, most of whom arrived by train.
“Because Laramie was originally a railroad town, we are going to have a model railroad show,” said Charles Van Heule, a member of the Laramie Railroad Depot Association.
The Model Railroad Show is scheduled for 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday at the Historic Laramie Railroad Depot, 600 S. First St.
A Railroad Art Show is scheduled for 4:30-7:30 p.m. Monday-Wednesday at the depot. Admission is free to all events.
Van Heule said the Depot Association will set up the model railroads it owns, along with trains belonging to association members.
“The depot does keep a couple layouts that we own and operate, and most of our members are bringing their trains down to share,” he said.
He estimated that they’ll have about 400 linear feet of scale-model track set up, which translates to about four miles if the track were full-sized. That includes three new layouts they’ve never shown before, plus some kid-friendly set-ups.
“We’ll have smaller trains for the kids to operate, so they can drive the trains themselves instead of always us doing it, which they’ll enjoy,” he said.
Members are planning to spend most of Friday setting up their models.
“All of the volunteers at the depot have put in quite a few hours prepping for this, so we’re really excited,” he said.
The Railroad Art Show is set to include art and memorabilia from the region or depicting Union Pacific equipment. The work includes pieces from the Depot Association’s collection as well as loans from the personal collections of members.
According to Van Heule, the railroad was Laramie’s largest employer until 1965. At the height of World War II, which was also the height of the steam engine, there were more railroad employees living in Laramie than there were students at the University of Wyoming.
“This was a train town,” he said. “They ran crews 24 hours a day to keep those things running. Steam locomotives required a lot more maintenance and care than diesels do.”
Also as part of the kick-off weekend, a 150th Anniversary Kickoff Celebration is set for noon-6 p.m. Friday at the Wyoming Territorial Prison State Historic Site, 975 Snowy Range Road. The free event will include guest lectures, food, music and more.
Lecture topics include bicycle history, women on the frontier, Chicanos in Laramie and the Wilcox train robbery of June 2, 1899.
Events celebrating the 150th anniversary of Laramie’s founding are set to continue through the summer and into the fall.