I consider myself a historian of the UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD. By that, I mean a person who has an interest in the minutiae of the events of the past, which, when strung along a time-line, chronicle the evolution of the UPRR from its birth, by an Act of Congress, to its presence today as an important factor in our nation’s economy. My self-appraised status as a historian is that of a dilettante at the beginner level. Years ago, I joined the UNION PACIFIC HISTORICAL SOCIETY in order to associate myself with people having similar interests and those persons who have accomplished themselves as railroad historians. My joining the UPHS has proved very supportive of my interest in the history of the UPRR and I am thankful I had the foresight to do so.
I attend as many annual UPHS conventions as possible for the simple reasons I always have a great time and the opportunities for learning are manifold. I attended a convention held in Cheyenne, Wyoming a few years ago and was treated to a visit to the Dale Creek gorge, the site of the notorious Dale Creek Bridges. I was so amazed at what I witnessed that I made arrangements to return after the convention and explore and photograph the site extensively. This marks the beginning of my infatuation with the history of the Dale Creek Crossing.
The history of the site includes the twice replacement of the bridges. The twice replacement of the bridges begs the question as to how the railroad kept the line open during the time of the replacements. The more I considered the question, the more I wanted to find the answer. I obviously needed to undertake some research. It occurred to me this effort might result in something that could be published in “STREAMLINER”, the journal of the UPHS. The Editor agreed with me and I began to search for pertinent material. That is when the trouble started.
I had in my mind I should research the newspapers of Laramie and Cheyenne, dated about the time of the bridge replacements. After a bit of thrashing around on the internet, I found a website that promised me access to the newspapers of Wyoming. ( http://newspapers.wyo.gov/) So, I began by searching on the keywords “Dale Creek”. I promptly was presented with an impressive number of “hits”. I quickly learned Dale Creek was a very popular places for fishing, picnics, and sight-seeing for the inhabitants of both Cheyenne and Laramie for many years. I realized I was going to have to narrow my search. As I did that, I began to read articles about railroad matters not having anything to do with Dale Creek and soon I was just reading the newspaper articles in general, just for the fun I was having trying to relate to life in those times. After a lot of time spent playing with my new-found time-machine, I found what I was looking for and I moved on to other web-sites.
By a process best described as a “random walk”, I found a web-site which promised me access to the historical documents of the building of the Central Pacific Railroad west from Sacramento. (http://cprr.org/Museum/index.html) I readily determined the web-site was as promised and was soon immersed in the reading of the documents which led to the building of the Pacific Railway. Each item I was reading was an image of the original document; not a transcription of the text in the document. Inevitably, my curiosity overwhelmed my plan for increased insight into Dale Creek history and I found myself reading for a deeper understanding of the saga of the Pacific Railway. This led me to search for a web-site which would gain me opportunities to read the reports made about the topographical surveys which led to the selection of the final route of the Pacific Railway. (http://www.hathitrust.org/) This web-site led me to another, and then to another, and another, an so on. There seems to be no limit to the material available on the subject of the Pacific railway. Here are a few web-sites I have found.
UPRR history: http://www.up.com/aboutup/history/index.htm
USA patents: http://patft.uspto.gov/netahtml/PTO/patimg.
I began this research enterprise by asking myself a simple question about the replacements of the Dale Creek bridges. My data search has led me to a vast reservoir of research materials, way beyond the needs of my simple question. The informational resources of the inter-net are so large as to render one helpless in facing the consequences of insatiable curiosity. There must be a point where I am able to stop looking and start writing. I have not reached it yet, but I will keep looking for it.