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Evanston Roundhouse

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This page was last updated on January 3, 2019.

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Overview

The current roundhouse at Evanston, Wyoming, was completed in 1913. It was closed as a locomotive facility in 1927 when Union Pacific opened it roundhouse and shops at Ogden, Utah. The Evanston shops then were turned over to UP's Stores Department as a repair and manufacturing facility for all manner of items. The most notable was the manufacture of concrete fence posts, and the repair and refurbishment of baggage wagons seen at all Union Pacific passenger depots. The manufacture of UP's unique snow fences was also a major activity, with kits being loaded onto flat cars and shipped to points where the railroads needed to control snow drifts adjacent to its track.

The Evanston site had a large work force of mechanics that repaired such things as freight and passenger car brake wheels and hand brakes, as well as air brake components. There was also a large force of blacksmiths that manufactured, repaired and refurbished brake rods, grab irons, stirrup steps, and ladders.

The Evanston shops remained active as UP's "Reclamation Plant" until the Stores Department was centralized, and the outlying points were closed in 1971. The work being done at Evanston was transferred to the larger site at Cheyenne, and the Evanston site was decommissioned.

Timeline

"Evanston's first structure and business enterprise was a tent saloon erected by Harvey Booth in November 1868 as the UP tracks reached the point where they turned westward from the Bear River Valley toward Echo Canyon and Utah. But the town's real life began in late 1870 when the railroad chose Evanston as the locomotive service and crew division point between Ogden, Utah, and Green River, Wyo. Grenville

Dodge platted the town in December 1870, orienting its main streets to the railroad tracks rather than to compass points. All the streets in Evanston's core run northeast-southwest and northwest-southeast.

In 1871, the UP constructed a 20-stall stone roundhouse just northwest of the center of town, to service locomotives. In addition to train crews and roundhouse workers, the railroad also employed section crews who lived in camps along the tracks and were responsible for maintaining and repairing six-mile stretches, or sections, of the tracks and rights of way.

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 feet deep, along with a steam heating plant, electric lights, and a new turntable.

1913
"At Evanston, Wyoming: New brick engine house consisting of twenty-five 96-foot and three 114-foot stalls, equipped with boiler washout system; standard drop pits including jacks; steam heat and electric lights." (UP 1913 Annual Report)

"At Evanston, Wyoming: New brick power house, 50 x 82 feet, equipped with three 250 H.P. Sterling boilers, induced draft System; hot water heaters and feed pumps."(UP 1913 Annual Report)

"At Evanston, Wyoming: New 100-foot Pony Truss turntable with electric tractor, installed at Evanston, Wyoming." (UP 1913 Annual Report)

"At Evanston, Wyoming: New conveyor type locomotive coaling station serving three tracks, all steel fireproof construction, with a capacity of 300 tons; also equipped for handling cinders and sand." (UP 1913 Annual Report)

August 12, 1913
The contractor doing the block paving in the new North Platte roundhouse had been delayed because he had been kept at Evanston longer than anticipated. (North Platte Tribune, August 12, 1913)

1918
"At Evanston, Wyoming: New brick machine shop 100 x 150 feet with necessary tools and machinery." (UP 1918 Annual Report)

"At Evanston, Wyoming: Coal and ash handling machinery installed in present power house." (UP 1918 Annual Report)

1927
With the opening of a new roundhouse in Ogden, 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.

The locomotive work previously performed at Evanston was moved to Ogden and to Green River.

(Read more about the roundhouses at Ogden, Utah)

1937
"Other property retired (because of changed operating conditions): Fuel station and appurtenances at Evanston, Wyoming." (UP 1937 Annual Report)

1939
"Other property retired (because of changed operating conditions): Certain shop and enginehouse appurtenances (including some machinery and tools) at Evanston, Wyoming." (UP 1939 Annual Report)

1941
"At Evanston, Wyoming: Constructed coal chute of 200 tons capacity with sand facilities, to expedite train movements." (UP 1941 Annual Report)

In 1971, changes to the way Union Pacific repaired its rail cars took away the need for the reclamation plant at Evanston, and it was closed as a Union Pacific facility.

November 1971
"Evanston Reclamation Plant Closes -- Union Pacific will transfer the functions of the Evanston, Wyoming reclamation plant and store to Cheyenne. Transfer allowances and other protective benefits are being worked out for the employees of the Evanston plant and store who will be affected." (UP INFO magazine, November 1971)

In 1974, the railroad deeded the land and facilities to the City of Evanston. At the same time local businessmen formed a corporation to develop the area surrounding the roundhouse. The same year, the plant was leased by the Wyoming Railway Car Corporation, as a contract shop for the repair of privately owned rail cars. In 1979, the Lithcote Company purchased Wyoming Railway Car Corporation.

Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality says the City of Evanston became owner of the roundhouse site in 1972. The roundhouse site was leased to Wyoming Rail Car in 1972, and Wyoming Rail Car was sold to Lithcote in 1979. Union Tank Car used the site until 1994, when it moved to its new facility. And in 1997 the City began its restoration of historical buildings at the site.

(Research has found that the greatest portion of the historical dates used in Wyoming DEQ and federal EPA reports came from personal interviews, with no citations for where the interviewees got their information from, other than personal memory. It has been noted that these reports generally cite each other, without completing actual research in historical documents. The same comment about reports citing each other applies to the historical data presented by various governmental web sites and volunteer organizations.)

A review of aerial and satellite images shows that the new Union Tank Car facility had not yet been constructed, or even started, by August 1994. This indicates that preparation for the move was in 1996. The actual move likely took place in 1998, the date given in some of the materials.

The federal EPA web site says:

In 1912, the present Roundhouse and machine shop were constructed, the original roundhouse was demolished and the old machine shop was converted to a wood shop. Over the following 50 years, the remainder of the buildings on the site were constructed, with most constructed prior to 1920.

The following services were performed at the Complex: Repair and redistribution of railroad track tools; Manufacturing of concrete fence posts; and repair of railroad equipment such as locomotives (up to 1926) and freight cars, and parts such as wheels, axles, and gate valves. These repair and redistribution activities included welders, carpenters, tinsmiths, blacksmiths, machinists, plumbers, and general laborers. From 1926 to 1971· (when these activities ceased), the roundhouse site operated as Union Pacific's Evanston Reclamation, Repair and Manufacturing Plant.

In 1994, the city funded a preliminary environmental assessment and an architectural study to better understand potential restoration and reuse opportunities.

In 1998, Evanston received the funding it needed through a $200,000 EPA Brownfields Assessment Grant. An additional $200,000 in supplemental and greenspace funding was also provided by EPA. The assessments were completed in the summer of 2001 and identified asbestos, lead, benzene, and arsenic. Cleanup began on the Machine Shop in October 2002, at an estimated cost of $140,000.

With assessments and cleanup finished, the Machine Shop underwent a $2.5 million redevelopment and restoration that included extensive efforts to maintain its historical integrity. Since its opening in February 2004 as premier event space, the Machine Shop's 500 person capacity and large kitchen has greatly enhanced the City of Evanston's ability to host events and increase tourism.

Lithcote Company filed with the Wyoming Secretary of State on January 5, 1983, and the company was placed on inactive status on April 29, 1988, indicating that Union Rail Car bought Lithcote at about that time.

Union Tank Car Company filed with the Wyoming Secretary of State on October 13, 1982, with an address in Cheyenne. Union Tank Car Company was incorporated in Delaware on September 23, 1980.

Union Tank Car Company merged with Lithcote Company on August 5, 1987. Filed in Wyoming on May 9, 1988.

1991
The City of Evanston began planning its renovation and restoration efforts, as budgetary constraints allowed.

1998
After Union Tank Car moved to its new much larger facility northwest of the roundhouse, the City of Evanston began a larger renovation and restoration effort, still limited by a tight budget.

Locomotive Crane

UP 903124, an Industrial Brownhoist locomotive crane with 25 tons capacity, built in 1952, was likely assigned to the Evanston Reclamation Plant at the Evanston roundhouse when the plant was closed in late 1971. It was retired by UP in October 1972. The roundhouse and surrounding area were donated to City of Evanston in 1974. UP 903124 was likely sold to Wyoming Rail Car Co., Evanston, Wyoming, in 1974 when the company started business in the leased roundhouse. Wyoming Rail Car was sold to Lithcote Co. in 1983. Lithcote merged with Union Tank Car Co. in 1988. When Union Tank Car was planning its move to its new facility in 1996, it donated the locomotive crane to the City of Evanston, Wyoming, and the crane is today displayed at the roundhouse in Evanston.

Brochure

The following comes from a brochure produced by the City of Evanston:

Late 1868 - The Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) had reached what was the fort camp of Evanston, Wyoming. A few years later, the city was named after UPRR railroad surveyor James. A. Evans. As the 20th Century drew closer, a train depot was built, along with the Roundhouse & Railyards, establishing Evanston as a permanent stop along the Union Pacific line.

Built by Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR), Evanston's Roundhouse & Railyards is a site to behold, the 27-acre complex was used to primarily service and repair rail cars and engines.

1871 - The first Roundhouse was constructed on the grounds currently occupied by City Hall today.

1912 - Building of the Roundhouse & Railyards commences in November. The many structures include a machine shop, carpenter's shop, power house, cafeteria, oil house, mineral building, and of course, a four-section roundhouse with 28 bays.

1926 - With the ability of such locomotives to travel further distances without repair or refueling, UPRR decided to close the site; however, the citizens of Evanston rallied and beseeched them to remain open as a reclamation plant. Without the operation of the Roundhouse & Railyard's facilities, the community faced a dire economic crisis. At various times in its history, the site employed over 300 people.

1927 - UPRR agrees to reopen the plant, and the site continues to operate for another 45 years under UPRR's management.

1930s-1950s - The UPRR workers at the Roundhouse & Railyards participated in many civic groups and events, including baseball leagues and the Union Pacific Male Chorus.

1971 - The Roundhouse and Railyards are officially closed by UPRR. The following year, UPRR would deed the entire 27-acre site (with the exception of the Power House building) to the City of Evanston. The City leases the property to a series of railcar repair companies until 1998 when the last tenant relocates to a new facility down the street.

1991 - The depot building in Historic Depot Square on Front Street is one of the first railroad areas in Evanston to be renovated.

2004 - The Machine Shop is fully restored. Equipment used on the UPRR mainline was repaired here. Today it is utilized as a place for both public and private events, ranging from the Evanston High School prom, the annual Renewal Ball fundraiser to weddings and graduation parties.

2009 - The first of four sections of the Roundhouse is completely revitalized. The semi-circular roundhouse is one of a very few completely intact and still standing structures of its kind. Its curved walls stand a remarkable 80 feet high, with a total of 28 train stalls. The facility operated by placing a rail car or engine onto the turntable and pushing it into one of the bays where mechanics repaired it. Impressively, the metal turntable remains operational!

2010 - The turntable is fully renovated. The metal sidings and the wooden decking are repainted and repaired, respectively.

For over 30 years the Evanston Urban Renewal Agency has hosted the Renewal Ball, a fundraiser for various restoration efforts in the downtown district, on the first Saturday in June. The money raised during the annual event is used for the renovation of the Roundhouse & Railyards, as well as, other downtown sites and projects.

2011 - The J.T. & Phyllis Patterson Visitor Center is primarily created due to a generous donation from members of the local Patterson family. The building, formally known as the "Oil House," is transformed into the site's main structure for tourists.

2012 - Roundhouse Restoration Incorporated (RRINC) and the Evanston Historic Preservation Commission led the charge to renovate the Superintendent's Office and the Wash House. The buildings are rehabilitated with the assistance of local individuals, businesses and organizations, Rocky Mountain Power, WYDOT and the Wyoming Cultural Trust Fund. It is hoped that in the years to come, the City will obtain the Power House (still owned by UPRR) and restore the remaining sections of the Roundhouse, so that future generations can enjoy this remarkable, historic railroad treasure! The entire site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

WyoHistory.org

The following comes from WyoHistory.org:

Evanston, the county seat of Uinta County, is located in the southwestern corner of the state in the Bear River Valley. Union Pacific Railroad Chief Engineer Grenville Dodge named the town for James Evans, who surveyed the eastern half of the railroad's route through Wyoming Territory and probably never set eyes on his namesake.

Evanston's first structure and business enterprise was a tent saloon erected by Harvey Booth in November 1868 as the UP tracks reached the point where they turned westward from the Bear River Valley toward Echo Canyon and Utah. But the town's real life began in late 1870 when the railroad chose Evanston as the locomotive service and crew division point between Ogden, Utah, and Green River, Wyo.

Dodge platted the town in December 1870, orienting its main streets to the railroad tracks rather than to compass points. All the streets in Evanston's core run northeast-southwest and northwest-southeast.

In 1871, the UP constructed a 20-stall stone roundhouse just northwest of the center of town, to service locomotives. In addition to train crews and roundhouse workers, the railroad also employed section crews who lived in camps along the tracks and were responsible for maintaining and repairing six-mile stretches, or sections, of the tracks and rights of way.

In 1912 and 1913, the Union Pacific constructed a 65,000-square-foot, 28-stall brick roundhouse to accommodate its larger steam locomotives. On its 27-acre complex northwest of downtown, the company also built a 17,000-square-foot brick machine shop and several ancillary buildings, including a brick power house with generators to supply electricity to the complex and a wooden office building. For nearly 60 years, the lives of Evanston's residents were governed by the rhythms of the steam whistle at the roundhouse complex, which sounded daily at 7 a.m., noon and 4 p.m.

The first significant economic shock to Evanston came suddenly in 1925, when UP executives announced that they planned to eliminate Evanston as a locomotive service and crew change point. The news was devastating to a community where a quarter of the population depended on a UP paycheck. A delegation of determined city officials and businessmen traveled to Omaha to plead with railroad administrators to reconsider their decision. Surprisingly, the company did so.

In 1926, the roundhouse complex reopened as the Evanston Reclamation, Repair and Manufacturing Plant. At its peak during the war years, the Reclamation Plant employed more than 200 people, a significant number for a town of 3,600 residents. In the 1950s, however, employment slowly dropped as Union Pacific's maintenance activities became more centralized. By 1971, when the plant finally closed, the labor force had dwindled to about 50.

Sources

Union Pacific annual reports research by James E. Ehernberger.

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