EVANSTON, Wyo. — It was a blast from the past that called people together to celebrate the 100th birthday of Rocky Mountain Power and the partial restoration of buildings from Evanston’s railroad past.
The Evanston Roundhouse and Evanston Shop, which sit on 27 acres, are an important part of Wyoming's history, and nearly $12 million has been put toward their restoration.
Evanston was a railroad town, and model railroaders came to pay their respects on June 29. The roundhouse was built between 1912 and 1914, and with its turntable and 28 bays, the building was used by Union Pacific Railroad to repair its rail cars and engines.
The big turntable out in front of the roundhouse still operates today, rotating at 0.33 RPMs, with the purpose of getting locomotives off on the right track.
The shop, which was also used as a repair facility, was built in 1914.
In its heyday, approximately 300 men and women worked there during World War II. Shortly thereafter, the buildings were shut down. People were so outraged with the closures that in 1927, UPRR reopened them as a reclamation plant.
Evanston officials hope to relocate City Hall in the roundhouse when restoration is complete, giving new life to a place with a long history.
"It's our identity. It's our heritage," said Evanston director of administrative services Jim Davis. “The irony of all of this is the roundhouse was one of the first to close in the state of Wyoming and one of the first in the Union Pacific line, and yet it's one of the last ones standing."
Work to restore the buildings began in 1998. In 2004, the shop was restored and converted into a multiuse public facility, which can serve groups as large as 400 to 500 people.
Five years later, work was completed on a quarter of the roundhouse. It is being used for special events and receptions. It’s so popular that people have to book the roadhouse a year in advance. Rocky Mountain Power paid for part of the restoration. Its predecessor, Utah Power and Light, was incorporated in 1912.
"And it's really an opportunity to go back and see how far the world's evolved, what's changed," said Rocky Mountain Power President and CEO Richard Walje.
Wyoming's governor was the guest of honor, celebrating work done in these buildings 100 years ago. "We enjoy this big, wonderful Wyoming because of the hard work and dedication of those who came before us," said Gov. Matt Mead.
Celebrating the event, a photo replicating another taken 70 years ago was taken. Men working in the Union Pacific buildings bought war bonds to help pay the cost of fighting World War II and took a photograph together. The old photo was the template for the new, and about 200 people paid $15 to pose in the same position, some sitting in for relatives, but for a different cause.
"The photo, when it was taken in 1942, the men reached in their pockets and bought a war savings bond, so we're selling a restoration bond," Davis said.
Contributing: Viviane Vo-Duc