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The Dale Creek Bridge in southeastern Wyoming figures in the first two books of The Iron Horse Chronicles. The Union Pacific Railroad completed the timber trestle in the spring of 1868. The bridge was the highest required on the Union Pacific line. The trestle rose 126 feet above the streambed and stretched 700 feet to span the gap at the top of the canyon. A UP engineer said “it was a big bridge for a small brook that one could easily step over.” Abraham Lincoln is quoted as describing a similar bridge that crossed the Potomac River during the Civil War as being built of “beanpoles and cornstalks.”
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In the first book, Eagle Talons, Will Braddock is a hunter in 1867 for his uncle’s survey team working in the canyon prior to bridge construction. Here, Will encounters the band of Cheyennes who later kidnap Jenny McNabb, traveling in her family’s covered wagon from Virginia Dale Station, Colorado. You can read what I wrote on April 18, 2016, about this famous stagecoach station by clicking on the Archives tab in the right margin.
In Bear Claws, the second book, Will returns to the Laramie Range for a celebration on April 16, 1868, that the Union Pacific held to commemorate laying tracks over Sherman Summit. At 8,247 feet it was the highest point achieved in building the first transcontinental railroad. It surpassed the 7,056-foot elevation at Donner Pass, California, which was the highest point on the Central Pacific Railroad.
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Will’s train would have slowed to four miles per hour to creep over the wooden trestle, twenty miles west of Sherman Summit. The reduced speed was not because of concern about the strength of the material used in the bridge, but for the strong winds whistling down the canyon. The railroad anchored the trestle to the canyon floor with guy wires to diminish the swaying. Still, with the threat that the wind could blow the lightweight cars off the track, the crossing was described as terrifying.
In Bear Claws, Will also sees the “Lone Tree” around which the UP curved the tracks in order not to have to cut down the only tree growing on the windswept summit. The railroad no longer follows the original route that Will Braddock knew. The Dale Creek Bridge is gone. The “hell on wheels” town of Sherman Summit no longer exists. The limber pine, which could be as old as 2,000 years, does exist and stands between the westbound and eastbound lanes of I-80. Stopping at this turnoff on the Interstate, one gets a feel for what Will and his friends experienced when the trains sped westward at forty miles per hour until the engineer had to apply the brakes at the Dale Creek Bridge.