Historical Details

Chicago and North Western Coal Trains and Overpass

Courtesy of The Lusk Herald, 09/04/2015

The Lusk Herald
February 3, 1983
Railroad officials assure fairness and cooperation by North Western

Chicago and North Western Railroad officials have assured the Town Council that North Western will be cooperative and fair in assisting with problems here created by impact from the company's coal line.

Dick McDonald, vice president of Western Properties, Inc., in charge of the coal project for C&NW and Bob Michey, regional vice president, met with the council last Thursday morning. Michey explained that the coal hauling project through Lusk from the Powder River Basin to Nebraska has had many setbacks; but, the project is "finally getting down where we feel we are pretty safe in doing our planning for construction this year."

The railroad officials said that construction of the spur line from Crandall Junction (near Van Tassell) to Joyce, Nebraska and rehabilitation of the line from Shawnee to Crandall could start in June or July, pending legalities.

"As far as Lusk is concerned, if we start in June or July probably all of the construction will be done here by September or October," Michey said. He added that some follow-up signal work would be done in 1984, and in accord with a contract with the Wyoming Highway Department, construction on an overpass in Lusk would commence 18 months after the overpass at Van Tassell. They explained that the time table for the overpasses is contingent on the number of coal trains moving over the line.

Projections for the end of the first year are one or two trains each direction a day; but, by 1992 North Western hopes the traffic will be up to 30 trains a day each direction. The number of trains through Lusk on the line will depend on coal contracts, the C&NW officials explained.

Michey and McDonald explained that construction on the rail line will be taking place at the same time in several locations. Grading and bridge crews will be followed by track laying crews. Michey added that the rehabilitation of the present railroad will be completed - weather permitting - the first year and in April of 1984 work will commence on the spur line.

The council which is concerned with providing housing here during the construction period was told by Michey that somewhere in the neighborhood of a maximum of 150 would be working here at the same time for a relative short period of time.

"When all the dust is settled, construction workers finished and the trains start running...Lusk may end up with eight or ten permanent families," McDonald said.

Mayor Don Whiteaker told the railroad official, "We need the extra business...We just need a little lead time...We need to know what is expected."

McDonald said, "When the thing happens, you can be assured that North Western personnel will be out here working with you to solve it. It takes money, we'll work with you to solve it."

The railroad officials added that all possible sales and use tax filings from the project will be made in Niobrara County. Commenting on Siting Council personnel projections for the project they said that the projections are not accurate. "Things were blown way out of proportion, I think," said Michey who had earlier said that the railroad company will comply with "realistic" demands without being told to do so by the Siting Council. "If it is a realistic thing and is really needed, we'll be fair about it."

The Lusk Herald
March 10, 1983
Court rules Siting Council has no jurisdiction over railroad project

The Wyoming Supreme Court upheld a district court decision denying the state industrial siting council jurisdiction over the Chicago & North Western Transportation Co's railroad line from the coal-rich Powder River Basin through Converse and Niobrara counties into Nebraska. Congress preempted the state agency from jurisdiction the high court decided Tuesday, upholding Judge William A. Taylor's ruling last July that the connecting line to be built from near Van Tassell into Nebraska is exempt from Siting council jurisdiction because of the federal Interstate Commerce Act.

The Siting council, maintaining it should direct the railroad to mitigate impact from the rail construction project, had appealed Taylor's ruling.

The unanimous Supreme Court decision Tuesday clears the way for construction of the 56-mile connector from Crandall to Joyce, Neb., without further need for state Siting council permits. What ramification, if any, the ruling will have on impact protection to municipalities including Lusk along the proposed coal line is not known.

Lusk town officials recently met with officials of C&NW who implied that the railroad company will help both financially and physically with the town's demands regarding impact. "If it is a realistic thing and is really needed, we'll be fair about it," the official said. Repeatedly the Siting council was presenting "worse case" impact projections.

The rebuilt line from Orin through Lusk to Crandall where the new connector will join C&NW with the Union Pacific will give C&NW the first access to the Powder River Basin. The coal will be transported out of the Basin over a spur line jointly owned with Burlington Northern to Orin.

C&NW attorneys had asked the court to rule quickly on the appeal because the railroad wants to start construction this spring.

The Lusk Herald
May 19, 1983
C&NW awards contract on the Western Coal Line

The Chicago and North Western Transportation Company announced that it has awarded the major construction contract for its Western Coal Line Project to Neosho Construction Company, Council Groves, Kansas. Neosho is expected to begin work on both rebuilding North Western's existing line through Lusk and on the connector line to the Union Pacific Railroad no later than July 1 of this year and probably earlier.

The contract specifies a firm completion date of November 9, 1984. However, actual circumstances may result in an earlier completion date.

Neosho will have responsibility for two major phases of the project; complete rebuilding of a 45-mile long segment of North Western's existing east-west main line from Shawnee to Crandall (near Van Tassell) and the construction of a new line of railroad 56 miles south from Crandall to Joyce, Nebraska, where it will connect with an existing line of Union Pacific Railroad.

A third phase, a 103-mile long line from Shawnee at the western end of the rebuilt North Western line north to Coal Creek Junction that taps the Powder River Basin coal fields, is already complete and being operated by Burlington Northern Railroad. North Western will purchase a half interest in this line, contingent upon resolution of pending litigation with Burlington Northern.

Total cost of the project, including North Western's half interest in the joint line with Burlington Northern, which will enable North Western to provide competitive rail service to one of the nation's largest low-sulphur coal deposits, is now estimated to be substantially less than the previously announced $460 million estimate for construction, capitalized interest and certain startup costs.

North Western, Union Pacific Corporation and related subsidiaries, have already signed agreements with a group of banks to lend approximately 75% of these costs, up to $414 million. The remaining project costs are to be contributed approximately $25 million by North Western and the balance by Union Pacific Corporation.

The Lusk Herald
June 30, 1983
Work begins on connector line

One big bright spot in an otherwise grim Wyoming economic picture is the start of the $110-$120 million dollar rail connector line by the Chicago & North Western Rail Road.

Work has begun on the first phase of the 132-mile coal train connector line which will link the C&NW's existing line near Shawnee to Joyce, Nebr., where it will connect with the existing Union Pacific Railroad line. Total contract will be between $300 and $400 million.

The general contractor is Neosho Construction Co., Inc. and its initial contract is for $43 million, according to Bill Roberts, project manager. Most of the work will be done by sub-contractors, he said, but his firm will be responsible for two major project phases. They are complete rebuilding of a 45-mile long segment of North Western's existing east-west main line from Shawnee to Crandall (near Van Tassell), and the construction of a new rail line stretching 56 miles south from Crandall to Joyce, Nebr.

Some 200 workers will be employed on the project, which is expected to be completed in November 1984. One small fencing crew is working now, but work is to get underway in earnest in early July. Total project costs, which include debt service and lease expenses, will be about $400 million, according to Richard McDonald, Chicago vice president, Western Rail Road Properties, a subsidiary of the C&NW.

The project will have an enormous effect on not only Lusk (1980 pop. - 1650) but also the nearby communities of Manville, Keeline, Douglas, Lost Springs and Torrington.

"It'll benefit all those communities," Roberts said. "There are so many people out of work that have worked for us before."

Neosho, which also constructed the Burlington-Northern's unit train coal line from Douglas to Gillette, and also did considerable plant work for AMOCO in the Overthrust Belt near Evanston, anticipates little impact or strain on community services. This is because the hiring will be done locally with little influx of thousands of jobseekers such as Evanston and Gillette experienced. But the firm is already being engulfed in job applications.

"We've got three stacks of applications already that high," said Roberts raising his hands a foot over his desk. "We're working with the Wyoming Job Service office in Torrington, and they'll screen and send people to us. We'd love to have them come from Torrington, but they keep coming here and they're so eager for work that we don't turn the applications down."

Roberts remarked that job applicants were waiting before the construction office opened.

"The first day Neosho moved in here, there were about 50 to 60 people waiting in cars to get their applications on file," he said.

Fencing is now underway, with grading to start in July and track laying the latter part of August or early September. Most of the work will be done by laborers, carpenters, heavy equipment operators and iron workers. Roberts estimated that laborers will be paid between $6 and $7 an hour and $10.50 and $11 an hour for welders and equipment operators. Preference will be given to area jobseekers.

The C&NW plans to market the coal from the Powder River Basin in the Midwest and south, including Louisiana.

Douglas Christensen, Chicago, who heads coal marketing for the railroad, said the companies are actively making contract proposals. He added that the coal will be used to fire new electrical generating plants being built to replace old oil and gas fired units.

The Lusk Herald
July 21, 1983
Near Manville: Railroad work continues

A NEOSHO Construction Co., Inc. spokesman said Wednesday morning that work on the Chicago and North Western connector line is on schedule.

"We're on schedule as of today," said Harry Stillwagon, track superintendent. "Everything's looking good."

Crewmen have been working in the Manville and Shawnee areas for the past couple of weeks, he said. Work is also being done near Van Tassell and north of Henry, Nebr. "We're getting a pretty good start," Stillwagon said.

Dirt construction contractors are expected to be working through Lusk sometime in September, he said. Each of the five dirt contractors has from 10 to 20 crewmen each. There are another five fence contractors working with about 10 crewmen each, he added.

After the dirt work is completed, a sub-base material is laid before the ties will be placed. Stillwagon said ties should be laid the first part of September and no rail will be laid until mid-September. "We actually haven't started the track," he said.

When passing through Lusk, traffic crossings in town will be affected for "a couple of hours," he noted. One or the other two crossing areas would be open at all times.

"It would be necessary for us to keep traffic moving," he added.

"So far, we are finding places to park our trailers," he said of the availability of housing. They've also found rentals for the permanent employees.

But a number of crewmen are living in Douglas and surrounding areas, he said. Still, it's "filling up" in Lusk, Stillwagon added. He also noted that the local people have been helpful in finding housing.

"We'll probably end up busing people in," he said of those construction workers living in neighboring towns. That step is due to both the employees already not living in the immediate area and the lack of housing.

The Lusk Herald
August 11, 1983
C&NW gives council advance notice of arrival

An agreement between Chicago and North Western railroad and the Town of Lusk concerning the moving of utility lines when railroad construction moves through Lusk will probably be drawn up in the near future.

That was the suggestion of Tom Dunn, C&NW project engineer, at the Tuesday, Aug. 2 regular council meeting. Dunn told the council some utility lines through town will need to be moved to accommodate the proposed overpass on Main Street.

"It'll take a little time to work out funding," Dunn said. "It's the intent of the railroad to not adversely affect anyone," he said. "I'm certainly recommending the railroad do their part."

"You won't have any problem with our cooperation," said Councilman Gene Kupke, sitting in for the absent Mayor Don Whiteaker.

Dunn said they (C&NW) don't expect the Town to spend thousands to pay for some of the work "just because we're rebuilding our railroad." He added that they will need some help on locating some lines.

Dunn also noted grading will begin in Lusk by the end of September. "Any problems we're causing, I'd like to know," he said.

Kupke said they would look at any problems"as they come up." "We'll meet with you any time on it," he said.

On a final note, Dunn told the council there's "a lot of people moving in (to the area). I wish I could tell you how many."

The Council also agreed to rent shop space at the airport to NEOSHO Construction Co., contractors for C&NW, on a monthly basis with a 60-day eviction period. Kupke said they wanted the space for truck maintenance and storage.

The rental fee would be negotiated.

The Lusk Herald
August 25, 1983
New emergency equipment funding sources unknown

Lusk Mayor Don Whiteaker's efforts to secure funding for a new ambulance, fire truck and garage have hit another roadblock, the latest one being the Chicago and North Western Railroad's denial to make a special contribution of $95,000 to help fund the equipment.

Whiteaker is trying to get emergency equipment housed on the north side of the railroad tracks in Lusk to service the northern part of Lusk and Niobrara County. "I still have the responsibility to take care of North Lusk - to take care of my people on the other side of the track," Whiteaker said Tuesday.

He fears that when the C&NW connector line construction hits Lusk, and subsequent coal trains, the emergency equipment on the south side of town will be blocked or delayed. And the overpass the railroad will be building will take at least two years to complete, he said.

"What do I do in the interim?" he asks.

Whiteaker said the State Farm Loan Board has approved a $95,000 grant which the city has earmarked for the equipment and garage. Of the remaining $95,000 needed, Niobrara County has agreed to put up $15,000 and the Town of Lusk will do the same, he said.

Whiteaker said the County was "too hard up to participate in the grants" so his next approach was to seek funding form C&NW, since they indicated in the past they would cooperate with alleviating mitigating impact.

"They expect utilities to keep up with their development," Whiteaker said. He cited the buying of additional equipment and hiring of additional personnel for the city as a result of the railroad's impact. "I could go on and on and on," he said of indirect impact problems.

"The railroad knows they need to give us some assistance," he said of Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) regulations dealing with mitigating impacts. "My utility systems are taxed to the limit already," he said.

Whiteaker said that at one time, Lusk was to receive $182,000 in impact assistance payments. That "has no value anymore," since a District judge ruled about a year ago that C&NW didn't have to comply with Industrial Siting Council recommendations.

R.H. McDonald, vice president of Western Railroad Properties, Inc., said Tuesday that that decision was upheld by the Wyoming Supreme Court. They were already answering to the ICC, he said.

In a letter to Whiteaker written last week, McDonald denied the Town's request for the $95,000 and pointed to "positive impacts of the railroad construction."

"First, the Railroad has a contract with the State of Wyoming Highway Department to construct a new overhead highway bridge ... at an estimated cost of approximately $3,000,000. This will effectively provide ready access to both sides of the track and be in place when traffic levels reach 4 to 6 loaded coal trains over a 24-hour period," he said.

A loaded coal train travelling at authorized speed will clear one of the three automatically protected crossings in less than two minutes, he said.

McDonald said Tuesday the bridge will be constructed by the Wyoming State Highway Department and said allowances for detours would be up to them. "We're ready and willing to provide access during the construction," he said, and only one of the three access roads across the track would be blocked at one time.

McDonald also said in the letter that it does not appear the estimated influx of 1,100 to 1,400 projected by the Industrial Siting Council will actually take place. He said Tuesday the ISC's 1980 impact projection figures were "grossly inflated."

The main contractor has hired at least 150 local people, he said, that represents an annual payroll of over $3,000,000.

Also at railroad expense, McDonald said, will be the rebuilding of utility lines along railroad property, including new value systems which will indirectly benefit the Town.

"I would hope we can continue to work together toward resolution of our mutual problems and concerns," the letter concluded. McDonald restated that position Tuesday, saying they still want to cooperate with the Town of Lusk.

"I'm not against the railroad in any sense, I just think we need assistance," Whiteaker said.

The Lusk Herald
September 1, 1983
Town of Lusk gets $95,000 from Chicago & North Western

Chicago and North Western has granted the Town of Lusk's request for $95,000 to go toward securing emergency rescue equipment and housing on the north side of the railroad tracks.

C&NW officials presented Mayor Don Whiteaker and Councilmen with the $95,000 check for an ambulance, fire truck and garage Monday afternoon. "Just remember recommendations aren't decisions," said R.H. McDonald, vice president of Western Railroad Properties, Inc., in making the formal presentation.

McDonald had earlier recommended, on the basis outline by the Town, the request be denied. The decision, however, was still pending last week until James R. Wolfe, president and chief executive officer of C&NW returned to Chicago from a three-week vacation. Wolfe reviewed the situation and approved the request last Thursday, McDonald said.

McDonald said Monday that during earlier discussions with the Wyoming Land Commission, the two parties agreed that if the Town of Lusk could show sufficiently that the railroad was adversely impacting the Town, they would cooperate with mitigating impact.

Whiteaker approached C&NW Aug. 4 with the request, saying the construction activities indirectly created problems with over-extended utility systems, under-staffed Town departments and other services. McDonald claimed Whiteaker didn't cite specific figures at that time.

"I feel really good about what's happened," said an elated Whiteaker after the brief exchange Monday. He credited McDonald and Robert Mickey, vice president of real estate and industrial development with C&NW, for their work in the matter.

Whiteaker said "on-going efforts" began "immediately" on getting the equipment since receiving the word last week that the contribution would be made. He said the EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) department and fire department will be making assessments this week. "It's my direction that they will take care of it," he said.

The plans for the building will "take a little more decision," he said.

"There will be no squandering. It will be a council decision all the way through, in hopes of the best interest of all the people in Lusk especially and Niobrara County especially," Whiteaker said.

He said the Town Light Plant would house the equipment if immediately necessary. "We might have to rent something, but we will have fire and emergency equipment on the other side of the tracks during all construction," he said, including that of the overpass.

The building plans will take coordination between the agencies involved, but it will facilitate the fast-attack vehicle for Niobrara County, he said.

He also noted that an adequate number of EMT's and firemen live on the north side of the tracks at this time to sufficiently staff the ambulance and fire truck.

The Lusk Herald
October 20, 1983
Railroad progressing

Work on the Chicago and North Western railroad line is progressing "here, there and everywhere," said a Neosho Construction, Inc. spokesman Tuesday.

Project Engineer Jim Covey said the project is approaching maximum workload (employment). Neosho construction, Inc., the project's main contractor, and its sub-contractors together are employing over an estimated 400 persons from the Douglas-Torrington-Lusk area, he said. He also said more people will still be hired as they "go along" and as the various sub-contractors complete their work.

Covey said there are five grading crews operating at this time, including three on upgrading existing track and two on the connector line. Their earthwork is roughly 65 percent completed on the upgraded portions and 50 percent complete on the connector line, he added.

In other words, he said, of the 112 miles of track, about 30 miles are completed on the upgraded portion and about 25 miles are finished on the connector line.

Sub-ballast has been placed over 15 miles of the upgraded track in the Van Tassell, Shawnee and Manville areas. Covey said ties have been placed over about 10 miles and they are now working on building switches.

Neosho will be assembling track in about a week and they are receiving rail deliveries also, he said. "Virtually all the bridges are under construction and most of the piling is driven," he added.

They are receiving structural steel for the bridges and will be placing it in about a week, he said.

The Lusk Herald
June 21, 1984
Contract will be awarded for overpass

The contract to construct an overpass on Highway 85 in Lusk will be awarded by the end of the year, with the project expected to be completed by the winter of 1985. Because of the relocation of the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad tracks, the Interstate Commerce Commission directed C&NW to build an overpass. Keith Rounds, public information officer for the Wyoming Highway Department, said, "By virtue of the amount of train traffic anticipated it (the railroad) would severely hamper movement in town."

According to Rounds, the contract for the overpass will be awarded this winter and should be completed by the winter of 1985. However, he said weather could delay construction by the contractor. "but this type of work, given this size of project, ought to take about a year to complete," Rounds said.

He estimated the cost of the project to be between $2 and $3 million.

R.H. McDonald, vice-president for Western Railroad Properties, Inc., said the final details of the design are currently being worked out by a consultant hired by C&NW. The state highway department will then take bids on the project.
McDonald said the approaches for the overpass will be located near First Street and beyond the Niobrara River by North park. The overpass will be a four-lane road, the same width as the current street.

Lusk Mayor Don Whiteaker said that while the construction is underway, he expects the north-bound traffic to be bypassed from First Street to Diamond Street to Daley Street. He said officials for the railroad have assured him that construction at the intersection on First and Main could be completed in one to two weeks.

Using First Street as the bypass would cause only temporary inconvenience for several businesses in the area, according to Whiteaker, who said using Second or Third Street as a bypass would have a broader affect on main Street businesses.

"I'm working as hard as I can to impact the least possible people during that construction," he said.

Whiteaker said West First Street and Diamond Street will be improved as a result of the bypass and will provide Lusk with alternate access over the Niobrara River. The streets will be hard-surfaced and improved with curb and gutter and sidewalks. He said the improvement will be an asset to the community in the future.

With the construction blocking normal travel patterns, Whiteaker is concerned with emergency vehicles getting to the northern part of Niobrara County, he said. To prevent any problems, construction will begin this week for a building to house emergency vehicles on the corner of Pershing and Diamond Street.

The Town of Lusk EMT and Fire Control building will cost approximately $40,000, according to Whiteaker, with money for the construction coming from federal grants and assistance from the C&NW Railroad.

The Lusk Herald
August 9, 1984
First coal train runs Aug. 16th

Union Pacific Railroad (UP) and Chicago and North Western Transportation Co. (C&NW) have announced that the 107-mile rail line, the largest single rail construction project to be undertaken in the United States within the last 47 years, will open Thursday, Aug. 16.

"The new rail route will provide American consumers with competitive transportation for the first time from the Powder River Basin coal fields of Northeast Wyoming." Said James R. Wolfe, president of C&NW. C&NW and UP built the 107 miles of new and reconstructed rail line under a joint financial arrangement.

The first 110-car train will be sent across the Wyoming-Nebraska border south of Van Tassell following noontime ceremonies at the state line. They will be attended by officials representing the contractors, mines and area communities.

This train will be the first to carry coal to Arkansas Power and Light Co. under a 20-year contract. The contract calls for delivery of approximately 220 million tons of coal to power plants at Newark and White Bluff, Ark.

A second contract, with Wisconsin Public Service Corp., calls for delivery of at least 800,000 tons of coal annually to Weston Spur, Wis.

Both UP and C&NW are actively seeking other contracts with power companies in the Midwest, South and Southwest and have projected that the line will carry approximately 25 million tons annually by the beginning of the next decade.

The project was originally expected to cost $460 million and be ready to haul coal at the end of two construction seasons. "It beat the mark on both counts," said Richard H. McDonald, vice president in charge of Western Railroad Properties, Inc., a C&NW subsidiary participating in the project with UP.

"We finished the line three months ahead of schedule, and it is coming in at approximately 20 percent less than the original cost estimate," McDonald said.

The substantially reduced construction cost was largely due to contract bidding at a favorable time and a more rapid than expected commitment of coal traffic to the line, thus reducing construction interest and start-up costs to be financed under the $460 million financing plan, according to McDonald.

Construction began on June 27, 1983 when the general contractor, Neosho Construction Co. of Council Grove, Kans., started grading and other preparations for track building. As winter came, a work force sometimes in excess of 500 employees laid a mile or more of rail on some days while grading and bridge construction continued in other areas of the project. Crews stopped only during the severest Wyoming and Nebraska Panhandle cold and blizzard conditions.

The new Connector Line was linked to UP's North Platte Branch at Joyce, Nebr. July 12 by a UP track construction crew. Joyce is a rail junction about two miles west of South Morrill, Nebr.

To build the line, crews required more than 400,000 ties, 3 million spikes, 1.3 million linear feet of 126-lb. continuous welded rail and nearly a million tons of rock ballast for holding ties in place.

The new line also includes 29 bridges and more than 300 culverts for irrigation, drainage, roads and cattle access.

Eventually, an automated switching and signaling system controlled by a centralized dispatching center will be installed along the 107-mile route. It is called Centralized Traffic Control and increases capacity on a single-track line by about 80 percent.

A similar system is already being installed on more than 115-miles of UP's North Platte Branch Line. It also includes electronic equipment to detect overheated wheels and dragging equipment plus a locomotive cab signal system that duplicates wayside signals.

Coal trains will originate at mines in the Powder River Basin between Gillette and Douglas, then move down the 93-mile joint line owned by C&NW and Burlington Northern Railroad, the other coal transporter serving the Powder River Basin coal fields. At Shawnee Junction, trains will travel on a new six-mile leg of railroad that connects to the newly rebuilt C&NW line at Shawnee.

From there, they travel east through Keeline, Manville and Lusk, 45 miles to Crandall, a junction just west of Van Tassell, then south on the 56-mile "connector" line to Joyce.

At first, approximately two loaded and two empty trains daily will use the new route, increasing to about seven or eight loaded trains by the end of the decade. Each train carries 11,000 tons of coal.

Below Northport on the North Platte Branch Line, train traffic by 1985 is expected to reach a total of 11 trains daily because of BN coal train transfers at that junction and local branch traffic.

The first coal train to move on the new 107-mile coal route serving Wyoming's Powder River Basin bursts through a banner at the Wyoming-Nebraska State Line. The Chicago & North Western Transportation Co. train was on its way to an Arkansas Power & Light Co. plant at Neward, Arkansas.

The Lusk Herald
October 16, 1985
Bridge work to start soon

The initial work on a $2.7 million, two-bridge road project on the north portion of Lusk's Main Street will begin in early November, according to the contractor.

The work involves about one-third of a mile of Main Street, which is also U.S. Highway 85.

The project will be done by Larry's Plumbing and Heating, Inc. of Gillette, according to the Wyoming Highway Department.

The project was ordered by the Interstate Commerce Commission after the Chicago and Northwestern Railway relocated their tracks. The railroad company was told to pay for the project, which is designed to prevent traffic tie ups when the railroad is in heavy use.

The project calls for the construction of bridges over the C&NW tracks and the Niobrara River, Barry Lobdell of Larry's Plumbing and Heating said.

He said a box culvert in the river would be constructed this fall. A detour over the culvert would be built during the winter.

That detour will be paved in the spring.

The project will encompass the roadway between the Highway Department building and the first intersection south of the river, Lobdell said. A portion of Main Street will be closed during the project and traffic will be routed through a detour on Diamond Avenue, he said.

June 4, 1986 - Signs form a barrier as work begins on the Highway 85 overpass in Lusk. The detour was opened Thursday and Larry's Plumbing and Heating of Gillette began work on the overpass.

June 29, 1986
The detour was opened and Larry's Plumbing and Heating began work on the overpass.

July 2, 1986
Wyoming Highway Department and Town of Lusk officials installed a pedestrian crossing, signs and signal lights on the north segment of the detour to allow youngsters a safer path to North park. Parents are urged to direct their children to use the walks and paths. State and town officials ask that no one attempt to reach the park by crossing near the feed mill and proceeding towards the walking bridge across the Niobrara. Heavy construction traffic is underway daily in the area of the walking bridge.

Sept. 17. 1986 - WORK PROGRESSES ON THE LUSK OVERPASS project as construction moved closer to downtown in recent weeks. The Highway 85 detour through town was changed recently to allow work on the south approach to the overpass as shown above. The Town of Lusk officials hope to encourage the contractor, Larry's Plumbing and Heating, to coat the dirt base with some substance over the winter to deter blowing dust.

October 22, 1986
OVERPASS PROJECT AHEAD OF SCHEDULE - With the setting of main bridge girders this week, the $2.76 million Lusk overpass project progressed towards its scheduled completion next summer. Joe Norfolk, project superintendent for Larry's Plumbing and Heating of Gillette, said the overpass project is running a little ahead of schedule. Continued good weather will allow workers to progress even further, he said.

With the setting of the first steel girder over the railroad tracks Friday, the overpass project progressed towards its scheduled completion next summer. A quirk in project plans forced the contractor to cut the girders off to fit the crossing.

The Lusk Herald
May 27, 1987
Overpass project slated for early July completion

If all goes as planned, traffic could be moving over Lusk's new railroad overpass by early July.

Joe Norfolk, construction foreman for Larry's Plumbing and Heating, said the contractor is anticipating completion of the $2.67 million project on U.S. 85 by early July. "We're still shooting for the end of June, but we have some extension time on the contract if we need it," he said. Norfolk said recent rains have slowed work on the project but workers are hoping to install curb and gutter within the next week. Work also continues on barriers, separating the highway and sidewalks that will be installed on both sides of the overpass.

Crews are presently installing the surface base to ready it for asphalt application after in June and are installing the coping, a cap on top of the precast concrete walls.

Norfolk said the contractor will be working with the Town of Lusk to hopefully alleviate a problem with the Daley Street approach to the north end of the overpass. The street will be raised to hopefully alleviate winter driving problems there, he said.

Other than the recent string of rain showers, Norfolk said construction hasn't been hampered much by weather. Continued good weather will help complete the project on schedule.

The Lusk Herald
July 15, 1987
U.S. 85 overpass opened to vehicle traffic Monday

Asphalt Surfacing was applied to the U.S. 85 overpass in Lusk last week during final preparations for opening the $2.67 milion project to vehicle traffic. Skylark construction of Douglas, a subcontractor, handled the paving.

Traffic began crossing the new Lusk overpass on U.S. 85 Monday for the first time since construction began on October 24, 1985.

Mike Garner of the Wyoming Highway Department (WHD) announced Monday that no pedestrian or bicycle traffic will be allowed on the overpass until sidewalk is completed on the east side of the roadway. Parents are asked to remind their children not to use the overpass until the sidewalk is opened, possibly as early as Wednesday, July 22, Garner said.

The remainder of the work on the north end of the project, including sidewalk on the west side of the overpass, are tentatively scheduled for completion Tuesday, July 21, Garner said.

Larry's Plumbing and Heating, general contractor on the $2.67 million project, is completing work on the temporary detour connection on West Daley Street. When completed, Daley Street will turn and approach U.S. 85 at a right angle intersection.

Monday's opening of the overpass marked the first time traffic moved over that stretch of U.S. 85 since about June 1, 1986 when the highway was closed to begin work on the overpass.

A WHD spokeman said clean-up efforts around the overpass project area will probably continue for the next couple months.

July 22, 1987 - An empty Chicago & North Western coal train streams through the new U.S. 85 overpass in Lusk, en route to the Powder River Basin for another load of coal. The overpass was constructed by the railroad to increase safety and improve traffic conditions on the highway. A second opening was left in the overpass for the Niobrara River.

The Lusk Herald
July 22, 1987
Ribbon cutting set for Friday

Festivities honoring Chicago and North Western Transportation Company and a ribbon cutting ceremony for the newly constructed U.S. 85 overpass in Lusk will begin at 3 p.m. Friday on top of the overpass.

Officials from C&NW, the Town of Lusk, Wyoming Highway Department and the Niobrara Chamber of Commerce, sponsor of the event, will participate in the program. The overpass will be closed to traffic just prior to the ceremony and most businesses are expected to close during the brief program.

Lemonade will be served by the chamber in Northside Park for everyone attending, following the program. The town's new walking/jogging track beginning in the park is also now open and will be toured by those wishing to do so.

Chicago and North Western will also be hosting an open house at their Lusk office (former depot) on Friday beginning at 2 p.m. and continuing after the ribbon cutting. Refreshments will also be available there.

For complete details of Friday's activities and other information on C&NW and the new overpass, consult pages 11-18 in this week's edition of The Lusk Herald.

C&NW'S NEW OVERPASS over U.S. 85 in Lusk glistens under its street lights as construction nears completion. The photo above is a 15-second time exposure taken from the parking lot of Petrolane, looking south over the overpass. The streaks slightly visible in the southbound lane were caused by the taillights of a car passing by.

The Lusk Herald
July 22, 1987
New U.S. 85 overpass receiving final touches

By Keith Cerny, associate publisher

Construction workers were working on sidewalks as traffic began crossing the U.S. 85 overpass Monday for the first time since work began in October 1985.

All surface work on the new U.S. 85 overpass in Lusk is expected to be completed by Friday noon, just in time for an official ribbon cutting ceremony sponsored by the Niobrara Chamber of Commerce.

Dave Lindmier, project engineer with the Wyoming Highway Department, said the entire project area was open to traffic Monday morning with the weekend completion of approaches on Daley Street. Several months of clean-up efforts around the overpass are expected.

The $2.67 million project, funded entirely by Chicago and North Western Transportation Company, began on Oct. 24, 1985. Traffic was first detoured on U.S. 85 on June 1, 1986 as dirtwork began.

Tale of the Tape
Measuring 1,150 feet from end to end, the overpass rises to a peak of 30 feet and includes two bridges, one for the railroad and another for the Niobrara River. The railroad bridge has 24-foot clearance. Sidewalks are installed on both sides of the overpass, protected by concrete barriers on the traffic side and fence on the outside.

An estimated 55,000 cubic yards of dirt were hauled on site to erect the overpass the patented Reinforced Earth construction using pre-cast concrete wall panels. Specifications show a six percent grade on the south approach and a 6.4 percent grade on the north approach.

The overpass was designed by HDR Consultants based in Omaha, NE. Larry's Plumbing and Heating, Inc. of Gillette was the general contractor. The main subcontractors included Skylark Construction of Douglas for asphalt paving. Energy Electric of Sundance for lighting and Keller Konstruction of Sheridan for fencing. Other companies, including C.C.I. of Lusk which supplied concrete, were subcontracted for supplies and smaller phases of the project. A C&NW spokesman said the overpass was constructed for safety purposes and to improve traffic flow through Lusk after completion of the railroad's new coal line. Sixteen or more trains pass under the overpass daily at between 40 and 49 mph.

Impact committee formed
Discussion on construction of an overpass in Lusk was one of the final items discussed by a railroad impact committee that was organized in Niobrara County in 1979.

Terry Larson, chairman of the committee, said local residents were opposed to building an overpass in Lusk until an ultimatum was made by the Wyoming Highway Department. "It was either build it there or move the highway out of town," Larson said.

"Discussion on the overpass was very intense," said Helen Oates, another member of the now defunct railroad impact committee. She said she recalls the committee requesting that a cage be constructed over any sidewalks on the overpass, and said that is her biggest concern now that the project nears completion.

Lindmier said original specs for the overpass called for the present 42-inch industrial fence. A section of higher, canopied fence was installed at the town's request adjacent to its light plant.

Other committee members, Mrs. Oates said, included Harry Brown, Kendy Rising, Melvin ZumBrunnen, David Poage, Merle Hahn, Mayor Jim Shillenn, Ernie Hansen, Arlo Bowen, Tom Henretty, Pat Wilkins, Dave Jones and Larry Grapentine.

The committee was formed after the C&NW announced it planned to upgrade the line through Niobrara County for coal train traffic. Numerous meetings were held to help set the direction for construction through the county in order that minimal problems be created for local residents.

The Lusk Herald
July 29, 1987
Ribbon Cutting highlights C&NW Appreciation Day

The new U.S. Highway 85 overpass was unofficially dedicated to the memory of longtime Highway Commissioner Reginald Bafford of Lusk, at ribbon-cutting ceremonies Friday, July 24.

Bafford, who died April 14, was recognized as a longtime promoter of the overpass project. He was on the Wyoming highway Commission from 1979-85.

Officials from Chicago and North Western Transportation Company and the state Highway Department spoke to a crowd of nearly 200 at Friday's ceremony. After speeches, the ribbon was cut as a train approached.

"Reg Bafford had a lot of interest in this project," said Pat Hand of Douglas, a Wyoming Highway Commissioner. "He followed it from its inception to its completion. I'm sorry he's not here. He's just looking at it from a different angle."

Leno Menghini, superintendent and chief engineer of the Wyoming Highway Department, also spoke of Bafford. "I'm glad it's dedicated in memory of Reg Bafford," said Menghini. "He was dedicated to the state's highway for six years."

The ceremony, held atop the recently completed overpass, highlighted C&NW Appreciation Day. The $2.67 million overpass was funded completely by C&NW.

Dallas Carlisle, C&NW assistant vice president and division manager, said the company is proud of accomplishments in and about Lusk. He said Mike Larson, Lusk roadmaster, especially deserves praise.

"We have 45 people working in and out of Lusk," said Carlisle. "We plan on their numbers only to increase as time goes on."

He said more C&NW officials wanted to come to the ceremony but a washout in Minneapolis, MN prevented it.

Hand said the overpass is a good illustration of cooperation between the two major forms of transportation in Wyoming, railroads and highways. "We want to thank C&NW for its foresight in providing it for us."

The overpass means progress, said Menhini. "The fact that you people gathered here today shows you care a lot for roads and highways. There is no question of the importance of highways," he said.

Judge Al Taylor told of his boyhood memories of the railroad. He remembers watching weekly as young men boarded the train to go off to fight in World War II. He said he is glad that C&NW also upgraded the local depot.

Richard G. Pfister of Lusk, a member of the Highway Commission, from 1961-67 and chairman from 1965-67, was master of ceremonies. Gene Kupke, acting mayor, gave a short welcoming speech to the officials and citizens of the city and county.

Group singing opened and closed the program. Edna DeCastro played the organ and Helen Oates led singing of the "Star Spangled Banner: and "God Bless America."

Bill Oates, chairman of the Niobrara Chamber of Commerce, presented belt buckles to Carlisle, Menghini and Joe Norfolk, foreman for Larry's Plumbing and Heating, general contractor for the overpass project. Carlisle presented C&NW baseball caps.

After the program, lemonade was served in Northside Park by chamber members alongside the recently completed walking path.

C&NW coal train makes first trip August 15, 1984
By Keith Cerny, associate publisher

It was July 13, 1886 when residents of Silver Cliff and neighboring ranchers breathed a collective sigh of relief as the Fremont, Elkhorn and Missouri Valley Railroad arrived in what is now Lusk.

The railroad's arrival here ended an era that saw this area's earliest residents making 300-mile trips to Cheyenne and back for beans, salt pork and other necessities of life. The coming of the railroad was the end of the tent town, Silver Cliff, and the birth of the boom town, Lusk, named for the railroad's first representative at the new town site, Frank S. Lusk.

Much has transpired over the past 1021 years in terms of railroad activity in Niobrara County, but one thing is for certain. Rail activity here has never been greater.

On Aug 15, 1984, Chicago and North Western Transportation Company began operating coal trains from the Powder River Basin. The first coal train, destined for Newark, Arkansas, marked the beginning of a new chapter in the long standing relationship between the C&NW and the state of Wyoming.

The first coal train to move on a new 107-mile coal route serving Wyoming from Powder River Basin burst through a banner at the Wyoming-Nebraska state line. The train was en route to an Arkansas Power and Light Co. plant (Union Pacific Railway photo)

Coal trains loaded in the Powder River Basin Coal Project area make their way southward to Shawnee and then east and south through Niobrara County towards South Morrill, NE where they are turned over to the Union Pacific Railroad to continue their journey to coal-fired power plants in Midwest and southern states.

The North Western has invested over $286 million in the Powder River Basin project since construction began in 1983. There are three distinct segments of the project, the first of which is a line jointly operated with Burlington Northern. The line extends 103 miles north from Shawnee in Campbell County and includes a recently added 10-mile extension which allows C&BW access to three more lines.

The second section is a 45-mile stretch of rehabilitated track. Originally built in 1886, it extends from Shawnee to a point just west of Van Tassell in Niobrara County. New rail was constructed parallel to the original which was removed once the new track was completed.

From a point called Crandall, west of Van Tassell, the third segment heads south. This newly constructed track parallels the state line in Goshen County and crosses into Nebraska to connect with the Union Pacific Railroad near Joyce.

What had previously been a maximum of six trains passing through Niobrara County per week soon increased to 112, eight loaded and eight empty trains per day, and is continuing to increase. Averaging 110 cars, a loaded train carried 14,500 tons of coal and has made the line C&NW's highest revenue producing section.

The 5,000th coal train passing over the C&NW line from the Powder River Basin passed through Lusk on May 10, 1987. This year, the railroad expects to move about 33 million tons of coal on the line.

A twice-a-week local freight also uses the line, carrying 10 to 30 cars from Chadron to Casper and back again on most Tuesdays and Fridays.

Chicago and North Western employs over 170 in the daily operation of the coal line. About 50 people are headquartered at Bill, a point where the trains change crews. Ninety are headquartered at South Morrill and about 40 in Lusk.

Chicago and North Western's competitive efforts recently prompted Northern States Power of Minnesota to exercise its option to curtail coal shipments from Montana-based mines. Instead, NSP is contracting for the more economically priced Wyoming coal. "There is definite savings" in using Wyoming coal, a NSP spokesman said.

As the C&NW's role increased in the Powder River Basin, so does the need for the service and consumer industry of the area. This is one of the few areas on the North Western and in the railroad industry which has seen a growth in employment.

After 100 years, the C&NW and Wyoming are going and growing strong.

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