Historic Locomotive

There was a time when the railroad was the lifeblood to the High Plains and Rocky Mountains bring in supplies, seed, plants, and other needed items 

Old Sadie is a historic treasure sitting on the north end of the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens grounds. It is the oldest locomotive in Wyoming and one of the oldest intact locomotives ever to run in the Union Pacific (UP) fleet. This coal/steam powered locomotive was built in December, 1890, in New Jersey by Cooke Locomotive & Machine Works of Patterson, NJ.  It weighs 148,500 lbs, has 57″ driver wheels and 19″ x 24″ cylinders. It operated a boiler pressure of 165 psi and had a tractive effort of 21,300 lbs. It ran from the Copper mines of Encampment the 45 mile Walcott-Saratoga-Encampment branch line from November of 1921 until May 15, 1954, when the Copper ran out after which the Union Pacific decided to pull the line out of the valley. It also hauled other products to and from the valley.

It was known as “The 1242,” but was lovingly called “Ol’ Sadie.” by those that worked on her and operated her.

The late Floyd Young was the last engineer to operate this locomotive. Cheyenne resident, Alvin Young, is Floyd’s son. Alvin tells us of his memories of engine 1242:

“I was eleven years old in 1953 when my family moved from Laramie to Encampment. My father, Floyd E. Young, was an engineer on the Union Pacific and accepted the run from Encampment to Walcott Junction. The railroad engine supporting that “run” was endearingly called “Ol’ Sadie,” or more formally engine number 1242. The Union Pacific moved us into the depot at Encampment. On the south side of the tracks was Encampment, Wyoming, and on the north side of the tracks was the town of Riverside. We had an outdoor toilet which was located in Riverside. The roundhouse for engine 1242 was one mile southeast from the depot. Each weekday my father would get ready to go to the roundhouse, and many times he would take my brothers and me along for the ride. We had a wagon (or a sled in the wintertime) that he would pull with my two brothers and me.

“We were always excited about going to the roundhouse because dad would let us get up into the engine cab while he and the fireman crew prepared the train to leave. Soon we would be moving slowly down the track with the whistle blowing and little boys waving all the way to the depot. Mother would be waiting to take us off the train, and in the case of my older brother, Floyd, Jr. and me, she took us to school. Dad would be gone most of the day. While in Saratoga with Ol’ Sadie, he would pick up box cars loaded with wood, ore, and other products. Sometimes he would receive boxes of honey on the way to markets outside of Wyoming. He knew the owner of the bees and often would receive a gallon of honey (with the comb) to take home. We boys loved that honey! The train ran from Encampment to Walcott Junction where he would place the loaded train cars on a siding and pick up empty cars or materials to be transported back to Saratoga. Once the train cars were on the “mainline” of the UP, another train would connect them up and move them on to their destinations.”

“Dad was the engineer on 1242 for more than two years when word was received that Ol’ Sadie was to be retired. My dad was the last permanent engineer on the 1242, and it broke his heart to retire the engine. He knew that having the locomotive moved to Cheyenne would become an attraction for people who would come to see it from throughout the world. In late 1954 we moved back to Laramie, and my parents bought a house at 703 Gibbon. Dad retired from the UP in 1970 after 44 years of service. In the years that followed, dad and mom collected all sorts of western relics and in 1970, they began building a unique metal fence around our home containing historic relics mostly from old railroad parts. We felt it was fitting after my mother and father passed away to donate this fence to the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens and place it around Ol’ Sadie.”

While you stroll around the fence look down and notice the etchings in the concrete sidewalk where you’ll see a listing of the major stops that most trains made across the width of Wyoming. When you visit, see how many railroad parts you can identify. Look for a sign that used to be common along railroad lines that have a big “W” on it. This “W” told the engineer to blow the whistle as they approached crossings and towns.

The Cheyenne Botanic Gardens is proud to have created a landscape that meshes the history of plants, people and the landscape. Ol’ Sadie 1242, along with this wonderful historic fence which is indeed a treasure for us all.