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Yellowstone's Supporting Railroads

Chicago & NorthWestern RR


Copyright 2020 by Robert V. Goss. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or utilized in any form by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by an information storage and retrieval system without permission in writing from the author.


The Chicago & North Western Railroad

Yellowstone's Southern Rail Access - Lander, WY


“Where Rails End and Trails Begin.”

The Chicago & North Western Railroad


The Chicago & Northwestern Railroad (C&NW) has complicated origins in the Midwest, but essentially formed from the ruins of the bankrupt Chicago, St. Paul, & Fond du Lac railroad. The Chicago & Northwestern Railroad (C&NW) began its dominating railroad business when it was chartered by the states of Wisconsin and Illinois in 1859. After acquiring multiple other railroads, completing connections mostly north and west from Chicago, C&NW gained controlling interest of the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis and Omaha Railway, also known as the Omaha Road.

Chicago & NorthWestern RR
Lander Depot Wyoming

Real-Photo postcard of the Lander Depot, ca1910

The railroad reaches Lander, Wyoming


    The Chicago & Northwestern extended their rail lines to Lander, Wyoming in 1906, which would be the farthest west the railroad would venture, despite earlier plans.  Construction on the extension of the C&NW Railroad from Casper to Lander, commenced Monday, May 2, 1905.   and was completed October 17, 1906. Regular passenger train service was soon established, covering a distance of 148.1 miles. 

    The C&NW RR served many small communities between Chicago and Lander with branch lines off of the Union Pacific main line to Ogden, Utah.  After suffering through or approaching a couple of bankruptcies, the Union Pacific RR ultimately acquired control of C&NW on April 24, 1995 in a $1.2 billion stock takeover.

From the Wind River Mountaineer, Friday, Oct. 12, 1906

     The railroad has at last reached Lander. After waiting for thirty-five years some of our citizens have at last seen the steel rails laid into our beautiful city and valley, and not only have their hopes been realized but something has come to pass that many believed would not be. The steel was laid to the depot site, or within one half block of Main street on Wednesday evening . . .

     Wednesday, October 17th, has been fixed by the mayor and committee; on arrangements as the day on which to celebrate the completion of the Wyoming & Northwestern railroad into Lander, and ail arrangements are now being made to entertain the large crowd who are expected here at that time. ft is now expected that a special train will arrive here from Denver at noon on that day with the excursionists, and will leave at 6 o’clock on the following morning . . .

     A grand free ball will be held at the Opera House in the evening, during which time refreshments will be served, and the following evening the Eagles will give a free dance and refreshments.

“Lander is the western terminus of the Chicago & North Western Ry.—“Where Rails End and Trails Begin.” It is midway on the new Rocky Mountain Highway, running by the most direct route from Denver, via Ft. Collins, Laramie, Rawlins, and Lander, across the historic Shoshone Indian Reservation, through the famous big game country of Upper Wind River, past Brooks Lake, over Togwotee Pass in the Absarokas, around Jackson Lake at the foot of the Tetons, and into Yellowstone Park through the too-little known Southern Entrance. Whichever way you
choose to enter or leave the Park, one way you must explore this new and greatest route.
Through no other route can you prepare yourself so fully, so truly get into the spirit of the West, as via Lander.”

[1923 Lander Transportation Co. brochure]

Rocky Mountain Highway

Highway to Be Officially Opened Sunday---Many Will Take Part


"An Auto Caravan left early yesterday morning [17th] en route for Yellowstone Park over the Rocky Mountain Highway. The summit of Two-gwo-tee Pass will be the stopping place on Sunday and appropriate opening ceremonies will be held. Three kinds of bear meat, all varieties of mountain trout, and many other delicious morsels will be served free at the banquet. All tourists are invited to join the caravan."

[Jackson Hole Courier, 18Aug1921]


"Two-Gwo-Tee Pass was dedicated as the southern entrance to Yellowstone National park at 1 o’clock Sunday afternoon. A thousand people from Wyoming. Colorado, Idaho, Montana and the mountain west, from far away Florida, from California and from states to the east, the west, the north and the south witnessed the ceremony on the green carpeted slope of the continental divide 115 miles northwest of Lander, where in the spring the melting snows feed streams that flow to the two oceans, where the Teton and Washakie national forests adjoin, and the Fremont and Lincoln county lines meet. The hundreds who gathered there were more than witnesses they were active participants in the dedication, for in a seemingly endless chain of automobiles they had journeyed especially for this occasion distances ranging from a score to hundreds of miles."

[23Aug1921, Casper Star-Tribune]                            

Chief Dick Washakie
Landeer Yellowstone Transportation
Two-gwo-Tee Pass celebration, Togwotee Pass

Top Left:  Shoshone chief invited to the 1921 Two-Gow-Tee Pass highway opening celebration. The author believes this to be Dick Washakie, son of the great Chief Washakie (ca1804/1810 – 1900

[Photo courtesy YNP Archives #57783]

Bottom Left:  Lander-yellowstone Transportation Co. decal featuring Chief Dick Washakie.  [Author Collection]

Top Right:  Jack Haynes photo showing the 1921 highway celebration

[Photo from 1923 C&NW RR brochure, author collection]

The new Rocky Mountain Highway over Two-Gow-Tee Pass to Yellowstone

In 1921 rail passengers at Lander could visit Yellowstone by automobile on the newly built Rocky Mountain Highway. The travelers commenced at Lander, journeyed past Fort Washakie, to Dubois, and stopped for lunch. Afterwards, they proceeded over the mountains through Togwotee Pass to Brooks Lake Lodge for the night, where they could relax, fish or boat. The next morning they proceeded to Moran Junction for lunch at Amoretti Inn.  From Moran tourists could travel south to Jackson Hole or north through the south entrance of Yellowstone.  The Lander-Yellowstone Park Transportation Company provided auto stage service from Lander to Moran, where visitors were transferred to Yellowstone Park Transportation Co. buses for the trip into Yellowstone, arriving at Lake Hotel for dinner.

Brooks Lake Hotel, Brooks Lake Lodge
Amoretti Inn, Jackson Lake Lodge

Top Left:  Two-Gwo-Tee Inn on the Pass, also known as Brooks Lake Lodge. It was the overnight stop on the trip from Lander to Yellowstone.  [Wyoming State Archives, RAN430]

Top Right:  Amoretti Inn at Moran, in sight of Jackson Lake. A lunch stop enroute to the tetons or to Yellowstone.  [Wyoming State Archives, Stimson Collection #4541]

Bottom:  Amoretti Inn and other businesses at Moran, 1920s. The are later became the Jackson Lake Lodge.  [Rockefeller Archives]

Amoretti Inn, Jackson Lake Lodge

Amoretti Inn - Jackson Lake Lodge


The hotels along the route from Lander to Yellowstone were built and maintained by the Amoretti Hotel and Camp Company, incorporated in April 1922, "for the object of operating hotels, providing and conducting stores, commissaries, camps and other facilities and equipment, for the conveyance, entertainment and convenience of the tourists." The hotel company was the idea of Eugene Amoretti, long-time area resident and prominent Lander businessman.


The Amoretti Inn was built in 1922 and included a large, central building that primarily held a dining room and groups of cabins for travelers stopping on their way to Yellowstone National Park. Located 25 miles from the south entrance of Yellowstone National Park, The Amoretti Inn was situated on a bench overlooking Jackson Lake, and from its spacious porch and lobby, one could view the lake and the Teton Mountains. The area was a favorite haunt of John D. Rockefeller beginning as early as 1924. By that time, the Inn began being called the Jackson Lake Lodge.


The Jackson Hole Courier noted on July 26, 1930 that, “A deal was consummated last week whereby the Jackson Lake Lodge [former Amoretti Inn] at Moran passes from the hands of local and Casper men into the hands of the Teton Investment Company, a Salt Lake concern, which has also bought Sheffields [Teton Lodge] and other resorts In that section. The deal was for virtually $75,000. The new owners expect to spend a lot of money on the lodge and make it an attraction for the new Teton Park . . . they virtually have a monopoly of all hotels and recreation places there.”


In later days the Lodge was rebuilt beginning in 1953 to become the new Jackson Lake Lodge. According to the Jackson Hole Courier, May 14, 1953, “Ground will be broken this month on the Jackson Lake Lodge, about 25 miles south of the Yellowstone National Park boundary and 35 miles north of Jackson. The Jackson Lake lodge will have a two-story stone faced central lodge with a capacity of 200 guests that will be surrounded by cabins accommodating 800 more vacationers. The main lodge will he constructed on a bluff overlooking Jackson lake with picture windows offering a commanding view of the 13,000-foot Tetons to the west.”

Brooks Lake Hotel

the massive hotel complex was built in 1922 as part of a program to provide accommodations for tourists arriving via the Lander-Yellowstone Transportation Company and was operated by the Amoretti Hotel and Camp Company. Eugene Amoretti was a businessman in Lander who was alleged to be the first European born in South Pass City in 1871. The Brooks Lake hotel was one of two operated by Amoretti on the road to Yellowstone; the other was at Moran. The hotel was built quickly, started in April 1922 and completed by July 1. The hotel charged $6 per person daily or $35 weekly, and it flourished for a couple of years, but by 1926 it was bypassed by buses. That year it was reorganized by investor Jim Gratiot as the Diamond G Ranch, which offered a dude ranch experience.


The success of Brooks Lake Hotel was short-lived, however. Apparently the bus trip from Lander to the Lake Hotel took too much time, and the overnight stop at the Inn was discontinued. In an effort to keep the complex solvent, Jim Gratiot, one of the original five corporate directors of the Amoretti Hotel and Camp Company, took over the complex
and renamed it the Diamond G Ranch, operating it as a dude ranch. Strictly speaking, the Diamond G was not a true dude ranch because it had never been a working ranch, but it catered to the same clientele as the working dude ranches: well-to-do Easterners

[U.S. Depart. of the Interior, NPS, National Register of Historic Places—Nomination Form

Brooks Lake Lodge, 1982]

Amusing Anecdote about the 1st train to roll into the Lander Depot


By Harold Rogers


Here is an amusing story told of the arrival of the first passenger train in Lander in 1906. The railroad officials had advertised this momentous event throughout the county as the grand opening of the C & N W Railroad and its advent into the Lander Valley and Fremont County. Citizens of South Pass, Pinedale, Jackson "Hole, Dubois and the Shoshone Reservation gathered at the new Lander depot. The engineer of this first passenger train was an Irishman who loved to pull his jokes or shenanigans on the unsuspecting crowds. He had a good head of steam up. When a large crowd of spectators had gathered around to gaze at the iron horse he let off a big head of steam to watch the crowd scatter and yell. He poked his head out the cabin window when it was time to pull up the train, swung his arm in a sweeping circle and yelled, “Look out, you hill billies. I’m going to turn her around.” Most of the spectators ran for the side streets, thinking the train was going to turn around right there. The engineer and his train crew had a good laugh at the expense of the pioneers.

[Annals of Wyoming, April 1968, Vol. 40, No. 1]

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