CHEYENNE – Cheyenne City Council members voiced support for the planned Cheyenne Railroad Visitor Experience during a work session Friday that showed the project may end up being larger than initially described.
Last month, council members approved a Memorandum of Understanding between the city and Visit Cheyenne for the project. The first phase of the attraction will feature a line of historic train cars adjacent to the former Union Pacific Depot along 15th Street.
The city will contribute up to $120,000 in public funding for the project, which will go toward costs such as planning, engineering and research on the utilization of the old pump house on Ames Avenue. The pump house was built in 1892 by Union Pacific and later transferred to the city for its municipal water system. It featured a 2.5 million gallon reservoir, which has been filled in, but the building still stands.
An architecture firm will be selected next month by the project task force, and a formal draft of the plan could be completed as soon as January. Officials are also working with Union Pacific to engage in discussions concerning land acquisition and the donation of train cars.
“Let’s work together to create a great 15th Street project,” said task force member and former Visit Cheyenne CEO Darren Rudloff, “and show Union Pacific the city is serious and can produce this type of partnership.”
Rudloff presented the next steps for the visitor center to the council with Wasatch Railroad Contractors CEO John Rimmasch, founder of the Cheyenne-based railroad restoration company. He said he wants it to be a community effort to get this project off the ground.
Rimmasch had the same enthusiasm for the visitor experience, and said he hopes this project will also support Cheyenne’s efforts to further develop the local tourism market.
Throughout his line of work, he has seen the appeal of railroad history throughout the nation. He said excitement is shared not just in learning the history, but being able to climb on equipment or witness the railroad in its normal operating practices.
He explained how this will be an even more enjoyable experience for community members and tourists with the added benefits of dining and retail.
“We get groups from all over the world that come in to do just these specific activities,” he said.
The Cheyenne Railroad Visitor Experience includes more than just a vision for restaurants, boutiques and outdoor recreation. There are four possible phases, and the historic train car attraction is only the first.
Rudloff said Visit Cheyenne wants to include ties into the Reed Avenue Rail Corridor redevelopment project, the construction of a skybridge from the depot to the Union Pacific roundhouse, and an expansion of the roundhouse area, if phase one is successful. There is also the potential to move the Big Boy steam engine from Holliday Park.
“It’s something to build on and something to work toward,” Rudloff said.
Council member Scott Roybal asked Rudloff whether the first phase of the Cheyenne Railroad Visitor Experience would be done by next summer, but Rudloff said that would be an aggressive time frame to work within. He said he sees the plans being finalized in the spring, but that is still a preliminary analysis.
Conversations surrounding funding and the scope of the visitor experience’s downtown presence will continue, but Rudloff said the task force plans to expedite its work.
“Let’s get something done here that will take advantage of Cheyenne’s heritage,” he said.