Adventurers in the Rockies
Crawford Hill tracks & Carhenge, NE
July 15, 2016
Text and Photos by Author
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Last night after darkness
enveloped, Chris G., Chris P. and I retreated to the comforts of
the inside of our bunkhouse for the night. Two bunk beds filled
the bedroom with Chris P. and I taking the bottom bed in each
and Chris G. used the big bed in the living room. The kitchen
and bath were in the back and both quite adequate for our stay.
Earlier in the evening, the landlord stopped by to pick up the
rent and tell us the boundaries of the ranch and gave us a local
map of the ranch with trails and roads on it.
We woke to find a dark cloudy morning. After
a breakfast snack, we got in the car with Chris G. driving first
on dirt lane then a cow tail and ended on a dry creek bed to
reach the picnic bench that overlooks the BNSF Crawford grade
Our home for two nights.
The Pine Ridge Area has often been
referred to as the "last frontier", and for a good reason. It
was a favorite Indian hunting and camping area for hundreds of
years and the Sioux Indians occupied it permanently about
1810. Spaniards from New Mexico where the first fur traders,
followed in the 1830's by Americans from St. Louis, who
established a regular trail from Fort Laramie to Fort Pierre
on the Missouri River. In the 1840's there were two competing
fur posts, one on Chadron Creek, about eight miles south of
Chadron, the other on Bordeaux Creek, three and a half mile
east of Chadron. Red Cloud Indian Agency was moved to the
White River in 1873. Camp Robinson was established in 1874 to
protect the Agency. It was renamed Fort Robinson in 1878 and
was an active military post until 1948. The Agency played an
important role in the Indian Wars of the 1870's. Sioux war
leader Crazy Horse was killed at Fort Robinson in 1877.
In 1851, Horse Creek Treaty was the
largest gathering of Indians ever recorded - and the first
treaty to be covered by the media. Some 12,000 Indians along
with their 30,000 horses descended on this site to discuss an
arrangement - the tribes would allow the government to build
roads and forts on their lands. In return, the Army was to
protect the Indians from white settlers and pay the tribes
$50,000 in goods annually for 50 years. Rather than solve the
problems, the treaty began a series of misunderstandings and
misdeeds that led to the bloody Indian Wars.
With the removal of the Sioux
Indians to South Dakota in 1877, several very large cattle
outfits came into the area. Large roundups were conducted
annually until the railroads arrived in 1885 and an influx of
homesteaders took up most of the available land.
The old Sidney-Deadwood
Trail can be viewed when riding on the western part of ranch.
This trail was an important link between Sidney, Nebraska and
the Black Hills, where gold had been discovered in 1874. The
would-be miners tried to find the shortest route to their new
found "fortune". The railroad dropped men and supplies off in
Sidney, and from there, they would venture over the 267-mile
trail to the Black Hills in search of gold. In 1876 & 1877,
hundreds of people arrived and departed Sidney daily in the rush
to the Black Hills. From 1875-1881, the trail brought many men
to the mining towns of Deadwood and Custer, South Dakota. The
trail saw a lot of traffic, mostly in the form of stagecoaches,
freight wagons drawn by oxen or mules, herds of cattle, and
riders on horseback. It is estimated that from 1878-1879 alone,
over 22 million pounds of freight moved over the Trail. Gold
shipments, some worth up to $200,000 moved over the
Sidney-Deadwood Trail. The Trail's major obstacle was the North
Platte River, near Bridgeport, and in 1876, Clarke's Bridge was
created to make the traveling easier. By 1880, the railroad
reached the Pierre Dakota Territory diverting much of the gold
rush traffic away from Sidney.
Just imagine the different
characters that probably rode the Sidney-Deadwood Trail -
"Buffalo Bill" Cody, was scouting for the military; Calamity
Jane, frontierswoman and a rider for the Pony Express; Sam Bass,
trail boss who squandered cattle drive money in poker games in
Deadwood; Whispering Smith, railroad detective; Doc Middleton,
desperado, road agent and bandit; Butch Cassidy and the Sundance
Kid, bank robbers; Lt. Colonel George Custer, soldier; "Wild
Bill" Hickok, expert marksman, stage coach driver & lawman -
Hickok died in 1876 - shot in the back of the head in the No. 10
Saloon in Deadwood, South Dakota. He was holding a pair of aces
and a pair of eights (fifth card unknown) and in poker to this
day such a hand is known as the "Dead Man's Hand."
Lots of different gamblers
probably rode over the Trail - Doc Baggs, Jim Bush, Jim Lavine
and Rebel George. They had a different idea of how they were
going to seek their fortune - at the poker tables in Deadwood!!
Dawes County is still cattle country and very much reflects its
heritage of Indians, fur traders, cowboys and frontier soldiers.
A couple of desperado characters at the picnic bench, Chris G and
The uphill trains sneak up on you here so you must always be
prepared for a train. Soon we all heard out first train coming up
to our photo location.
Loco 5921 leading.
Front of train in top of picture and with end of train at bottom.
BNSF 9222, 9281, 8572.
Our first downhill north bound train.
BNSF 5857 South starting its climb up Crawford Hill.
Helper locos 9222, 9281 returning down hill.
BNSF 4090 South with a ballast train.
BNSF 6209 - 6209.
It was noon when this train passed so we decided to return to the
bunkhouse for lunch via the same cow path and dirt trail we had
Our lonely home in west Nebraska.
Leaving the ranch we joined Rt 2 at Sawlog Road and headed south
toward Alliance but first we made a stop in Belmont.
This cut replaced an old single track tunnel.
From here we drove to the Belmont Tunnel, the only tunnel in the
State of Nebraska.
This is the south portal and we are going to drive through it.
I see the light at the end of the tunnel .
The north portal.
Back on the road we saw this oversize load movement.
BNSF 5901 north near Marsland.
CB&Q 4-6-0 719 in Alliance.
20th Century Carsule: Buried June 21, 2003 by Jim Reinders for his
75th birthday. Disinter June 21, 2053.
WW II Time Capsule.
Auto-graph Car by Friends of Carhenge.
Autographs only please.
Car-nestoga by David Kowalski, "My artistic vision on this
piece, (said very tongue-in-cheek) was a tribute to the pioneers
crossing the plains along the Oregon Trail in wagons."
The "Fourd Seasons" by Jim Reidders, comprised only of Fords and
inspired by Vivaldi's Four Seasons, suggests the Nebraska
landscape's seasonal changes as wheat is planted, grows, matures,
and the field lies barren during a windy winter.
The three bells, built by Reinders represent the three Reinders
siblings (Phyllis, Leonard, Jim).
Carman by Ty Action of Scottsbluff, specializing in "found art"
the artist thinks of it as a female saying, She is representative
of the people who actually developed Stonehenge back in England.
Additional car sculptures have been erected at the site known as
the Car Art Reserve. One of the first sculptures to be added is
the "Spawning Salmon" created by 29 year old Geoff Sandhurst from
Canada. Dino, the dinosaur was built by Merle Stone of Hemingford.
Thirty eight automobiles were placed to assume the same
proportions as Stonehenge with the circle measuring approximately
96 feet in diameter. Some autos are held upright in pits five feet
deep, trunk end down, while those which are placed to form the
arches have been welded in place. All are covered with gray spray
The honor of depicting the heel stone goes to a 1962 Caddy.
Leaving Carhenge we drove to the BNSF's Alliance yard.
BNSF 5985 & 8357.
BN C-30-7 5545 & 5549 are in bad shape.
We gassed up in Alliance and headed back north to Crawford and the
ranch. Along the way we caught up to this northbound train with
power BNSF 5844 & 9707.
BNSF 5844 Northwest of Marsland. We drove back to Belmont to
photograph it there.
BNSF caboose 10718 in Crawford. We crossed the bridge over the
railroad and stopped again.
NS 1101 South & NS 1157 at Crawford.
We drove into town and went to the Tailgate Bar and Grill for
dinner. All of us were happy with our meal selection in this
neighborhood watering hole with a few locals having a good time.
From here we drove back to the Ponderosa Ranch where we prepared
to leave in the morning. We all enjoyed our stay here and we will
return in the future.
Not a sound was heard all night long.
Coming next- Chapter Sixteen - Denver
Union Station, Platte Valley Trolley and Alamosa
Text and Photos by Author
author retains all rights. No reproductions are
allowed without the author's consent.