Who wants old Western Railroad documents?
August 31, 2006 9:31 AM   Subscribe

Who would want a bunch of 90-105 year-old documents from the Oregon Short Line Railroad Company's station in Sage, WY?

My wife and I just got home from a vacation in Wyoming. I like to stop and take pictures of rotting old buildings. Somewhere between Afton and Cokeville, WY, we found what appears to be an old, rotting train station. While taking pictures of the place, we found dozens and dozens of old railroad documents, such as Clearance Cards (ca. 1916), Telegrams (ca. 1903), Rail Routes and Schedules (ca. 1919), and even a ticket sales ledger book, covering from 1902-1907.

A lot of it is in pretty bad shape, but a third or so of it is in amazing condition considering the conditions I found it in.

So, who will want this stuff? I live near Salt Lake City, and if I don't turn up anything great MeFi, I'm going to go visit Ken Sanders next week. But I'm not sure Ken will care about railroad stuff.

I have scans of a lot of it, so if someone NEEDS to see what we're dealing with, I'm sure that can be arranged.

Bonus: Any information on Sage, WY? NOT the same as Purple Sage, WY. I couldn't even get Google Maps to give me a good zoomed shot of the site.

I've also Googled myself silly, and I found reference to Sage in a couple of letters someone wrote while taking a train to San Francisco, but that's about it. There was a PDF that referenced phosphor mining in Sage. I also found an entry for Sage, WY in Epodunk, but there was no information other than the town existed.
posted by SlyBevel to Society & Culture (34 answers total)
Just a hunch but I bet that stuff would get scarfed up on eBay, given the huge railfan community that's out there.
posted by rolypolyman at 9:42 AM on August 31, 2006


There's an automatic Best Answer for the first person who posts a link to a photograph of Sage, WY Sation in it's heyday.

Sadly, the place is a dump now, and I'd really like to know what it looked like in its prime.
posted by SlyBevel at 9:43 AM on August 31, 2006

Contacted any railroad museums?
posted by mrbugsentry at 9:43 AM on August 31, 2006

P.S. Alternately if you want to take a moral high road you could scan the items now and put them on the Internet for posterity, then donate it to a university in the area that expresses interest in it.

Also it's probably a gray area taking stuff from an abandoned building because -someone- or -something- owns that station... it may be considered theft. I'm not a lawyer, of course, so I may be wrong... just something to consider.
posted by rolypolyman at 9:45 AM on August 31, 2006

Have you asked these people if they might want it? Or they might know who is in charge of Wyoming, if 'the Pacific Northwest' doesn't cover that rail.

Alternately, try to track down a local (county?) historical society...but be careful, some of them don't know what the hell they're doing (I speak from experience.)
posted by cobaltnine at 9:47 AM on August 31, 2006

Please contact the archive.org (click on donate to digital collection) before selling them.
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:51 AM on August 31, 2006

Wow, some good feedback already.


As for theft, I considered that, but the documents were literally on the ground and in the weather. They were scattered amongst cow hoofprints (and the cows that left them). I weighed being accused of theft with their permanent destruction and chose to take the chance. You have a point, but I think I chose the greater good.

As for moral high ground, right on, brother. If there's a collector who wants them badly enough, she'll probably get them. But I have scans, and I'd like to find a way to make them publicly accessible as well. Maybe Flickr. I just don't know yet.
posted by SlyBevel at 9:54 AM on August 31, 2006

The Oregon Historical Society?
posted by pdb at 9:56 AM on August 31, 2006

My great-grandfather (Heber Jackson) worked on the railroad in Wyoming (I can't remember exactly which line he worked on, though I think I can find out) during just that period! I have to run to a meeting but will post some further info soon...
posted by scody at 9:58 AM on August 31, 2006

Ok, Archive.org noted. I'll most likely contact them later.

Scody, I don't have anything signed by a Jackson right at hand, but I haven't scanned everything yet.

For those curious, here are some names that are on my scans so far:

Haskinson (C.B.?)
Halbert (Lee?)
Hurley (Almost all of the clearance cards are signed by him.)
Quinn (M.K.N.?)
B.H. Prater
F.H. Knickerbocker
E.C. Manson
Mr. Wm. Julian
Jn. Pagath (?)
R. Pucoys (?)
P. Crossman
H.P. Cryst (?)
O.M. Moody
H. Braun
posted by SlyBevel at 10:12 AM on August 31, 2006

F.H. Knickerbocker gets a mention in this article.
posted by SlyBevel at 10:25 AM on August 31, 2006

Another name:

J.P. Congdon
posted by SlyBevel at 10:29 AM on August 31, 2006

I would guess the folks at the American Heritage Center at the University of Wyoming would love to have these. They have loads of first person collections in their archives.
posted by split atom at 10:46 AM on August 31, 2006

I'd contact a university archives (like the American Heritage Center at the University of Wyoming)--they might want it, or at least know of another university/historical society that would.
posted by Jeanne at 10:49 AM on August 31, 2006

...Did not see split atom's reply before I posted.
posted by Jeanne at 10:49 AM on August 31, 2006

Called my sister, and she can't remember exactly which line our great-grandfather worked for, though the Oregon Short Line is ringing a vague bell for both of us. That particular side of my family is from Laramie (the rest are from Casper), which is east of Granger where the OSL originated, but since we know (according to what our grandmother used to tell us) that he had to be away from town a lot for his work with the RR, it's plausbile. In any case, if you come across any reference to a Heber Jackson, we'd be thrilled to see a scan.

As for what to do with all that material, I third a call to the American Heritage Center at the university (go Cowboys!). If for some reason they're not interested (though I think they would be), you could always call the Laramie Plains Museum. (Tell 'em Ovie Lutz's grand-daughter sent you... she worked at the museum for many years before she died in 2000, so you might catch someone who remembers her.)
posted by scody at 11:13 AM on August 31, 2006

i would second the idea of a railroad museum. i work in a transportation library, and often people donate items like that to us, but we're more research oriented so it's not really good for our collection. a lot of railway museums are run by historians and rail foamers, and they absolutely love that sort of thing.
posted by kendrak at 11:16 AM on August 31, 2006

I will just say, the oregon historical society is horrible to work with. That is to say, if you give them the documents, only a handful of select OHS members will get to see them and it'll be nigh impossible for anyone else to ever make anything of them.

I'd go archive.org myself.
posted by Matt Oneiros at 11:19 AM on August 31, 2006

Yes, donate them to a museum or state historical society, a big one with a professional archvist on staff.
posted by LarryC at 11:20 AM on August 31, 2006

There used to be a term for all of the web documents that were sitting behind corporate firewalls and authtentication-driven sites. I can't remember it, but the documents you have are essentially that "back web" material, but of genealogy. At best we can dig up info on an ancestor from a census but there is very little that can add character about an ancestor, such as where they vacationed or worked, etc.. What you found is exactly the sort of data that can make a person's day.

Any genealogical society would probably gladly take a CD of the scans off your hands and "get it out there."

Now, I was going to send you a link to one but I can't find what county "Sage, WY" is in. Google Maps also seems to out of the loop. Was it near Diamondville? Mapquest had it over there. If so it would probably be in Lincoln County and these folks would be interested in the info. There is contact info available at the very bottom of the page.

The documents themselves should probably go to the State Archives. State Archives are likely to be the ones who will covet this sort of thing. I haven't worked with them directly but the West Virginia ones were immensely helpful in my genealogy search and managed to pull city directories from 1880-1910 in searching for my great-grandfather and grandfather. So now I actually have street addresses of where they lived and can try to track down those locations. Crazy stuff really. I hadn't expected that from them.
posted by jwells at 11:49 AM on August 31, 2006

To find Sage on google maps, first look for Evanston. Follow Highway north from Evanston, out of Wyoming into Utah, and then back. 89 runs into US 30. When you get to that intersection, zoom the map in a couple clicks. Sage is just east of the intersection of 89 and 30.
posted by jazon at 12:03 PM on August 31, 2006

Oh, and I found three current pictures (1, 2, 3) from sage, but nothing from the past.
posted by jazon at 12:07 PM on August 31, 2006

JWells, you're correct, Sage is in Lincoln county. I probably should have pointed that out in the first place.
posted by SlyBevel at 12:17 PM on August 31, 2006

Thank you for saving these documents. I'm a native Wyomingite and I appreciate your actions for the greater good.

Wyoming State Archives would keep the records safe for everyone. Contact info in on the front page.

If you want to first scan and make publically available the records (for free) then consider submitting the scans to Rootsweb's Lincoln County Wyoming USGenWeb Project. Contact is at the bottom of the page.

You could also contact either/both of these Genealogy Societies:

Lincoln County Historical Society
Kemmerer 83101

Lincoln County Historical Society
P.O. Box 242
Afton 83110

You can find aerial photos and topomaps here.
posted by LadyBonita at 1:20 PM on August 31, 2006

Sorry forgot the link to Lincoln GenWeb
posted by LadyBonita at 1:22 PM on August 31, 2006

jwells - the county a city/town belongs to can be found at Rootswebs searchable database.
posted by LadyBonita at 1:24 PM on August 31, 2006

Btw, Sage is now a ghost town - best bet is to check Kemmerer libraries for history; Cokeville might have something too. From Lincoln County, Wyoming History "The Oregon Short Line held the line with armed forces and gained the control, some said by force of might regardless of right, though others claim that Negus had no backing and fought only with the hope of extorting money from the legitimate builders. By the fall of 1881 the road was completed as far as Sage, and the next year to American Falls, Idaho."
posted by LadyBonita at 1:58 PM on August 31, 2006

Before you send them to whereever you send them, the people here would probably love some 300dpi scans of the documents, to use to help make authentic-looking props for games and movies.
posted by -harlequin- at 2:42 PM on August 31, 2006

Ok, I just did some best answer markin', but that doesn't have to be the end of it. Oh no, my friends, it doesn't.

Thanks to LadyBonita's link, the split and heavy line through the rail track on this map appears to be the place.

My GPS waypoint on the spot was at 41.5557 N. 110.5720 W. If my notation of that is incorrect, all apologies.

Based on what we've seen already, I think I've got a pretty good list of historical societies/museums/Uni collections that I can send a mass email to asking if they're interested in a disc with the scans.

I'm still very eager to see an original photo of Sage Station in its prime (looks to be a tall order), and while I do intend to give my scans to whoever wants them for historical preservation, I'm really most interested in potential buyers for the physical stuff.

So if we can go from there, that would be great.
posted by SlyBevel at 5:25 PM on August 31, 2006

posted by blue_beetle at 5:49 PM on August 31, 2006

These are historical documents, they deserve better than to be sold piecemeal or as a group to the highest bidder on eBay or what have you. They should be donated to the most appropiate archives or library stated above. As much as they might appreciate scans, they most certainly prefer the real documents.

More so, whomever owned the property (the guy with the cows, perhaps?) still technically owns the papers. So between donating pilfered items or selling them, I think its more ethical to donate such.

You discovered a goldmine, of history, not assets to liquidate and put in the bank account. Not to mention, don't expect much of a payday, even from rabid collectors. As noted above, their true value is historical, not monetary. People will want to go look them over in an archives, but I doubt very many will want to pay much for them, since they're from a small depot in Wyoming, not Chicago or New York.

Historically speaking, the broad access a State Archives would offer for the papers is infinitely greater than that a private collector would offer.
posted by Atreides at 6:28 PM on August 31, 2006

I firmly agree with Artreides, please donate.
posted by LadyBonita at 7:19 PM on August 31, 2006


I've shipped the documents to the Wyoming State Archives. When I spoke to them, they seemed pretty selective to the point that some of the documents may be refused from the collection based on condition. At any rate, it's in their hands now.

I've also emailed Archive.org and offered them the scans. I haven't heard back from them yet, but I feel it relatively safe to assume that they'll end up with the scans.

Thanks to everyone for the input, and I'd just like to note that the preachy tone in the last couple of posts was completely unnecessary.

Thank you, and good night.
posted by SlyBevel at 3:00 PM on September 11, 2006

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