Union Pacific's Firearm Collection
The Union Pacific Railroad Museum's firearm collection displays over a century of unique firearms. It tells the story of Union Pacific's Special Agents role in the hard won settlements of the west. From the classic Winchester Model 1866 rifle branded with UP on the stock, to an ivory handled Colt .44 revolver owned by UP Construction Superintendent General Jack Casement in 1866, these firearms represent the rough and tumble nature of the historic American West.
In the course of more than 150 years of Union Pacific history the railroad has collected a wide range of firearms and more than 55 on display at the Union Pacific Railroad Museum.
Surveyors looked for an ideal transcontinental railroad route as early as the 1850s, and construction began with the Pacific Railway Act of 1862. Firearms soon became vital to the route's success, as it ran through some of the most remote, and contested, areas of the country.
Firearms also played an integral role in the frontier' food supply. Hunting became increasingly important to feed workers, as bison and elk meat supplemented East Coast food shipments. The railroad also incidentally increased access to hundreds of hunters who took the opportunity to hunt the large game on the plains. Soon, Bison herds thinned to near extinction after the rampant hunting and improved tanning methods.
Winchester Model 1866. Jack Casement presented this Winchester rifle, Model 1866 to General Grenville Dodge, Union Pacific's Chief Engineer in 1866.
Not only were firearms necessary for hunting, but they were also key for protection. The west's desolate reputation endured even after the transcontinental railroad's completion. Westward migration spurred development, but the region remained lawless before major towns were established. UP Special Agents protected passengers and cargo on remote trains. They were the only law on the railroad.
This 1860 Army Colt was owned by General Casement, who was Union Pacific's construction superintendent in 1866.
Many in the west preferred the Colt pistol and Winchester rifle for protection. The Winchester Model 1873 repeating rifle and the Colt Single Action Army Revolver, known as "the Peacemaker," both claim to be the "gun that won the west." The UP Railroad Museum has several Colt and Winchester firearms on display.