Railroad, Prison, Oil, and Interstate Town
"Railroad and Tourist Town"
Rawlins, the county seat of Carbon County ("Carbon" is likely derived from a French fur trapper name) is located along the original transcontinental railroad, the original transcontinental "Lincoln" highway, and today's transcontinental east-west route known as Interstate 80. The town is named after Rawlin Springs, which in turn were named after General John A. Rawlins, a decorated Civil War veteran who at the time was put in charge of defending railroad work from the Shoshone and Arapahoe Indians who were the areas original inhabitants. Rawlins had been so taken by the quality of the spring water discovered there that he suggested it be named after him. During the 19th century, the railroad probably brought in more prisoners than tourists, but like other railroad towns of the high plains region, Rawlins has a railroad depot of architectural interest. And, while the old frontier prison has been long since replaced by a more modern Wyoming State Penitentiary, the old one remains as a curiosity for those interested in the old west. Set in a small valley with a dramatic rocky ridge backdrop, Rawlins is worth a brief stop along the way from east to west. I occasionally stop for the night at the Travel America truck stop on the ridge across the freeway, and with luck will find time enough to go downtown for breakfast or lunch. In addition to the railroad depot and prison, Rawlins has a small but interesting collection of late 19th and early 20th century frontier architecture.