Ames Brothers Pyramid – Buford, Wyoming - Atlas Obscura

Ames Brothers Pyramid

A monument to the egos of two railroad magnates that fell into decline along with their careers. 


Built in an attempt to gloss over some shady dealings, the Ames Brothers Pyramid was once the highest point along the Transcontinental Railroad, but has been all but forgotten along with the Ames brothers themselves.

At the time of the railroad boom in the mid-1800’s the brothers Oliver and Oakes Ames were major players in the locomotive industry. Their grand plan was to construct the first transcontinental railroad, a feat that would have been comparable to going to the moon at the time. Yet despite the odds, the brothers were able to make it happen, with Oakes drumming up funding from Washington in his role as a congressman and Oliver handling business as the head of the Union Pacific Railroad. Unfortunately any glory due to the brothers was quickly overshadowed when Oakes was implicated in a fraud scheme involving the railroad’s funding.

After both their name and the name of Union Pacific had been tarnished by the scandal, the brothers devised a way to bring some glory back to their moniker. They hired famed American architect Henry Hobson Richardson to design and build a monument to their greatness. At a cost of $65,000 dollars (over a million dollars by today’s standards) the resulting pyramid was built at the highest point of the Transcontinental Railroad, situated on a desolate stretch of track in Wyoming. Standing over 60 feet tall, the giant pile of hubris featured carved reliefs of the brothers, with Oliver’s face looking West, and Oakes’ staring East towards Washington. 

To attract visitors, a small town was established and passengers were encouraged to stop by the monument while their train’s engine was changed. However even this could not encourage people to believe in the Ames brothers. After not long, the railroad was rerouted and no longer passed near the pyramid, ending the life of the small town, and leaving the monument to be forgotten.

However the huge pink granite installation still sits among the empty Wyoming plains just waiting for new visitors to ponder the scandalous downfall two once-great businessmen.     

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