Carbon, WY

By Luke Anderson

November 2, 2016

To honor the recent Halloween holiday, this week’s historic spaces profile will be about ghosts. But not ghosts of people – in historic preservation, we deal with ghosts of buildings. Carbon has plenty of ghosts of buildings. In fact, it’s an entire ghost town. All that remains are a few crumbling foundations and a cemetery, evidence of a once-thriving human presence in the vast open landscape of the Shirley Basin.

Carbon was founded in 1868 along the Union Pacific railroad and was named for the resource that was mined in the area: coal ( Carbon was a unique boom town in which its rapid growth and prosperity was driven by two different, but interrelated industries. The town was named for its coal mines, which was used to fuel the Union Pacific trains that chugged through the town. The population of the town peaked at over 1,000 people, but by the 1890s, coal production had decreased as new mines had been opened near Hanna, Wyoming, and in 1899 the Union Pacific completed a new rail line across the west that bypassed Carbon entirely ( The decrease in coal production and the disappearance of the rail line spelled the end for the mining town.

At its peak, Carbon was dotted with impressive structures, including boarding houses, saloons, houses, and, of course, a depot. In 1890, a fire destroyed a significant amount of the town’s timber structures ( Today, not even the stone buildings remain standing. Only a few foundations remain. Just as the headstones in the Carbon graveyard stand to commemorate those who lived and passed in Carbon, the cracked foundations serve the same purpose for the great buildings that once stood.

“Carbon, Wyoming.”


  • Browse our archive of Historic Places and Spaces Profiles by clicking here.
  • To learn about all of our campaigns and initiatives, click here.
  • Subscribe to our newsletter to learn more about what’s going on in Wyoming.
  • Donate or become a member to help us produce stories, organize events, and be a voice for preservation across the state.
  • Like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter and Instagram to see our latest updates!