BROTHERHOOD OF THE BROADAXE: Wyoming Tie HacksAirs Wednesday, June 12 at 9:00 PM The settlement of the American West was a brief and epic undertaking. The covered wagons traveled the Oregon Trail for only a few years, yet they remain a part of the American psyche. The Pony Express lasted barely two seasons, but the riders' exploits have become legend.
Now, the story of the Tie Hacks gains its rightful place in the history of the American West. Wyoming Public Television presents "Brotherhood of the Broadax: Wyoming Tie Hacks," the story of the men and women who came from across the ocean to work in the Wyoming wilderness at strenuous, dangerous jobs. Wyoming Public Television interviews the tie hacks themselves, revisits their mountainous locale, and captures astonishing film footage of one of the last tie drives.
As the railroads led the push to develop commerce and travel across the young American nation, demand for railroad ties created a huge and short-lived industry in the mountains of Wyoming. Timber was cut and shaped into the wooden ties that supported the rails by a skilled cadre of woodcutters, most of them from Skandanavia.
At the height of the industry, in 1900, it took over 100 million ties a year to replace old ties and lay new rail. The nation's biggest tie operation grew in the mountains of Northwest Wyoming. Loggers downed trees with broadaxes during the winter, honed them by hand to the right dimension, and floated them down the Wind River in huge tie drives.