Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Golden Spike National Park

The day I headed home from Utah, I took a quick tour that included a stop at the Golden Spike National Park.  This is where the two railroads met creating the transcontinental railroad which connected the east and the west.  The actual location is Promontory Summit, Utah. 

It happened in May of 1869 and the last bit of it was completed in the last 24 hours prior to the ceremony.

The engine that came from the west belonged to the Central Pacific Railroad and used a wood burning engine.  The other belonging to the Union Pacific burned coal and came in from the east.  There was a telegraph set up to spread the word to the rest of the world once the spike was driven in.

Presidents of the two railroads, a minister, the telegraph person, reporters and others turned out that day in the middle of the summit to honor this historic moment.

The Central Pacific engine was known as the Jupiter while the Union Pacific engine simply had a number.  

These two engines are actually replicas of the original engines and they are pulled out of their garage to recreate the event.  I don't know if this is regular or just happened because there were a couple of groups out visiting.

The two train engines were brought up on the track so they faced each other with a space between.  This space is where the ceremony happened.

The ranger who gave information on the event, asked for volunteers from the audience to recreate the ceremony.  Most of us think they hammered one spike in and it was done but there were actually four different spikes.

One was donated by a friend of the Union Pacific railroad president.  He had $400 of his own gold made into a golden spike 5 1/2 inches long weighing 14 ounces.  It was ornately inscribed.

The second came from a San Francisco newspaper publisher who provided a simpler spike made out of $200 worth of gold. It had a much simpler engraving.
The third spike came from the Arizona Territory. The spike they provided actually had a core of iron with the head plated with gold and the body plated in silver.

The fourth spike came from the railroad commissioner and was made of silver.  It almost didn't make it since it was only ordered a few days before the ceremony.

In the picture to the left you see a board that is golden.  This is where the four spikes were embedded and it marked where the two rails met.  You can actually see a difference between the ties coming in from the east and west.  One set of ties is bigger.

In addition, they created a special hammer or maul for this day.  The heavily silver plated maul was stamped with the name of the manufacturer and commissioned by the president of San Francisco's Pacific Express Company.  The final part was the last time made out of California laurel wood, made by a billiards table manufacturer.  This piece carried a plaque commemorating this great event.

It was all in place when they met to drive all four spikes into the last tie. This was such a cool experience, I am glad I got a chance to see it.  It was a bit more than one hour from Salt Lake City and worth the trip.  Let me know what you think.

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