AP

Thousands gather in Utah for 150th anniversary of railroad

May 10, 2019, 9:22 AM
railroad anniversary golden spike...
The crew from the Big Boy, No. 4014 pose for a photograph during the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Transcontinental Railroad completion at Union Station Thursday, May 9, 2019, in Ogden, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

By BRADY McCOMBS Associated Press

PROMONTORY, Utah (AP) — The completion of the Transcontinental Railroad in 1869 united a nation fresh off the Civil War that had been separated by wide expanses of desert, mountains and forests and became a pivotal moment in United States history that dramatically changed how people traveled and did business.

Some 15,000 people are expected to gather Friday at the remote spot in the Utah desert where the final spikes were hammered into the ground 150 years ago to mark the finish of the nearly 1,800-mile (2,900 kilometer) rail line, triggering a famous telegraph that set off celebrations around the nation. The bells at Independence Hall in Philadelphia rang in celebration as a hundred guns were fired in New York and American flags were hung in cities.

The completed railroad shortened cross-country travel from as long as six months in wagons and stagecoaches to about 10 days on the rails and served as a unifying moment for the nation.

“It psychologically and symbolically bound the country,” said Brad Westwood, Utah’s senior public historian.

The telegram that set off the celebrations said: “The last rail is laid. The last spike is driven. The Pacific railroad is completed. The point of junction is 1,086 miles west of the Missouri River and 690 miles east of Sacramento City.”

The golden spike included an inscription: “May God continue the unity of our country as this railroad unites the two great oceans of the world.”

Friday’s event at the Golden Spike National Historic Park about 90 miles (145 kilometers) northwest of Salt Lake City will feature remarks by U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and a historical reenactment including the hammering of the final “golden spikes” that signaled the end of the yearslong project.

The elaborate celebration will also include the firing of cannons, ringing of bells, music and a flyover. It is the signature festivity during several days of events around northern Utah to celebrate the 150th anniversary. At least 15,000 attendees are expected, including large contingents from China, said Josh Loftin, a spokesman for the Utah Department of Heritage and Arts.

chinese railroad workers golden spike

Chairman, President and CEO Lance Fritz and Margaret Yee, whose ancestors helped build the railroad, pose for a photograph during the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Transcontinental Railroad’s completion at Union Station Thursday, May 9, 2019, in Ogden, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

The railroad was built using horse, oxen, hand carts, wagons and the “brawn” of mostly Irish immigrants working on the portion that came from the East and mostly Chinese workers on the part that came from the West, Westwood said. They worked day and night and risked their lives blasting through rocks with black powder explosives and shoveling snow on frigid high mountain peaks, he said.

Westwood said it was built by “the most discriminated and least appreciated people in America.”

The epic construction of the railroad also had a dark side, leading to the near annihilation of the bison, eventual loss of land for Native American tribes and the deaths of several hundred railroad workers, Westwood said.

“It was a grand engineering feat, it was a grand gesture to bind the nation after the Civil War but it was also a story of human capital and what it took,” Westwood said.

Today’s Top Stories

AP

FILE - Hershel "Woody" Williams, center, the sole surviving U.S. Marine to be awarded the Medal of ...
The Associated Press

Last remaining WWII Medal of Honor recipient dies at 98

A 98-year-old man from West Virginia, who was the last Medal of Honor recipient from World War II has died.
1 day ago
The Associated Press

Toll now at 53 in San Antonio as families wait for answers

The families of the dead migrants found inside a tractor-trailer earlier this week are waiting for answers.
1 day ago
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul stands with Lieutenant governor Antonio Delgado during their primary ele...
STEVE PEOPLES AP National Politics Writer

Takeaways from first primaries since Roe v. Wade overturned

The abortion debate consumed the nation this week, but there was no race where it mattered more than Colorado's Republican primary for the U.S. Senate, where businessman Joe O'Dea became one of the only abortion-rights-supporting Republicans in the nation to win a statewide primary this year.
1 day ago
Cassidy Hutchinson, former aide to Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, arrives to testif...
The Associated Press

Aide: Trump dismissed Jan. 6 threats, wanted to join crowd

Former President Donald Trump dismissed his own security about the threats at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, according to new testimony Tuesday.
2 days ago
QAnon Utah race...
The Associated Press

Utah’s GOP Congressmen defeat primary challengers

Utah's four GOP congressmen win primary elections, move on to November's general election.
2 days ago
FILE - Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, addresses a crowd during a rally on April 25, 2014, in Sandy, Utah. T...
The Associated Press

Sen. Mike Lee fends off 2 opponents to win Utah GOP primary

Utah Sen. Mike Lee claimed a victory Tuesday night in the state's primary election, defeating two challengers.
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Tax Harassment...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
Follow @ikeyospe...

Tax Tuesday: The Most Common Mistakes People Make When Filing Their Taxes

Fortunately, for most average earners, they will not end up owing overpayments received for the Child Tax Credit in 2021.
Follow @ikeyospe...

Tax Tuesday: How will last year’s child tax credits affect you?

Fortunately, for most average earners, they will not end up owing overpayments received for the Child Tax Credit in 2021.
Thousands gather in Utah for 150th anniversary of railroad