Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Promontory Point, Utah

May 10, 1869
Promontory Summit, Utah Territory
This past Saturday, May 10th, marked the 145th anniversary of the driving of the Golden Spike.  If you don't remember what that was, keep reading.  It was an event that "forged the destiny of a nation".

The Union and Central Pacific Railroads joined their rails at Promontory Summit, Utah Territory, on that day, forever connecting the east and west coasts of our vast and still fledgling nation.

Two replicas of the original trains: the Union Pacific #119 and the Jupiter #60
The original trains were long ago scrapped for iron, but in 1979, for the 110th anniversary, two replica locomotives were built in California for $1.5 million in federal funds.  They were reconstructed from measurements taken from photographs of the original engines.

Judging from the photos my brother and sister-in-law took of them, these replicas are magnificent!

My sister-in-law Kirsti posing with a train engineer in period garb
My brother and his family drove up to Promontory for the ceremony this year, to see what all the fuss was about.  The park, which is a National Park, has a visitor's center and an engine house which is open to the public throughout the year.

Several walking trails and audio driving tours allow visitors to see the incredible efforts that were needed to construct this railroad over the summit.

Tourists watching and filming the re-enactment
Every Saturday and holiday between May 1st and Labor Day, the two replica locomotives are lined up to re-enact the "Golden Spike" ceremony.  This year, being that Saturday the 10th fell on the actual 145th anniversary, the ceremony was extra special.  There were about 600 people there to watch.

My sister-in-law writes: "It really made you think about how important that was to the development of the United States.  Suddenly you could move people and goods from one coast to the other in less than a week."

The Train replicas have beautiful detailing
Promontory in Box Elder County, Utah, is an area about 32 miles (51 km) west of Brigham City and 66 miles (106 km) northwest of Salt Lake City.  It is 4,902 feet (1,494 m) above sea level.  Running rail lines through those mountains was an incredible engineering achievement.

Jay, Kirsti, Nils, and Christian
More than 4,000 workers, two thirds of whom were Chinese, laid more than 100 miles (160 km) of track at altitudes above 7,000 feet (2,100 m).  We owe those men a huge debt of gratitude.

Crowds jostling for good pictures of the re-enactment
Saturday there was a full re-enactment of the driving of the final four spikes joining the two rail lines, complete with people in costumes of the period representing the dignitaries that were there 145 years ago (as seen in the first picture of this post).

Costumed Re-Enactors giving the tourists photo ops
According to my family, the weather was beautiful.  It had been raining on Friday and ended up raining a lot again on Saturday afternoon, but the weather was nice for the ceremony.  As you can see from the pictures, it was clear with big puffy clouds.

My brother Jay
According to history, on May 10, 1869, in anticipation of the ceremony, Union Pacific's Number 119 locomotive, and Central Pacific's Number 60 locomotive, were drawn up face to face on Promontory summit, leaving only the width of one railroad tie between them.  They say as many as 3,000 government and railroad officials and railroad workers were on hand to witness this historic event.

Re-enactments probably began in the late 1940s, which led to an effort to preserve the site for posterity. Finally, in 1965, The Golden Spike National Historic Site came to be.  The area is now administered by the National Park Service.

My Nephew Christian
Visiting this National Park sounds like a fun and educational way to spend a Saturday morning!

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