The completion of the world's first transcontinental railroad was celebrated here on Promontory Summit, Utah, where the Central Pacific Railroad and Union Pacific Railroad met on May 10, 1869. A Golden Spike was designated as a National Historic Site in nonfederal ownership on April 2, 1957, and authorized for federal ownership and administration by an act of Congress on July 30, 1965.
Union Pacific's No. 119 and Central Pacific's "Jupiter" engines lined up facing each other on the tracks, separated only by the width of one rail. Leland Stanford, one of the "Big Four" of the Central Pacific, brought four ceremonial spikes.
The famed "Golden Spike" was presented by David Hewes, a San Francisco construction magnate. It was engraved with the names of the Central Pacific directors, special sentiments appropriate to the occasion, and, on the head, the notation "the Last Spike."
A second golden spike was presented by the San Francisco News Letter. A silver spike was Nevada's contribution, and a spike blended of iron, silver, and gold represented Arizona. These spikes were dropped into a pre-bored laurelwood tie during the ceremony. At 12:47 p.m., the word went out over the wire that it was “done".
The steam engines, "Jupiter" and "No. 119" that are on the historical site are replicas, both of the original engines were scrapped in the early 1900s, but these replicas were reconstructed from period drawings and specifications and they made their debut on May 10, 1979.
Jupiter, a wood burner, was the engine used by the Central Pacific in the original ceremony, and No. 119, a coal burner, was the Union Pacific's choice. The engines run daily, May through Labor Day. During the winter, they are cleaned, maintained and stored in the Engine House at the site.
The "Railroaders Festival" is held each year on the second Saturday in August, to re-enact the ceremonial driving of the golden spike. The festival features a number of other activities including handcar races and rides, contests, an Old Time Fiddlers' Concert, buffalo chip throwing, and other interesting family adventures.
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Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America by Richard White.
The transcontinental railroads of the late nineteenth century were the first corporate behemoths. Their attempts to generate profits from proliferatin...