Thursday, August 26, 2010
Golden Spike National Historic Site
On 10 May 1869, the Central Pacific Railroad and the Union Pacific Railroad met at Promontory Summit, Utah and completed the first transcontinental railroad. There is, of course, a lot more to this story. Many thought this was an impossible feat including some within the railroad companies.
It was a monumental task that involved thousands of workers and incredible hardships to compete the task. The Central Pacific Railroad employed over ten thousand Chinese immigrants to work on the project. They proved to be hard working and skilled men. Near the end of the west driving tour you will see a small arch which was named the Chinese arch in honor of the hard work of these immigrants.
Like all such projects, there were some bizarre issues. As the two railroads approached the meeting point, they and the federal government could not reach an agreement on the meeting point of the two lines, so ensued a strange race that resulted in several hundred miles on duplicate track being laid often side by side in Utah. Finally, it was agreed to meet at Promontory summit. The hard work was abandoned and the connection made.
At the historic site besides seeing the actual meeting point and replicas of the engines involved in 1869, you can drive two sections of the rail bed and can actually see the duplicated blasting thru rock literally side by side, along with the last push by the Union Pacific railroad to the summit, which proved to be some of the toughest work of the journey.
I also need to mention that there were other important things that happened as a result of the meeting of the two rail lines. It meant that settlers could now more easily move west. This created more tension with the Native Americans. One of the actions to resolve this issue was to subdue these tribes by removing the food source they relied on. Using the railroad, hunters flooded the west plains and nearly drove the buffalo that number in the millions to near extinction. The Native tribes had no choice but accept peace and move to reservations.
This is a remote site but worth the visit because of the impact on the history of the country. On the way you can also stop by the ATK Company and see their display of rockets that they provide engines for.