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Train History Not To Be Forgotten

May 12, 2019

With a lot going on this past week there were some news items which were passed by on this blog.  Looking at that list this afternoon I noticed one that simply needs to be posted about before anything else takes me away from the computer.  My love of history and trains makes this a priority.

The Union Pacific No. 119, arrives for the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Transcontinental Railroad completion at the Golden Spike National Historical Park Friday, May 10, 2019, in Promontory, Utah. People from all over the country are gathering at a remote spot in Utah to celebrate Friday’s 150th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Salutes and cannon fire rang out Friday in the Utah desert where the final spikes of the Transcontinental Railroad were hammered 150 years ago. An estimated 20,000 people swarmed to the celebration at Golden Spike National Historic Park northwest of Salt Lake City.  The 1869 completion of the 1,800-mile rail line shortened cross-county travel from as long as six months in wagons and stagecoaches to about 10 days on the rails.  Consider how trans-formative that was for the nation!

The reasons why the transcontinental railroad was such a pivotal national event often are talked about to the exclusion of that what happened during the construction phase.  Starting before Fort Sumter was fired on by Southern rebels, but not concluded until the nation’s winning general of the Civil War was president, the story of this transportation feat is nothing short of remarkable.  The goal was most laudable, even if there were profiteers looking for more than a shining moment for the country.  The building phase involved the type of corruption such projects always entail, but also included avalanches, explosives placed in the worst places possible, Indian raids, and sicknesses galore.  There was also the ‘caliber’ of men who gravitated to such jobs which would allow one newspaper in particular, The Cheyenne Leader, to run a daily column titled “Last Night’s Shootings.”

As we know the end result was a phenomenal success.

In this May 10, 1869, file photo, provided by the Union Pacific, railroad officials and employees celebrate the completion of the first railroad transcontinental link in Promontory, Utah. The completion of the Transcontinental Railroad was a pivotal moment in the United States, ushering in a period of progress and expansion nationwide. The Union Pacific’s Locomotive No. 119, right, and Central Pacific’s Jupiter edged forward over the golden spike that marked the joining of the nation by rail. (Andrew Russell/Union Pacific via AP, File)

People re-created the historic photo of the meeting of the rails from May 10, 1869, during the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Transcontinental Railroad completion at the Golden Spike National Historical Park Friday, May 10, 2019, in Promontory, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

 

Doug Foxley, left, and Spencer Stokes re-create a historic photo at the Golden Spike National Historical Park in Promontory, Utah, on Friday. (Jeffrey D. Allred / Associated Press)

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