Promontory and the Golden Spike: The Absolutely Amazing (and almost Unbelievable) Story

The Driving of the Golden Spike at Promotory Summit, Utah

The Driving of the Golden Spike at Promotory Summit, Utah

Fun Facts About Promontory and the Golden Spike

 

April 9, 1869: Representatives of both the Union and Central Pacific Railroads are forced by the government into a meeting to determine the meeting point, or terminus, of the two lines. Promontory Summit, half way between the two companies’ end of track, was decided.

April 28, 1869: The Central Pacific completes 10 miles of track in one day – a record that remains unbroken to this day!

May 10, 1869: The “Wedding of the Rails!” Many of the journalist of the day recount the events of the ceremony and record the event as happening at Promontory Point – when actually the rails were joined and the ceremony held at Promontory Summit – 35 miles away. As a result of this inaccurate reporting, most people today, more than a century later, still believe the rails were joined at Promontory Point, as this falsehood is repeated by the media, printed on postcards, souvenirs, in several articles, and even textbooks, and prsented in history class lectures.

December 1, 1869: The terminus of the two lines is moved from Pomontory to Ogden, and Promontory became just another whistle stop along the railway.

Locomotive "119"

1903: The Union Pacific locomotive “119” is sold to scrappers for $1,000.

1904: The line from Ogden north of the Great Salt Lake through Promontory and west to Lucin becomes a secondary line as the “Lucin Cut Off”, a combination trestle and rock fill causeway across the lake, becomes the main line. This new route shortens the line by 45 miles, avoids the climb through the Promontory Pass, and saves the company $60,000 a month in operational costs.

1909: The original Central Pacific locomotive “Jupiter” is sold to scrappers, also for $1,000.

May 10, 1919: The 50th Anniversary of the Golden Spike Ceremony. The town of Promontory was ready to host a grand celebration, yet not a soul appeared. Local newspaper had planned a great excursion and celebration. However, once they discovered the “Wedding of the Rails” had not taken place at Promontory Point, but instead Promontory Summit, “a desert without water or shade,” the celebration was held in Ogden instead.

1938: Railroad service to Promontory is discontinued.

September 8, 1942: An “Undriving of the Last Spike” ceremonty is held, as 90 miles of rail from Corinne to Lucin are pulled for the use in the war effort.

May 10, 1952: The Golden Spike Association holds its first annual re-enactment of the Golden Spike Ceremony.

1957: The last spike site is designated a National Historic Site in non-federal ownership.
July 30, 1965: Finally, Golden Spike National Historic Site is designated, and 2,735 acres are placed under the stewardship of the National Park Service.

July 30, 1965: Golden Spike National Historic Site is established under the protection of the National Park Service. This recognition of the site’s importance comes after 38 years of campaigning by Bernice Gibbs Anderson.

May 10, 1969: The Centennial celebration of the Golden Spike Ceremony draws 28,000 spectators, including John Wayne, who arrived by helicopter.

May 10, 1979: Dedication of working replica locomotives, “Jupiter” and “119”.

May 10, 1994: 125th Anniversary celebration to commemorate the completion of the Nation’s first Transcontinental Railroad is held. For the first time since May 10, 1869, the original silver plated spike maul used in the ceremony and the Gold, Silver, and combination Gold and Silver Arizona spikes are all reunited at Promontory for the celebration. 14,000 visitors attended, including Merlin Olsen, and the CEOs of both the Union Pacific and Southern Pacific Railroads.

July 30, 1995: 30th Anniversary of the establishment of Golden Spike National Historic Site

Special thanks to www.nps.gov

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