The TX. 10: Fun facts about ‘wedding of the rails’
1. The 150th anniversary of the “wedding of the rails,” or completion of the first transcontinental railroad, is at 12:47 p.m. May 10, 2019.
2. There were actually four different spikes used in the ceremony: two gold, one gold and silver, and one silver. All were later removed and replaced with iron ones.
3. The man who first drove in the spikes (or attempted to) was Leland Stanford, eponym of Stanford University and president of the Central Pacific Railroad. He ended up missing the spike completely and handed the job off to the Union Pacific vice president — who also missed. A railroad worker eventually ended up doing it for them.
4. A special California laurel railroad tie with a silver plaque also was used to mark the event, as was a silver engraved maul to drive in the spikes.
5. The date of the joining of the rails engraved on the spikes is May 8, two days before the event actually happened. Why? The occasion was delayed due to bad weather and a labor dispute.
6. When the final iron spike was nailed in, telegraphs sent the word “Done” across the country in one of the first national media events in America.
7. The rails were joined at Promontory Summit, not Promontory Point. The location was reported inaccurately by many journalists, and the idea still persists today.
8. The original, famous picture of the wedding of the rails features men holding bottles of alcohol. Temperance was in full swing at this point, though, so the bottles were taken out in some of the later prints of the photo.
9. The railroad technically wasn’t transcontinental at this point, as it didn’t go all the way to the coast.
10. The junction was eventually moved from Promontory Summit to Ogden, Utah.
– McKenzie Leininger, Bonneville High