OGDEN — A pair of 19th century steam engine locomotives and a beefed up reenactment of the driving of the Golden Spike will be featured during Utah’s upcoming Spike 150 celebration.
On Tuesday, Union Pacific Railroad Senior Public Affairs Director Nathan Anderson presented Ogden City with a Golden Spike replica, while apprising officials about UP’s involvement in celebrations planned for the 150th anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad.
On May 10, 1869, the ceremonial last Golden Spike was driven at Promontory Summit in Box Elder County, connecting the rail lines of the Central Pacific and Union Pacific to make history’s first transcontinental line. The line connected the Pacific Coast at San Francisco Bay with the existing Eastern U.S. railway and revolutionized the American West with a dependable transportation system.
The railroad played a major role in the history of Northern Utah, specifically Ogden. Several events will occur this May as part of sesquicentennial celebration.
Anderson said UP will move two historic steam engine locomotives to Ogden’s Union Station on May 9, which will kick off UP’s weekend “Heritage Fest.” The working replicas of the Union Pacific No. 119 and the Central Pacific Jupiter locomotives will also be featured during a May 10 reenactment of the railroad completion at Promontory Summit in Box Elder County.
Anderson said the reenactment, which has been held annually, will be “kicked up a bit” for the anniversary and feature historically accurate speeches from moments after the last spike was driven.
“(The speeches) weren’t long, they weren’t pompous,” Anderson said. “They had a very keenly focused message about global connectivity.”
President Abraham Lincoln signed the Pacific Railway Act, which authorized the connection of the two railroads, in 1862 during the American Civil War.
“(Lincoln) said ‘I can physically unite the country with a railroad,’” Anderson said. “When he said ‘Go,’ we never heard him say stop, so we just kept going.”
The railroad revolutionized the American West with a dependable transportation system that brought Western states economic prosperity through the relatively inexpensive and speedy movement of both goods and people.
“In 1868, if you wanted to go from New York to San Francisco you could either go by ship, around Cape Horn (at the southern end of South America), for a couple months, or you could take six months and travel by horse or wagon,” Anderson said. “On May 11, 1869, that trip took a week. You didn’t have to say, ‘If I’m going to the west — I’m going for good. You could say, ‘I’m going to visit and I’m coming back.’ We saw the nation literally united by iron rail and wooden ties.”
Several exhibits are on display around the state and sporadic events will be held up until a formal three-day celebration across the state, set to take place May 10-12. For more information on events, go to spike150.org/events.