OGDEN — As Utah celebrates the sesquicentennial of the first transcontinental railroad, a bill working its way through federal channels could turn the historic site where the line was finished into a national historical park.
Matt Anderson, Northern Utah director for Republican U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney, told the Ogden City Council Tuesday that a federal public lands omnibus bill includes a measure that would designate the Golden Spike National Historic Site as a federally protected National Historical Park.
The site is a located at Promontory Summit, north of the Great Salt Lake, about 32 miles west of Brigham City.
The site honors the May 10, 1869 meeting of the Central and Union Pacific railroads, which completed the first continent spanning rail line. The ceremonial last “Golden Spike” was driven at Promontory.
Built between 1863 and 1869, the line connected the Pacific Coast at San Francisco Bay with the existing eastern U.S. railway. The railroad forever changed the American West with a dependable transportation system that brought western states economic stability through the inexpensive and speedy movement of both goods and people.
The railroad played a major role in the history of Northern Utah, specifically Ogden. Several events will occur throughout the state as the 150th anniversary is celebrated this year with an initiative called “Spike 150.” Gov. Gary Herbert declared 2019 “Year of the Train” earlier this month.
Anderson said the bill would give “added protection, funding and notoriety to a very deserving site.”
Ogden Mayor Mike Caldwell said he supports the measure and even though Promontory is in Box Elder County, National Historical Park status would be good for Ogden.
“Obviously, any time you have a national (historical) park near you, that’s good for tourism,” he said. “A lot of people would be staying in Ogden, shopping here and eating here.”
According to the National Parks Service website, the Golden Spike National Historic Site was established under the protection of the parks service in 1965, just four years shy of the centennial anniversary of the “Wedding of the Rails.”
The site encompasses just under 3,000 acres and features working replicas of the Union Pacific No. 119 and the Central Pacific Jupiter steam engine locomotives that met when the transcontinental line was finished. The originals continued their service for another 30-plus years after that fateful day in 1869, but the two engines were both scrapped in the early 1900s.