BLM, Promontory Railroad

BLM crews look at a trestle along the Transcontinental Railroad Grade in Box Elder County.

PROMONTORY — The remnants of original 90-mile Promontory Branch of the Transcontinental Railroad is situated in some of the most remote portions of northwest Utah.

But later this month and in early May, the Bureau of Land Management will make it a little more accessible.

In recognition of the upcoming 150th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, the BLM Salt Lake Field Office is offering public automobile tours along the Transcontinental Railroad Grade Backcountry Byway, north of the Great Salt Lake in Box Elder County.

According to press release from the U.S. Department of the Interior, BLM teams will lead motorcades along “remote and scenic portions” of the railroad backcountry byway.

The Promontory Branch of railroad was completed in 1869. On May 10 of that year, 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.

Abandoned in 1942, the 90-mile contiguous stretch of the original Promontory railroad grade is managed by the BLM. According to the DOI release, the byway features several landmarks where those trekking it can take a step back in time.

Stops on the BLM tours will provide visitors the “opportunity to view engineering features created by Chinese, Irish, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints workers using hand tools and dynamite,” the release says. The tour will also visit historic ghost town sites and see the culverts, wooden trestles and other original artifacts that are still found along the trail.

The tour will start at the Flying J in Snowville and head west along the railroad grade from Kelton to Terrace ghost town sites, before heading back to Snowville. The tours are scheduled for two upcoming Saturdays, running from 8:30 a.m. to about 5 p.m. on April 20 and May 4.

The BLM says those participating in tour are responsible for and required to drive their own vehicles. Vehicles must be in good condition and have at least one spare tire. The tours are limited to 15 cars, with one car per party and pre-registration is required.

Those interested in the tours should register at https://transcontinental-railroad-grade-tour.eventbrite.com.

As part of Utah’s Spike 150 celebration of the railroad sesquicentennial, 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.

You can reach reporter Mitch Shaw at mishaw@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @mitchshaw23.

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