The main reason for lying over near Ogden Utah was to visit the Golden Spike National Historic Site. Having managed the Capital District for CA State Parks, which included the State Railroad Museum and coupled with that having a family connection to railroads it was only natural that I wanted to see Promontory Point where the Transcontinental Railroad was officially completed in May of 1869.
A small historic site located out in the middle of nowhere the history of this place is awesome. With a museum, visitors center, historic replica engines on display, two interpretive drives and a hike along the historic rail line kept Cory and I busy for the day.
Although much of the original track is gone, about 1.7 miles of track have been re-laid on the original roadbed where the rails were joined and working replicas of Jupiter and No.119 demonstrate steam operation and recreation of the event. It was great fun seeing some of the historic sights that I had previously only read about or seen in photographs like the “Ten Miles in One Day” site and the examples of parallel grades.
Ten Miles in One Day
On April 28, 1869, the Central Pacific established a record that has never been equaled. The Union Pacific once laid eight and one half miles of track in a single day and boasted that their feat could not be matched. Charles Crocker (of the railroad Big 4), Central Pacific construction superintendent, was determined to beat that record. He shrewdly waited until the distance between the two companies was so short that the Union Pacific could not try again. Ten miles fifty six feet of track were laid. It was an orchestration of humanity as magnificent as the Pacific Railroad effort itself.
With government subsidies and land grants available, Central Pacific working from the west and Union Pacific working from the east each raced to grade more miles ahead of the tracklayers. By mid 1868 Central Pacific had crossed the Sierra and laid 200 miles of track; Union Pacific had laid 700 miles over the plains. As the two neared each other in Utah the race became more heated to claim the land subsidies.
Both pushed the grading so far beyond their railheads that they passed each other, and for over 200 miles competing graders advanced in opposite directions on parallel grades. There is still evidence of both grades at the historic site along the driving tour and Big Fill loop trail. When completed in May 1869 Central Pacific had laid 690 miles of track, Union Pacific 1,086. Walking and driving on the old transcontinental roadbed was a great way to experience railroad history.
As they get ready to return the engines to the storage area visitors are treated to a steam demonstration and interpretive program. National Park Rangers share history and facts about the May 10th Golden Spike celebration and the two engines that took part in this historic event.
Cory wasn’t too happy about the steam whistle but seemed to enjoy getting out and hiking in this unusually dog friendly National Park managed site (dogs are allowed everywhere except the buildings).
This was a great detour and definitely worth the stop!