The completion of the Transcontinental Railroad May 10, 1869, is recognized as one of our country’s biggest achievements and one of mankind’s biggest accomplishments. It’s been compared to the Apollo 11 moon landing in terms of the vision, dedication, innovation and collaboration needed to connect the country with a ribbon of rail.
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In May, the whole world observed the 150th anniversary of the driving of the Golden Spike, which marked the transcontinental railroad’s completion, and Union Pacific led the celebrations.
May 9 Ogden Celebration
At the center was a ceremony May 9 at Ogden Union Station, in Ogden, Utah – a day ahead of the state’s celebration at Promontory Summit where the Golden Spike was originally tapped into place. Union Pacific no longer has tracks near Promontory Summit. They were removed to support the scrap metal projects during World War II.
The May 9 ceremony featured Union Pacific's iconic steam locomotives, Living Legend No. 844 and Big Boy No. 4014. The two met, recreating the historic image taken at Promontory Summit on May 10, 1869. The Big Boy is one of eight 4000-class steam locomotives still in existence.
Following the steam meet, Union Pacific Chairman, President and CEO Lance Fritz and Utah Gov. Gary Herbert were joined by Margaret Yee and Sandy Dodge to tap a ceremonial spike. Yee's ancestors were among thousands of Chinese immigrants who forged the transcontinental railroad for Central Pacific. Dodge is a descendant of Gen. Grenville Dodge, Civil War veteran and Union Pacific's chief engineer during construction.
"This celebration is Union Pacific's way of reflecting on our ancestors' remarkable achievements that connected the nation while reminding us of the enormous responsibility we have for our nation's future," said Scott Moore, Union Pacific senior vice president – Corporate Relations and chief administrative officer. "We are proud our employees live and work in thousands of the communities we serve, delivering steel to construct schools and stores, lumber to build homes, the food we eat, clothes we wear and electronics we rely on."
The audience and the thousands watching via Facebook Live were asked to mark the occasion by Tweeting #Done in honor of the historic telegraph message sent out across the country.
No. 4014 Christening and Whistle-Stop Tour
There was plenty of pomp and circumstance leading up to the big May 9 event, starting with a christening ceremony for No. 4014, held May 4, at the Cheyenne Depot Museum. Moments afterward, No. 4014 and No. 844 disembarked, double-heading across Wyoming for a 4-day whistle-stop tour that ended at Ogden Union Station May 8. Thousands of train enthusiasts greeted this historic train along the route.
Utah’s Spike 150
Finally, all attention was focused May 10 on Promontory, Utah, for the state’s celebration of the 150-year anniversary of the Golden Spike. The program included a Chinese Lion Dance, the Children’s Chorus and Band, and remarks from UP Chairman Lance Fritz, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and United States Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao. The event culminated with an historic reenactment of the driving of the Golden Spike.