The City of Sparks was created when Southern Pacific moved all of their operations from Wadsworth, Nev.
On July 4, 1904, SP picked up the houses, the trees, the plants, the chickens, and the people, put them on flat beds, and moved the entire operation 30 miles west to the eastern side of the Truckee Meadows. Until that time, the area was a swamp and a few scattered ranches. SP worked for a year to fill in the swampy wetlands area in what would become the town and the rail yard before the big move.
The citizens had a few choices for a town name: Harriman (E. H. Harriman asked to not be honored this way), Glendale (there already was a Glendale stop in California), East Reno and Sparks. The town was eventually named after a Nevada Governor from the area. It is fitting the line connecting the east to the west so mirrors our Nevada history: Nevada was admitted to the Union in 1864 in large part due to the transcontinental rail line.
The entire community was connected to the railroad: either one worked there or were married to someone who worked there. The schools, the parks, the entire city grew up around the rail yard. The high school is still known as the Sparks Railroaders and uses a steam train in their logo.
UP runs the railroad yard and until the 1970s, when Interstate 80 was put through the city, the yard still had the original round house. Today, along with a few original brick maintenance buildings, the original yard tower is still used to oversee operations.
The city received a federal grant a few years ago to help refurbish two cars that are on display in Sparks’ Victorian Square. One car is a caboose and the other is a club/executive car. Both of the cars have been refurbished to the 1920s time period. The two cars are attached to SP Engine #8 which was a working steam engine used in Nevada. Engine #8 is on loan from the Nevada State Railroad Museum in Carson City.
Our town is still known as the Rail City and the rail yard continues to play a vital role to our entire valley's economy. A few years ago, along with expanding the tunnel size over Donner Pass (to accommodate double stacked cars), UP put in a third line in the yard to help accommodate all the traffic coming from the west. Sparks is the site for locomotive and crew changes.
UP is a vital business partner to our entire region, and most importantly to Sparks. We are grateful for the opportunity to be recognized as an important part of the 150 year celebration of the Union Pacific Railroad.