SALT LAKE CITY — The 150th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad is this upcoming Friday and Utahns will be celebrating the historical event throughout the state.
On May 10, 1869, the First Transcontinental Railroad was officially completed at Promontory, Utah. At the ceremony, a golden spike was ceremoniously driven into the railway ties, joining the Central Pacific Railroad and the Union Pacific Railroad.
The Sesquicentennial Celebration Ceremony held at the Golden Spike National Historical Park will look back on this important moment in United States history and Utah state history. The celebration, which will include a reenactment, remarks from dignitaries and an original musical production, will be broadcast on KSL Channel 5 from 12–1 p.m. on May 10.
In honor of this historic moment, here are five significant quotes about the Golden Spike and the Transcontinental Railroad.
1. "We want to hear the iron horse puffing through this valley."
Brigham Young famously supported the Union Pacific Railroad and was anxious to see the railroad come to Utah. In his Journal of Discourses, President Young stated, “Speaking of the completion of this railroad, I am anxious to see it, and I say to the Congress of the United States, through our Delegate, to the Company, and to others, hurry up! Hasten the work! We want to hear the iron horse puffing through this valley. What for? To bring our brethren and sisters here.”
2. “Without the Chinese migrants, the Transcontinental Railroad would not have been possible.”
Stanford professor Gordon H. Chang argued this point in his new book, "The Chinese and the Iron Road: Building the Transcontinental Railroad." An estimated 15,000 Chinese migrants worked on the Central Pacific Railroad. However, they were paid less than white railroad workers and were not invited to the ceremony.
3. "May God continue the unity of our Country as this Railroad unites the two great Oceans of the world."
This inscription can be found on the side of the famous Golden Spike. According to the National Park Service, David Hewes, a contractor in San Francisco, had commissioned the casting of a golden spike made from 17.6 karat gold. Hewes later donated the spike to Stanford University, where it now resides. The transcontinental railroad was often seen as a symbol for unity in the aftermath of the Civil War.
4. "The railroad was probably the single biggest contributor to the loss of the bison, which was particularly traumatic to the Plains tribes who depended on it for everything from meat for food to skins and fur for clothing, and more.”
According to an exhibit for the Digital Public Library of America, the railroad also greatly impacted Native Americans. The Transcontinental Railroad went through 15 tribal regions and contributed to the overhunting of bison. Some Native Americans attacked the railway and the workers in order to preserve their lands.
W.N. Shilling, a telegraph operator for Western Union, tapped out this word in morse code on the telegraph once the final spike was driven. According to the National Park Service, the message was sent out at 12:47 p.m to let the world know that the railroad was completed. Interestingly, one of the railroad spikes was hooked up to the telegraph so that the blows of the hammer could be "heard" across the country.