Utah's Celebration of the 150th Anniversary of the Transcontinental Railroad

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Utah’s Celebration of the 150th Anniversary of the Transcontinental Railroad

Table of Contents Spencer Fox Eccles Treasures of the Transcontinental Railroad


Golden Spike Sesquicentennial Opening Ceremonies


Golden Spike Sesquicentennial Ceremony


Golden Spike Sesquicentennial Festival


OC Tanner Gift of Music


OC Tanner Utah Spike Unveiling


Union Pacific Steam Locomotive Meet


tie at Promontory Summit in Utah. At this formal ceremony, the nation commemorated

Ogden Heritage Festival


the joining of the Central Pacific Railroad from the west and Union Pacific Railroad from

Experience the Union Pacific


Train Excursion


Transcontinental: People, Place, Impact.


Real Salt Lake & Utah Royals Golden Spike Kick-Off Games


Statewide Events


Spike 150 Moments


On May 10, 1869, the last spike of the Transcontinental Railroad was driven into a railroad

the east. This final golden spike represented a new era in connecting people, moving goods, and igniting America’s Industrial Revolution. The completion of the railroad, much like the first moon shot in 1969, unified our nation and showed the world that great things happen with vision, hard work, dedication, and collaboration.

In 2019, Utah honored this momentous feat with a yearlong celebration that included more than 150 events hosted in communities throughout the state. Nearly 2.5 million people came from all over the world to participate, and once again, our nation came together to educate, inspire, innovate, and share the legacy of the Golden Spike.

May 3 - June 24, 2019

Spencer Fox Eccles Treasures of the Transcontinental Railroad For the first time ever, seven significant national artifacts from the Transcontinental Railroad were displayed together. The special exhibit, sponsored by the Eccles Foundation, ran from May 3 to June 24 at the Utah State Capitol in the Gold Room. Displays included three out of the four last spikes used in the 1869 completion ceremony – the Nevada, Arizona, and the Golden Spike – Central Pacific Railroad President Leland Stanford’s ceremonial mallet and the Pacific Railway Act signed by President Abraham Lincoln.

May 4, 2019

Golden Spike Sesquicentennial Opening Ceremonies Box Elder County residents kicked off a week of celebrations on Saturday, May 4 with more than 5,000 people participating in the day’s events. The opening ceremonies included a Horse and Buggy parade down Brigham City’s Main Street which featured over 100 floats and people in authentic period dress highlighting life in the 1860s. That same night, people donned their dancing shoes for an old-fashioned hoe-down at the Box Elder Fairgrounds and Event Center in Tremonton with music by the Rough Stock Band. The night ended with a spectacular fireworks display.

May 10, 2019

Golden Spike Sesquicentennial Ceremony On Friday, May 10 Utah celebrated the 150th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad and the driving of the Golden Spike at Promontory Summit in 1869. Nearly 20,000 people from all over the world came together at Golden Spike National Historical Park for a memorable ceremony. The ceremony, which was broadcast live on KSL, included a heartfelt keynote address by historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jon Meacham, the premier performance of “As One” a new musical about the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad, a Chinese Lion Dance, a traditional wreath-laying to honor the railroad workers and a historical reenactment by XXX. The event also included remarks by Chinese American historian and author Connie Young Yu, Utah Governor Gary Herbert, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, U.S. Congressman Rob Bishop, Union Pacific President, and CEO Lance Fritz, The Honorable Cui Tiankai and Ambassador of Ireland to the U.S. Daniel Mullhall. Commemorative activities continued throughout the day with the unveiling of an 8-foot tall bison sculpture titled “Distant Thunder,” the début of the Golden Spike National Historical Park sign, and the official release of the Transcontinental Railroad commemorative stamps.

Everything was falling apart. In the first years of the 1860s, the nation was torn asunder amid what the beleaguered wartime president would call the “fiery trial” of the Civil War. The conflict was existential, claiming perhaps three quarters of a million lives. No one knew what would happen. No one knew if the nation conceived in two Philadelphia summers—the first in 1776, the second in 1787—would survive as Union and Confederate forces clashed again and again and again once war came in the spring of 1861. And yet in the darkness of war there were glimmers of light. In the summer of 1862, enveloped by the demands of defending the nation from armed rebellion, President Abraham Lincoln signed legislation authorizing the transcontinental railroad, a far-sighted act for a Commander in Chief buffeted by the winds of war. Hope in a time of fear; optimism in a moment of pessimism; a thought of the future amid the storms of the present: the transcontinental railroad stands even now as an emblem of American boldness and of American union. The Golden Spike was about many things, not least commerce and technology. And it was about some of the worst aspects of the American soul, particularly in light of the tragic treatment of Native Americans and of immigrant workers. But it was also about the best parts of that soul, those precincts of our national character that look ahead, that reach out, that dream big. We should not sentimentalize the American experience; the nation has been morally flawed, often egregiously so, from the beginning. We must be honest about that—honest about the plights of African Americans, of Native Americans, of women, of immigrants. And our honesty should lead us to do all that we can to be about the work of justice. Talked of for three decades before the legislation, the fact that the transcontinental railroad was authorized during the Civil War and was completed, in 1869, amid Reconstruction makes the whole thing unmistakably American. For to build in a time of destruction and to persevere in a time of division was very much in keeping with the spirit of a nation that had always believed, as Thomas Paine had put it, that we had it in our power to begin the world over again. A continent would come together; what Thomas Jefferson had called the “empire of liberty” would be not just parts, but a whole; the nation was united if not in spirit, in fact— and facts, as John Adams once observed, are stubborn things. We stand, therefore, on a kind of sacred ground.

The story of the transcontinental railroad is the story of America, for both are stories of ambition and of drive, of vision and of unity, of hope and of history. It’s especially significant that we are here at this particular moment in the life of the nation, for many of the elements so essential to the conception and to the realization of this vast project seem so elusive in our own time. A century and a half on from the foresight and the energy of a Lincoln and his battles to preserve the Union and to lay the tracks for its future prosperity, we—you and I—are caught in a moment of public dispiritedness, of reflexive partisanship, and of a broad distrust of the future. Which is why this is a good moment, and a good place, to reflect on who we’ve been, who we are, and where we might go in the next 150 years. To know what’s come before is to be armed against despair. Think about it: if the men and women of the past—with all their flaws and limitations and ambitions and appetites—could press on through ignorance and superstition, racism and sexism, selfishness and greed, to form a more perfect union, then perhaps we, too, can right wrongs and leave things better than we found them. Our common welfare depends not on what separates but on what unifies us. St. Augustine defined a nation as a multitude of rational beings united by the common objects of our love. The common objects of our love: nearly two decades into the 21st century, what do we love in common? The painful answer is: not enough. Still, history has the capacity to bring us together, for our story is ultimately the story of obstacles overcome, crises resolved, freedom expanded. We have always grown in strength the wider we have opened our arms—and the more we have opened our hearts. From Lexington and Concord to Lewis and Clark; from Fort Sumter to D-Day; from Seneca Falls to Selma; and, yes, from the canals of the East to the railroads of the West, Americans have sought to perfect our Union. What can we in our time learn from the past? That the perfect should not be the enemy of the good. That compromise is the oxygen of democracy. And that we learn the most from those who came before not by looking up at them uncritically or down on them condescendingly but by looking them in the eye and taking their true measure as human beings, not as impossibly perfect gods or hopelessly irredeemable villains. Knowing the history of freedom is not only illuminating but enabling. A person who understands the past, in all its glory and grandeur and horror and injustice, understands that, as Winston Churchill once put it, the path of civilization, while never straight, is essentially upward—upward to what he called the sun-lit uplands of happiness and peace. We stand in the sunlight of a legacy of union, for the architects and the builders and the lawmakers and the laborers who transformed a dream into a reality in this place 150 years ago knew that a nation connected might well be a nation unified. It was made possible by the powerful in government and in commerce and by immigrant laborers—from China, from Ireland, and elsewhere—who joined in the hard, unforgiving work of construction. It was constructed in an era of prevailing white supremacy and an ongoing struggle to more broadly and justly apply the implications of what may have been the most important sentence ever originally rendered in English: Jefferson’s assertion that all men are created equal. And we stand here today knowing that the work of America is not done, that in many ways the American Revolution unfolds still. That’s our blessing—and our burden. If a nation fighting for its survival in the crucible of the 19th century could transcend the tumult of the moment to do something that big, that hopeful, why can’t we? The transcontinental project was shaped by sectionalism, by battles for power, by party politics—and yet our forebears delivered. However bad things are—and that, like so much else in America, is a matter of opinion—I for one would rather be dealing with Facebook than with Fort Sumter. Let’s not indulge ourselves in the narcissism of the present and act as though our problems are more insuperable than the innumerable problems that were more or less overcome to create a nation where, for all our ferocity, what George Washington called the “sacred fire of liberty” still burns. If Americans want to know what is possible, come here. If they want to know what can happen when government and the private sector cooperate rather than clash, come here. If they want to know how to build a nation worth the fighting for, come here. If they want to know why a spirit of union matters, come here. If they want to understand how the faith of Jefferson, Lincoln, TR, FDR, JFK, and Reagan—a faith founded on the conviction that tomorrow can be better than today—can find tangible expression, come here. The story is not perfect, but then neither are we. History tells us that we rise when we build and we thrive when we give everyone what Lincoln called a “fair chance.” A fair chance. Such was an animating impulse behind the Golden Spike, and big ideas and big dreams are the stuff of the best of the American story. In that history lies our hope.

Jon Meacham’s Keynote Speech – May 10, 2019

Photo by Samantha Madar, Standard-Examiner

May 10 – 12, 2019

Golden Spike Sesquicentennial Festival A weekend of celebration continued after the formal 150th-anniversary ceremony at Promontory Summit. From May 10-12, visitors were encouraged to reflect on the impact of the Transcontinental Railroad and be inspired to become innovators of the next big unifying discovery by participating in a variety of activities. The festival included a re-creation of a “Hell-on-Wheels” village, historical and educational exhibits about the railroad workers, replicas of Native American Shoshone and Mountain Man camps, and repeat performances of the musical “As One” and historical reenactments of the driving of the Golden Spike.

May 10, 2019

OC Tanner Gift of Music The anniversary celebration on Friday, May 10 ended with a special performance featuring The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square, and the Utah Symphony with Broadway stars Brian Stokes Mitchell and Megan Hilty at the LDS Conference Center in Salt Lake City. Members of the Spike 150 Commission enjoyed a private look at the Spencer Fox Eccles Treasures Exhibit at the Capitol. Photo by Stephen Speckman, courtesy of the Utah Department of Heritage & Arts

May 8, 2019

OC Tanner Utah Spike Unveiling Governor Gary Herbert signed a bill to create an official Utah spike during a private event on Wednesday, May 8 at O.C. Tanner Jewelers. The Utah Copper Spike was presented to Governor Herbert, Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox, and Utah Senate President Stuart Adams by the President of O.C. Tanner Dave Petersen in a formal ceremony. The Utah Spike was designed by O.C. Tanner and created out of 99.99% pure copper donated from Rio Tinto Kennecott. The spike also includes a significant inscription that captures the collaborative spirit and hard work that made the Transcontinental Railroad a reality. Following the event, the Utah Copper Spike joined the Nevada Spike, Arizona Spike, and the Golden Spike in a display at the Utah State Capitol.

May 9, 2019

Union Pacific Steam Locomotive Meet On Thursday, May 9 two iconic steam locomotives, the “Big Boy” No. 4014 and the “Living Legend” No. 844, met at Ogden Union Station to celebrate Union Pacific’s role in the Transcontinental Railroad. Thousands of spectators came from all over the globe to see as the two giant locomotives come together to recreate the historic “meeting of the rails” in a formal ceremony. The event included remarks by Utah Governor Gary Herbert, President, and CEO of Union Pacific Lance Fritz, and Utah Congressman Rob Bishop. To close out the ceremony, a member of the of Chinese Railroad Workers Descendants Association, Margaret Yee, a descendant of Union Pacific Engineer General Grenville Dodge, Sandy Dodge, and Union Pacific Senior Vice President of Corporate Relations and Chief Administrative Officer, Scott Moore, joined the three speakers to tap in an oversized replica of the Golden Spike.

May 9 – 11, 2019

Ogden Heritage Festival This year’s Ogden Heritage Festival, held on May 9-11, was a special edition to honor the 150th anniversary. In addition to hosting the largest steam locomotives in the world, Ogden Union station was filled with exhibits celebrating the influence of trains and the rail industry on the state and the country. The City closed Historic 25th Street and hosted music, activities, historical presentations and a variety of vendors. The weekend also included cultural performances from the Divya School of Dance, Tutulli Ballet Folklorico and Celtic Beat, jazz music by Jazz at the Station, and several performances of “Wedding of the Rails,” a musical celebration with train-themed songs hosted at Ogden Musical Theatre.

April 27 – May 9, 2019

Experience the Union Pacific People visiting Ogden Union Station to see the Heritage Fleet, April 27 thru May 11, experienced railroading in a whole new way. The Experience the Union Pacific Rail Car stopped in Ogden during its nationwide tour to celebrate the 150th anniversary alongside Union Pacific’s Big Boy and No. 119 locomotives. The converted baggage car featured a multi-media exhibit that told the story of railroading through sound, images and interactive technology. Beginning with a history of the construction of the transcontinental railroad, the walk-thru exhibit also highlighted the evolution of the locomotive, the transportation of commodities and the types of technology that Union Pacific is using to track their trains.

May 11 – 12, 2019

Train Excursion This year’s Ogden Heritage Festival, held on May 9-11, was a special edition to honor the 150th anniversary. In addition to hosting the largest steam locomotives in the world, Ogden Union station was filled with exhibits celebrating the influence of trains and the rail industry on the state and the country. The City closed Historic 25th Street and hosted music, activities, historical presentations and a variety of vendors. The weekend also included cultural performances from the Divya School of Dance, Tutulli Ballet Folklorico and Celtic Beat, jazz music by Jazz at the Station, and several performances of “Wedding of the Rails,” a musical celebration with train-themed songs hosted at Ogden Musical Theatre.

March 22 – June 14, 2019

Transcontinental: People, Place, Impact. Transcontinental: People, Place, Impact was an exhibition created by the Utah Division of Arts and Museums to through an open call process, bringing together artists with familiar names and those at the beginning of their careers, both contemporary and more traditional. The disciplines of the 35 artists featured in the exhibition ranged from painting, sculpture, photography, printmaking, installation, performance, ceramics, textile, social practice, and video. This project offered artists the opportunity to explore topics related to the Transcontinental Railroad, and the freedom to research and render their interpretation. The artists created work focusing on topics such as industry, transportation, innovation, technology, globalization, immigrant and labor issues, impact on Indigenous communities and wildlife, environmental issues, gender issues, historical figures, and personal heritage.

May 4, 2019 & May 11, 2019

Real Salt Lake & Utah Royals Golden Spike Kick-Off Games Spike 150 celebrations hit the soccer field for two train-themed games – a Real Salt Lake game on Saturday, May 4 and a Utah Royals game on Saturday, May 11. Acclaimed Broadway actress and singer Ali Ewoldt kicked off the Real Salt Lake game by singing the national anthem and signed autographs for fans in the “Golden Spike” fun zone. Both games featured a carnival area filled with interactive Golden Spike activities including a train ride, games, a selfie station with a giant Golden Spike and a “dance-off” contest. Limited edition Spike 150 Real Salt Lake scarves were created to commemorate the anniversary and a few lucky winners at each game won a golden spike.

Statewide Events Throughout 2019 and into 2020, communities and organizations throughout the state hosted more than 150 events in every county across Utah. Events included concerts, photo exhibits, firework displays, lecture series’, parades, block parties, historic tours, art displays, special exhibits, conferences and more. Each event was designed with the mission to educate, inspire, innovate and share the legacy of the Golden Spike with residents and visitors from all across the world.

150th Golden Spike Anniversary Celebration, The Gateway

Spike 150 Commemorative Mural, Utah Arts Alliance

Children’s Golden Spike Celebration and Family Locomotive Party, Treehouse Museum

The Race to Promontory the Transcontinental Railroad & the American West Exhibition, Utah Museum of Fine Arts

“Golden Rails, All Aboard” Collaborative Exhibit, Utah Cultural Celebration Center

Transcontinental Railroad from a Mountain Man’s Point of View, Story Crossroads

Spike 150 Celebration; A Contemporary Art Exhibition of Historic Helper City and the Railroad, The Helper Project

Gold Mountain, Spike 150


l ASPEN a t i c WINDS n re Sally Humphreys, flute Luca de la Florin, oboe Amy Gabbitas, clarinet Luke Pfeil, bassoon Anita Miller, horn


Works by: Chen Yi Luke Pfeil Paul Taffanel Marden Pond David Maslanka and more! NOVEMBER 17, 2018 @7PM ST. MARY'S EPISCOPAL CHURCH 50 W 200 N PROVO, UT

The Chinese Railroad Workers Names & Faces Film Project, Spyhop Productions and the Chinese Railroad Workers Descendants Association

All Aboard and All Together with concerts in Delta and Provo, Aspen Winds

Corinne The Gentile City Corinne Historical Pageant, Corrine Historical Society

Upgrade for Mt. Pleasant Denver & Rio Grande Depot, Wellspring Ministries of Utah

Life Relegated: An Epic Rock Opera About a Pretty Great State, Deseret Experimental Opera

Upgrade to Front Pillars, Ogden Union Station

All Aboard! Celebrating 150 Years of the Golden Spike, Springville Museum of Art

Bike the Spike, South Salt Lake Arts Council

2019 Holiday Celebration, Governor’s Mansion

A World Transformed the Transcontinental Railroad and Utah, Utah State University

Irish Workers on the Transcontinental Railroad in Comparative Perspective, University of Utah Department of History

Union Pacific Whistle Stop in Echo Canyon, Spike 150

County Library Reading List and Toolkits, Utah State Library

Screening of Union Pacific and discussion with James D’Arc, Spike 150

Excerpt from “West: A Translation” by Paisley Rekdal, Utah Poet Laureate

Have you ridden in a streetcar?

for money? Did you sleep with that man

Can you describe the taste of bread?

for love? Name the color and number

Where are the joss houses located in the city?

of all your mother’s dresses. Now

Do Jackson Street and Dupont run

your village’s rivers.

in a circle or a line, what is the fruit

What diseases of the heart

your mother ate before she bore you,

do you carry? What country do you see

how many letters a year

when you think of your children?

do you receive from your father?

Does your sister ever write?

Of which material is your ancestral hall

In which direction does her front door face?

now built? How many water buffalo

How many steps did you take

does your uncle own?

when you finally left her?

Do you love him? Do you hate her?

How far did you walk

What kind of bird sang

before you looked back?

at your parents’ wedding? What are the birth dates for each of your cousins: did your brother die from starvation, work, or murder? Do you know the price of tea here? Have you ever touched a stranger’s face as he slept? Did it snow the year you first wintered in our desert? How much weight is a bucket and a hammer? Which store is opposite your grandmother’s? Did you sleep with that man West: A Transition

Spike 150 Moments