Tuesday, September 20, 2011

 Just north of Salt Lake is the Golden Spike National Historic Site where the Central Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads completed the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. This was the completion of perhaps the most important project in that century.

 This is a wonderful site and full of history. Just west of here is the site where the Central Pacific completed 10 miles of track in one day. Imagine, with no power tools, bulldozers, or the like, they were able to grade, place ties and rails for 10 miles in just one day.

 Here, at Promontory Summit, the final spike was driven to connect the rails and literally connect the country east to west. Many historians consider this to the be the equivalent of the Apollo moon project of more recent days -- indeed, exactly 100 years later, Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.

 Perhaps the most interesting part of the site is these exact recreations of the very locomotives that took place at the last spike ceremony. These are true, working locomotives and are fired with wood and coal, just like the actual ones over 140 years ago.

Yes, there really is a Golden Spike! While this one is a replica, the actual is in Stanford University -- so named for Leland Stanford, a founder of both the Central Pacific Railroad as well as Stanford University.

 Engine 119 represented the Union Pacific and uses coal. This 4-4-0 locomotive carried UP executives to the signing ceremony. These engines are actually used to recreate the meeting a couple of times a day and represent a rare chance to see live steam in action.

The Jupiter, from the Central Pacific, is a wood burner as evidenced by the large smoke stack which helped trap burning embers from the boiler fire. Rick loved these beautifully painted engines which are actually under fire. It is fun to hear them simmer and hiss getting ready for the next run.

 Imagine how exciting this must have been to slowly pull the Jupiter forward, peering through the wood smoke, to meet an engine from the east. The Jupiter, as with all CP engines to this time, had to be sent by ship around Cape Horn at the bottom of South America to reach California.

 While the current railroad now longer comes through Promontory, there are still many reminders of the past, including this actual piece of track from 1869. Rick is impressed!

While the locomotives were perhaps the stars of the site, there are many remarkable sites in the park area. Some of the most amazing are the grades that were created to carry the roadbed. This is the site of the Big Fill by the Central Pacific (the flat horizon in the center of the picture) which filled over 500' of ravine with up to 70' deep of fill. This was all done by 500 men using horses and was completed in 2 months.

This is the "Last Cut" made through solid rock and is about 15' deep. The rocks removed from this were removed from the cut (by hand) and then stacked in large piles next to the cut as can be seen above. The rocks were stacked largest rocks on the bottom of the pile with smaller ones on top to prevent them from dropping back in the dig. Seems that it worked pretty well -- they are still there today!

The original route was shown in the blue above and went to the north of the Great Salt Lake. This route faced many grades and curves due to the mountains, so many years later, another great project was undertaken to actually build the tracks over the lake itself on the Lucin Trestle, a 12 mile long wooden trestle. This amazing structure was completed in 1905 and since has been replaced by a causeway.

1 comment:

Chuck and Anneke's RV travels said...

That was an interesting place. Thanks for the revisit. We found the drive on the loop going over the old rail beds very interesting.