The 150th anniversary of one of the most significant events in the history of the USA – the completion of the first Transcontinental Railroad – is being celebrated with a series of events, exhibitions and tours across northern Utah, with 2019 being declared the ‘Year of the Train’ by the State’s Governor.
The culmination of a race between two competing rail companies, the line, which joined the Pacific Coast at San Francisco Bay with the existing Eastern US railway, met near Ogden in Utah on 10 May 1869. An occasion marked by President of the Central Pacific line, Leland Stanford ceremonially driving the golden ‘Last Spike’ at Promontory Summit. Anniversary celebrations are being brought together under the name ‘Spike 150’ over the weekend of 10 May and throughout 2019. Here’s how visitors to Utah can get on board:
The Spike 150 Sesquicentennial Celebration Festival will take place from 10th – 12th May at Promontory Summit with music, performances, storytelling, historical re-enactments and train demonstrations. The centre-point will be a purpose-built stage framed by the Golden Spike site’s two historical steam engines, the Jupiter and No.119. The ceremony will feature a keynote address by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Jon Meacham and the world premiere of As One, a musical-theatre reimagining of the 1869 Golden Spike event. https://spike150.org/events/
Ways to mark the anniversary year-round include:
Take the California Zephyr from San Francisco, California to Chicago, Illinois. Acknowledged as one of the world’s most beautiful train journeys, the route runs across the Rockies to Salt Lake City and onwards through the plains of Nebraska to the ‘Windy City’. Alternatively, mirror the ‘great race’ by starting at Sacramento and ending at Omaha; the starting points for the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railways in the race to complete their sections of the track that ultimately met in Utah.
Stop off at Salt Lake City and visit Ogden, once a lawless frontier town teeming with larger-than-life legends and colourful characters. With the completion of the railroad Ogden welcomed the world via the Union Station Depot, the junction for rail travel in the Intermountain West for several decades. Today visitors enjoy access to spectacular skiing – Powder Mountain has more acreage than any resort in North America – and outdoor recreation as well as vibrant cafes, bars and shops.
Take a self-guided walking tour of historic 25th Street, home to some of the city’s most famous buildings from the boom town era including the railway station (now a civic centre and Railroad Museum), Senate Saloon and The Bigelow Hotel; Built in 1891 The Bigelow was one of Utah’s grandest hotels in the 1920s, the only one still operating today.
Visit Promontory Summit, 50 miles northwest of Ogden on the north end of the Great Salt Lake. Explore the Golden Spike National Historic Site visitor centre and monuments along with the nearby Chinese dugouts, commemorating the role of the numerous Chinese railroad workers. The Site preserves 2,735 acres of land surrounding a 15 mile stretch of the original Transcontinental Railroad.
In total there are over 150 events and activities planned, a full list can be found at https://spike150.org/statewide-events/
Great Rail Journeys (01904 527180 www.greatrail.com) offers a 15 day ‘Explore the USA’ trip from £3,395 per person including flights from London Gatwick to New York and from San Francisco to London Gatwick, 10 nights’ hotel accommodation, 1 night on board the Capitol Limited from New York to Washington DC, 2 nights on board the California Zephyr from Chicago to San Francisco, excursions around New York, Washington, Chicago, Colorado, Salt Lake City and San Francisco and some meals.
For more information on Utah, see www.visitutah.com/uk
For more information on the anniversary events, see https://spike150.org/