On September 8, 1942 the “undriving” of the last railroad spike was removed from the train tracks at Promontory Summit, Utah. The steel was needed for the war effort. The once thriving community of Promontory was now a ghost town. But I get ahead of myself.
Let’s jump back 73 years to May 10, 1869 at exactly 12:47 P.M. That was when the last rail was laid and the “golden spike” driven to complete the first transcontinental railroad. The Union Pacific Railroad building from the East and the Central Pacific from the West, met at Promontory, Utah Territory.
There was much fanfare and speeches. Telegraph lines were hooked up to broadcast the event around the Country. The honor of driving the spike would go to the two rail barons who had spearheaded the rail building. Leland Stanford, former Governor of California, and President of the Central Pacific Railroad, and Dr. Thomas Durant, Union Pacific Railroad Vice-President. Governor Stanford stepped up, took the maul, swung …….. and missed. Then Dr. Durant took his turn ……… and also missed. Finally, the crew bosses for each of the railroads took up the mauls and completed the tasks.
The spike was made of gold and was ceremonial only. After the dedication, the spike was removed and replaced with real spikes, the only thing remaining is a plaque.
We took a hike along the old railbed, called the Big Fill. There was a sign that remained you: “Rattlesnakes have the right of way.”
Because of politics, no decision had been made by Congress as to where the two raillines would meet. By the time the decision was made it would be at Promontory, the railroads had already built rail-beds around the area.
Rail-bed is the base on which the rail ties and track are actually laid. The bed is created by blasting through the mountain rock or building a bridge or fill in the land in the low areas. The trail we hiked today, about 3 miles round trip, was a circular route in which you walked on the rail bed of each railroad, the Central Pacific who decided to fill in the low area, and the Union Pacific who build a trestle.
The fill is 500 feet long and 170 feet high.
The trestle was abandoned when the Central Pacific got the contract for this area, and therefore deteriorated and is no longer in existence.