Thousands of people gathered Friday at the distant area in the Utah desert where the Transcontinental Railroad’s spikes were hammered 150 decades ago, uniting a nation long divided by vast expanses of desert, mountains and forests and fresh off the Civil War.
It had been the signature festivity of days of events.
The 1869 completion of this 1,800-mile (2,900 kilometer) rail line shortened cross-county traveling from as long as 6 months in wagons and stagecoaches to about 10 times on the railings and functioned as a unifying moment to the nation.
It became a pivotal moment in United States history that changed how people went and failed business.
“It psychologically and symbolically jumped the nation,” said Brad Westwood, Utah’s senior people historian.
Bill Hanmer drove with his wife out of their Middletown, Virginia, house to test a bucket off list item. Train enthusiast and the 73-year-old pilot said he wished to attend the anniversary event in 1969 but could not afford it.
The laying of the final rails triggered a renowned telegraph that put off celebrations around the nation:”The last rail is laid. The last spike has been driven. The Pacific railroad has been completed. The point of junction is 1,086 km west of the Missouri River and 690 miles east of Sacramento City.”
The bells at Philadelphia’s Independence Hall rang in celebration, a hundred guns were fired in New York, along with American flags were hung in cities across the country.
The golden spike contained an inscription:”May God continue the unity of the nation because this railroad combines the two great oceans of the world.”
U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Interior Secretary David Bernhardt have been scheduled to speak at Friday’s event. At 15,000 attendees have been expected, such as large contingents in China, said Josh Loftin.
The railroad was constructed using horses, oxen, hand carts, wagons and also the”brawn” of largely Irish immigrants working around the part that came from the East and largely Chinese workers on the part that came in the West, Westwood said. They risked their own lives shoveling snow to frigid mountain peaks and blasting through stones with black powder explosives and worked night and day, ” he explained.
Westwood said it was built from the”most discriminated and least appreciated people in the united states.”
This railroad’s epic structure also had a dark side, causing eventual loss of property for Native American tribes, the near annihilation of the bison along with the deaths of many hundred railroad employees, Westwood stated.
“It was a grand engineering feat, it was a grand gesture to bind the country following the Civil War but it was also a narrative of human capital and what it took,” Westwood said.