Golden Spike Historic Site: Train Talk Ep. 11

Golden Spike Historic Site: Train Talk Ep. 11

Hello everyone and welcome to Train Talk! Today, I’m going to tell you the story of
the Golden Spike National Historic Site, which is located at Promontory Point, Utah. This was the site of completion of the Transcontinental
Railroad and today, it features a visitor’s center and display site with two replica steam
locomotives. Let’s dive right in! The transcontinental railroad was a massive
undertaking that linked the east and west coast of the United States with a railroad
for the first time in history. The project was written into law by the United
States Congress and approved by president Abraham Lincoln in 1862 and construction began
the following year. Two railroads worked on the project, starting
from opposite ends: the Union Pacific from Omaha, Nebraska in the East and the Central
Pacific from Sacramento, California in the west. Later, the Central Pacific railroad became
the Southern Pacific Railroad. The Transcontinental Railroad was finally
completed on May 10th, 1869, at a place known as Promontory Summit. A ceremony was held for the completion and
telegraphs were present to tell the rest of the nation the precise moment the railroad
was completed and open for business. Two steam locomotives were on hand for the
event and made up the backdrop for the well known photograph of the completion of the
transcontinental railroad. A special laurel wood tie and series of spikes
made of various precious metals were used as part of the ceremony, the most famous of
which was a spike made of gold. It is this spike that the site was later named
for, but more on that later. The Pacific Railroad was finally finished. With the railroad completed, goods and people
could be moved across the country in under a week. The railroad continued to thrive and grow. Eventually, it was decided that Ogden Utah,
located directly to the east was a better meeting point for the two railroads due to
Promontory’s remote location, so Union Pacific sold their section of track between Promontory
Point and Ogden to the Southern Pacific. In addition to the route through Promontory
Point being remote, it also had steep grades and was indirect, since it went all the way
around the north side of the Great Salt Lake. The Southern Pacific built a bypass route
in 1904, known as the Lucin Cutoff. This new route cut directly across the middle
of the Great Salt Lake, using a series of causeways and a 12 mile long bridge. Today, this route is still used by freight
traffic. Union Pacific bought out the Southern Pacific
railroad in 1996, and the bridge on the Lucin Cutoff has been replaced by a causeway, but
much of the original transcontinental rail line is still intact. The line through Promontory Point was finally
abandoned in 1942, and the rails were pulled up. In the 1950’s, there was a renewed interest
in preserving the original right of way through Promontory Point due to its historical significance. So, in 1957, Promontory Summit was established
as a National Historic Site in an effort to preserve the historic right of way and work
began to restore it to how it appeared on May 10th, 1869. Two steam locomotives were moved to the site
to perform reenactments of the golden spike ceremony in recognition of the 100th anniversary
of the completion of the railroad in 1969. These locomotives were done up to appear as
the two locomotives that were at the original ceremony: Central Pacific number 60, the Jupiter,
and Union Pacific number 119. Unfortunately, both original locomotives were
scrapped in the early 1900’s. Following the 100th anniversary celebration,
the National Park Service looked into having their own replica locomotives built for demonstration
purposes. The Park Service first turned to the Walt
Disney Company, which had built full sized replica locomotives for the Disneyland theme
park. Disney turned down the offer because they
didn’t think that they could make replicas to within a quarter of an inch of the originals,
as specified by the contract. Eventually, the contract went to Chad O’Conner,
a friend of Walt Disney and fellow train enthusiast. It is said that Chad significantly underbid
all other offers and even put some of his own money into the project just to have the
honor of building these replica locomotives. The locomotives were built at the O’Connor
Engineering Laboratories in Costa Mesa, California. Since no blueprints existed of the original
locomotives, O’Connor and his team had to use calipers to measure and scale up all the
dimensions of the locomotives from historical photos. The paintwork was even more of a challenge,
since color film did not exist at the time. The only resources available were written
accounts of the event and the various different shades of grey seen in the photos. Disney animator Ward Kimball also contributed
to the project, painting the original artwork on the locomotive tenders and domes. The two replica locomotives were completed
and delivered to the Golden Spike Historic Site in 1979. Today, the Golden Spike Historic Site serves
as an interpretive center of the impact of the Transcontinental Railroad on the nation. There is a Visitor’s center with various
displays about the railroad construction and two theaters. Outside the visitor’s center, the actual
site where the golden spike was driven has been completely recreated, including a couple
hundred feet of track, some wooden benches, and a period correct American Flag. During the summer months, both locomotives
are fired up almost daily, and various demonstrations are made throughout the day. On Saturdays and holidays, a complete reenactment
of the driving of the golden spike is held with volunteer actors in period clothes. In the winter months, maintenance is performed
on the two replica locomotives in the engine house, also located at the historic site. The Park Service has guided tours of the engine
house so that visitors still have a chance to see the replica locomotives, even if they
aren’t under steam. And finally, in addition to the Visitor’s
Center and re-created ceremony site, several miles of the original right of way are preserved
as driving and walking paths. The driving of the golden spike forever changed
the United States. It meant that goods and people could finally
travel across the country quickly. It ushered in a new era in the history of
the nation, bringing goods closer to market and people closer to each other. Within a few years of the railroad being completed,
fresh produce was being shipped across the country for the first time ever, thanks to
refrigerated box cars. It made a lasting impact on how we move goods. And, it created a railroad that still ties
the country together to this day. A golden spike is still kept on display in
the visitor’s center at the Golden Spike National Historic Site. The original, used in the ceremony, is now
kept at Sanford University in Palo Alto, California. Thanks for watching this episode of Train
Talk! If you enjoyed the video, let me know by liking
it and leaving a comment below. To find out more about the national historic
site, visit the park website: Until next time, I’m Mike Armstrong. I’ll see you down the line! Thanks for watching.


  1. My birthday was yesterday! Nice video, when will be the next time you head to the northeast?

  2. I hate to be nit picky but it's Promontory Summit not Point. Other than that, Great Video!

  3. Classic Railroad History / Well told.
    • Cheers from The Detroit Mackinac Railway • Pronounced: (mac-in-aw) 🚂

  4. Bachmann made these locomotives in HO and N scale. However Jupiter #60s boiler is silver. Not sure if that's correct of color. As for the painting of the locomotives (the real ones) since no one knew what colors they were Disney animator Ward Kimball painted them both Red. As years passed eventually it was said Jupiter #60 had Blue. So that's why it has a little Blue on her cab, domes, and cow catcher.

  5. A long time resident of Costa Mesa, I recall going by on the street where O'Conner's workshops were located seeing steam rising from behind and hearing the sounds I used to hear when I lived much closer to Disneyland.

  6. The Disney Company actually never built "full size" replicas. They built up-scaled variations of Walt Disney's "Lilly Belle", a 1.5" scale live steam model of Central Pacific 173. Great video, Mike. Always enjoy material made on this topic.

  7. Have an idea for a topic for rail talk. How do Railroad determine track speed for her territory that the train are operating through?

  8. Very well done. And Speaking of that, Smokebox is making The Central Pacific Jupiter 4-4-0 for Train Simulator 2017 as well as The Union Pacific 119.

  9. Thanks for posting the video! Will you ever make a train talk of Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe 4-8-4 3751? I highly reccomend it!!!

  10. EXCELLENT video Mike, well done!
    Historical data, well crafted editing and beautiful videograghy are key elements of this wonderful work.
    – Balerio

  11. A wonderful video, but in actuality, the SP purchased the CP rather than coming out of it. Other than that, splendid!

  12. Did these old 1800s locomotives like the Jupiter and 118 (The original ones) have the same couplers trains have today or were they different?

  13. The rails of the CP were 60 lbs per yard and of the UP were 56 lbs per yard and 30 feet long. Dirt or gravel was the ballast. Crossties were pealed poles with hewn ties under the joints and 8 feet long. Treatment wasn't used until years later so ties lasted about 4 to 10 years in track.

  14. The F40PH:
    F – Design Covers F ull body
    40 – Model Series
    P – P assenger Locomotive
    H – H Ead-End Power generator

    ES44AC – E volution S eries
    44 – 4400 HP
    AC – AC traction

  15. Could you do a train talk on catenary wires and electric trains? My hometown of SJ just got a lot of money for Caltrain electric, so I would like to know how trains like that operate

  16. The day we truly become the Untied States of America.

    I have an Idea for a train talk video, Talk about the EMD SD70ACE's

  17. The fact that the park service commisioned two faithful replicas of the Jupiter and 119 is nothing short of amazing. I know they're serving the task they were built for and I'm not sure if they could be used for anything else, but if they could potentially pull short trains it's a bit of a shame they're confined to such a short stretch of track. But regardless they're serving their purpose and representing history.

  18. I would absolutely DIE to see these engines up close. Such beauties! But why is the spike at some place in California and not on display at the museum RIGHT NEXT TO IT?

  19. 🚂🚂🚂🚂🚃🚃🚃🚃🚃🚃🚃🚃🚃🚃🚃🚃🚃🚃🚃🚃🚃🚃🚃🚃🚃🚃🚃🚃🚃🚃🚃🚃🚃🚃🚃🚃🚃🚃🚃🚃🚃🚃🚃🚃🚃🚃🚃

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