Saturday, September 5, 2015

1990 Promontory Summit (Point) Golden Spike

By mid-1868, Central Pacific crews had crossed the Sierras and laid 200 miles of track, and the Union Pacific had laid 700 miles over the plains. As the two workforces neared each other in Utah, they raced to grade more miles and hence claim more land subsidies. Both pushed so far beyond their railheads that they passed each other, and for over 200 miles, competing graders advanced in opposite directions on parallel grades.

Congress finally declared the meeting place to be at Promontory Summit  (not Point), where, on May 10, 1869, two locomotives pulled up to the one-rail gap left in the track. After a golden spike was symbolically tapped, a final iron spike was driven to connect the railroads. (NOTE: Promontory Point is 35 miles away from the Golden Spike location, and due to an error in reporting by original reporters of that day, it has gone down in history and textbooks incorrectly as the location. Promontory Summit, the highest point in the Promontory Mountains, is actually where this occurred.)

The Central Pacific laid 690 miles of track and the Union Pacific laid 1086 miles of track, and together they had crossed 1776 miles of desert, rivers, and mountains to bind together the east and west coasts.

The Jupiter and Engine 119 (next two photos) are replicas built by O'Connor Engineering of Costa, Mesa, California in 1979, and they are within 1/4 inch of actual size. The original two engines were outmoded and under-powered by 1900, and eventually no longer worth repairing. They were scrapped in 1903 and 1906 for about $1000.

The original engines were shiny like these replicas. They were built during the Victorian Age and reflected the designs and craftsmanship of their era. Locomotives served both as workhorses and advertising devices of the railroads in that day.

The idea of a transcontinental railroad was first proposed in 1932 by Dr. Hartwell Carver, an audacious plan at the time. The vast distance equaled the breadth of Europe and according to a reporter, would have to "overcome that old enemy of mankind -- space."

Did you know?  2000 gallons of water will get a steam engine only 15 to 30 miles, at which point it must fill up with water again to go another 15 to 30 miles!

The miles of track a crew could lay soon became a contest between the two crews. In early April, the Union Pacific laid 8.5 miles of track in one day. The UP then bet the Central Pacific $10,000 they could not beat that record. Well, on April 28, 1869, the CP won that bet, laying over 10 miles!

The "Golden Spike" was donated to the Stanford Museum in 1898, now known as the Cantor Arts Museum. Unbeknownst to most, a duplicate second golden spike had been produced and was privately owned by the Hewes Family until 2005, when it was given to the California State Railroad Museum.

At this historic site, there are no passenger coaches and therefore no place for passengers to ride. These are NOT trains. Trains are railroad cars (coaches or other rolling stock) pulled by locomotives. Without railcars, these are simply two locomotives. The Jupiter burns wood and Engine 119 burns coal, the same fuels as the originals.

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