Journey to Promontory: Commemorating the 150th anniversary of the transcontinental railroad

Posted by Jim Wrinn
on Sunday, April 29, 2018

Journey to Promontory: The 1-year countdown begins

We’re only days away from the 149th anniversary of the Golden Spike, the May 10, 1869 event that marked the completion of the first transcontinental railroad. It is a big deal. Among the major events in American history, this is among the most significant in so many ways. Of the images that as a people we know by heart is that of two American-type locomotives nose to nose with an assemblage of celebrants decorating them in the Utah desert. It’s American railroading’s iconic moment that reaches beyond those of us who know and love railroading and touches so many aspects of our culture, our story.

Several organizations have been busy making plans to celebrate the 150th anniversary. Union Pacific has been marking the construction with a series of posts on its website that take you day-by-day through the difficult and dangerous work. The railroad that built west from Omaha while the Central Pacific built east from Sacramento is the standard bearer for its own heritage and that of Central Pacific successor Southern Pacific. To mark the occasion, the railroad is preparing a gift of incredible magnitude that will keep on giving for decades: A Big Boy steam locomotive in steam. (See our June issue, available now to subscribers and soon at bookstores, for the latest on the restoration of No. 4014 and elsewhere on this site for a video update.) I am sure that won’t be all that UP brings to the table.

The National Railway Historical Society is planning its 2019 convention for Salt Lake City, just down the road from Promontory. The Railway & Locomotive Historical Society, Union Pacific Historical Society, and the Southern Pacific Historical Society are also planning annual conventions in Ogden around May 10 of next year. The state of Utah recognizes the importance of the anniversary and its planning a series of cultural events, too.

At Trains, we’ve been working for years to cover the events leading to promontory: Abraham Lincoln’s role in creating the Pacific railroad and the work to lay rails to the west. Now we’re about to launch a new project called “Journey to Promontory” that will bring the anniversary to you through our pages, on our website, through video, and with experiences that you can join in.

We’ve already announced our collaboration with noted documentary filmmaker Rich Luckin to product a video for purchase and to be shown on PBS that tells the story of this remarkable achievement. Rich is busy with interviews and filming, and I personally am looking forward to working with him at Promontory at the National Park Service site in Utah later this spring. That’s hallowed ground for this event. Next year, we’ll offer special issues, a series of articles in Trains, and an anniversary collector’s edition in May 2019. And there’s more, much more, to come. We hope that our offerings will educate and entertain you and engage you in a way that honors the people who made the transcontinental railroad happen and those who keep railroading relevant today.

Be sure to check our website on May 10, 2018 for an announcement about great media and in person experiences that we’ll bring to you as together we make our own Journey to Promontory.

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