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Journey to Promontory

Journey to Promontory

Journey to Promontory
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Journey to Promontory, the latest special issue from Trains magazine, explores one of the most important transportation events in America's history – the completion of the first transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. Written by top experts including John Hankey, Bill Stephens, and Jim Ehrenberger, the special edition recounts the 150-year history of our nation's first super railroad with extraordinary detail and imagery. Featured topics include how railroads won the west, building the tracks, where the Golden Spike made history, Sherman Hill - then and now, today's modern Union Pacific, site maps and historical photos, Promontory, Utah now, celebrating the 150th anniversary, and much more!

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United States
Kalmbach Publishing Co. - Magazines

in this issue

2 min.
uniting the nation, east meets west

May 10, 1868, was reported to have been a lovely day in northern Utah. The weather was favorable, and at Promontory summit, a joyous gathering marked the completion of a monumental task: Building 1,776 miles of railroad between Omaha, Neb., and Sacramento, Calif., the first transcontinental railroad across North America. Given the weight of this achievement, can you imagine just how hard it must have been for photographer A.J. Russell to get everyone to pause for a moment? But somehow, he managed and the result is the photo at the left, one of the best-known railroad photos and one of the most iconic images in American history. Today, 150 years later, in these pages, we gather to celebrate the magnificent genius — and just plain hard work — of humanity, in uniting…

18 min.
transcontinental transformation

We Americans love to tell this story. At the beginning of the Civil War 150 years ago, we looked westward to the shimmering waters of the Pacific Ocean. In between lay a vast and challenging landscape of deserts, mountains, and hostile natives. We saw the promise of new lives and prosperity for millions willing to work hard and tame the land. After Irish and Chinese workers toiled seven years, locomotives from the East and West met on a windswept summit near the Great Salt Lake. With a final spike of solid gold, the Pacific Railroad was done. The United States was, at last, One Nation. It is a nice fable, but it is a little like saying “Moby Dick” is about fishing. We still use it as cultural shorthand for the…

1 min.
transcontinental time line

1832 Proponents call for transcontinental railroad 1845 Asa Whitney begins advocacy for Pacific Railroad 1853 Congress appropriates $150,000 for survey of five routes 1855-1860 12 volumes of findings prepared for four feasible routes 1861 Central Pacific incorporated in California July 1862 Abraham Lincoln signs the Pacific Railroad Act August 1862 First meeting of UP commissioners in Chicago 1863 Union Pacific incorporated in New York 1869 First transcontinental railroad completed 1872 Credit Mobilier scandal breaks 1887 Pacific Railroad Commission investigates the Pacific Railroad 1888 Commission investigation shows $23.3 million in fraud ($1.17 billion today) 1897 Union Pacific reorganized and rechartered…

1 min.
how long would it take today?

If you built a transcontinental railroad today from scratch, how long would it take, given the regulatory environment of the modern world? Nobody knows for sure, but the best guess is about 57 years. Here’s a look at how it might just play out in headlines: Jan. 1, 2019………………….. Trump proposes transcontinental railroad Jan. 2, 2019…………………. Federal court enjoins railroad plan Dec. 12, 2022……………… Supreme Court OKs new railroad Jan. 16, 2023………………. Environmental study will take 10 years July 30, 2033……………… Environmental study raises emissions concerns Aug. 1, 2033……………….. EPA moves against rail line, citing emissions Feb. 13, 2040……………… President proposes electrification of new railroad June 14, 2044…………….. Electrification financing collapses March 2, 2054…………… GOP Congress: No federal money for new rail line March 2, 2056…………… Democratic Congress: No federal money for new rail line Aug. 17, 2060……………… President Jenna Bush…

15 min.
promontory pilgrimage

On a dusty plain in the Tranquility Basin on July 21, 1969, the eyes and ears of the nation, and indeed much of the world, were focused as the first human set foot on the surface of the moon. The event was almost instantaneously relayed by television and radio to the people on Earth. Everyone then alive remembers where he or she was when mankind first stepped onto the moon. One hundred years earlier, the attention of the nation was focused on another dusty plain, this one in the Promontory Mountains of Utah on May 10, 1869. The occasion was the driving of the last spike, uniting the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads and creating a through line from the Atlantic to the Pacific. It was a moment that united…

2 min.
what’s the “point?”

Most school children learned that the Transcontinental Railroad was completed May 10, 1869, at “Promontory Point,” where the Central Pacific and the Union Pacific met, and where the Golden Spike was driven. But modern researchers and scholars have taken issue with this name. They point out that if you consult a map, “Promontory Point” is at the tip of the Promontory peninsula that extends into the Great Salt Lake. They further point out that the meeting place of the railroads was at “Promontory Summit,” as designated in the Joint Resolution of Congress of April 10, 1869, and that the name of the station at that location was simply “Promontory.” Lastly they note that the railroad finally did reach “Promontory Point” in 1904, when the Lucin Cutoff was constructed on trestlework…