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Golden Spike National Historic Site

Golden Spike - Promontory Summit
On May 10, 1869, the transcontinental railroad is completed, here at Promontory Summit. For six years, the Union Pacific and Central Pacific companies labored to build the railroad that would connect the United States coast to coast. On May 10th, two engines, Jupiter and No. 119 chugged towards each other, ceremonial spikes were pounded into the track, and a telegraph message went out across the country. It’s well worth a visit to Golden Spike, where kids can hear the sound of the train rolling through lonely wide open spaces.

Tip: To get to Promontory Summit, it’s about 15 miles on country roads, off Interstate 15.

Golden Spike Photo Album
Golden psike
  Visitor Center – At the visitor center, start with the excellent movies about the challenges, hardships, and people who built the railroad. See exhibits about how to build a railroad by hand across a continent – surveying, grading, hewing and laying ties and putting in spikes and a scale model of the momentous meeting of the two trains, Jupiter and No. 119.
    Check out a replica of the solid golden spike, fourth spike used in the ceremony for the completion of the transcontinental railroad.

Tip: There's more than one original golden spike. Read our blog post "Where is the Last Spike?"

      Pick up copies of the Junior Ranger program, with activities about the railroad, tools, morse code and more (one is for kids under 5, the other for kids 6 -12, complete the booklet and kids get a badge). Ask at the desk for any special activities on the day you visit, such as learn about train whistles, try out a hand car on the track, pitch wood into a boiler, etc.
      In the visitor center, kids can shop for chocolate replicas of the golden spike, train whistles and caps, Chinese coins, and baggage tags from the Union and Central Pacific. Outside the visitor center are picnic tables.
    Last Spike Site –
      Go outside to the tracks, where a plaque marks the spot on the tracks where last tie was laid, and the four ceremonial spikes were struck on May 10th.
      Replica steam trains – In 1869, each railroad company sent a special train to celebrate the event – Jupiter from the Central Pacific, No. 119 from the Union Pacific. Arriving from east and west, the two trains met on the completed track.
      May 1 to Labor Day, you can see exact replicas of the Jupiter and No. 119 trains come down the track. It’s truly impressive, the bright red and blue trains, puffing steam, belching black smoke, clanging bells that echo in the wide open valley. Except for the visitor center, it might as well be 1869; the surrounding countryside is deserted.
      You can’t ride on No. 119 or Jupiter, but when the trains are stopped, climb up the two observation platforms to get a closer look.
    Re-enactments – On Saturdays are re-enactments of the “Last Spike Ceremony,” May 10, 1869. Jupiter and No. 119 are brought down the track and stop, facing cow catcher to cow catcher. People in period clothing deliver short speeches, tap the four spikes, and a telegraph operator sends out Morse code for “done.” The re-enactment schedule is Saturdays and holidays, 11am and 1am, May 1 to Labor Day.
    Big Fill Trail – After you’ve visited the Last Spike Site, take a walk down the Big Fill Trail, the original railroad grade for the tracks. This 1 ½ mile loop trail is wide and fairly level.
      Walking this trail, kids get a first hand look at how hard it was to hack out the rail bed with hand tools. The big fill is a whole section where the laborers filled a whole gully with dirt – it took two months and 500 men doing backbreaking work. On the trail, lizards scuttling along, hawks flying overhead, the great Salt Lake in the distance, nothing much has changed since the 19th century, and it’s easy to imagine all the railroad workers, building the railroad through a forbidding wilderness.
      Tip: The trail has sharp rocks, so wear closed toed shoes, bring lots of water and hats (no shade on trail).
kids books golden spike promontory point utah transcontinental railroad
Ten Mile Day kids books transcontinental railroad  
Ten Mile Day
Mary Ann Fraser

After six years Promontory Summit is close, and the Irish and Chinese are a precision work force, laying the iron track, bolting it together, nailing the spikes. The bet is on – can the crew of the Central Pacific lay ten miles of track in one day? (Picture book)



Teenage Sean Sullivan joins his father to work on the Union Pacific railroad, starting in Nebraska and going west. Sean starts out as a water carrier, works as dish swabber, bridge builder, grading crew, and finally spiker. The work gets even harder as competition between the Union Pacific and Central Pacific heats up. (Chapter book)


until the last spike
childrens books transcontinental railroad Coolies  
Yin, Chris Soentpiet

Two brothers, Shek and Little Wong leave China for the land of opportunity, but as railroad laborers, the work in is very dangerous and backbreaking. Gorgeously illustrated story captures the Chinese experience working on the railroad. (Picture book)



Humorous, handy hints for the new Irish laborer on the transcontinental railroad, "a track you'd rather not go down." Tips for how to survive working in the snow, blasting tunnels, bridge building, harsh living conditions, and the worst job of all, tracklaying.  (Picture book)


Iron Rails, Iron Men
Martin W. Sandler

Exciting story of the race between the two railroad companies to link the East Coast and West Coast – the men who dreamed up the idea, heroes and scoundrels, and thousands of workers who labored for six years, building the highest bridges and longest tunnel ever constructed at the time, through snow covered mountains and roasting deserts. Filled with original photographs in a large format book! (Illustrated chapter book)



Kids can read for themselves about the transcontinental railroad – finding a route through the mountains, techniques for building the railroad, race to the finish, and changes in America. (Easy reader)


locomotive brian floca  
Brian Floca

Ride the rails in 1869, after the completion of the transcontinental railroad. Wait in the station for the mighty steam locomotive, clanging, hissing, huffing, smell the smoke and hot metal, day and night, "westward, westward, rolls the train." And learn about the working of steam trains in that era. Fabulous illustrations! (Picture book)


(More children's books on other Utah pages)
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