northwest utah
Golden Spike

On May 10, 1869, the transcontinental railroad was completed, here at Promontory Summit, now Golden Spike National Historic Monument. 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.

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

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 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: Read our blog post "Where is the Last Spike?"
Pick up copies of the Junior Ranger program,(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.
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 the trail).

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