Our Trip to Promontory for the 150th Anniversary of the Golden Spike

My wife Barb and I planned a year in advance to be in Utah for the 150th anniversary of the Gold Spike. It was every bit as big a deal as we thought it would be, and we are so glad we were there!

We took two days to drive from our central Oregon home to the place known as Promontory Summit, somewhere in the middle of nowhere Utah. This is one of the draws for me, in that this location is just about as it was 150 years ago. Remote and desolate, all that’s there is a section of rails, a National Park Visitor Center, and a well-hidden engine house where the two reproduced 4-4-0’s reside.

As you can imagine, we dreaded the anticipated crowd and traffic for this May 10th event. We left our hotel that morning at about 8:30am and the usual 55-minute drive was two hours. But, it was not as bad as I thought it would be. At Promontory there were many tents, and extra things to see and do, that are not usually there, and with nothing else around, there was plenty of room for the parking of all the cars and buses. 

Barb and I have been to see this place several times before, including last summer’s National N Scale Convention, and we will be going again this July for the NMRA’s National Train Show. Usually there are less than 30 people sharing this experience on a typical visit. According to what we’ve heard, May 10, 2019 there were 15,000 people in attendance, and it was not bad at all, except you were not there!

It seems like everybody else was there though, including Abe Lincoln.

My friend Mickey even recorded a greeting to my two granddaughters. Now that was special! Listen here…

The pageantry of the event cannot be described so you will need to get the Kalmbach video when it comes out, but I’m telling you it was great. We did not even try to get close to the locomotives as we have before since the celebration crowd would not allow.

The arrival of Union Pacific’s Big Boy #4014 and #844 locomotives were a great addition to the celebration that was held in Ogden at the train station. Steam power really is a rare treat.

A bonus for us was that the Union Pacific Historical Society and the Southern Pacific Historical & Technical Societies held a joint convention in Ogden at the same time as the sesquicentennial events. It was our first time attending an event by these groups, but will not be the last. They were well done and so much information was shared. There were about 600 attending this ‘first time’ collaboration.  

There will never be another railroad event as significant as this in our lifetime. I am very glad we made the decision to go.  

p.s. If you haven’t ordered your own Mural Car commemorating this special occasion, head over to the product page here and get them before they’re gone!

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Lowell Smith

A native of Portland, Oregon, Lowell Smith married his church choir sweetheart Barb in 1978. After a lifetime of rail-fanning, Lowell and Barb ventured out in 1992 to launch a new business in Portland, Oregon. Read more

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