Train and history buffs can celebrate a milestone of modern engineering and transportation this week: Friday marks the 150th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad.
On May 10, 1869, the Golden Spike ceremony was held in Promontory Summit, Utah, to symbolize the joining of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroad routes. With more than 1,700 miles of tracks, the Transcontinental Railroad connected the coasts of the United States. It revolutionized travel and transportation of goods and hastened development of the rugged west.
And Union Pacific’s Mile 0 starts in Council Bluffs.
Throughout the next several months, the Council Bluffs Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Union Pacific Museum will hold numerous commemorative events to reflect on the city’s role in the railroad, the workers who toiled away laying track and the Native American tribes displaced by railway construction and the settlement that followed.
On Friday, the kickoff begins at the Union Pacific Museum in Council Bluffs, at 200 Pearl St. Starting at 5:30 p.m., a ceremony on the front steps of the museum will feature an Omaha Tribe blessing and cedar ceremony, a city proclamation, a Golden Spike City Award and a Chinese lion dance to recognize the contribution of Chinese railroad workers.
Afterward, the Union Pacific Museum will open a new exhibit, “Hidden Histories of the Transcontinental Railroad,” along with a larger display of artifacts that showcase Council Bluffs’ connection to the railroad.
Other coming events include a screening of the “Race to Promontory” documentary on May 22; a poetry salon highlighting Irish immigrants who helped build the railroad, hosted by the Irish American Writers and Artists Inc., on June 1; and a lecture called “Construction as Conquest; Building the Transcontinental in Indian Country” on Aug. 17, For a full schedule of events, visit unleashcb.com/sites/anniversary.
Outside the Omaha-Council Bluffs area, additional Golden Spike ceremonies will be held in Utah on Thursday and Friday. Union Pacific’s historic steam locomotives, called Big Boy No. 4014 and the Living Legend No. 844, are chugging and stopping across Wyoming and Utah this week on their way to the steam meet.
U.P. Chairman, President and CEO Lance Fritz and Utah Gov. Gary Herbert will be joined in Ogden by Margaret Yee, whose ancestors were among thousands of Chinese immigrants who built the railroad, and Sandy Dodge, a descendant of Gen. Grenville Dodge, a Civil War veteran and Union Pacific’s chief engineer during construction, to tap a ceremonial spike.
Big Boy steam locomotive chugs to post-restoration debut
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — One of the world’s biggest and most powerful steam locomotives is chugging to its big debut after five years of restoration work.
Big Boy No. 4014 rolled out of a Union Pacific restoration shop in Cheyenne, Wyoming, on Saturday morning as hundreds of spectators looked on. From there, it goes to Ogden, Utah, to help celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Transcontinental Railroad.
Big Boy engines hauled freight between Wyoming and Utah in the 1940s and 1950s. Of the 25 Big Boys built, eight remain, but only this one will be operational.
The Big Boy locomotive measures longer than two city buses. It’s heavier than a Boeing 747 jet plane fully loaded with passengers, yet powerful enough to pull 16 Statues of Liberty over a mountain range.