Monday, June 27, 2016

Golden Spike National Historic Site - Promontory Summit, Utah

Jupiter - Promontory Summit, Utah
This last weekend saw a dip in the temperatures to something other than scorching hot, so we decided to load up the car and head out on an adventure. My kids love trains--especially my six-year-old and two-year-old boys--and so I suggested the Golden Spike National Historic Site out at Promontory Summit.

From our house it was an hour drive. The last 30 minutes was through some rural and lonely (but still interesting) landscapes. We didn't tell the kids where we were going, and they were beginning to get restless just prior to our arrival.

Twice a day on Saturdays during the summer the Golden Spike National Historic Site does a reenactment of the driving in of the last spike, once in the morning and once in the early afternoon. We arrived just as the second reenactment was beginning. We paid the $7 park entrance fee and quickly headed out where other people were already gathered.
Union Pacific Railroad Number 119 - Promontory Summit, Utah
The National Park Service operates two steam locomotives here. They are exact replicas of the two locomotives that were at this location in 1869 when the line was finished. One is Union Pacific #119 and the other is Central Pacific #60.

Before the reenactment, a park ranger explained the historical significance of this place. The first transcontinental railroad line was finished here, with the Central Pacific coming from the west and the Union Pacific coming from the east, linking the two halves of the United States with steel rail. It was an extraordinary achievement that had a big impact on a young nation. In the ceremony two golden spikes and one silver spike were driven into a wood tie to commemorate the occasion.

The park ranger provided some interesting trivia. Like why an American flag with only 20 stars was used when there were 37 states at the time. (It's because nobody remembered to bring an American flag, and an old 20-star flag was the only one that they could find, so they used it anyway).
Golden Spike Park Rangers - Promontory Summit, Utah
After the park ranger was finished, the Central Pacific locomotive moved backwards down the track a little ways and then pulled forward to where it started. Then the crew got off that locomotive and climbed aboard the Union Pacific locomotive. They backed it up to a switch and pulled it forward on a siding. Then they reversed course and brought it back to where it started. All the while a park ranger is explaining things about the locomotives and answering questions. They blew the whistle a bunch (which was a little loud for our two-year-old).

After that they did the reenactment, enlisting help from a few audience members. It was interesting to experience a little of what it was like to be there at that historic moment. There are many interesting details that you miss just reading a short blurb in a textbook. The National Park Service did a tremendous job of making this historic site come alive.

We were there for about an hour. It was starting to get hot and we had other things we needed to do, so we left. The boys wanted to stay longer. It was a fun and memorable time! It was definitely worth the drive to see. 
Old West Steam - Promontory Summit, Utah
Engine Number 60 - Promontory Summit, Utah
No. 119 - Promontory Summit, Utah
Slow Train Coming - Promontory Summit, Utah
The Man In Black - Promontory Summit, Utah
May 9, 1869 - Promontory Summit, Utah
A Train In 1869 - Promontory Summit, Utah
An Old West Handshake - Promontory Summit, Utah
Telegraphing The Event - Promontory Summit, Utah
Golden Spike Ceremonies - Promontory Summit, Utah
Hammering The Last Spike - Promontory Summit, Utah
Reliving History - Promontory Summit, Utah
Amanda made this creative video of our visit:

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