Celebrating 150 Years Since the Wedding of the Rails

Hollis HughesNPF Blog
Photo taken by Andrew J. Russell

Today is a celebration 150 years in the making! May 10, 2019, marks the sesquicentennial of the completion of the country’s first transcontinental railroad. On this day in 1869, the Central Pacific and Union Pacific rail lines joined together after nearly seven years of construction, uniting the nation and laying the foundation for its growth, economic progress and improved way of life. The ceremony brought together the Union Pacific’s No. 119 and Central Pacific’s Jupiter engines at Promontory Summit, Utah, in a moment captured in an iconic photograph.

The 150th anniversary is a milestone for Golden Spike National Historical Park and NPF’s premier Find Your Park/Encuentra Tu Parque partner Union Pacific Railroad. As part of this year’s celebration, Union Pacific hosted a ceremony yesterday, May 9, at Ogden Union Station featuring Union Pacific’s iconic steam locomotives, Living Legend No. 844 and the newly restored Big Boy No. 4014. The two met, recreating the historic image taken at Promontory Summit. The steam locomotives will remain on display at Ogden Union Station until May 12, when they return home to Wyoming.

Following the steam meet, Union Pacific’s Chairman, President and CEO and Utah’s governor were joined by Margaret Yee and Sandy Dodge to tap a ceremonial spike. Yee’s ancestors were among thousands of Chinese immigrants who forged the transcontinental railroad for Central Pacific, and Dodge is a descendant of Gen. Grenville Dodge, Union Pacific’s chief engineer during construction.

In addition to yesterday’s ceremony, Union Pacific is hosting its Experience the Union Pacific Rail Car in Ogden until May 11. Through sound, images and interactive technology, the exhibit invites visitors to step back in time, detailing the hard work and know-how that went into building the transcontinental railroad, and the evolution of locomotives, beginning with the world-famous Union Pacific No. 119 engine and leading to today’s diesel powerhouses. Admission is free today and tomorrow, so stop by Ogden Union Station to check it out.

Union Pacific rail car
Union Pacific

Today, Golden Spike National Historical Park kicks off its three-day 150th-anniversary celebration. “For those who have been to Golden Spike's annual May 10 celebration, there will definitely be a feeling reminiscent of years past, including the operation of the replica steam locomotives No. 119 and Jupiter, and the historic re-enactment by local volunteers,” said Golden Spike National Historical Park Superintendent Leslie Crossland.  

Reenactment photo of the Wedding of the Rails historic image
National Park Service

There are also a lot of exciting new and special events planned for this year. From May 10 through May 12, the park and its many partners have unique programming planned, including “a television broadcast, a children's choir, a large festival area with a variety of activities, food vendors, and entertainment,” confirmed superintendent Crossland.

“There are many events occurring throughout the state, sponsored by cities, counties, Ogden Union Station, State Department of Heritage and Arts, universities, Union Pacific, and the Spike 150 Foundation,” superintendent Crossland continued.  “These events, combined with everything on-site at Golden Spike, will be a fitting tribute to the incredible feat that was the completion of the nation's first transcontinental railroad!"

Interested in attending?

Check out the schedule of events happening at Golden Spike below. For a detailed list of activities, visit the park’s sesquicentennial celebration webpage.

Unable to attend today’s ceremony and reenactment but don’t want to miss out? Tune into KSL, the local NBC affiliate, which will be broadcasting the event from 12-1 pm MT or visit their website to watch the livestream

May 10, 2019

  • 8:00 a.m. MT: Golden Spike National Historical Park Opens to the Public
  • 8:15 a.m. MT: Jupiter and No. 119 Replica Steam Engines Arrive
  • 11:00 a.m. — 1:30 p.m. MT: Sesquicentennial Celebration Ceremony, Keynote Address & As One Performance
  • 1:30 — 7:00 p.m. MT: Spike 150 Festival with Music, Performances, Storytelling, Historical Re-enactments, Train Demonstrations, Frontier Village, Innovation Summit, and Steam Train Demonstrations

May 11, 2019

  • 9:00 a.m. — 7:00 p.m. MT: Spike 150 Festival with Music, Performances, Storytelling, Historical Reenactments, Train Demonstrations, Frontier Village, Innovation Summit, Re-enactments, and Steam Train Demonstrations

May 12, 2019

  • 9:00 a.m. — 3:00 p.m. MT: Spike 150 Festival with Music, Performances, Storytelling, Historical Re-enactments, Train Demonstrations, Frontier Village, Innovation Summit, and Steam Train Demonstrations

The 150th anniversary of the transcontinental railroad’s completion is a once-in-a-lifetime celebration taking place now in Ogden and at Golden Spike National Historical Park! Join the National Park Service, the Spike 150 Foundation, and Union Pacific as they commemorate this anniversary and share your pictures with us on social using the hashtags #DONE, #Transcon150, #FindYourPark, and #EncuentraTuParque.


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