Governor Herbert recently called a meeting of the Golden Spike Commission, a group of Utahns tasked with planning the 150th-anniversary celebration of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad.
I’m excited to participate in this group; to study up I’ve been reading Nothing Like it in the World by Stephen Ambrose. Nothing Like it in the World chronicles the audacity of the task to connect the east and west coasts by rail during a time of great uncertainty in our country. The campaign to construct the railroad began during the Civil War and President Lincoln’s lifetime, and the Golden Spike was driven only 4 short years after his assassination. It has been said that the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad was the most significant historical event of the 1800s with the exception of the Civil War. It was important for Utah for many reasons, including that it marked the end of the pioneer era; through rail and the telegraph, Utah became well connected to the outside world.
Nothing Like it in the World is a fascinating read but it is especially interesting for those of us in Utah given the role our forebears had in the construction of the “road,” and the importance rail plays in our economy today. Although other technologies are critical in the way we move ideas, people, and goods through the economy, rail continues to play a major role in Utah's success. At any given time our team is managing projects for whom rail access is either a preference or a requirement. Additionally, more and more companies seek to be located along light or heavy passenger rail. Luckily, we have a competitive advantage with respect to both freight and passenger rail in Utah.
Here are a few fun Utah and Union Pacific rail facts:
- Although Union Pacific is headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska, it is a Utah corporation
- Union Pacific has over 1,200 miles of track in Utah and originates over 220,000 cars in the state
- Union Pacific main lines radiate in every direction from Salt-Lake City-Ogden and move metals, minerals, manufactured products, coal, automobiles, and automobile parts all throughout the country
- The Salt Lake City Union Pacific intermodal facility is capable of handling more than 250,000 annual container lifts
As you can see, we not only have a great rail history, we have a great rail infrastructure today. We promote and trade off of that legacy regularly.
So it’s only fitting for us to celebrate the historical significance of the completion of the Transcontinental Rail with a huge party. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, the Utah Symphony and other amazing performers will be there to mark the 150th anniversary. The organizers have committed to make the history of the rail fun and exciting. Additionally, we will honor the brave individuals who sacrificed to complete the project.
If anyone asks you where you will be on May 10, 2019, I hope you answer “Promontory Summit” in Box Elder County, Utah!