For years Americans with foresight envisioned a railroad linking the Atlantic and the Pacific coasts. Then early in 1863 Chinese laborers began work on the Central Pacific Railroad. Moving eastward from Sacramento, California, the track crews fought mountains, freezing temperatures, and desert heat.
Late in 1863 crews made up of Civil War veterans and Irish, Scottish, and German immigrants broke ground in Omaha, Nebraska, moving the Union Pacific Railroad tracks westward.
After laying 1,776 miles of track, the two railroads met at Promontory, Utah, on May 10, 1869. During the celebration held at noon that day the Central Pacific’s locomotive, Jupiter, and the Union Pacific’s locomotive, No. 119, steamed up to the end of their respective tracks. The final rails were laid, and a polished laurelwood tie was slid into place, ready to receive the four ceremonial spikes. After the last golden spike was driven, cheers broke out as the locomotives sounded their shrill whistles.
In 1957 the Golden Spike National Historic Site was established at Promontory, Utah, where the historical scene of the meeting of the rails is recreated annually. These photos were taken at the 1983 celebration of the driving of the golden spike.