These days we don’t usually think much about trains as a form of transportation, but in 1869, they were the latest in modern travel. The United States is a large country, and it took months to travel across it with a horse drawn wagon. Travel was so time consuming, that most people could not take the necessary time off from their jobs and lives to go to visit family that had moved west, or those who stayed in the east. Enter the train.
Trains could take people to far away destinations much faster, and cheaper…but there was still one problem…train tracks. The trains could only go as far as the tracks did, and the work of building tracks was a back breaking job. Nevertheless, 150 years ago, on this day, May 10, 1869, the presidents of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads meet in Promontory, Utah. There they drove a ceremonial last spike into a rail line that connects their railroads. This made transcontinental railroad travel possible for the first time in United States history.
Now 150 years later, on of the trains that rode those rails in those days is back on the rails. The locomotives were called “Big Boys” and they certainly were. “It’s longer than two city buses, weighs more than a Boeing 747 fully loaded with passengers and can pull 16 Statues of Liberty over a mountain.” The refurbished Big Boy is the number 4014 steam locomotive that rolled out of a Union Pacific restoration shop in Cheyenne this past weekend for a big debut after five years of restoration. It then headed toward Utah as part of a yearlong tour to commemorate the Transcontinental Railroad’s 150th anniversary. If you have a chance, I would highly recommend that you get a copy of the schedule and plan to go see it. We are planning to, for sure.