The first full day of the tour would focus on the cultural side of Utah with our first stop involving an hour or so drive Northwest of Salt Lake City to Promontory Summit, home of the Golden Spike National Historic Site. This is the same location in which the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads came together to form the first transcontinental railroad across the United States. The site is now a national park with a visitor center and trails for hiking and driving to enjoy the views. One of the highlights of the visitor center is the reenactment of the ceremony of the driving of the final spikes for the connection of the railroad which we were able to watch. The visitor center, there are several exhibits with multiple artifacts from the building of the railroad.
In a display case, they have a replica of the Golden Spike which was the ceremonial spike driven into the railroad tie. The actual Golden Spike can currently be found at Stanford University.
They also feature a display with replicas of all four of the ceremonial spikes that were placed on the tie for the symbolic last spikes driven, and description cards with more details of the origin of each spike. Each spike came from different states and made of metal such as silver (like the spike from Nevada), gold (like the last spike, which came from California), or a blend of the two as well as iron (from Arizona).
Another exhibit space showcases tools from the actual track laying process describing how they built the railroad, as well as other additional artifacts.
In the same room there was a miniature replica of the ceremony for the driving of the last spike connecting the two railroads.
Back outside of the visitor center, there were several plaques commemorating the railroad, as well as plaques that paid tribute to those who worked to make the creation of the railroad possible.
One of the highlights of visiting the historic site is being able to see the spot where the final spikes were driven to connect the two railroads, marked by the special stained railroad tie on the ground.
One detail that was pointed out by the park ranger that we did not notice immediately was the difference in the railroad ties. Both railroad companies had different styles of railroad ties because of the type of trees available from where they traveled through to get to this point. The more rounded ties were from the Union Pacific Railroad which came from the East, while the more square ties came from the Central Pacific which came from the West.
As part of the reenactment of the Golden Spike Ceremony, they have replicas of both trains that can be seen in the famous photo of the ceremony. The first one to arrive was the Jupiter which was operated by the Central Pacific Railroad. While the original had come from the west, for the ceremony on this day they would back it up as both engines are stored in the same shed.
After a while, they brought the other engine, the 119 which was operated by the Union Pacific Railroad from the East.
And once both engines arrive, they begin the reenactment of the ceremony with volunteers who play the parts of different people who spoke at the ceremony, reading the speeches that each person gave, and also had a guy who played the messenger that telegraphed the events of the ceremony.
Part of the ceremony included the presidents of both railroads placing the special spikes into the ceremonial tie, and then they were also given a special hammer to gently tap the spikes to symbolically drive the ceremonial spikes.
Afterwards, the actual last spikes would be driven in as seen in the video below.
Once the ceremony is through, the cast offers an opportunity for taking pictures with them, as Nicole took advantage of while holding one of the ceremonial spikes!
As a group, we quite enjoyed our stop and getting to see the Golden Spike Ceremony Reenactment!
Up next, we head back towards Salt Lake City, but first take a little side journey on one of the historic site's driving trails for some incredible views, then head into a nearby small town for lunch and a nice walk.
See more of Coasting with Culture's 2017 Utah, Idaho & Wyoming Tour:
1: Arrival Day / 2: Golden Spike National Historic Site / 3: Driving Trail & Brigham City / 4: Temple Square /
5: Yellowstone Bear World / 6: Snow King Mountain / 7: The Great Salt Lake / 8: Lagoon Amusement Park /
9: Smith's Ballpark