149th Celebration at Golden Spike has many already looking to next year

May 10, 2018, 6:22 PM | Updated: May 6, 2019, 10:09 pm

PROMONTORY, Utah – A big celebration for the 149th anniversary of the place and time in Utah history that put the Beehive State on the map. It was May 10, 1869 when the east and west coasts were connected for the first time by rail – and it happened in a remote part of Box Elder County.

It takes quite a bit of work to keep old trains running like new. Especially when those trains are replicas of trains from the 1800s.

“We’re going to have the biggest and the best celebration we’ve ever had in the state of Utah. Move over, Winter Olympics.”

Tom Brown is one of the engineers who maintains the historic trains af the Golden Spike National Historic Site in Promontory, Utah.

“These engines are beautiful and they’re a good way to tell the story, but the story is really a lot deeper than that,” says Tom Brown, one of the engineers who maintain the trains.

Brown can’t tell you how much time he has spent fixing and tinkering, day after day, just to keep them running.

“It is a lot of work,” he said.

Then again, the trains he is responsible for aren’t just any old trains.

They’re the Jupiter and the 119 at Golden Spike National Historic Site in Box Elder County.

The Jupiter runs by burning wood. The 199 runs by burning coal.

“The history of what happened here is amazing,” says Brown.

Brown is younger than most train engineers, but he understands when it comes to these trains, lots of people are expecting a show.

Thursday afternoon’s show was big. It was the 149th anniversary of when the two railroads in this part of Box Elder County met, completing the first transcontinental railroad.

Spectators gather for the 149th anniversary celebration of the Golden Spike, when the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads met on May 10, 1869.

Anniversaries always bring a crowd, like Debra Ford, who had to come here with her grandchildren.

“It’s a family thing and it’s been a minute since we’ve been out here, and they just love it. They love the trains,” says Ford, who was visiting from Harrisville.

Ford says one of her family members was in the famous 1869 photo of when the two trains met.

“It’s been a family tradition and we want to share that with our grandchildren to let them know there’s a piece of them here,” she says.

Thursday, the two trains met once again, that old famous photo re-enacted, as was the driving of the golden spike.

“Before the joining of these two railroads, it took six months and a thousand dollars if you wanted to go from the east coast to the west coast,” said Utah Lt. Governor Spencer Cox. “The minute that spike was driven, it took less than a week and one hundred dollars.”

However, for as much fun as the event was, lots of people were already talking about next year.

The 150th anniversary will be during 2019, and the “Spike 150” committee is already planning a big party.

“It’s going to be amazing,” says Doug Foxley, a co-chairman of the Spike 150 committee. “We’re going to have the biggest and the best celebration we’ve ever had in the state of Utah. Move over, Winter Olympics, move over.”

He just might be serious.

Plans are to have a tent camp on site just like what existed in 1869.

He’s also expecting the largest crowd ever at the site.

Utah Representative Rob Bishop announced Thursday afternoon he is introducing legislation in Congress to try and make Golden Spike into a National Park, whereas now it’s a National Historic Site.

Bishop says the change would increase its visibility and funding. That designation alone would draw more visitors.

“Really, the difference would be Yellowstone. It would put us on par with Yellowstone and the Big 5 and just really raise the notoriety of the site and what happened here,” says Box Elder County Commissioner Jeff Scott.

Thursday’s event also included a celebration of the Chinese workers who helped build the railroad, changing America’s landscape.

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149th Celebration at Golden Spike has many already looking to next year