Category: railroad

Max Facts: The 19th century’s greatest engineering feat owed to despised and mistreated workers

The Golden Spike was pounded home by Leland Stanford, former Governor of California, and alternately described as a captain of industry and a robber baron.

Stanford showed the business know-how needed to capitalize on the federal drive for tracks spanning the continent, but most spikes not made of gold were driven by Chinese workers who made less money and were treated more poorly than their white counterparts.

In fact, before he needed them to work on the project that cemented his fortune, Stanford expressed the prejudice common in California at the time.

It was in 1962 when he was governor of California that he wrote: “To my mind it is clear, that the settlement among us of an inferior race is to be discouraged by every legitimate means. Asia, with her numberless millions, sends to our shores the dregs of her population.”

By 1869, those “dregs” had taken on one of the toughest engineering projects ever achieved.

They blasted through miles of rock, piled up giant berms of earth, and built trestle spans above canyons and ravines to form 690 miles of track stretching from Sacramento to Promontory, Utah.

They also died by the hundreds, perhaps thousands, but nobody has a number because their employer didn’t bother to keep track.

After the railroad was complete, and Americans could ride from the Atlantic to the Pacific, the U.S. Congress passed two acts meant to keep the West Coast free of too many Chinese people.

The Page Act barred Chinese women from immigrating because they were presumed to be prostitutes.

The Chinese Exclusion Act did just what the title suggests, excluding men and women not only from China but from all Asian countries.

The return of ‘Big Boy’: historic locomotive arrives in Utah

ECHO, Utah — Hundreds of people gathered in the town of Echo in Summit County to see the return of a part of history.

The recently restored locomotive known as “Big Boy” made its first stop in Utah Wednesday morning to kick off the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Golden Spike being driven.

Kids from elementary, middle and high schools in the area showed up to see the massive train and hear its loud whistle.

Leslie Holdaman even brought his kids all the way from Mesa, Arizona to see the train.

“I’ve always been fascinated with trains, and the fact to see this piece of history back on the rails and running, it’s a once in a lifetime chance,” Holdaman said.

Big Boy is one of the world’s largest locomotives, and it is making its return to the railroad for the first time in six decades. It is considered the largest steam locomotive ever built, weighing about 1.2 million pounds.

The locomotive made its way from Evanston, Wyoming this morning, stopping in Echo before moving on to Ogden.

The historic event is leading up to the big celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Golden Spike with a festival happening at Promontory this weekend. The Golden Spike marked the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, connecting both sides of the country.

“This is iconic,” said Krachel Murdock, Summit County’s community and public affairs coordinator. “It’s part of America’s past, and it’s fun to be able to relive it.”

People at the event said they were glad to be a part of such a historic moment.