Promontory, Utah. May 10, 1869
A Grand Celebration
It wasn't raining on the morning of Monday, May 10. It was cloudy and cold, though. Newspapers had assigned their greatest reporters to cover the joining of the two rails and thereby, a nation. The Promontory are was filled with tourists and an impatient crowd. The leaders of the rival train companies were there as well.
At noon, the ceremonies started. Special spikes were brought out to join the two rails. Two were made of California gold, one of Nevada silver, and one last one, from Arizona, was a combination of iron, silver, and gold. The two leaders of the railroad companies were to drive these last stakes. Both of them missed! The crowd roared with laughter. These two were not working men! Finally, at precisely 12:47 p.m., a regular rail worker pounded in the last spike, and the transcontinental railroad was completed.
The telegraph work assigned to announce the completion of the rails did his duty: a three dot code was sent out meaning "done." This telegraph signal started celebrations all over the country. Church bells rang, fireworks exploded, and even Philadelphia's Liberty Bell was struck. America was finally joined, a nation was now connected.
No one event in American history has ever been as exhilarating or promising. The joining of the rails in 1869 was as significant as the landing on the moon almost a century later. The continent could now be crossed in a week--a wonder unthought of even just before the last spike was driven.
The Union Pacific and Central Pacific had opened up the west to America, and thier race to the finish soon became part of American folklore. Thier feat opened the door to massive American expansion in the west--expansion that foreboding mountains, snow, or plains could no longer check.
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