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Golden Spike celebrates 149 years of the transcontinental railroad Thursday

Wednesday , May 09, 2018 - 5:15 AM

PROMONTORY POINT — Take a trip back in time to the joining of the nation’s east-to-west railroad Thursday at the Golden Spike National Historic Site.

The 149th-anniversary celebration of the completion of the transcontinental railroad begins at 10 a.m. with the re-creation of the historic “Champagne photo,” which was taken in 1869 to mark the occasion.

Re-enactors in period dress will play the parts of historical figures present at the ceremony, including Central Pacific railroad president Leland Stanford, who drove the last golden spike to join the rails. A commemorative program begins at 11:30 a.m., with the re-enactment of the 1869 ceremony starting at 12:20 p.m. and 2 p.m.

“We get kind of a cool mix of people. We get railroad history buffs. We get people into the history of the American West,” National Park System park ranger Lucas Hugie said. “And then we just get fans of the National Park System.”

Hugie said the historical site is expecting a slight increase in participants this year because the “marquee” year is right around the corner. A state planning commission has started working on plans for the 150th-anniversary celebration in 2019, Hugie said, but no details have been decided yet. 

The park’s two steam locomotives — Jupiter and No. 119 — will be on display throughout the day.

At 3 p.m., Montana State University professor Mark Fiege will give this year’s keynote speech. Fiege wrote “The Republic of Nature,” a book that explores the environmental history of the United States. He’ll be speaking about “all the environmental factors” that went into building the transcontinental railroad, Hugie said. 

The Chinese Railroad Workers Descendants Association will also be attending the re-enactment. Later, the group will attend a Buddhist ceremony at the Chinese Arch, a geological formation at the site of the Chinese railroad workers encampment, to honor the workers. 

Reach digital producer Jessica Kokesh at 801-625-4229 or [email protected] You can also follow her on Twitter at @JessicaKokesh or Facebook.com/ByJessKokesh.

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