• “The Voyage from New York to San Francisco upon the Union Pacific Railroad,” a Union Pacific Railroad Game, 1870. Courtesy of David Rumsey.

    More info
    Select an item:
    (Cover to) The Voyage from New York to San Francisco upon the Union Pacific Railroad.
    • Date
    • 1870
    • Creator
    • Union Pacific Railroad Game.
    • Description
    • Date and author estimated, not indicated in the printed materials. An unusual board game based on the "new Union Pacific Railroad." The game board shows forty five beautifully executed views of places along the Union Pacific route, starting with "Rai... more
      Date and author estimated, not indicated in the printed materials. An unusual board game based on the "new Union Pacific Railroad." The game board shows forty five beautifully executed views of places along the Union Pacific route, starting with "Rail road depot in New York" and ending in "San Francisco, the metropolis of California." Along the way, we have, among others, views of Pittsburgh, Omaha, "surprise by savage Indians," "wild heard of buffalloes," "railroad bridge over the Platte river," Cheyenne, Green River, Humboldt Valley, "Trukee" Valley, Sierra Nevada and Sacramento. The text is titled "Trip from New-York to San Francisco by the Union Pacific Rail Road. A new illustrated Travel-game with 45 stations, 1 dy, 12 cars and 12 numbers charts." The text is written in German and English and explains the game and the views. The cover of the game box (19x24) has a lovely colored litho view of two women joining hands across the American Continent, one representing America and the other Asia. Not in any of the standard game references - rare. See note field above. less
    • Rights
    • Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported; http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/
    • Partner
    • David Rumsey

  • “Does not such a meeting make amends?” a 1869 print showing an allegorical linking of the Transcontinental Railroad at Promontory Summit, Utah. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

    More info
    Select an item:
    Does not such a meeting make amends?
    • Creator
    • Illus. in: Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, v. 28, no. 713 (1869 May 29), p. 176.
    • Rights
    • No known restrictions on publication.
    • Is Part Of
    • The Library of Congress

  • The Golden Spike. Courtesy of the Utah State Historical Society via the Mountain West Digital Library.

    More info
    Select an item:
    Railroad Artifacts--Golden Spike P.4; No. 9484
    • Date
    • 2009-05-03
    • Description
    • Gift of the Utah Travel Council, Salt Lake City, Utah. Ceremonial spike from the joining of the Central Pacific and Union Pacific lines, May 10, 1869.
    • Rights
    • Digital Image © 2009 Utah State Historical Society. All Rights Reserved.
    • Partner
    • Mountain West Digital Library
    • Contributing Institution
    • Utah State Historical Society

  • A photo showing the driving of the Golden Spike, marking the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, on May 10, 1869, at Promontory, Utah. Courtesy of the University of Utah J. Willard Marriott Library via the Mountain West Digital Library.

    More info
    Select an item:
    Driving of the Golden Spike at Promontory, Utah, 1869
    • Date
    • 1869-05-10
    • Description
    • Photo showing the completion of the transcontinental railroad, May 10, 1869, at Promontory, Utah
    • Rights
    • This material may be protected by copyright. Permission required for use in any form. For further information please contact the Multimedia Archivist, Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah.
    • Partner
    • Mountain West Digital Library
    • Contributing Institution
    • University of Utah - J. Willard Marriott Library

While the railroad was built in a divisive era, its completion helped unite the nation after the Civil War. Arguably its greatest contribution was that it allowed for people and goods to travel from coast to coast at unprecedented speeds. Prior to construction, cross-country travel required long treks over dangerous land and sea. Travelers could trek for months across the American interior, over the Great Plains, through the Rocky Mountains, and on through the Sierra Nevadas, before ever reaching California. Even by sea, migrants had to spend several weeks sailing around South America and the treacherous Cape Horn before reaching San Francisco. Whereas countless lives were lost by land and by sea, the railroad expedited cross-country travel and made it safer for westward expansion.

The Transcontinental Railroad also served as a strong symbol of American achievement. This was important as the country continued to rebuild after the Civil War. Not only had the US built a transportation system that enabled travel “from sea to shining sea,” but it had also conquered the terrain and the elements of a still wild West. As the country set forth united, railroad workers laid the last railroad tie at Promontory Point, Utah, sealing the ceremony with a gold spike to commemorate the achievement. The image of the golden spike remains one of the most iconic of the nineteenth century, although an ordinary spike did eventually replace the ceremonial gold one. In fact, the railroad had to replace ties at a rate of one per week as souvenir seekers chipped away at the railroad for a chance to own a piece of history.