150 Years Ago: Ten Miles Of Track Built In One Day

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SOO2719
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150 Years Ago: Ten Miles Of Track Built In One Day

Postby SOO2719 » Sun Apr 28, 2019 7:00 pm

On this day in 1869, Central Pacific track crews built ten miles of track in one day as the CP headed for its union with the Union Pacific.
Richard "Tony" Held

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Mark D
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Re: 150 Years Ago: Ten Miles Of Track Built In One Day

Postby Mark D » Tue Apr 30, 2019 8:56 am

Yeah, there was a purpose for that. Something to do with money. I wasn't just a contest. As a matter of fact once they reached the U.P. they just kept laying track next to the U.P. who was doing the very same thing. It didn't go far, but again, it was all about money.
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John Bohon
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Re: 150 Years Ago: Ten Miles Of Track Built In One Day

Postby John Bohon » Fri May 03, 2019 3:02 pm

It is really to bad this milestone has been swept under the rug in all the news about the golden spike and 4014. Laying 10 miles of track a day is an incredible feat. Think about the logistics for a minute. Ten miles of track means 3,500 rails, 30,000 crossties, 120,000 spikes, 7,000 joint bars, and 14,000 track bolts brought to the site and placed. All of the labor was done by hand. Imagine driving 120,000 spikes in a day. Imagine the number of trains shuttling back and forth bringing the supplies to the site. Imagine the number of men in the staging areas who kept this material moving to the front. The railroad behind the construction must have been very busy just hauling construction materials much less the growing freight and passenger business it had to be receiving.

What is really staggering about all this is that it was done in the middle of nowhere by an army of men. Thinks about how much food, drink, and other living supplies had to be brought to the site to keep this workforce moving. How many cooks did they have? How many people bringing wood to the stoves? How much water per day was needed to keep all this going? Now remember that this was happening day after day after month after month. Perhaps 10 miles of track was only built on one given day but miles of track were being built by both companies each day. Other than the moving of huge armies during the Civil War I can think of nothing that before this that even remotely compared to this event. As a person who has spent much of my working lift planning and executing track related projects of many sizes I am truly staggered by the amount of planning and execution all of this took. I honestly can not imagine how they did all of this in one day.

John Bohon

Mark D
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Re: 150 Years Ago: Ten Miles Of Track Built In One Day

Postby Mark D » Tue May 07, 2019 6:44 pm

John, you put forth a topic that nobody even thinks about today. Good for you for doing so. I cannot recall right now how they did it, but they did take corners.
In order to get the rails laid they put down only the bare minimum of spikes. Along with that they also put down the minimum of ties. The plan, which was carried out obviously, was to make it to Promontory and as much farther they could go because they were paid by the mile. I'm not saying the workers were getting more money, but the railroad itself got more money because of the overrun of the rails.
I'm wondering why they aren't taking the train all the way to Promontory during this celebration, where they can possibly see the remains of the track or what little ballast they put down next to the track that became part of the main line.
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SOO2719
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Re: 150 Years Ago: Ten Miles Of Track Built In One Day

Postby SOO2719 » Wed May 08, 2019 1:52 pm

According to the article I read in Trains, Central Pacific crews used up all the ties they had on hand to finish ten miles of track in one day. Quite amazing.
Sadly, Promontory was snipped from the national rail network early in the 20th Century, when the Southern Pacific built the Lucian Cutoff across Utah's Great Salt Lake. The site lay dormant until a revival that came in time for the Golden Spike Centennial 50 years ago.
Richard "Tony" Held

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Re: 150 Years Ago: Ten Miles Of Track Built In One Day

Postby Mark D » Wed May 08, 2019 5:04 pm

The actual Promontory point lost its track, but there is a place called Promontory on the map and on the U.P. track that crosses the lake. I don't know where the actual point where the two original locomotives touched pilots. It's not on my DeLorme map.
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Charles T. McCullough
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Re: 150 Years Ago: Ten Miles Of Track Built In One Day

Postby Charles T. McCullough » Wed May 08, 2019 6:57 pm

Contrary to what I was taught in school in the 1950's and 60's the Golden Spike was NOT driven at "Promontory Point". It was at "Promontory Summit". If you look at a map of Utah (or the vicinity) you will see the Great Salt Lake, there is a peninsula that juts into the lake from the east end of the northern shore. Promontory Point is the southern end of that peninsula. Promontory Summit is a relatively flat plain where the peninsula starts.
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The original ROW was "around" the northern edge of the lake, basically to connect Lucin with Ogden via Brigham City. There is just a short set of track from the area known as Lucin headed north that is probably part of the original ROW. The "Lucin cutoff" breaks away from the original ROW at Lucin to run across some salt flats to the lake and crosses the lake to touch the tip of that peninsula.
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North of the lake at Promontory Summit is a VERY SHORT section of totally ISOLATED track that represents where the Golden Spike was driven (there is some argument if it is the "exact" location or just how "exact" it is. This track was laid 50 years ago, just in time for the 100th anniversary of the Golden Spike being driven. It is owned and operated by the National Park Service as a National Historic Site. They have two replica steam locos (replicas of the original engines, purpose built just for this place) and a small diesel switcher for moving a few other things, but all was trucked in, since the rails of the original track were pulled when the Lucin Cutoff started into use. There is a wye at the northeast end and some shop buildings for maintenance.
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I have never figured out why so many people believe it was at "Promontory Point"... I know I have read many articles about the event and many, especially older ones, say Promontory Point, the same as I was taught in school. But it was at Promontory Summit.
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If you look on Google Earth and zoom in, you can see the location with a small grandstand (some benches!) for visitors to witness the re-enactments that the NPS puts on periodically (like daily during tourist season, and off-season non-winter weekends, I think!). Try these coordinates:

41°37'4.72"N, 112°33'5.70"W

If you back up the date (click the clock icon in the toolbar) to 8/2014 the images on Google Earth show both engines in place at the site at those coordinates.
Semper Vaporo,
Charles T. McCullough


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Mark D
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Re: 150 Years Ago: Ten Miles Of Track Built In One Day

Postby Mark D » Thu May 09, 2019 7:21 pm

Your observations are quite distinct. It also points out why this time the ceremony won't be where the original was held.

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SOO2719
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Re: 150 Years Ago: Ten Miles Of Track Built In One Day

Postby SOO2719 » Fri May 10, 2019 11:03 am

Charles, how come there is doubt as to exactly where the golden spikes (yes, there were two, not one, plus a combo silver-gold spike, all driven in a tie of California laurel with holes augerd for ease of driving) were driven?
Richard "Tony" Held

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Charles T. McCullough
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Re: 150 Years Ago: Ten Miles Of Track Built In One Day

Postby Charles T. McCullough » Fri May 10, 2019 11:52 am

I have read several accounts of the golden spike ceremony, many of which mistakenly identify the location as Promontory Point, and Promontory Peak, as well as Promontory Summit. Some of those accounts have differing descriptions of the event, from Stanford actually hitting the spike to the telegrapher getting excited when Stanford missed and keying on his key that he missed and people not paying attention to what was heard on the many sounders along the line, assuming the first click of his message to be the moment the maul hit the spike. The "DONE" message was not sent until after all 4 of the ceremonial spikes had been driven... but nobody paid any attention to anything more than the first click.

The exact location has been debated in books and the internet quite a bit many years ago (back in the old "newsgroup" forerunners of todays "forums"... I don't remember the exact URL, but it was generally referred to as '.rec.railroad'), but I am not sure I believe ANY of them.

Since the tracks were removed in 1942, nature has pretty much reclaimed most of the old ROW and it is very hard to determine where it was, other than drawing educated guess lines between points where it is still obvious where it was. Some say today's site is off by many miles, some say it may be just a few feet. But, again, I think it is all educated (and uneducated) guesses. Even the (not-so)-great "Undriving of the last spike" ceremony may not have been in the exact same spot (considering that the Laurel Wood tie was removed after the original ceremony, it might be hard to tell which tie was the one that replaced it... or even if the replacement had not been replaced later in track maintenance in the intervening 45 or so years or if the track had been shifted/realigned in maintenance or Mother Earth just moving things).

I don't much care if it is off by a few inches or a couple of miles, the general terrain is identical all around that place, so the visitor gets the idea of the isolation of the work site and conditions at the time the two lines were joined.
Semper Vaporo,
Charles T. McCullough


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