The first transcontinental railroad was completed on May 10, 1869. It linked the Central Pacific Railroad, which stretched east from Sacramento, California, and the Union Pacific Railroad that went west from Omaha, Nebraska. To mark the occasion, a final golden railroad spike was driven into the tracks at the location where two railroads met in Promontory, Utah.Continue Reading
Two men were chosen for the honor of driving in the golden spike, one representing each railroad company. California Governor Leland Stanford represented the Central Pacific Railroad, and the president of the Union Pacific Railroad, Thomas C. Durant, represented his side. When the time came to drive the golden stake into the ground to officially christen the railroad, Governor Stanford missed hitting the spike with the sledgehammer on his first attempt, before connecting on his second try. He then passed the sledgehammer to Durant, who also missed the spike on his first attempt.
The transcontinental railroad was the culmination of more than 20 years of work, although the actual building of the tracks only took about five years. Both sets of tracks were built primarily by immigrant laborers, with the Central Pacific employing mostly Chinese workers and the Union Pacific workforce made up of mostly Irish workers.Learn more about US History