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May 10, 1869. Promontory Summit and the Transcontinental Railroad

May 10 marks the day that the last spike for the Transcontinental Railroad was struck 150 years ago in Promontory, Utah. This railroad connected the east coast to the west and played a major role in the development of the western United States. You can read more about the history of the transcontinental railroad by looking at the section in Business Reference’s railroads guide specifically devoted to the Transcontinental Railroad, or by looking at an entry in our This Month in Business History project that marks the event.  For anyone wanting to explore and needing a good place to start, we have included books, articles, and links. We also included information related to the legislation that moved the railroad from idea to reality.

“Joining of the Tracks, Promontory, Utah” from How we built the Union Pacific railway, and other railway papers and addresses, (image 82). //www.loc.gov/item/10035482/

Map showing the Union Pacific Railway and branch line, 1888.
//www.loc.gov/item/98688839/

Beyond that, there are a number of resources from the Library that I specifically wanted to mention.  While there are many books that can be helpful, the Library has digitized How We Built the Union Pacific Railway, and Other Railway Papers and Addresses, in case you’d like to read something a bit older with some interesting images. Of course, I do have two favorite resources — maps and newspapers.  The Library has digitized some really great railroad maps for Union Pacific, as well other railroad lines across the United States, which are available on the Library’s web page. Also, Chronicling America is a great place to do some poking around for all sorts of fascinating tidbits. There are articles and advertisements for Union Pacific and other railroads, including some specifically focused on Utah. It can also be used to look for information on the people involved, such as Central Pacific Railroad (CPRR) President (and later U.S. Senator) Leland Stanford.  Doing a quick search, I found some later advertisements from Union Pacific using the event as an advertising hook, articles run for the 40th and 50th anniversaries, and one really nice article from 1903.

I encourage you to explore the Library’s collections and see what treasures you can find.

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