Pondering at Promontory Point

The ceremony for the driving of the golden spike at Promontory Summit, Utah on May 10, 1869; completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad. At center left, Samuel S. Montague, Central Pacific Railroad, shakes hands with Grenville M. Dodge, Union Pacific Railroad (center right).

“May God continue the unity of our country as the railroad unites the two great oceans of the world.”
– Engraved on the golden spike

It was a cloudless day in early May
that followed years of labor, sweat and tears.
A dream to bind the oceans east and west
across this vast expanse. It took two men
of vision, men who knew that growth would come
to this great nation still in infancy.

Young Leland Stanford rode “The Jupiter”
from California’s San Francisco Bay;
And Thom Durant was pulled by “One-Nineteen”
from Council Bluffs. Through blooming prairie lands
and forests rich with pine, they steamed ahead
to destiny at Promontory Point.

Here on the tenth of May in Sixty-Nine,
a rail of laurel wood was gently placed
into the desert soil. The final length
of track was laid amid the cheering crowd.
A golden spike to celebrate the day
was driven downward with a mighty blow—
the work now done, this wedding of the rails
united this great nation coast to coast.

I stand here on this barren, wind-swept spot
that tasted victory for but one day
and wonder at the progress made by man;
we travel coast to coast in half a day,
But can we really ever hope to see
these railroad barons’ dream of unity?

© 2018 R. Mark Vincent

Author’s Notes:

May 10, 2019 marked the 150th anniversary of the “marriage of the rails” at Promontory Point; Celebrated by a re-enactment with two steam locomotives and dignitaries. May we find unity among us.

The transcontinental railroad project began on January 8, 1863 and was completed at Promontory Point, Utah on May 10, 1869. The Steam Engines “The Jupiter” (Central Pacific Railroad) and “Number 119” (Union Pacific Railroad) played their part in this historical event and replicas can be seen at the National Historical site located at Promontory Point.