The Last Hurdle

On the weathered hillside above you are the footprints of fierce rivals, straining for the finish line in the greatest race of the 19th century.

The stakes were high. Each mile of track laid down meant enormous land grants and hefty federal subsidies. Blasting up from California came the Central Pacific Railroad, led by four eminent Sacramento businessmen with 10,000 Chinese laborers.

Eastern money and rough immigrant track gangs pushed the Union Pacific Railroad out from Omaha, barreling across the Plains and through the Rockies.

Both competitors had one last obstacle – the ascent of the Promontory Mountains – the steepest grade east of the Sierra Nevada. In the middle of this tough grade, was the unavoidable 500-foot-wide Spring Creek ravine.

By the spring of 1869, both railroads hurtled over this ravine, each making the leap in its own way.

The Track that United the States

A sharp eye can still pick out the marks of early railroad building along this rugged escarpment, even if the original iron rails and timber ties themselves are gone.

These fading remnants tell the story of a daunting engineering challenge – linking the Western states to the rest of the nation. Inscribed here, amid the sagebrush and bedrock of northern Utah is a tale of grand dreams and brute work, greed and glory.