On May 10, 1869, the east and west ends of the transcontinental railroad were joined 115 miles northwest of Park City. The meeting of the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads signaled the ceremonial joining of the United States.
The Golden Spike National Historic Site, in Box Elder County provides a splendid day trip opportunity from Park City. Through September, you can see working replicas of the locomotives that “met” at the site, the Jupiter and the 119. There are two auto tours available: a 14 mile round trip which affords views of the original track locations, and a two mile loop. The tours are self-guided. The Big Fill Walk is a 1.5 mile hike to the last rail and last spike of the massive engineering project.
Interestingly, the golden spike was symbolic. Engineers had hoped to lay a final golden rail and tamp it with the golden spike, but gold is too soft to be spiked or run across by a steam-powered locomotive. You can see the actual, final spike but don’t expect it be golden. And you will also be surprised by the gaudy colors of the train replicas. Trains weren’t flat black until the twentieth century.
In the Wasatch Mountains, the Indian warrior Red Eagle, in his desperation to win the heart of the beautiful Utahna, who was being pursued by many suitors of great wealth, declared to her that he was a god. What girl wouldn’t fall for that? They became lovers, sparking the jealousy of the other would-be husbands.
Rumors started flying among the local groups of Ute Indians, and then the truth was revealed, when Red Eagle was wounded by a great bear. Gods don’t get wounded by bears large or small. He was a guy—a hunky guy to be sure—but not a god. Our girl Utahna was devastated.