July 10, 1865

Union Pacific Lays First Rail

Three years after the Pacific Railroad Act took effect — and a year and a half after groundbreaking — Union Pacific finally laid its first rails. The mood that day was in direct contrast to the festive atmosphere of the gala celebration: no cheering crowds or brass bands. Most of the workmen had been laid off because there was no money to pay them. Progress on the railroad was slow and it took crews several weeks to lay the first mile.

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The first Union Pacific locomotive, named “General Sherman” in honor of the Civil War leader, first operated in July 1865. A few months later, the railroad was running four locomotives, along with platform cars, box freight cars and passenger cars.

In 2012, Union Pacific celebrates the shared stories that have shaped our country since 1862. To mark our 150th anniversary, we invite you to explore how the nation’s largest railroad came to be and how UP continues to build America with innovation and tenacity, touching the lives of nearly every citizen.