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May 10, 1869

Golden Spike Ceremony, Promontory Summit, Utah

After a washed-out bridge and a Union Pacific labor dispute delayed the ceremony for two days, the Union Pacific No. 119 and Central Pacific Jupiter met at Promontory Summit, Utah — drawn almost nose to nose and separated by the width of a single railroad tie. Ceremonial spikes were tapped by a special silver spike maul into the ceremonial laurel tie. Dignitaries and workers gathered around the locomotives to watch Central Pacific President Leland Stanford drive the ceremonial gold spike to officially join the two railroads. Telegraph operators transmitted the blows of the hammer, as East met West and started a new chapter in western expansion. The line operated until 1904, when it was replaced by the Lucin Cutoff. The original line was removed for scrap at the beginning of World War II.

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There were four ceremonial spikes given that day: Two gold-plated spikes given by the State of California to Leland Stanford, President of Central Pacific; one silver spike given to both railroads by the State of Nevada and a gold and silver spike given by the Territory of Arizona to Union Pacific Railroad. Today, this gold and silver spike is on display in Council Bluffs, Iowa, at the Union Pacific Railroad Museum. Both the silver spike from the State of Nevada and one of the gold spikes from the State of California are in the collection of the Cantor Museum at Stanford University. The other gold spike, considered lost for decades, is at the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento, Calif.

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.