I was on the train yesterday heading in and out of New York City. I took Amtrak into Penn Station and Metro North out of Grand Central. Both terminals are big and busy.
I got to thinking about the railroad in America and how it has changed us and then how we abandoned it for faster technology and smooth highways.
It was on May tenth in 1869 that the two coasts of the United States became connected by rail.
At that time, the state of Utah was still a territory and a spot called “Promontory” was about to received the attention of the world and mark its place in American history.
It was there where the final rail was to be laid, linking the Union Pacific tracks out of Omaha, with the Central Pacific tracks out of San Francisco.
Five years of labor had gone before to bring the two to Promontory, Utah. Leland Stanford, President of the Central Pacific, took a silver plated sledge hammer in his burly hands and took aim at the gold spike in the final rail.
America was listening for that clank. Two engines were puffing in anticipation. The Railroad’s future was bright.. The Union Pacific’s number 199 and the Central’s Jupiter waited to touch iron noses. All was set as Sanford swung the silver hammer at the bright golden spike and he missed.
Somehow, now that seems appropriate. The railroads future was never perfect. Progress took a different route and a new track eventually bypassed Promontory. Then as irony would have it, the old rails were needed for steel during the 2nd world war and they were removed.
Promontory today has no tracks, only a memory in May.