GOLDEN SPIKE NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK
Completion of the world's first transcontinental railroad was celebrated here where the Central Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads met on May 10, 1869. Golden Spike was designated as a national historic site in nonfederal ownership on April 2, 1957, and authorized for federal ownership and administration by an act of Congress on July 30, 1965.
The history of the landscape at Promontory Summit in northern Utah links inextricably to the history of building and operating the first transcontinental railroad across the United States. Constructed between 1863 and 1869 by the Central Pacific and Union Pacific Railroad companies, the two rails advanced from the west and the east and met at Promontory Summit on May 10, 1869. Ceremonies held that day at the summit marked the achievement by driving the last spike and by sending the news over the simultaneously built telegraph line across a rapt nation.
On May 10, 1869, officers of both companies as well as a host of others celebrated the laying of the last rail and the driving of the last spike in a ceremony at mid-day. The joining of the rails at Promontory Summit signified the end of a colossal effort to build the first transcontinental railroad in only six and one half years, less than half the time that Congress had specified. Representing one of the greatest engineering feats of the nineteenth century, completion of this continuous rail line accelerated the settlement and economic development of the American West, spelling the ultimate doom of the American Indians' traditional way of life. Completing the first transcontinental railroad also facilitated transportation and commerce, improved communications, and helped unite the country physically, economically and politically.
Although the Southern Pacific Railroad had earlier placed a monument at the summit to honor the joining of the rails there, federal recognition of the significance of the site dates from 1957 when Interior Secretary Fred Seaton designated a 7-acre tract of land in non-federal ownership at the summit as a national historic site. In 1965, Congress passed legislation to create the Golden Spike National Historic Site in order to commemorate the completion of the first transcontinental railroad. By purchasing and exchanging lands the Interior Department acquired 2,176 acres for the site. The 1965 legislation also appropriated over $1 million for site development, which was used to build a visitor center, to provide parking areas and other facilities, and to develop interpretive exhibits. In 1976, Congress increased the appropriation to over $5 million. Finally, in 1980, Congress amended the boundaries of the site, increasing its acreage to 2,735.28 acres, including 532.08 acres that remain in non-federal ownership. Since 1965, relying on pieces of the story of the building and operating of the first transcontinental railroad that remain visible within this landscape, the National Park Service has managed the resources at the site for their interpretive potential and commemorative value.