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Transportation Dignitaries Attend Railroad Gala in Ogden

Leslie Thatcher

One of the many celebrations taking place across Utah for the 150 anniversary of the completion of the country’s first transcontinental railroad – happened in Ogden Thursday night, where both the CEO of Union Pacific Railroad and the country’s Secretary of Transportation spoke to the dinner crowd. KPCW’s Leslie Thatcher has more.

The gala featured a walk-through of two of the Union Pacific rail cars that came through Echo on Wednesday – pulled by the Big Boy locomotive. The rail cars have been turned into a mini museum with a brief chronology of the events that had taken place between 1862 when President Abraham  Lincoln signed the Railroad Act securing funding for the cross-country railroad - through today – showing how we still rely on trains to bring fresh food, and other goods to all parts of the country.

During dinner, the CEO of the Union Pacific Railroad Lance Fritz spoke briefly and noted that not only Ogden has been a great host for the on-going celebration – it’s been a welcoming host since the railroad first came to town in 1869.

On February 27, of 1869, the Ogden City Council voted that a public demonstration be made on the arrival of the Union Pacific Railroad cars at Ogden City and what was mandated was Brother Pew and the Band turn out flags to be hoisted, fire the cannons, the schools are to being let out and proceed in marches and the citizens are to assemble and assemble they did. They had 1500 people come out to see some railroad cars line up in Ogden.  I can tell you that doesn’t happen today.  Not many communities where line up cars will people come out with canons.”

One of the first shipments that made it into Ogden was furniture.

"That furniture made its way down to Salt Lake City by a team of ox and on its way back was some loads of hundred pound sacks of galena," said Fritz. Galena is silver and iron ore mixed together on its way out to San Francisco. In a microcosm, that’s the railroad. We ship the everyday things that make life – food, clothes furniture, ore -  you name it, we ship it. We’re proud to do it.”

He also recalled the inscription  engraved on the last spike was driven in the ground to compete the transcontinental railroad – words that ring true today as they did in 1869.

"Those  words were,  'May God  continue to unite this country as this railroad unites the two great oceans of the world.'  Someone could have written that yesterday, and it would have been as meaningful today as it was a century and a half ago," said Fritz.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Elaine Chao said the completion of the railroad is one of the greatest infrastructure projects ever in America history. Even today, she said the railroad continues to employ 167,000 workers, who earn $71 billion in wages. The railway generates $219 billion in economic activity. The railroad she said is one of the safest industries in transportation and is extremely fuel efficient.

 As we commemorate the 150th anniversary of the completion of the first transcontinental railroad, let’s remember and honor the bravery, the skill, the diversity of a great workforce that made this achievement possible. It connected our county and formed a foundation of that economic vitality that we enjoy today," Chao said.    

150 events were scheduled all across Utah during this year – the year of the train. You can find the entire list online at spike150.org


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