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Free lecture at the historic Echo Church on Saturday

Mark Miller
The free lecture on the building of the transcontinental railroad is Saturday, Oct. 15 at 3 p.m.

The historic church in Echo, Utah no longer offers weekly religious services. Now, it’s a gathering place and sometimes lecture hall.

The topic of the lecture is "The Race Without a Finish Line,” and will be presented by locals Steve Leatham and David Nicholas.

The lecture delves into the building of the transcontinental railroad, which was set up as a race without a finish line. The final leg of the race happened in Utah.

Local historian Sandra Morrison says Leathem and Nicholas will explain the railroad construction and how land grants and government bonds awarded by the Federal government ensured the completion of the first railroad across the nation.

“The federal government started talking about a railroad across the United States all the way back to the 1840s, which is pretty much when people started living in Utah,” said Morrison. “And especially the choice of building it across the middle of, of the U.S. because, of course, the southern congressmen were very interested in it being built across the south. And what intervened, of course, was the Civil War. So, we'll start with some backstory, and our presenters are two very well-informed local historians, and they'll kind of split the story between them.”

The railroad came through Echo in January of 1869 before the final stake was driven in connecting two rail lines later that spring.

“And for many years, Echo was a stop on the transcontinental railroad,” Morrison said. “You know, there were no Pullman cars, there were no sleeping cars. So, the train stopped, and you got off and slept in a hotel. And so, there was actually a hotel in Echo, that you could sleep and stay the night if you didn't want to ride all night in the train.”

What was once a bustling town basically became a ghost town in the 1940s when steam engines were replaced with diesel engines and the need to stop for coal in Echo came to an end.

Additionally, the construction of the interstate system in the 1950s and 60s rerouted the highway away from Echo.

The free lecture at the historic Echo Church is on Saturday October 15 at 3 p.m.