Train Buffs Must See the Golden Spike National Historical Site in Utah

If you're passionate about trains and history, there's one place you absolutely must see: The Golden Spike National Historic Site at Promontory Summit, Utah, near the north end of the Great Salt Lake.

This site is where the eastbound Central Pacific and westbound Union Pacific Railroads met on May 10, 1869, completing America's first transcontinental railroad and ending a dramatic race between the two (each railroad received funds according to how much track they laid).

To commemorate the occasion, workers drove a symbolic golden spike into the last railroad tie.

We planned on just a quick stop at the site, which is out in the middle of nowhere. But we were so fascinated by it all that we scrambled to find a place to stay overnight, then came back the next day for more.

At the site, you'll see exact working replicas of the two trains that met the day the railroad was completed: The Central Pacific Jupiter and the Union Pacific No. 119. Just getting a close-up look at the immaculate details on these beautiful locomotives, which are usually parked nose-to-nose on the track, was worth the trip.

Several times a day during summer, crews fire up the engines and run them up and down the track. We were enthralled as they pulled in, spewing steam and whistles blaring. Two viewing platforms allow you to climb up and see the inner workings of both engines.

There's also a wonderful visitor center and friendly and knowledgeable guides. This was an educational experience we'll never forget.

Before You Visit

Promontory Summit is 32 miles west of Brigham City and I-15/84. From the interstate, get off at Exit 368 and head west on State Highway 13. When you reach Corinne in about 5 miles, take State Highway 83 west about 15 miles to Golden Spike Road; turn west and follow the signs to the site's Visitor Center.

The park's outside attractions are open year-round, but train demonstrations are held only from May 1 through Labor Day. The Visitor Center is open daily from May through Labor Day; closed Monday and Tuesday the rest of the year.

More to See

About 2 miles north of Golden Spike Road on Highway 83 is the Rocket Garden, an outdoor display of rocket engines on the ATK Thiokol Propulsion grounds. The company occasionally conducts dramatic engine tests that are viewable from the highway; typically held at 1 p.m. on Thursdays. To see if one is scheduled during your visit, call 1-435/863-4043.

The Brigham City Tabernacle, considered one of Utah's prettiest buildings, is one of several historic attractions in Brigham City. It's open for guided tours from June through September.

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