Document 12: UNION PACIFIC POSTER CELEBRATING THE GRAND OPENING OF
THE TRANSCONTINENTAL RAILROAD-1869*
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION:
1. The poster advertises travel from Omaha, Nebraska, to the West Coast in less than four days. Does
this seem fast when compared with what you know about Oregon -California emigrants who traveled
basically the same distance only a few years before? Does it seem fast when compared to automobile
travel today? to bus travel? to airplanes? How long do you suppose it takes to make the same trip on
2. What kinds of information would you need to know that is not found on this poster before deciding
whether to travel by rail or not?
3. Other than those people who were traveling to the West Coast, what other people were encouraged
to travel The Platte Valley Route? Where were these people heading?
Almost as soon as the final spike was driven connecting the Central Pacific with the Union
Pacific, trains began runningirom coast to coast, one running westboundirom Omaha and one
eastboundirom Sacramento, every day. A first-class ticket from the East Coast to Sacramento cost
$173. For two dollars extra per night you could get a sleeping car and for an additional four dollars
per day you could get accommodations on the ultra-luxurious Pacific Hotel Express, which featured
meals served on board.
Most passengers were not traveling coast to coast. Most were day-coach passengers going
relatively shortdistances. They were cowhands, hunters, scruffy miners off to strike it rich, farmers
after supplies, school teachers, or commercial travelers.
For most people, eating was an interesting experience traveling the rails. Rich, well-to-do
travelers had to get off the train at station stops and elbow their way into the eateries with the
day-coach passenger. Gradually, thefoodproblem was improved when the railroad companies
required standards of quality to be met.
Regardless of the difficulties of transcontinental railroad travel, the opportunity to ride coast
to coast in eight days was a major improvement over traveling by covered wagon or stagecoach.
*Railroad Company, Union Pacific, Subject File, American Heritage Center, University of
Document 13: FRONT PAGE OF LESLIE'S ILLUSTRATED JUNE 5, 1869*
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION:
1. How many women and children do you find in the drawings? Why are there so few? Why do you
suppose the women and children who are shown in the drawing are there? Who are they with?
2. What people who had a great deal to do with the building of the railroad are missing from the
drawings? Why did the artist choose to leave them out? Were the workers who did the actual
building of the railroad there? Were there particular groups of people who built the railroad who
were considered unimportant? Were they discriminated against? Why?
3. Why was the connecting of the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific railroads so important to the
country that photographers, newspaper reporters and artists, and important dignitaries came from
across the country to capture the moment?
At an unlikely place in the middle of desolate northern Utah, the Union Pacific and the
Central Pacific railroads joined tracks completing the transcontinental railroad. Because the
government gave the railroads twenty square miles of land and low interest loans based on each mile
of track laid, the construction companies worked as fast as possible, laying track faster and faster, to
acquire as much land and money as possible. This race brought them together at Promontory Point,
The newspaper drawings show the scene at Promontory Point, Utah, in the mid-afternoon of
May 10, 1869, as the crews were preparing for the ceremony that would link the nation permanently
together. The Central Pacific is to the right, and the Union Pacific tracks to the left. Notice the large
number of of ficial looking people gatheredfor the ceremony. That day, hundreds of spectators,
dignitaries, and officials of both companies celebrated the successful completion of the task with the
driving of the golden spike.
Leland Stanford, president of the Central Pacific, swung the maul and missed the spike. He
handed the maul to Thomas Durant, vice-president of the Union Pacific. He missed too, but the
telegraph operator had already coded the message, ~donei" The telegraph hook-up signaled
instantly both the west and the east coast the exact moment the lines joined. It was five minutes after
three p.m., New York time. May God continue the Unity of Our Country... " were the words inscribed
on the golden spike.
*Railroad Company, Union Pacific, Subject File, American Heritage Center,University of Wyoming,