I have to admit that I keep forgetting what year it is. I work as a pharmacy technician and, as such, I have to keep an eye on expiration dates for the medications and if they expire in less than a year I have to change the expiration date on the label to match. Somehow, this ends up with me thinking that it’s a year ahead of when it really is. As a result, I may end up labeling some of these as being in 2017.
Anyway, back to the subject at hand. Alex has always loved vehicles. He now is into spacecraft and airplanes, but trains, cars, trucks, he’s really fond of them all. So when I was planning this trip and someone told me that the site where they drove in the golden spike that completed the transcontinental railroad was just north of Salt Lake City, I had to add it to our itinerary, even though it would slow us down by at least an hour. The original drive from Salt Lake City to Yellowstone was only about four and half hours, so what’s an additional hour between friends, right?
Well, first we made the stop at Great Salt Lake State Park, so that added another hour to the trip, so instead of the five and a half hours I was expecting, we ended up at six and a half hours. But I live in Texas, so spending six hours or so behind the wheel of a car in one day is nothing new. Although, admittedly, those six hours are usually a round trip and not just the outward trip.
So now we’re looking at a six and a half hour trip. But then as we’re heading out on route 83 on our way to Golden Spike, we pass a sign that says, “Rocket Display.” Alex wants to see it, and my first instinct is that it’s going to turn out to be some old man with random parts in a barn or something, but I agree to go, so long as it’s not too scary when we get there.
Turns out that “Rocket Display” is a rocket garden in front of the offices of Orbital ATK. Many of them were more missiles than rockets (and I tend toward the pacifist, so I was not terribly enthusiastic about that aspect of it), but Alex loved it and took at least one picture of everything in the garden. They did have the rocket booster from a space shuttle, which is really a challenge to photograph well, I’ll tell you.
After an hour (maybe longer), Alex and I were back on the road to Golden Spike National Historic Site. We got there around 3:00 p.m. and, if I’d been willing to hang around in the heat (or in the gift shop) for a full hour, we could have seen them put one of the replica engines in the shed.
The replica engines at Golden Spike National Historic Site, 2016
I kind of wish I’d gone to Golden Spike when things were slightly less, you know, hot so that we could have seen the engines move back into their shed. Despite what I was told about the desert feeling less hot because it’s a “dry heat,” it still felt like we were standing under a heat lamp out there to me.
Most schoolkids learn the story about the transcontinental railroad in school in the United States. The Union Pacific Railroad started construction from the Mississippi River heading west and the Central Pacific Railroad started construction from Sacramento heading east. When they met at Promontory, the heads of the two railroads held a big ceremony when a literal golden spike was driven into the track and into a tie made from laurel wood. Immediately after the spike was driven, by the way, they pulled both the spike and the tie out and replaced them with an ordinary spike and tie. The original golden spike is on display at Stanford University.
There were a number of things that were on display at the site that were interesting. Apparently when they changed from iron to steel rails, they changed the shape of the rail. There is a piece of what they claimed was the original rail from that section of the track on display there, despite most of the track having been sent to be recycled for the war effort during World War II. There is also a monument to the Chinese workers who built the railroad. And there are a number of historic photographs. I love historic photographs.
Most of the site seemed like it ought to be accessible to wheelchair users. There is a part of the site that is on the other side of the tracks, and there is a kind of ramp over the tracks. The other side is unpaved, however, and aside from a few interpretive signs, the only thing on that side is two wooden staircases that take one up to look inside the replica engines. I don’t recall them having any kind of ramp, however, so that part is probably not accessible.