To mark the 144th anniversary, The Golden Spike National Historic Site held a reenactment of the original celebration for visitors on Friday.
Angela Venable of Roy remembers coming to the annual reenactment as a little girl. "I was six years old the first time I came out," Angela explained. "My dad was a history teacher."
And apparently a little of Angela's dad rubbed off on her. This year, she brought her kids and grandkids. "My granddaughters need to know the history of what this great nation is. (The railroad) tied everything together in a way that was so significant. Such an advancement to cross the country!"
Her daughter, Regina Sagez agrees. "It's crazy to thing how times change -- about how different things are now."
Among those who come to the historical site, the question is inevitably asked, "Why here? Why not Salt Lake City. Why not an easier route across the salt flats?"
The answer to all those questions is... water. The route was selected because water was available.
Even though the engines burned coal and wood, they had to have lots of water. Their motive power came from steam. No water. No steam. No movement.
Ron Wilson operates one of the replica engines for the National Park Service. "It was all surveyed long before they came along with the track," said Wilson. "And one things they were surveying was water. Because: I can build a bridge, I can cut a tunnel, but I can't make water."
And so the tracks led to a remote area of Box Elder County. The locomotives met for that famous picture. And the nation changed. The world changed.
As for what happened to the golden spike, historians tell us that after it was gently tapped into a pre-drilled hole with a ceremonial silver maul, it was removed.
The spike, which was forged in San Francisco, is now on display at the Art Museum on the campus of Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.