Passing the same small brown, historical sign year after year on our way down to Moab, Utah finally proved to be one time too many. This year, it sucked us in. ‘Golden Spike National Monument’ it said.
If you don’t know what the Golden Spike is, you’re not alone. Devon didn’t know what it was until I explained it. The Golden Spike is a ceremonial spike driven into the Transcontinental Railroad commemorating its completion in 1869. This final spike joined the Central Pacific Railroad and the Union Pacific Railroad and with it, East and West.
The closest city to the monument is Brigham City, about 35 miles away. Located at Promontory Summit, north of Great Salt Lake in Utah, the Golden Spike Monument is seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Driving down a paved, rural road, we found ourselves surrounded by endless miles of desert. The 30 mile drive to the monument seems to last forever. On our way there, we came across an aerospace plant, with missiles and rockets on display for all to see. It was quite an impressive sight. Its not every day you run into NASA stuff in the middle of the desert. We made a note of this and drove past it towards the Golden Spike.
After taking a turn and driving up and around a bit of an incline, we found ourselves looking at a replica train, motoring on down the track. We pulled into the parking lot and made our way into the visitor’s centre. The centre, itself, was chock full of knick knacks, toys, books, t-shirts & souvenirs. They had a movie about the spike, playing every five minutes. I was particularly taken with the little park ranger outfits and conductor hats for our nieces and nephew. After browsing around for a bit, we headed out back, to the site where to spike was.
There were two replica trains running back and forth on the tracks, the Jupiter and the 119. They perform a reenactment of the meeting at the Golden Spike. These were historically accurate and operated the exact same way they would have been back in the late 1800s. There were two guides, one with a microphone, explaining about the trains and their operation. Watching a piece of history in action is something else. After the train demonstration, I asked the guide about the spike itself and I was surprised with the response. The spike wasn’t there.
Finding this out was pretty anticlimactic, since the spike was the whole reason for us stopping in the first place. As it turns out, the Golden Spike now lies in the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University. Way back in May of 1869, the final spike was laid by Leland Stanford. After the ceremony, the Golden Spike was donated to the Stanford Museum (now Cantor Arts Center) in 1898. There was simply no way for us to know this when we got to the monument. In actuality, if you want to see the Golden Spike, you have to go to Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. Nevertheless, the monument and gift shop were pretty cool. It was a nice diversion from the desert heat.
Back on the road, we drove towards the highway and remembered to stop and check out the rockets and missiles. These too, were very cool. There were several different types of missiles and varying sizes. It was an impressive array of aerospace engineering. We left our names in the visitor’s book along with a crude “that’s what she said” joke from Devon and got back on the road to Moab.
When we drive past the little brown historical sign next year, we’ll smile and know that while it’s a cool place to stop and check out, that’s not where the Golden Spike lies.
I hope this doesn’t deter you from checking it out for yourself. There is definite historical significance there and the trains are super cool. Plus the replica spike is there and has been in SPACE!!!! If you find yourself driving along highway 84 in Utah, be sure and stop at the Golden Spike National Monument.