The Transcontinental Railroad: Celebrating Its 150th Anniversary

In celebration of the 150th anniversary of the connection of the first North American Transcontinental Railroad, the Southern Utah Museum of Art held a gallery talk explaining the Spike 150 exhibit.

 Led by Professor Ryan Paul who currently teaches history at SUU, the gallery talk was held at 4 p.m. and lasted about an hour. The group followed along as he moved throughout exhibits, explaining how the building and completion of the transcontinental railroad affected the state of Utah.

 “I became a professor based on a photograph,” Paul said, referencing the significance of the large picture found at the beginning of the exhibit. The picture was taken when the two railroads connected in the state of Utah.

 Not only was the event significantly informational regarding the building and completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, but it also contained objects from that era. These items included old pickle jars, pieces of rail, stakes and silverware from the laborers that built the railroad.

Because the religion in the state of Utah is predominantly that of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Paul also talked about Brigham Young (a former president of the church) and what he thought about the building of the railroad.

 Young not only believed that the railroad would be beneficial because it would bring more people to the state of Utah, but he also was excited because it would bring money into the state. 

 For members of the church that had just arrived in Utah, the building of the railroad proved to also provide jobs for them. As the railroad was completed, leftover supplies were used to connect cities in the state. 

 “We had this idea of what America should be, and that was a nation from coast to coast. The railroad completed this idea,” Paul said. 

 In addition to the exhibit found in SUMA, an event on Oct. 17 will continue to celebrate the anniversary. It will consist of a downtown mural unveiling and will be held at 4 p.m. at 98 W. Center St.

 For more information on the exhibit and the Week of “Spike 150,” click here.


Story and Photos by: Elizabeth Armstrong