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Hikers highlight the unsung railroad heroes of Golden Spike

Jack Shu, of California, gives instructions to other hikers during their trek to commemorate the 150th anniversary of immigrant railroad workers building ten miles of track in one day at the Golden Spike National Historic Site in Corinne on Sunday, April 28, 2019. Photo: Silas Walker, Deseret News

CORINNE, Utah — Ahead of the 150th anniversary of the connection of the East and West at Promontory Summit, history enthusiasts are trying to raise awareness about the immigrant workers responsible for making the transcontinental railroad a reality.

This weekend, about 30 people hiked at Golden Spike National Historic Monument to commemorate the 150th anniversary of a different but related event: the day immigrant railroad workers laid 10 miles of track in a single day.

Chinese immigrants golden spike railroad

In this historic photo, Chinese workers use dump-carts to build a fill across a ravine while building the Transcontinental Railroad. Photo: National Park Service

Organizer Jack Shu wants people to appreciate the unsung heroes – mostly Chinese and Irish immigrants – who gave their lives to connect the railroads – and therefore the country. Many of the workers endured 10 to 12-hour shifts, six days a week, which doesn’t account for the sometimes dangerous conditions.

“[There were] two deaths for every three miles,” Shu said. “We need to bring that out in the history. That’s the cost of building the transcontinental railway.”

Shu said it’s only fitting to honor those immigrants as the Golden Spike monument prepares for its 150th birthday coming up in May.

“Change the focus to the people who made it happen. That celebrates immigrants, it celebrates workers and the contributions that workers can make to the building of the United States,” Shu said.

The “Spike 150” event marking the day the railroads connected 150 years ago will run from May 10 to May 12 at Promontory Summit near Corinne with different historical reenactments, demonstrations and performances. The National Park Service says parking passes for May 10 are sold out, but are still available for May 11 and May 12.