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Governor Herbert announces ‘copper spike’ celebrating historic railroad milestone

A scene at the Golden Spike ceremony photographed May 10, 1869 at Promontory Summit in Box Elder County. Southern Pacific photo X1071 from an original photograph owned by the Iowa Historical and Art Department. Deseret News Archives

SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert says it’s about time Utah gets its own “golden” spike to help recognize the Beehive state’s role in the joining of the transcontinental railroads from the east to the west. Wednesday, he signed a bill that made a commemorative 10-ounce copper spike Utah’s official spike.

copper spike transcontinental railroad

Gov. Herbert poses with the copper spike commissioned to celebrate Utah’s role in the joining of east and west with the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869. Photo: Carter Williams,

“We are the epicenter of where it joined together at Promontory Summit.  They drove the golden spike in Utah. We’ve had four of them that have been done; two from California, one each from Arizona and Nevada, but not one from Utah.  So it’s about time we had our own spike as we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the driving of the golden spike. There’s no better time than to do it now and we thank those who helped make that happen,” noted Herbert in remarks made on Wednesday.

copper spike transcontinental railroad

An image of the Utah copper spike during an unveiling event at O.C. Tanner Jewelry in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, May 8, 2019. Gov. Gary Herbert signed a bill to designate the spike as Utah’s official spike for the transcontinental railroad. Photo: Carter Williams,

The spike was made out of Utah copper, designed by noted jeweler O.C. Tanner.  It’s a commemorative 150th-anniversary spike to be put on display, and will stay in Utah.

“This spike represents Utah and the significant role we played here in the joining of the transcontinental railroads from the east and the west at Promontory Summit.  I think we forget the magnitude and significance of this event.  We know about it from the history books, but it joined the country together in times of significant divisiveness.  We were in the middle of a civil war,” Herbert said.

The governor says the significance of copper represents one of Utah’s biggest contributions to the U.S. The state is home to one of the world’s largest open pit copper mines.

He says trains have always played a very important role in transportation in Utah, past, present and future.

The 150th anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad is Friday with celebrations planned throughout the state and even the nation.

Golden Spike stamps

The U.S. Postal Service will put its stamps of approval on the 150th anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad by issuing three new Forever Stamps featuring the Jupiter and No. 119 locomotives and the golden spike. Source: U.S. Postal Service

On May 10, 1869, just four years after the end of the Civil War, the first Transcontinental Railroad was officially completed at Promontory, Utah. At the ceremony, four ceremonial spikes — two gold, one silver and one blended from iron, silver and gold — were ceremoniously driven into the railway ties, joining the Central Pacific Railroad and the Union Pacific Railroad.

The last of the four, made of 17.6 karat gold and engraved with the names of railroad officers and directors, was gently tapped into place for show, then removed to be kept for posterity. (It is currently in the hands of the Cantor Arts Museum at Stanford University.) The event was one of the first “nationwide” news events, as a telegraph operator flashed the word “done” across the country when the final tap happened.

Thursday, the “Big Boy” and “Engine 844” will re-enact the historic moment in Ogden. Then on Friday, more ceremonial re-enactments and celebrations will take place at Golden Spike National Historic Monument, near present-day Corinne.