Just four years after the war that nearly tore the nation apart, the fledgling railroad industry helped bind it together again. On May 10, 1869, at Promontory Summit, Utah Territory, with the gentle tapping of four precious metal spikes into a laurelwood tie, the first transcontinental railroad was completed. Perhaps in reference to the Civil War, the official Golden Spike was engraved, “May God continue the unity of our country as the railroad unites the two great Oceans of the world.”
After workmen replaced the ceremonial spikes and tie with real ones, a Western Union telegrapher flashed the news to a waiting nation: “D-O-N-E.” With this culmination of one of the greatest engineering feats in history, life in the United States changed dramatically. All of a sudden, moving west to start a farm or business became a realistic goal for hundreds of thousands more citizens and new immigrants. In a short time, shipping agricultural and factory products to faraway customers would become commonplace.
The two engines that touched noses that bright May Monday — depicted in the famous “Champagne Photo” — were both 4-4-0’s, a wheel arrangement celebrated in Currier & Ives prints and so prevalent on U.S. railroads that it was called the American. The steam locomotive was still a bold new technology at the time, and the vivid, colorful paint schemes worn by both engines were commonplace. Arriving from the west was Jupiter, pulling a train of dignitaries led by Central Pacific Railroad President Leland Stanford. Jupiter had not been Stanford’s first choice to pull his special, but an accident en route had damaged Antelope, the original power assigned to the train. Like its stable mates Storm, Whirlwind and Leviathan, Jupiter was an 1868 product of the Schenectady Locomotive Works of New York. Like all CP power, they had traveled by ship around Cape Horn to San Francisco and then been barged upriver to Central Pacific rails in Sacramento.
Arriving from the east by a much less circuitous route was No. 119 of the Union Pacific Railroad with its own train of dignitaries. Built in 1868 by the Rogers Locomotive and Machine Works of Paterson, New Jersey, No. 119 was, like Jupiter, an understudy taking the place of an incapacitated engine and achieving an accidental place in history. But while the ceremonial spikes were preserved for posterity, no one thought to save the locomotives. Both Jupiter and No. 119 went back to their normal jobs, served faithfully for decades, and were eventually scrapped in the early 1900s. On May 10, 1979, however, 110 years to the day after the original Golden Spike ceremony, the National Park Service welcomed accurate reproductions of Jupiter and No. 119 to the Golden Spike National Historic Site, where they reenact the joining of the two great Oceans for park visitors to this day.
For 2019, the 150th anniversary of the Golden Spike ceremony, we present our RailKing models of these historic 4-4-0’s, decorated as they appeared in their finest hour and ready to help you reenact the Champagne Photo on your own layout. Equipped with Proto-Sound 3.0, they epitomize an era when railroads were the most luxurious form of land transportation known to man — and feature synchronized puffing smoke, LED lighting, smooth operation from a crawl to full throttle, and a full complement of digital sounds including crew talk and passenger station arrival and departure announcements.