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Costumed actors, replica steam engines mark anniversary of Utah’s famous golden spike

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Posted at 6:04 PM, May 10, 2015
and last updated 2015-05-10 20:04:26-04

PROMONTORY, Utah - Sunday was the 146th anniversary of the Golden Spike Ceremony in Utah, which marked the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, and an annual reenactment took place at the Golden Spike National Historic Site in Promontory to mark the occasion.

Margaret Yee's great-grandfathers were Chinese railroad workers, some of the thousands of people from Asia and Europe who helped build the railroad.

"We are really proud of them," she said of her ancestors. "Because of them, we have the freedom to come to the United States and we have lots of [opportunities] here that we didn't have before."

The golden spike was driven in on May 10, 1869.

"Chinese workers alone, there were 11,000, probably just as many if not more Irish; you also had a huge influx of veterans from the civil war," said David Kilton from the Golden Spike National Historic Site.

Dressed in costume and playing the part, actors reenacted the moment the golden spike was driven into the site where the two railroads met.

"Utah was still a territory at the time," Kilton said. "And once those workers brought in the railroads, it was just a huge boom for commerce and trade, not only here in Utah but spreading out all across the country."

The annual event attracts thousands of visitors. The actors do it every year on May 10, regardless of the weather. Actor Boyd Young said he's been doing it for 30 years.

"It's just fun, Boyd said. "The trains are beautiful to come look at and see. It's just enjoyable."

The two steam locomotives--the Jupiter and No. 119--are replicas of the original locomotives that met on the tracks in 1869.

"Pretty amazing replicas, though," he said. "They took old black and white photos of the originals using measurements at 800-scale drawings and built these within a quarter of an inch of the originals."

The golden spike was driven in at exactly 12:20 p.m., so that is when the reenactment took place. Residents from Box Elder County and across Utah drove to Promontory to attend the event.