Central Pacific Railroad Photographic History Museum
Out of curiousity, who won the race to Promontory Point – Central Pacific
or Union Pacific?
—Jennifer Meadows, Sam Houston State University
posted from CPRR Discussion Group at 10:11 PM
From: "John Snyder" firstname.lastname@example.orgNo one — they met at Promontory Summit!—John Snyder
For the distinction between Promontory Point and Promontory Summit, see the Promontory FAQ.(Don't feel bad about this error – many of the newspaper reporters in 1869 made the same mistake!)
From: KyleWyatt@aol.comI suppose it all depends on how you count it. The Union Pacific was the first to actually lay track at Promontory, by hauling supplies ahead of their rail head. Central Pacific was the first to complete their line to Promontory. But Union Pacific got the jump on Central Pacific in laying the yard tracks for the eventual interchange. But it had already been decided that the final junction would be in Ogden, so both companies knew Promontory was only temporary as a terminal.By the way, technically the place is Promontory Summit, or just Promontory. Promontory Point is actually some miles south down the Promontory Peninsula, and wasn't reached by rails until the Lucin Cutoff was built across the Great Salt Lake about 1904.—Kyle Wyatt
From: "Wendell Huffman" email@example.comI would make the point that the "transcontinental railroad race" was initially not to any particular geographic point but rather a "race" to build as much track as possible since the reward (land grants, access to federal loans, and proportion of future revenue derived from commerce) was all based on mileage. In that sense the Union Pacific "won," with 1085 miles from Omaha to Promontory as compared to the combined Central Pacific-Western Pacific (1st) mileage of 823 miles from Alameda Wharf to Promontory. Just as important was the race for a connection with the Mormon settlements in the Salt Lake Valley, which was effectively a draw; and for possession of Rocky Mountain coal fields, which the Union Pacific won.Huntington's great fear was that the Union Pacific would not connect with the CP at all, or if they did that they would eventually build a competiting railroad to the Pacific Coast. This they eventually did in the form of their connection between Ogden and Portland and between Ogden and San Pedro. The final fulfillment of Huntington's fear was when the UP acquired the Western Pacific (2nd) and gained access to central California. All of this was made easier because the Union Pacific had initially made it into the Salt Lake Valley.—Wendell Huffman
See the related FAQ.
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