Friday, December 19, 2008

The "Last Rail"

From: "Scott Neel"

Does anyone in this discussion group have documentation of what happened to the actual "last rail" laid at Promontory? The section at CSRM from the Central Pacific's last rail laid claims to be from the last rail laid by the CP, but wasn't the actual "last rail" laid by Union Pacific crews on the morning of May 10th. Does anyone know if either railroad recovered a piece of that rail, sectioned it, and issued souvenirs?

The attached three photographs form the basis for the question. The head, web, and height dimensions appear to match UP construction rail. The base has been altered long ago for an unknown reason.

Any help in determining or speculating on the authenticity of this would be very interesting.


unknown rail

unknown rail

unknown rail


Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Chris Graves"

The rail in the CSRM was donated by Norman Wilson, a friend of this writer for many years. He and I talked long and hard about CPRR relics, he is fellow that got me started collecting CPRR rail.

That being said, I clearly recall the discussions re: the slice of 56 lb rail that sits in the alcove of the CSRM. Norman said that it was found, not by him, but by a person not known to this writer, near the site of the Last Rail ceremony. Norman also said that the slice in the CSRM was cut from a bar that was some 3 or 4 feet long, and the remainder of the rail was "under the safe, in the Treasurers Office" of the SPRR in Ogden. That piece of rail was found in the 1950's, as I recall.

I spent some time, along with Chuck, who lives in Ogden, looking for the remaining 3-4 feet, we never found it. Should you have further interest, you, or anyone, for that matter, are most welcome to call me, phone 916 663 3742

—G J Chris Graves, Newcastle, Cal.

(Chuck Sweet and I have come to the conclusion that the rail in the CSRM is RIC 68, this by comparing our specimens to that one.)

12/19/2008 8:21 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...


I'll add the following:

Last Rails at Promontory

From Michael Johnson "Rendezvous at Promontory: A New Look at Golden Spike Ceremony," Utah Historical Quarterly, Winter 2004-v72-04, pg 58:

A Chinese crew leveled the gap between the rails shortly before eleven. Then a white crew of Union Pacific workers laid the rail on the north side of the gap, and a cleanly frocked Chinese crew laid the final rail for the Central.

Russell stereo 538 "Morning before Laying Last Rail [space left for the last rail at Promontory, Utah]" – shows the "gap" between the UP and CP tracks the morning before the ceremony and before the CP ties were laid in the gap.

Russell stereo 541 "Morning before laying of last rail" different view at same time as 538 above.

Russell stereo 542 "Getting ready for Laying Last Rail" – shows the "gap", including a Union Pacific rail lying on its side next to several "laid" rails. There is an open gap in rails on the Central Pacific side, although the sawn CP ties are in place and are distinct from the UP hewn ties.

Russell stereo 539 "Group of Chinese, Laying the Last Rail" this would certainly imply that the very last rail laid was a Central Pacific rail.

Hart stereo 356 "The Last Rail is Laid" I note both rails are not spiked on the last three CP ties, nor on the first UP tie (other UP ties not visible).

Savage stereo 66 "Jubilee at laying of last rail, Promontory Summit, Utah" shows the joint on the south rail was between the first and second UP (hewn) ties and did not have splice bars attached at the time of the photo.

—Kyle Wyatt

12/22/2008 2:37 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Chris Graves"

Further reflection on that rail currently resting in the CSRM reminds me that it was found in the 1940's by a SPRR work gang; someone in that group recognized the value of the relic they had unearthed while working in the vicinity of Promontory Summit, this per the many discussions with Friend Norman Wilson. Norman went on to relate that that piece of rail, 3 or 4 feet long, was deposited "under the safe in the Treasurers Office in Ogden." When I questioned that, Norman told me that the safe was on wheels, and had a space under it. Norman apparently saw it on one of his visits to Ogden, and persuaded someone to cut off a piece, that is the piece of CPRR rail now in the CSRM. Where the balance of that rail is, I don't know. Chuck Sweet and I spent some time looking for it, 10 or more years ago, without success. I do know that it is NOT under the safe, as neither Chuck nor I could find that wonder, either.


12/22/2008 5:06 PM  

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