The joining of the rails at Promontory Summit on May 10, 1869, marked the beginning of a new era for the nation, the West, and for Utah. These resources for teaching the Transcontinental Railroad explore this rich history and the many ways the railroad transformed life in Utah.
Lesson Plans General Resources Places to Visit Videos
The Great Race to Promontory
An interactive website illustrating the journey through 46 communities profoundly impacted by the railroad.
The Transcontinental Rail Network, 1878
Using a general map of U.S. railroads in 1878, students examine the geographic, political, and economic factors that influenced the growth of this network. (Grades K-12)
Transcontinental Telegraph and Railroad
and Grades 6-8
Lessons, activities and resources to help students discover the engineering triumphs that propelled westward expansion.
Reasons for Westward Expansion
Students will examine a variety of documents that reference reasons why Americans living in the East migrated west of the Mississippi immediately before, during, and right after the Civil War. Documents cover the mining industry, new inventions used on the Plains, the growth of the railroad, the Homestead Act, and the Cattle Kingdom.
The Settlement of the American West
Students will analyze primary sources with an eye for cause-and-effect relationships.They will identify the roles of government policy and technological improvements in the settlement of the West, and explain their impact on Native Americans.
The Impact of Westward Expansion on Native American Communities
In this activity, students will examine the impact of westward expansion and settlement on Native American communities following the Civil War. Students will explore a variety of documents to get a sense of the issues faced by Native Americans due to settlement and U.S. Government Indian policy.
What Else Was Happening During the Civil War Era?
In this activity, students will explore changes that occurred in the United States in the greater context of the Civil War era. Students will gain an understanding of the simultaneous nature of these events and the multifaceted nature of American government during wartime.
Transcontinental Railroad Story Map
Created by the Utah Division of State History Antiquities program, this story map offers historical context on how the construction of the railroad was such a watershed event for Utah and the American West. Produced in partnership with Spike150.
Gilder Lehrman History Now
This issue of History Now is devoted to the impact of this most famous moment in American rail history: the joining of the East and the West by the transcontinental railroad. Gilder Lehrman proves lesson plans and images. Some materials require signing up for a free account.
Spike 150 is an initiative of Utah’s Transcontinental Railroad 150th Celebration Commission. The Utah State Legislature and Governor Gary Herbert established the Commission in 2017.
Article: Golden Spike National Historic Site
This Utah History To Go
article provides many details about Promontory, the location where the transcontinental railroad was completed. (Utah History to Go is a Division of State History product.)
The Rise of Utah’s Railroads, 1869-1920
The completion of the transcontinental railroad marked the dawn of Utah's rail age. This map from the Utah Division of State History illustrates the growth of Utah's railroads.
Westward Expansion, 1860–1890
This interactive map allows you to explore several ways in which the United States experienced substantial growth between the years 1860–1890.
Article: Railroads in Utah
This article from the Utah History Encyclopedia describes the impact that all rail lines, not just the Transcontinental Line, had on Utah.
SPICE Lessons on the Chinese Workers
The Stanford Program on International and Cross-Cultural Education (SPICE), using research and findings from the Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project at Stanford University, has created lessons for high school students.
Places to Visit
Utah State Railroad Museum
In 1988 the State of Utah designated the Union Station in Ogden, Utah as the Utah State Railroad Museum to handle railroad artifacts.
Western Mining and Railroad Museum
This museum is located in Helper, Utah, which got its name because of the engines required to help the trains climb the steep grades to Soldier Summit.
National Historic Site
Visit this historic site to view locomotive demonstrations and reenactments of the driving of the last spike ceremony. The website has good information too.
A World Transformed Exhibition
Visit the large exhibition starting January 2019 at any of it's four locations. A digital format, located at exhibits.usu.edu has lessons plans. You can also book a small version to visit your school.
A Peoples' History of Utah: Tying of the Transcontinental Rails
A Peoples' History of Utah: The Coming of the Railroad
is a documentary by Ken Verdoia that answered the question, "Why wasn't Brigham Young at Promontory on May 10, 1869?" The program was first broadcast on KUED, Channel 7, in May 2002.