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Transcontinental Railroad

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

Lesson Plans

The Great Race to Promontory
An interactive website illustrating the journey through 46 communities profoundly impacted by the railroad.
PBS: The Transcontinental Railroad
This lesson plan has students assess the need for a transcontinental railroad in the 1860's. (Grades 6-12)
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
Grades K-5 and Grades 6-8
Lessons, activities and resources to help students discover the engineering triumphs that propelled westward expansion.

General Resources

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
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.
The Great Race to Promontory
Union Pacific railroad presents The 150th Anniversary of Driving the Golden Spike at Promontory Summit, Utah.
Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project at Stanford University
The Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project seeks to give a voice to the Chinese migrants whose labor on the Transcontinental Railroad helped to shape the physical and social landscape of the American West.
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.)
Central Pacific Railroad Photographic History Museum
This feature from the Central Pacific Railroad Photographic History Museum includes history, exhibits, and photographs.
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.
Golden Spike 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.

Videos

A Peoples' History of Utah: Tying of the Transcontinental Rails
46 seconds
A Peoples' History of Utah: The Coming of the Railroad
30 minutes

 

 

KUED Promontory

Promontory 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. (57 minutes)