Alas, It Was Not to Be

In my last post, I stated I would be in Ogden, Utah, to participate in the annual convention of the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society and attend the sesquicentennial celebration at the Golden Spike National Historic Site on May 10, 2019. Unfortunately, the night prior to my scheduled departure from home, I developed a high fever and wound up cancelling my trip. I spent the next several days battling a flu-type bug with antibiotics. I am now recovering nicely, thank you.

Such disappointing events make one appreciate other opportunities that were accomplished. I am sad I could not be at Promontory Summit this year to witness the reenactment of the completion of the first transcontinental railroad 150 years ago; but, happy to recall that I did attend the annual reenactment in 2014 of that momentous event. I have dozens of photographs to remind me of that wonderful trip.

2014 Reenactment of CP’s Jupiter meeting UP’s Engine 119 at Promontory Summit.

Brief national television news coverage this past Friday and Saturday indicated those who attended the sesquicentennial celebration on May 10, 2019, had great weather and enjoyed the proceedings.

I made my visit to the reenactment ceremonies on May 10, 2014, as part of my many research trips while writing about the most important engineering achievement of the nineteenth century in Golden Spike, The Iron Horse Chronicles–Book Three.

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On the Railroad 150 Years Ago: DONE

This blog post, describing the driving of the golden spike, is adapted from my article “Races Within A Race” that appeared in the April 2019 issue of Roundup Magazine.

Leland Stanford, president of  the Central Pacific, performed the honors on behalf of the railroad that had laid the tracks eastward from Sacramento, California. Thomas “Doc” Durant, vice president and general manager of the Union Pacific, represented the railroad that had laid tracks westward from Omaha, Nebraska. On May 10, 1869, hundreds of workers from both companies crowded around to witness the ceremonies. Speeches by various dignitaries commenced the proceedings. Twenty newspaper reporters produced differing stories because they could not get close enough to hear the speakers.

Reenactment of the driving of the Golden Spike at Promontory, May 10, 2014.

Finally, it was time for the big event. First Stanford then Durant gently touched the golden spike with a silver-plated maul, officially signaling the completion of the railroad. Then the precious spike was replaced with a regular iron one. Stanford was handed a sledgehammer connected by wire to a telegraph key to automatically send a signal when contact was made with the metal spike. Stanford swung and missed the spike. Durant took a turn and missed both spike and tie. The Western Union telegrapher manually tapped out the signal “done” to listeners around the world. The UP had laid 1,086 miles of track and the CP 690. The Pacific Railroad, finished seven years ahead of schedule, was complete at 1,776 miles.

The CP’s Jupiter meets the UP’s 119 during reenactment, May 10, 2014.

Union Pacific’s Engine No. 119 and Central Pacific’s locomotive Jupiter inched toward each other and touched cowcatchers. Whistles blew, and bells clanged. Two brass bands blared out martial music. The witnesses toasted one another with champagne. The dignitaries enjoyed a quick luncheon, then they hurried away in their private railcars in opposite directions. With the driving of the golden spike, Manifest Destiny became a reality. The Overland Trail that had required six months to traverse in a wagon could now be crossed in six days by train. The western lands that had been home to Native American tribes for centuries were rapidly taken from them by soldiers and settlers.

The sesquicentennial celebration of what many consider to be the greatest engineering achievement of the nineteenth century will be held at the Golden Spike National Historic Site at Promontory Summit, Utah, on May 10, 2019. I will be present as part of a contingent from the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society which is holding its annual convention in Ogden, Utah, May 8 to 11.

The photographs illustrating this blog post are from my visit to the Golden Spike National Historic Site on May 10, 2014, during the annual reenactment of the celebration of the completion of the first transcontinental railroad. You can read my fictionalized version of this significant historical event in Golden Spike, The Iron Horse Chronicles–Book Three.

Posted in Bear Claws - Book Two, Central Pacific, Eagle Talons - Book One, Geography, Golden Spike - Book Three, The Iron Horse Chronicles, Transcontinental Railroad, Union Pacific, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Roundup Magazine Articles

The April 2019 issue of Roundup Magazine contains two feature articles that I wrote in conjunction with the sesquicentennial celebration of the completion of the first transcontinental railroad. One article is entitled: “Races Within A Race: The building of the Transcontinental Railroad.” The other article is entitled: “Henry Morton Stanley and the West.” Also contained in this issue of the magazine is a book review I wrote on Across the Continent: The Union Pacific Photographs of Andrew J. Russell by Daniel Davis.

Roundup Magazine is the official publication of Western Writers of America. The magazine is published bi-monthly to “provide a forum on issues that pertain to Western literature, in general, and Western Writers of America and its members, in particular.” Subscriptions can be obtained for $40 per year from Western Writers of America, 271 CR 219, Encampment, WY 82325.

You can read my two articles from the April 2019 issue of Roundup Magazine at this link:

roundupapril2019articles

Posted in Bear Claws - Book Two, Book Review, Eagle Talons - Book One, Golden Spike - Book Three, The Iron Horse Chronicles, Transcontinental Railroad, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

On the Railroad 150 Years Ago

Newly elected President Ulysses S. Grant, on his inauguration day in March 1869, put a hold on the issuance of any more government bonds to help finance the Union Pacific Railroad and the Central Pacific Railroad until they agreed on a meeting place. This got the attention of the owners of the two railroads. Collis P. Huntington, the east coast representative of the CP’s “Big Four,” journeyed to Washington City on April 9. There, he met with Grenville M. Dodge, the UP’s chief engineer who had recently completed a term as a U. S. Congressman. These two men were designated by their respective companies to resolve the impasse.

Corinne, a Hell on Wheels town in Utah.

Both railroads were desirous of using Ogden, Utah, as the point where the railroads exchanged passengers and freight. However, in the race to see who could lay the most track, the UP had already moved 25 miles beyond Ogden. On April 7, a UP locomotive steamed across Bear River, near where it spilled into the Great Salt Lake, and established Corinne, Utah, one of the last Hell on Wheels towns. The CP was still laying track several miles west of the north shore of the Great Salt Lake—a long way from Ogden.

Huntington proposed that the CP purchase whatever track the UP laid between Ogden and the eventual meeting point. When Dodge initially refused, Huntington said the CP would therefore continue to lay track all the way into Ogden. Dodge relented, and the two men agreed to meet at or near Ogden. In a night session that same day, Congress passed a joint resolution specifying that the CP buy the UP’s tracks between Ogden and Promontory Summit, Utah, where “. . . the rails shall meet and connect and form one continuous line.”

Welcome Sign at Promontory Summit, Utah.

On April 10 the UP stopped grading west of Promontory Summit, and on April 15 the CP stopped grading east of the designated meeting location. The two railroads had graded past each other for 250 miles, and in five places their lines crossed each other. Now, until May 10, 1869. the final effort to lay rails to the agreed upon meeting point would consume both workforces.

I wrote about these events in Golden Spike, The Iron Horse Chronicles—Book Three.

Posted in Bear Claws - Book Two, Central Pacific, Eagle Talons - Book One, Geography, Golden Spike - Book Three, The Iron Horse Chronicles, Transcontinental Railroad, Union Pacific | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Henderson Libraries Sixth Annual Local Author Showcase

The Henderson Libraries Sixth Annual Local Author Showcase, held on Saturday, March 23, 2019, at the Paseo Verde Library in Henderson, Nevada, was a success for authors and patrons alike. I participated in the afternoon session and autographed copies of The Iron Horse Chronicles. As can be seen in this photo, I was positioned almost directly in front of the permanent exhibit the library maintains for local authors.

I extend my appreciation to the Henderson Libraries for including me in a well-planned and executed event.

Posted in Bear Claws - Book Two, Book Signing, Eagle Talons - Book One, Golden Spike - Book Three, The Iron Horse Chronicles, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

On the Railroad 150 Years Ago

Ulysses S. Grant

Ulysses S. Grant was inaugurated as the 18th President of the United States on March 4, 1869. His first executive order, released later that evening, directed the suspension of the issuance of further subsidy bonds to the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads. Government officials had become increasingly frustrated with the inefficiencies of construction, the increasing rumors of financial corruption, and the inability of the two railroads to name a point where their lines would join to complete the Pacific Railroad.

Collis P. Huntington

Cutting off the primary source of financing for the railroads got the attention of the CP’s “Big Four” and the UP’s senior management. Collis P. Huntington, headquartered in New York, but frequenting Washington for lobbying purposes, was naturally designated as the point man for the Central Pacific. Grenville M. Dodge had completed his single term as a U. S. Congressman from Iowa the day before Grant’s inauguration, but he remained in Washington City to be the lead negotiator for the Union Pacific. Huntington and Dodge commenced more serious discussions about a meeting point.

Grenville M. Dodge

On March 7, 1869, the Union Pacific engine Black Hawk steamed into Ogden, Utah, for the first time. The UP had beaten the CP to this coveted destination. But since March 7 was a Sunday, this Mormon community of 1,500 faithful inhabitants decided to postpone the celebration of the arrival of the iron horse until the next day, so that everyone could participate. In the meantime, on March 9, 1869, the Central Pacific’s tracks reached milepost 556 in eastern Nevada. The CP was a long way from Ogden.

I wrote about the first train into Ogden in Golden Spike, The Iron Horse Chronicles—Book Three.

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Farmer Robert

Today, on my 81st birthday, my wife, Barbara, decided she wanted to grow fresh lettuce on our patio in Nevada. I spent most of the day gathering pots, cuttings, soil, and fertilizer to make this dream come true.

Guess who is the designated farmer?

Posted in The Iron Horse Chronicles, Uncategorized | 11 Comments

Local Author Showcase

On March 23, 2019, I will participate in the 6th Annual Local Author Showcase sponsored by the Henderson Public Libraries. This outstanding event will take place at the Paseo Verde Library, 280 South Green Valley Parkway, Henderson, Nevada.

The entire program runs from 10:00 AM to 2:30 PM. Because there are so many fine authors in our community, the library will once again divide the participants into a morning and an afternoon group. I will be present from 1:00 PM to 2:30 PM when I will autograph all three books in The Iron Horse Chronicles. This year I can offer all three books with award-winning stickers for the Will Rogers Medallion Awards they have received; plus, the first place in fiction award sticker from The Wyoming State Historical Society for Bear Claws.

Please stop by, say hello, and buy some books from the local authors (including me, of course). This will be the fourth time I have been invited to participate in this event.

Posted in Bear Claws - Book Two, Book Signing, Eagle Talons - Book One, Golden Spike - Book Three, The Iron Horse Chronicles, Transcontinental Railroad, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

On the Railroad 150 Years Ago

In February 1869, both the Union Pacific Railroad and the Central Pacific Railroad were stymied in their race to be first to Ogden, Utah, by fierce snowstorms.

In Wyoming, the Union Pacific’s 90-mile line between Rawlins Springs and Laramie was shut down for three weeks. Two hundred eastbound passengers on their way to Washington, D. C., for the upcoming presidential inauguration of Ulysses S. Grant were stranded. Dan Casement, of the Union Pacific’s Casement brothers’ tracklaying company, reported 25-feet-deep cuts entirely filled with snow. UP’s Engine 112 attempted to plow a path through the deep snow but overstrained its boiler and blew up. The engineer, fireman, and conductor were killed.

The Central Pacific faced similar delays with snowstorms in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. This hampered getting rails and equipment to James Strobridge’s tracklaying efforts east of Wells, Nevada. By mid-February, the CP was farther from its hoped-for destination of Ogden than was the UP, which then was just 20 miles east of that city. On the last day of this leap-year month, the CP had pressed 40 miles beyond Humboldt Wells, Nevada, getting close to the Utah border. By months-end, the UP had reached Uintah, Utah, at the mouth of Weber Canyon, less than 10 miles from Ogden.

No official meeting place for the two railroads had yet been agreed upon.

I wrote about the snow delays in Golden Spike, The Iron Horse Chronicles–Book Three.

Posted in Bear Claws - Book Two, Central Pacific, Eagle Talons - Book One, Geography, Golden Spike - Book Three, The Iron Horse Chronicles, Transcontinental Railroad, Union Pacific | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The “Shrine”

My sister, Suzanne Fisher, of Farmington, New Mexico, recently presented me with a framed photograph taken by Philip Boden, of Durango, Colorado, entitled “Baldwin-K36 Class Steam Locomotive.” This photo is of Engine 486 working on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. My sister and her late husband, Gary Fisher, treated my wife, Barbara, and me to that thrilling trip on the DSNG up the beautiful Animas Canyon in southwestern Colorado when I retired in 2003. That was a few years before I embarked on writing The Iron Horse Chronicles, my trilogy set at the time of building the first transcontinental railroad. Although the DSNG is not part of the transcontinental railroad, memories from that personal journey inspired several scenes when I wrote about Will Braddock pursuing his quest to determine his own destiny.

Sister Suzy’s photo gift now hangs on the wall above what my wife calls the “shrine.” Barbara conceived of this way of showcasing Eagle Talons, Bear Claws, and Golden Spike in our home. Each of the books is displayed along with its particular Will Rogers Medallion Award, and in the case of Bear Claws the certificate designating it as First Place in Fiction from the Wyoming State Historical Society.

Thank you Suzy and Barbara.

Posted in Bear Claws - Book Two, Book Awards, Eagle Talons - Book One, Golden Spike - Book Three, Iron Horse Chronicles' Characters, The Iron Horse Chronicles, Transcontinental Railroad, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments