Like the starter in a sporting event, the locomotive that begins the game may not be the one at the finish. The two famous locomotives that touched cowcatchers at Promontory Summit, Utah, when the golden spike was driven, were both substitutes. Will Braddock will stand beside these famous substitutes when he appears in Golden Spike–The Iron Horse Chronicles, Book Three, in the not too distant future.
On May 6, 1869, Leland Stanford, former governor of California, and now the president of the Southern Pacific Railroad, departed Sacramento with a group of dignitaries to make the journey to Promontory Summit to participate in the celebrations surrounding the completion of the first transcontinental railroad. Stanford and his entourage were on board a special train following not too far behind the regularly scheduled passenger train. After crossing the Sierra Nevada Mountains, passing Donner Lake, and proceeding beyond the new town of Truckee, the special struck disaster. A Chinese woodcutting crew working the slopes above the Truckee River had not been informed of the pending passage of the special train. After they saw the regular train pass below them, they loosed a log down the slope that came to rest on the track. The special’s locomotive plowed into the log and was damaged. Fortunately, none of the passengers were injured, although one who had been brave enough to ride on the cowcatcher had to dive off to save his life. A telegram to the Wadsworth station, just beyond Reno, directed that the regular passenger train wait for the crippled special to catch up. There, CP’s Engine No. 60, Jupiter, was transferred from the regular train to Stanford’s special and proceeded to Utah and its place in history.
Meanwhile, Thomas “Doc” Durant, vice-president of the Union Pacific Railroad, was journeying westward in his luxurious Pullman palace car en route with his own group of dignitaries to join the festivities at Promontory Summit. On May 6, 1869, Durant’s train was held up at Piedmont, Wyoming, by a gang of three hundred angry workers demanding payment of back wages before they would allow his passage. Waiting for the transfer of funds from the east to meet the laborer’s demands, delayed Durant’s progress enough that the golden spike ceremony originally scheduled for May 8 had to be postponed until May 10. By the time Durant got back underway, a portion of the Devil’s Gate Bridge in Utah had been washed out by snowmelt and heavy rain, rendering the bridge unsafe. Durant was delayed again while bridge builders effected temporary repairs; however, it was decided the weight of a locomotive would be too much for the bridge. Durant’s special Pullman was pulled and pushed across the bridge by hand and attached to Union Pacific’s Locomotive #119. Now both railroad companies had replacement locomotives headed into destiny.