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.