FOR THE "LAST SPIKE" CEREMONY
A Skit by Jeanmarie Alo, St. Raphael School, San Rafael, California
The date is May 10, 1869, and we are gathered here together at Promontory Summit, Utah to watch the "Last Spike" Ceremony celebrating the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad. Many important people have come from far away to witness this ceremony, including some of the people you know.
There are also people gathered together in New York, Washington DC, Chicago and San Francisco, waiting to hear that the last spike has been driven.
The weather was cold and cloudy this morning, but it has cleared up and we are ready to go.
I'm the telegraph operator. People are sending us messages from all over. So I send a message saying, "To Everybody. Keep quiet. When the last spike is driven at Promontory Point, we will say 'Done!'. Don't break the circuit, but watch for the signals of the blows of the hammer."
Now, before we go on, we have some speeches that need to be given. Our first speaker is the ghost of Theodore Judah, who had to be here at this important event.
My dream is finally realized. I worked so hard for this. It was my survey work that helped find the way through the Sierra Nevada so this railroad could be built. My work with the US Senate and Congress helped get the bill passed that made this possible. Now people won't have to travel by clipper ship around Cape Horn, or through the Isthmus of Panama, or even by wagon train. All of those were long and dangerous. Now we can get to from California to New York in 10 days!
Of course, if President Lincoln hadn't signed the Pacific Railroad Act, business men would not have done this.
Why I see President Lincoln (or his ghost rather) has also come to join this ceremony.
I signed the Pacific Railroad Act in 1862. This Act did 3 things which helped make it possible for this railroad to be built. These were:
1. Creating loans for the companies that would build the railroad. They would get $16,000 a mile when they built on flat land, $32,000 a mile when they built on sloping land, and $48,000 a mile for building in the mountains, like the Sierra Nevada.
2. The Act also gave 6400 acres of land to the railroad companies for every mile they built.
3. The Act created the two railroad companies, the Central Pacific and the Union Pacific.
I see some Central Pacific and Union Pacific workers would like to tell you about their work on the railroad.
CENTRAL PACIFIC WORKER 1
It was a tough job building the Central Pacific line. But the Big 4, Leland Stanford, Charles Crocker, Collis Huntington and Mark Hopkins were up to the job.
The hardest part was building through the Sierra Nevada mountains. There were huge avalanches and snow storms. We had to build 15 tunnels through solid granite. At first, we were only able to get through 8 inches a day. Then we got nitroglycerine and that helped us dig out up to 18 inches a day.
CENTRAL PACIFIC WORKER 2
Of course, we couldn't have done it without the Chinese workers. At first, Charlie Crocker did not want to hire them because they were only about 4 feet, 10 inches tall and weighed only about 120 lbs. But they turned out to be hard workers and were very dependable. The CP paid them about $30 a month in gold coin.
Once we got through the Sierra Nevada, the desert was really hot! But we were on a race to get to Ogden, Utah first. We even laid 10 miles of track in one day. That's a record that's never been beat. Altogether, we laid 690 miles.
And now, the Union Pacific would like to say something…..
UNION PACIFIC WORKER 1
We didn't get started as soon as the Central Pacific and we got off to a slow start. But then Thomas Durant, our Vice President, hired Grenville Dodge. Dodge had been a general in the Civil War and really knew how to get things done. He hired many new workers, most of them Irish and then we really started laying track!
We did have to solve some real resource problems though. For example, there weren't any trees in Nebraska we could use to build our railroad ties. We had to go up to the North Platte to get them. Then, when we got into the desert we had to haul water 50 miles to get drinks for the men.
UNION PACIFIC WORKER 2
We had other challenges too. When we got to the Great Plains we had many problems with some of the Indian tribes there. They didn't like how we took over their land and killed so many buffalo. To them, the buffalo were important for food, clothing and tools.
We managed to get through though and we've laid 1,086 miles of track to get where we are today– Promontory Summit.
Thank you CP and UP workers. Now we have two more important men who would like to make brief comments. May I introduce Grenville Dodge and Charles Crocker.
We are finally here! There were times I wondered if this could really happen, and there were times that I wanted to quit. But we've done it– and in half the time most people thought it could be done. I'd like to congratulate everyone!
I second that! Congratulations everyone! As the Construction Chiefs for our railroad companies, Charles Crocker and I were responsible for getting the railroad built. But we couldn't have done it without all the people who were involved and worked on the line. There were many different kinds of jobs and all of them were important to finishing this.
Thanks to both of you. But now it's time to let the people in the other cities know what is happening.
I'll send this message. "Almost ready. Hats off; Prayer is being offered."
THE REVEREND DR. TODD
Our Father and God, God of Creation and God of Providence, thou hast created the heavens and the earth. …… O Father, we desire to acknowledge thy handiwork in this great work, and ask thy blessing upon us here assembled, upon the rulers of our government and upon thy people everywhere; that peace may flow unto them as a gentle stream, and that this mighty enterprise may be unto us as the Atlantic of thy strength and the Pacific of thy love, through Jesus, the Redeemer, Amen.
Now the two Supervisors of Construction, Strobridge for the Central Pacific, and Reed for the Union Pacific, will bring up the last tie.
REED AND STROBRIDGE
This ceremonial tie is made of polished laurel wood and has a silver plaque in the middle of it, commemorating this great day. Let's put the tie in place. The Chinese will lay the last two rails.
We are honored to be chosen to lay the last two rails. (Pretend to put the rails down.)
I've sent this message. "We have done praying. The spike is about to be presented."
We understand. All are ready in the East.
This last spike was made to celebrate the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad. It is almost pure gold. On one side it lists the officers of the CP and on another side, the directors. Another side reads "The Pacific Railroad ground broken Jany 8, 1863 and completed May 8th 1869.
On the final side it has the words, "May God continue the unity of our Country as this Railroad unites the two great Oceans of the world."
I am giving this spike to Leland Stanford, President of the Central Pacific.
"All ready now. The spike will soon be driven. The signal will be three dots for the commencement of the blows."
Leland Stanford and Thomas Durant will drive the spike with a silver maul.
LELAND STANFORD AND THOMAS DURANT
(Come to the center and pretend to drive the spike.)
I'm sending a telegram to General Ulysses S. Grant, the President of the United States. The telegram reads: "Sir: We have the honor to report that the last rail is laid, the last spike is driven. The Pacific Railroad is finished."
Courtesy Jeanmarie Alo.
© 2003 CPRR.org