Pacific Transcontinental RR Grade
Caution! Only adventurous travelers can
follow this historic route of the first transcontinental railroad. The
90-mile route winds through remnants of railroad camps, towns, and
trestles. There are interpretive signs at points of interest, as well as
the visitor center and museum at Golden Spike National Historic Site. You
should carry plenty of water and be prepared for rough roads in a remote
The railroad grade represents an epic
achievement in American history, linking east to. West in the new nation.
Today, the landscape looks much the same as it did in 1869, but the rails,
the towns, and even the lonely rail sidings are gone. Now the visitor can
only imagine the vision an effort of those who struggled to build the
nation's first transcontinental railroad.
The Central Pacific railroad began laying
track east from Sacramento in 1863. After tackling the rugged terrain of
the Sierra Nevada Mountains and crossing the Great Basin, the railroad
reached Utah in March 1869. The Byway follows the last 90 miles of grade
laid by the Central pacific before their rails met the Union Pacific's at
As you travel west from Golden Spike
National Historic Site, you can see two parallel grades. In an effort to
reap greater government subsidies, the two competing railroads laid grade
along side each other for over 200 miles.
On April 28, 1869, the Central pacific
crews laid 10 miles of track in one day, a record which resulted from a
bet between the two railroads. The Central Pacific crews rested at Camp
Victory (Rozel), just west of the back country byway information site.
Nine of every ten men who built the Central
Pacific Railroad were Chinese. Renowned for their reliability and
industrious work ethic, they labored into Utah ten thousand strong with
little more than picks, shovels, and black powder. Subsisting on tea,
rice, and dried vegetables from China, they lived in segregated quarters
in camps such as Lucin and Terrace.
After the rails were joined on May 10,
1869, the new railroad had to be operated and maintained. Along the
Promontory Branch, 28 sidings, stations, and associated towns were built
to service up to ten trains a day. From Kelton, with a population of about
700, a major stagecoach line and mail and freight route supplied Idaho,
Oregon, and the Intermountain North. Terrace, with nearly 1,000 residents,
was the largest community and served as the maintenance headquarters for
the Salt Lake Division. The town included a roundhouse, a machine shop,
and an eight-track switch yard, along with hotels, a saloon/justice of the
peace, a library/bathhouse, and many other thriving businesses.
The Promontory Branch of the railroad was
replaced in 1904 by the Lucin Cutoff, a shorter route built on pilings
across the Great Salt Lake. The original grade saw only local use
afterwards, and railroad facilities and dependent towns were soon
abandoned. The rails were removed in 1942 for use in the war effort.
Today cattle graze where once thousands
labored to open the West to industry and commerce. The Transcontinental
Railroad Back Country Byway is interpreted at over 30 sites along the
grade. Enjoy the past as you travel this route on your public lands.
The Transcontinental Railroad National Back
Country Byway is administered by the Bureau of Land Management for public
use and enjoyment. Due to its unique history and scenic beauty, the
Transcontinental Railroad Grade is a designated Area of Critical
Environmental Concern and is listed on the National Register of Historic
Enjoy but do not destroy America's
heritage. Cultural resources are fragile, irreplaceable, and protected by
Digging or disturbing sites is illegal.
The Archaeological Resources Protection Act
provides penalties up to $250,000 and 5 years imprisonment for violators.
Help Prevent vandalism
Notify the Box Elder County Sheriff ((435)
734-9441) or the BLM (1-800-722-3998) if you see someone violating the
law. Make a note of physical descriptions and license plate numbers.
Off-highway vehicle use is limited to the
Byway corridor and other existing roads. Driving even one vehicle over the
side of the grade and on untouched terrain can leave a scar that will last
Respect adjacent private lands.
Chasing or harassing wildlife or livestock
Camping is permitted on BLM lands.
DO NOT LITTER! Pack it in, pack it out.
Use firepans to contain campfires.
Facilities and Services
There are no facilities or services on the
Transcontinental Railroad Back Country Byway. Make sure you have plenty of
gas and water.
Gas and services are available in Snowville,
Tremonton, Corinne, or Brigham city to the east and Wendover to the west.
Limited fuel services are available in park Valley to the north and
Montello to the west.
For additional information contact Bureau
of Land Management, Salt Lake Office, 2370 South 2300 West, Salt Lake
City, Utah 84119, (801) 977-4300.
Information Provided By The Utah