Trains built America. Oh sure, today they don’t seem nearly as important even though they haul more freight than any other cargo container other than a ship. We forget about them and get annoyed when we have to wait at a train crossing but we owe an entire country to them. Today was created by the National Railroad Passenger Corporation in 2008 so that we would remember. The date is the closest Saturday to May 10th when the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific officially met at Promontory Summit, Utah completing the Transcontinental Railroad on May 9th, 1869. Oddly, or perhaps on purpose, it was exactly 1,776 miles long.
How to celebrate – Take a train ride. Read about the history of trains. Build a model train diorama.
Today we celebrate the final connection of the Union Pacific Railroad with the Central Pacific Railroad combining 1,776 miles of rails at Promontory Summit, Utah. The rail roads connect in 1869, actually finishing work on May 9th but not celebrating it until May 11th. It brought the Eastern United States in direct contact with the Western United States and saved hundreds of hours of travel time to get from one coast to the next. Today we don’t see that as such a big deal, with airplanes in play the option to use a train becomes less and less appealing. Still, if you want to see the country and experience some of what the early settles saw, the train is the only way to go. The day was created by the National Railroad Passenger Corp. in 2008 hoping to inspire more train travel and to honor the accomplishments of those in the past.
How to celebrate – Ride a train. Plan a trip on a train. Read about how the train help form the United States.
Talk about a strange day… not the theme but the dating! 2017 shows the day as May 12th but it also says it’s the Saturday closest to May 10th, which this year is May 13th, and what the heck does May 10th have to do with it!?! Supposedly it has something to do with the uniting of the Central Pacific and Union Pacific but that fell on May 9th.
I think the one thing we can all agree on is that trains have made America what it is today. Without the train the westward expansion might have still happened but it would have been slower. The Civil War might have still been won by the Union but it would have taken longer. And the Great Depression probably would have ended at some point but not as soon as it did.
And still, we have primarily forgotten about the train. We fly planes, take the buss and drive ourselves where ever we want to go. And yes, some of that is due to the train companies that charge an arm and a leg for poor service, poorer destinations and restriction on our comfort. But it wasn’t always this way. It use to have some of the best food available, entertainment and arrived in daylight at respectable places.
With the invent of high speed trains perhaps things will change in the future. Just like the people depending on the trains in the mid-1800’s to transport them west, we are waiting for trains to answer the needs we as customers have. Or maybe if we needed them a little more then things would change. At least the people at the National Railroad Passengers Corporation who created today hope it will.
How to celebrate – Take a trip on a train (Maybe a short trip). Study the history of trains. Just sit by railroad tracks and watch the trains go by.