Utah is a beautiful State, its just a shame that Salt Lake Valley itself has been spoiled by endless advertising billboards, freeways, and ill considered permissible development, not to mention all those fast food eateries peppered throughout the valley that I probably am guilty of dining too often. I sometimes wonder what it would have been like to discover Salt Lake Valley before such development was allowed to take place because with the mountains to the East and to the West it certainly has the potential to be a lot more beautiful than much of it has become.
However it is fairly easy to get a picture of what Salt Lake Valley might have looked like about 150 years ago. It just takes a 66 mile drive out of the city and away from the freeway.
The weekend before last we took such a trip by making a point of visiting the Golden Spike National Historic Site. The site of the Golden Spike is the place where the Union and Central Pacific railroads joined their rails to make the first US transcontinental railroad in 1869. Anyone who has ever watched a Western should know the importance of the railroads in the shaping of the development and migration in the US, but its here (and I'm sure at many other points on the way) that you get to see how the land of the US shaped the railroads.
I'm sure as a land surveyor of the time before the railroads were built the undeveloped lands of the US screamed not only beauty but that of potential.
For the owners of the Central Pacific and Union railroads though it was nothing much more than an obstacle for a nice reward for whoever was able to complete the first transcontinental railroad. For the people who built it, mainly army veterans and Irish immigrants who worked for the Union Pacific railroad company and the Chinese immigrants who worked for Central Pacific it probably looked like something close to hell on earth or at the very least an impossible feat.
Although I can admire the way that such men managed to reshape the land to suit the purposes of their paymasters I for one am glad I was amongst their number.
Especially so when the railway station at Promontory Summit lasted less than 4 decades before being dismantled. The track seen there today was only relaid in 1969 to mark the centennial anniversary in 1969 and is actually only 1 and half miles long. Its actually original purpose has long had its day in the sun.
A finer more fitting monument for the work of the men might have been to leave the original track in place and have a working railroad on the site that so many muscles and backs toiled to build.