Union Pacific trains

History Through Philately — On this day in 1869….

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

History Through Philately

 

Scott #922, Transcontinental Railroad 75th anniversaryOn this day in 1869, the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific railroads drove a ceremonial last spike into the tracks at Promontory, Utah, that connected their two railroads, making transcontinental railroad travel possible for the first time. Bye bye wagon trains!

The first mention of a “transcontinental railroad” was in 1832 but Congress did not provide funding to survey possible routes until 1853. A nation divided over slavery, though, could not come up with a route that made every happy.

Scott #993, Railroad Engineers of AmericaIn 1862, during the Civil War, Congress passed the Pacific Railroad Act, choosing Union Pacific and Central Pacific to build the transcontinental line. The Act would also guarantee public land grants and loans to the two railroads. Construction began in 1866 with Union Pacific building west from Omaha, Nebraska, and Central Pacific building east from Sacramento, California. The construction pace was furious due to the public land grant guarantees. The Central Pacific brought in thousands of Chinese laborers, resulting in several derogatory terms entering the public lexicon.

Scott #2265, Railroad Mail CarThe Union Pacific crews, main Civil War veterans of Irish descent, suffered through harsh winters, hot summers, and Indian raids. Central Pacific crews worked 12-hour days, sometimes 15, to get through the rugged Sierra Nevada mountains, losing whole crews to avalanches or explosive mishaps.

Interesting, the Union Pacific and Central Pacific workers finished laying nearly 2,000 miles of track ahead of schedule and under budget. Trips that took months by wagon train and weeks by boat now took just days by train.

The completion of the transcontinental railroad is given significant credit for the rapid growth and expansion of the United States in the ensuing years.

The ceremonial golden spike was driven into place by California Governor Leland Stanford. He is the same Leland Stanford that founded Stanford University, naming it after his son, Leland Stanford Junior, who died of typhoid at age 16. The official name of the University is Leland Stanford Junior University, providing fodder over the years to Stanford’s arch-rival, the University of California at Berkeley, whose students commonly refer to it as the “Junior University.”

My dad and granddad worked for the Missouri Pacific Railroad in Texas, but I became a Union Pacific fan while living in northern Utah from 1961-1965. I even had twin beagle pups one time that I named Union and Pacific.

Union Pacific trains

 

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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19 thoughts on “History Through Philately — On this day in 1869….

  1. Gayle Alstrom

    I collect stamps too, specializing in USA. My grandfather was a railway postal clerk. He traveled on a train with the mail, sorting it as the train zoomed along to Texas from Kansas.

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    1. Russel Ray Photos Post author

      I specialized in RPO history during the last phase of my philately collecting. I sold a huge collection at auction back in 1993 after I had moved from College Station, Texas, to San Diego. Now I just collect virtually. Much less expensive! lol

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  2. Roxie

    enjoying all the info, there’s a train museum within a day’s drive from me, fab place, I take friends when they come to town. Your posts are diverse and I’m hooked 🙂

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    1. Russel Ray Photos Post author

      I’ve been a Jack-of-all-Trades all my life, which has been both a detriment and an asset.

      Which train museum are you talking about? A day’s drive from you takes you throughten or so states! lol

      Unless there’s been a new one come about since 1995, I’ve been to all of them.

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      1. Roxie

        omg too funny…yeah one state away: NC, where do you think I am, ten states???
        hmmm, could be they added one, that surely was a lonnnng time ago, hehehe…hope you’re humor is on this a.m. 🙂

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        1. Russel Ray Photos Post author

          I think it was your LinkedIn profile that said you were in Charlotte, NC. A day’s drive could easily take you through ten states or so.

          I remember the first time I was “back East” after having been in Texas most of my life. A day’s drive in Texas is about 900 miles. When we drove 900 miles “back East,” yeah, we went through about ten states. We thought it was awesome!

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          1. Roxie

            hmm, you looked there? gosh…
            yes, that’s true a long day’s drive, I typically don’t take 900 mile jaunts, unless I need to rush somewhere. Yes, the states are closer together in the East, used to live in NM, so I’m way too familiar with the lonely state of TX.

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  3. WordsFallFromMyEyes

    Tell Zoey I agree she’s way cool & I agree with her approval of your post! 🙂

    You know, I clicked on your tab ‘philately’ only to find out if it was what I THOUGHT it was – & yes, it is stamps. You’re great how you go into the history of things… & particularly great that I wouldn’t normally read anything like this on a Saturday morning, cruising words – I would never have looked at such a thing, but for wordpress. This was very interesting – & I did collect stamps when I was younger, but only for a short while.

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    1. Russel Ray Photos Post author

      I’ll have another philately post coming up later today. They can get pretty complicated doing all the research so I don’t do them as often as I’d like. If I could find a way to make the posts shorter, which I might have found since I’m going to try it in the post later today.

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      1. WordsFallFromMyEyes

        How’s my timing then! That should be interesting. Will it be related to this one I just read, or completely a different angle? But you don’t need to answer – I will remember to come back this afternoon 🙂

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  4. Lada Ray

    Some awesome historic moments captured on these stamps, for sure. My father was an avid philatelist. Had a large collection and correspondents from all over the world. But of course, that was back in Russia. 🙂

    Just wanted to say, Russel. You have one of the most awesome blogs I’ve ever seen! Keep finding treasures here.

    Cheers!
    Lada

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