Route of the First Transcontinental Railroad - Chapter Field Trip
Near Grantsville, Utah to Golden Spike National Historic Site at Promontory Point, Utah
October 18, 1997
We gathered not far from Grantsville, Utah (sometimes known at the beginning of the trails era and before Mormon settlement as Twenty Wells or Hastings Wells), about 25 miles west of Salt Lake City and crossed the great salt desert to the west on Interstate 80 in a little over an hour. Emigrants and argonauts on what became known as the Hastings Road typically spent two or more days of forced march often travelling day and night to cross this waterless landscape. Wagons were abandoned and animals lost on the treacherous flats. Human deaths were reported.
The field trip began with visits to traces along the Utah-Nevada border of a route pioneered by the Bidwell-Bartelson party of 1841 and later traveled by both famous and forgotten users of the Hastings Cutoff west of the great salt desert.
The highlight of the field trip was driving over 90 miles of the original 1869 Transcontinental Railroad grade and visiting historic sites along the way. Though the completion of the railroad officially ended the pioneer era and the necessity of travelling the old emigrant roads to the West, the historic and well-preserved railbed is a must-see for trail buffs.
Our approximate route on the off-highway portion of the trip is shown in blue in the NW corner of the Utah map at right. The railroad grade began at Lucin, Utah not far from the Nevada border, and we drove it east to Promontory Summit and the Golden Spike National Historic Site. The photographs and captions tell the story.
An excellent source of information on the section of roadbed that we visited, and the one consulted in the preparation of the picture captions is: Anan S.Raymond and Richard E.Fike, Rails East to Promontory, The Utah Stations, Cultural Resource Series No. 8, Bureau of Land Management, Utah, Special reprint, 1994. The BLM Salt Lake District can be reached at: (801) 977-4300.