Tehachapi Depot Railroad Museum

Feb 14 2013

Laying The Last Rail

Submitted by Del Troy

The last rail, on the Southern Pacific Railroad, the connecting link between San Francisco and Los Angeles, was laid Wednesday afternoon, <September 5th, 1876>. Wednesday morning at five o'clock a special train of cars passed Sumner, bearing a party of the citizens of San Francisco who were bound for the front to witness the ceremony. The night previous at eleven o'clock we received a kind invitation from Mr. Charles Crocker, by telegraph to make one of the party, but we were so seriously indisposed that we were compelled to forego the great pleasure and to see the train depart without us. The train arrived at the place of junction near Lang's station about one o'clock where a large crowd had assembled from Los Angeles, and these with the railroad employees present made a crowd of about four thousand people. One thousand and fifty feet of track were to be laid to close the gap, and the work was commenced as soon as the railroad officials and invited guests could take their places, the whole being superintended by Mr. Charles Crocker in person. At a signal given a San Francisco gang took one side and a Los Angeles gang the other side, both anxious to reach the spot where the golden spike was to be driven first. The contest was very lively, but owing to an accident the Los Angeles gang reached the junction only one rail ahead of the San Franciscans. Mr. Crocker then stepped to the front with a silver maul and golden spike, the latter valued at $180, and inscribed on its four sides as follows: "Last spike connecting Los Angeles and San Francisco by rail," and on the head, "September 5th, 1876." Taking the hammer in the right hand and the spike in his left, Mr. Crocker said:

Mr. Crocker's Speech

Gentlemen of Los Angeles and San Francisco: It has been deemed best on this auspicious occasion that the last spike to be driven should be of gold, the most precious of metals, and indicative of the wealth that will flow to the coffers of Los Angeles and San Francisco when this connection is made. It is no mean token of the importance of this grand artery of commerce which we are about to unite with this last spike. This wedding of San Francisco to the city of the Angels is not a wedding consecrated by the bonds of matrimony, but by bonds of steel. The north and the south are to-day by this means united, and I hope to live to see the time when these beautiful valleys through which we have passed will be filled with a happy and prosperous people, enjoying every facility for comfort, happiness and education. Gentlemen, I am no public speaker, but I can drive a spike. (Cheers)

Driving theSpike

Suiting the action to the word, Mr. Crocker put the spike in its place, and with six well-directed blows drove it home amid the shouts of the crowd and the throwing up of hats. Rev. Mr. Platt of San Francisco then offered up a brief and fervent prayer, asking the blessing of the Almighty on the new-born project, and requesting that the managers might be forever directed in the paths of honesty and a desire to serve the people.

General D. D. Colton was then introduced and made an appropriate address, in the course of which he said that the Company confidently expected to see the construction engineers standing on the banks of the Colorado river by the close of the centennial year. Ex-Governor Downey, Mayor Beaudry of Los Angeles and Mayor Bryant of San Francisco, made addresses, and were followed by Governor Stanford who said:

“So much has been said that I cannot see what more I can say, or how I can improve what has been said. One thing, however, I will state. This ceremony of today means not only a connection between Los Angeles and San Francisco, but it means a connection, ultimately, of the great Mississippi valley with the State of California by a Southern route. (Cheers) And not only that, but it means a connection with the city of Mexico, and the bringing to this coast of the rich and valuable trade of that section.”

At the conclusion of Stanford's remarks the guests took the cars and started for Los Angeles, passing through the San Fernando tunnel in twelve minutes and reaching Los Angeles at five in the afternoon. Here they partook of a grand banquet worthy of the occasion. At one o'clock next morning the excursion train started on its return, and passed Sumner, without stopping, the same day about one in the afternoon.

Museum Hours

11 to 4 Thursday–Monday
Closed Tuesday & Wednesday