NPS - National Park Service

04/02/2021 | Press release | Archived content

Artist Selected for New Sculpture Commemorating the Workers Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad

News Release Date:
April 2, 2021

Contact:Brandon Flint, 435-471-2209 Ext 423

Promontory Summit, UT - The National Park Service (NPS) and Golden Spike Foundation - Spike 150 are proud to announce that Ilan Averbuch has been selected to design a new commemorative work that will be donated to Golden Spike National Historical Park. The purpose of the piece, titled 'Monument to Their Memory,' will honor all the railroad workers from many different cultures and backgrounds whose backbreaking efforts were crucial in the construction of the nation's first transcontinental railroad.

On May 10, 1869, a Golden Spike was ceremoniously driven into a polished laurel tie at Promontory Summit, Utah, linking two great oceans, uniting a Civil War-torn nation and propelling America to become a world leader. The events of May 10 and the driving of the golden spike marked the end of construction, but they are only a small part of the story of the building of the transcontinental railroad.

To build the 1,776 miles of railroad, the Union and Central Pacific Railroad Companies enlisted the help of tens of thousands of workers from across the country and world.

An estimated 10,000 to 20,000 Chinese immigrants were recruited by the Central Pacific Railroad to build the section from Sacramento, California, through the treacherous Sierra Mountains and then through the Nevada and Utah deserts to Promontory. Approximately 10,000 Irish workers had to overcome hostile weather, lack of supplies and suffering from dysentery to lay hundreds of miles of track for the Union Pacific.

While Chinese and Irish workers made up the largest parts of the workforce, they were joined by many others. African American workers, including some recently freed by the Emancipation Proclamation, toiled to move the tracks ever further west. Mormon workers organized by Brigham Young found themselves working for both competing railroads as they raced through Utah.

The design of the sculpture is being finalized with a goal to start installation of the work in late summer. NPS will complete a review of the project for compliance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act and the National Environmental Policy Act before the work is installed.

The diverse workers of the railroad demonstrated to the world that great things are possible with vision, hard-work, dedication, and collaboration. The addition of this new artwork honors their legacy and will help give voice to these voiceless workers of the past.

Golden Spike National Historical Park is located 32 miles west of Brigham City via state highways 13 and 83.