HomeAsian AmericansThousands Celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the Transcontinental Railroad

Thousands Celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the Transcontinental Railroad

Story and photos by Raymond Douglas Chong (Zhang Weiming)

As a descendant of a Chinese railroad worker, Bein Yiu Chung, I joined the spectacular 150th anniversary celebration of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, day of the golden spike, at Promontory Summit within Golden Spike National Historical Park in Utah on Friday, May 10, 2019, during a chilly and breezy spring dawn.

With my fellow descendants of Chinese railroad workers amid a lively crowd of 20,000 souls, we were entertained by a 2-hour commemoration with speeches and addresses. They unveiled the sign that designated the area as Golden Spike National Historical Park and reenacted the ceremonial driving of the last,”golden” spike from the celebration 150 years ago. U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao remarked about the monumental achievement for America that connected the Far West with the Far East. She commended the estimated 12,000 Chinese Railroad Workers who “risked everything” to build “one of the greatest infrastructure projects” in American history.

Connie Young Yu

The most poignant moment was when Connie Young Yu, a Chinese railroad worker descendant, opened the program. She wondered why the Chinese railroad workers were denied their “rightful place” during the 100th anniversary of the golden spike on May 10, 1969. “Today, we take this opportunity at the 150th to reclaim a place in history, to honor the courage, fortitude, and sacrifice of Chinese railroad workers and their legacy in America, which belongs to ALL of us,” said Yu. “This record-setting feat on the road to Promontory is unmatched in history.”

The fabulous program concluded under a cloud of fireworks with a flyover of four fighter jets over the crisp skies of Utah on the Great Basin Desert of Salt Lake.

At 2:30 PM, Corky Lee, the “undisputed, unofficial Asian American photographer laureate,” shot group photos of Chinese railroad worker descendants, military veterans, and participants on stage, near the meeting of the Central Pacific Railroad Jupiter and Union Pacific Railroad Number 119 locomotives.

Corky Lee

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