The 150th Anniversary Celebration of the Transcontinental Railroad

Truckee Railroad Train Station, early 1900s. | Courtesy Truckee-Donner Summit Historical and Railroad Societies

On May 10, 1869, 150 years ago, the Transcontinental Railroad was completed, forever changing the landscape of Truckee and Donner Summit. The railroad made traveling across the Sierra relatively painless. Instead of taking seven months or more to go from New York to San Francisco, the railroad shortened the trip significantly. By 1876, the Transcontinental Express made the trip across the country in less than seven days.  

Dozens of special events are planned as part of the 150th anniversary of the Transcontinental Railroad; details are in the Event Calendar, and in the Transcontinental Railroad special section of TheTahoeWeekly.com.

The sesquicentennial anniversary of the Transcontinental Railroad marks the spanning of the continent with rails and a revolution to this area and the country. The railroad was important to President Abraham Lincoln, who had to unite the country. During the Civil War, in 1862 President Lincoln passed the Pacific Railroad Act enabling the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad  

The railroad brought both freight and travelers to Truckee. The train helped create local lumber and ice industries. Writers and artists came to capture the beauty of the area. The railroad led the way for the first transcontinental highway system, telephone line, pipeline and postal air route. It opened Truckee and Donner Summit to snow sports and summer activities, as well as facilitated the filming of numerous movies — more than 140 in the areas.  

The Truckee-Donner Historical, Donner Summit Historical and Truckee Donner Railroad societies invite the community to celebrate this wondrous feat. From May 10 through Labor Day, locals and visitors alike can enjoy various activities including: 

  • 4th of July parade in Truckee with a Transcontinental Railroad theme, 
  • A program in which visitors and locals can pick up passports that they take to various locations to learn about local history and get stamped at each site, 
  • Steam and electric train runs at Truckee Regional Park for children and adults, 
  • Numerous historical and educational walks and hikes in Donner Summit and Truckee,  
  • Historical speaker series, 
  • Old Jail Museum will be open on Truckee Thursdays from 5 to 8 p.m. and on weekends from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., 
  • Truckee-Donner Railroad Society Caboose Museum will be open every weekend from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 
  • Articles in local publications highlighting the history of Truckee and Donner Summit. 

These activities are family friendly. For more information and a list of summer activities visit the Event Calendar, visit goldspike.org or Donner Summit-Truckee Golden Spike Celebration on Facebook.

By Judy DePuy