The Golden Spike

Posted: March 4, 2014 in Articles
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Do you know about the story of the 1st US transcontinental railroad? Let me tell you a little bit about it.

It was completed on May 10, 1869. On that day, with a military band playing and crowds of Americans gathered, the last spike, a gold spike, was driven into the last tie in a place called Promontory Point, Utah. It took 20,000 men to hammer 1,175 miles of track and took a little over 3 years to complete.

Lots of exciting events took place during the building of the railroad, not the least of which was the American Civil War, more accurately known as The War of Northern Aggression.  You may know that 2 different companies were responsible for the building of the transcontinental railroad, one starting from the east (the Union Pacific Railroad Company), and another starting from the west (the Central Pacific Railroad Company). You may also know that the company in the west, having trouble finding workers, hired many Chinese from San Fransisco and also many directly from China. Towns sprung up, while the railroad was built, as enterprising businessmen who knew where the tracks were to go claimed their spot. Some of the names of these towns are famous, even if only in Hollywood Westerns – towns like Abilene and Cheyenne. Just listen to a few George Strait songs, and you’ll hear him mention both of these towns.

As I was reading about this railroad, I noticed a few similarities with our time today and I thought I’d point them out, as I see them. It always reminds us that there is nothing new under the sun. There have always been good men and there have always been not so good men. Anyway, here goes:

  • A few greedy railroad owners and corrupt politicians made fortunes with the building of the railroad. Members of Congress bought railroad stock and cheap land in the West, profiting greatly once the railroad was completed. – Yup, they still push for things when banking on huge profits.
  • The Chinese worked hard for very little money. American workers would not work with them and they also wouldn’t work for so little. Therefore, more Chinese were hired. – One could draw an analogy to the hiring of illegal immigrants today.
  • The US government subsidized the railroads and paid them $16,000-$48,000 for every mile of track they completed. Needless to say, some shoddy work was done in order to get more money. The companies could avoid cutting through hills, go around them, and get paid more by doing so. “So what? The government’s paying by the mile,” said one company engineer. Later, it would cost millions of dollars to correct the poorly laid tracks. More greed and shoddy work came in the winter of 1868. Though the ground was covered with snow and ice, they continued to lay tracks only to find that in the spring, the tracks were hammered into ice alone – which had melted, resulting in trains falling down mountains and lives lost. – The parallel is pretty obvious here. If the government is passing out free money, it generally encourages those on the receiving end to receive as much as possible, regardless of morality.
  • The Union Pacific in the east eventually ran into Indian country. Never mind that the US government had already given that land to the Indians. When the Indians rightfully fought for the land which was theirs, in came the US Cavalry led by none other than General Philip Sheridan, murderer of many innocent Southerners during that War. Sheridan, along with Custer, did away with the Indian problem and you can imagine how. – The US government will still do their level best to destroy any people who get in the way of their ambitions.
  • The two dignitaries who were to drive the last spike were the top officers of the two companies. Both were too drunk and could not hit the spike. A “lesser” official finally accomplished the task – Some top dignitaries today are just as despicably inept and embarrassing. Just think about Obama’s inappropriate “happy hour” comment just the other day.

There are many great, great things in America’s history to be proud of. Unfortunately, fallen men being fallen men necessarily means that even the greatest feats are marred with failure. The biggest disappointment is when people refuse to wait for their rewards. They take what they want and do not trust that their hard work and unblemished efforts will be rewarded and because of that attitude, much evil is done.

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