Originally known as the Pacific Railroad and then the Overland Route, the completion of the first transcontinental railroad in the United States occurred on Monday, May 10, 1869, stretching from Council Bluffs in Iowa to Oakland Long Wharf in California. In commemoration of that event, the Golden Spike Monument in Council Bluffs was created 70 years later.
Golden Spike Monument in Council Bluffs
At approximately 100 times the size of a typical railroad spike, the Golden Spike Monument stands 56 feet tall. Comprised of reinforced concrete, it was erected at the location of Mile Post Zero of the transcontinental railroad in Council Bluffs for the premier of the movie Union Pacific — as well as to also to bring more attention to the small city itself.
During the dedication of the Golden Spike Monument on Friday, April 28, 1939, Cecil B. DeMille — who was the director of the movie — reportedly said that he expected the monument to last for 100 years.
Because many tourists arrived by train back in the 1930s, the monument was built by railroad tracks which are still active today. Those railroad tracks are shown in the featured photograph at the top of this article.
Plans to move the monument to a location that was more friendly to automobile traffic were abandoned. The monument decayed for decades until it was finally restored and preserved.
At the base behind the spike is a plaque proclaiming the eastern terminus of the Union Pacific Railroad, “fixed by Abraham Lincoln, president of the United States”.
Final Boarding Call
The Golden Spike Monument is located on 9 Avenue east of South 21 Street in Council Bluffs in Iowa, which is only 3.7 miles east of downtown Omaha. Allow eight minutes to drive to this place of interest.
Free parking is available in a small parking lot just east of the monument. Expect to spend up to 15 minutes visiting the monument — unless you plan to have a leisurely picnic at the one lone table or bench which are provided there, for which you should allot more time.
No admission is charged to visit the monument, which is never closed to visitors. No facilities are available at the monument.
If you are interested in the history of railroads in the United States, this spot is worth visiting.
Visiting the Golden Spike Monument is one of several interesting things to do in the Omaha metropolitan area.
All photographs ©2023 by Brian Cohen.