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Transcontinental Railroad pulls into the Park City Museum

“A World Reformed: The Transcontinental Railroad and Utah” exhibit showing through March 15 at the Park City Museum features historic photographs and artifacts that were taken and collected from Promontory Summit. (Tanzi Propst/Park Record)
Tanzi Propst/Park Record

What: ‘A World Reformed: The Transcontinental Railroad and Utah’

When: On exhibit through March 15

Where: Park City Museum, 528 Main St.

Cost: Free with museum admission

Phone: 4435-649-7457

Web: parkcityhistory.org

What: ‘Transcontinental Railroad in Utah’ Lecture by Daniel Davis

When: 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 26

Where: Park City Museum Education and Collections Center, 2079 Sidewinder Dr.

Cost: Free

Web: parkcityhistory.org

What: ‘A History of Park City’s Railroads’ Lecture by David Nicholas and Steve Leatham

When: 6 p.m. on Thursday, March 5

Where: Park City Museum’s Education and Collections Center, 2079 Sidewinder Dr.

Cost: For members only (Park City Museum Memberships starting at $100)

RSVP: 435-649-7457 Ex. 102

Web: parkcityhistory.org

The Park City Library’s Tozer Gallery takes visitors to Promontory Summit with “World Transformed: The Transcontinental Railroad in Utah,” a traveling exhibit that will show through March 15.

The exhibit, developed by the Utah State University’s Merrill-Cazier Library staff and made possible with a grant from the Utah Division of State History, traveled throughout Utah last year in celebration of the sesquicentennial of the railroad’s completion, said Courtney Titus, Park City Museum’s curator of exhibitions and collections.

“We’re a little late, but since we had the opportunity to display the exhibit, we wanted to give Park City a chance to see it,” Titus said.

The exhibit’s goal is to tell the stories of the people who built the railroad, she said.

There is so much detail, especially for people who are interested in the railroad and trains…” Courtney Titus, Park City Museum exhibits and collections curator

“There are panels about the surveyors and laborers, including the Chinese workers, and the photographers who documented the construction,” Titus said.

One of the images is a framed reprint of the iconic “Champagne Photo,” taken by Andrew J. Russell.

“The photo’s official title is ‘East and West Shaking Hands,’ which took place on May 10, 1869, at Promontory Summit,” Titus said. “It’s probably one of the more famous photographs in American history.”

In addition to photos by Russell, was Union Pacific’s official photographer, the exhibit showcases photographs by Central Pacific’s official photographer Alfred Hart, and other photos by Utah-based photographers, Titus said.

The exhibit also examines how the completion of the railroad affected people in Utah, she said.

“The railroad provided a fairly cheap and reliable mode of transportation to get people here,” Titus said. “Before the railroad, Utah was pretty remote and almost cut off from either coast.”

People weren’t the only things the railroad brought to Utah, according to Titus.

“It also relatively quickly brought in goods from around the country, and that affected the local way of life,” she said.

Before the railroad, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who settled the area, relied on a bartering system and on each other to support and sustain themselves, according to Titus.

“With the railroad came mass-produced goods, which competed with goods that church members made themselves,” she said.

To deal with the influx of goods, church members established Zion’s Cooperative Mercantile Institution, known throughout the years as ZCMI, which was once the largest department store in the Intermountain West, before closing in 2007.

“ZCMI was created by the church to support the members and protect them from outside (competition),” Titus said.

The railroad also affected Park City by providing a quick and easy way to access this area, Titus said.

“Instead of hitching up a horse and wagon, people could just take the train to Echo,” she said. “That helped expand mining. The railroad brought people here to work in the mines, and also provided a way for the ore to be shipped out of the area. So Park City is here, because of the railroad, which eventually came through town.”

Much of the exhibit includes documents and artifacts from Golden Spike National Historical Park, Brigham Young University, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints History Library, Utah State Historical Society and Utah State University’s Museum of Anthropology, according to Titus.

Artifacts include items used by the Chinese laborers — porcelain tea sets, opium tin lids, pipes, vials and bottles. Another case is filled with objects such as marbles, hand-made dominoes and other items that laborers used for recreation.

“It’s a fairly small exhibit, but there is so much detail, especially for people who are interested in the railroad and trains,” Titus said.


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