150 years of riding the rails across the US

Published 3:22 pm Friday, June 21, 2019

You may or may not realize this year is the 150th anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad across the United States.

It was a monumental task and was completed thanks to the hard work of Chinese immigrants. Think about that for a minute.

I have always loved trains and remember the times when most distance passenger travel was accomplished via train.

As it so happens, my daughter and her husband decided to fulfill a lifelong dream by boarding a train this week in Chicago and traveling to California, where they will make a brief visit with their son’s family before flying back home to South Carolina.

For the past two days they have been sending me photos taken from their train, showing the dessert lands and mountains. As I review them I am even more amazed that the train tracks were ever laid in such desolate land. Imagine the Chinese workers tunneling by hand through Rocky Mountains and surviving the heat and desolation of the desert lands of Utah and Nevada.

I have only been as far west by auto as Utah, and have flown to California. But to get the full solemnity of the situation and realize the expanse of uninhabitable lands that exist out West, then go by train; and while you are at it, think of our pioneering citizens who went by wagon trains to what they considered to be the promised lands.

As I looked at the photos my daughter sent of Nevada, I couldn’t help but recall the years in the 1980’s when my oldest son graduated from Michigan Tech with a degree in forestry soils and took a job doing soil mapping of Nevada for two summers. He roughed it out in a camper, and I think he probably got his fill of Western adventure.

So, as we go about our comfortable lives, in spite of the heat of a Georgia summer, be thankful for those who saw the need and made transcontinental train traffic a reality in order for this nation to expand and grow.