This week marks 150 years since the driving of the "Golden Spike." The ceremonial moment joined the rails of the first trans-Atlantic railroad to reach across the United States.
The moment in history has some strong ties to the Capital Region.
‘When you think about the history of rail in the United States, this is a key part of that history,” said Scott Moore, chief administrative officer of Union Pacific.
In Cheyenne, Wyoming, it was a celebration of the first transcontinental railroad. The "Golden Spike" connected the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific railroads in 1869.
To celebrate, Union Pacific brought back a 78-year-old locomotive, Big Boy 4014.
Twenty-five of the monster trains were built more than 1,700 miles away at the Schenectady Locomotive Company. The train company merged with another Schenectady factory to create a pillar in the community, the American Locomotive Company, otherwise known as ALCO.
“It was the time when Schenectady was known as the city that lights and hauls the world, because of GE and because of ALCO,” said Schenectady City Historian Chris Leonard.
Where the factory once stood has now been transformed into the area for Rivers Casino. Leonard said, in its height, the factory employed around 30,000 people.
“This was acres and blocks and blocks of buildings where they were manufacturing and testing these vehicles,” Leonard said.
The steam trains were created specifically for Union Pacific in 1941, when diesel fuel was in its height. The steam power allowed it to create enough energy to make it up the western mountain range. The giants were given the name "Big Boy" by a factory worker.
“He just wrote Big Boy in chalk on one of them, and it stuck,” said Leonard.
It took about five years to get the 4014 back up and running, but the team ran into some issues since there's only a handful still in existence.
“Our 'steam team' literally had to make its own tools. There wasn’t a real good guide book on how to do this,” added Moore.
In its prime, the 4014 Big Boy lasted about 20 years and had traveled more than a million miles around the United States.
The piece of history is taking a trip back in time. It will be meeting in Utah for the official anniversary on the driving of the Golden Spike on Friday, May 10, where two railroads became one 150 years before.
“The amount of people that worked for ALCO are just excited to see that 4014 running down the line towards Promontory Point right now. There’s a lot of pride and it’s deserved,” Leonard said.