Union Pacific celebrating 150 years in Utah, across U.S.

Jan 19 2012 - 6:12am


Contributed image of Abraham Lincoln, who signed Union Pacific into existence in 1862.
Contributed image of Abraham Lincoln, who signed Union Pacific into existence in 1862.

This year, Union Pacific celebrates 150 years since President Abraham Lincoln signed it into existence. The story of the railroad company is tied closely to the modernization of the American West. People and freight began using the railroad to travel across the country 150 years ago and continue to do so to this day.

Utah has played a significant role in the history of the railroad, including the driving of the golden spike at Promontory Summit to complete the transcontinental railroad.

"Our connection to Utah since that time has been deep," said Aaron M. Hunt, Union Pacific director of corporate relations and media. "It's a really important state in our 23-state network."

Today, Union Pacific has 1,400 employees in Utah and operates 1,200 miles of track across the state.

The official anniversary is July 1, marking the day in 1862 that Lincoln signed the Pacific Railway Act. Until then, the company is running a contest asking the public to remake a commercial from the 1970s called "We Can Handle It."

More than $35,000 in prizes will be awarded to the top entries.

"We are just seeing our first entries on the website, and people are free to take whatever creative angle on that," Hunt said.

Click here for more information about Union Pacific's anniversary.

Union Pacific hopes to hold its anniversary celebrations in Utah around Pioneer Days, which is the week of July 24.

Other areas also will hold celebrations, as there are about 7,300 communities across the country where Union Pacific operates.

Hunt said UP is making an effort to celebrate its anniversary in ways that would be appropriate for each community.

Roberta Beverly, director of Ogden's Union Station, said the city hopes to be included in the celebrations.

"We certainly hope to be a big part of them," she said.

Along with being the site of the state train museum, Ogden also is home to one of the two primary rail yards in Utah.

"We'd love Union Pacific to come to town," Beverly said.

She said she has been talking with Union Pacific to see what celebrations can be held in Ogden.

"We have quite a stable of locomotives," she said. And with a track running directly behind it, Union Station can present visiting trains at any time.

In her dealings with Union Pacific, she sees how the company has stayed in business for so long.

"I think that is a pretty admirable record considering how many railroads there were in the country. To me, that shows some pretty good service and tenacity in the way their business is run. ... For being so big, they're accessible," Beverly said.

When she has a problem, she said, she can always reach a representative of the company.

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