Rep. Rob Bishop speaks to Congress, lauds the importance of the transcontinental railroad

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SALT LAKE CITY — As the countdown continues to Friday's 150th anniversary celebration of the completion of the transcontinental railroad in Utah, Rep. Rob Bishop invited his colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives to come to the state to witness the festivities.

"That date, May 10, will forever stand as a tribute to the men of vision who foresaw the potential of an empire stretching from coast to coast in the United States bound together not only by iron rails but by a common interest," Bishop, R-Utah, said Tuesday in a speech on the House floor.

It is a place where the American story is without equal.

–Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah

Bishop detailed the transformative nature of the event and how it propelled the economic success of the United States.

"The railroad made our economic explosion possible," he said. "The railroad made us an industrial giant. Before the railroad came, it was difficult to move services or even transport people. But once the spike was driven, that was a kickstart to what we are going to do."

In 1860, the country was third in the world for production of wheat, but by the time the railroad was completed, the United States was No. 1, Bishop said.

Prior to the railroad's completion, England was producing three times as much coal as the United States, but after, the United States not only led the world in coal production but was producing 110 million more tons of coal than England.

During the Civil War, the United States had 30,000 miles of railroad track. When the system was complete, there were 167,000 miles of track crisscrossing the country.

The United States, Bishop added, remains the No. 1 country in the world for miles of track, with 39 percent more than second place Russia. It has more than the others in the top 10 combined, and obviously more than the country that ranks in spot 139 — Liechtenstein — with 5.5 miles of track.

"Railroads still provide goods and they also provide passenger service," Bishop said.

In 1965, Congress set aside the lands to establish the Golden Spike National Historic Site.

Earlier this year, President Donald Trump signed a massive public lands bill that incorporated language from a bill Bishop sponsored to elevate the national historic site to a national historic park.

"It is a place where the American story is without equal," Bishop said.

At least two members of Trump's Cabinet will be here for Friday's festivities.

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt will give the welcome and later that morning, Transportation Secretary Elaine will deliver remarks.

Irish Ambassador Daniel Mulhall will do a celebratory toast and the honorable Cui Tiankai, the Chinese ambassador, will give remarks via video.

KSL-TV Channel 5 will carry the historic re-enactment ceremony live of the locomotives Jupiter and No. 119 coming together on the rails.

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Amy Joi O'Donoghue
Amy Joi O’Donoghue is a reporter for the Utah InDepth team at the Deseret News with decades of expertise in land and environmental issues.


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