It’s a long way from Promontory.

You’re the last man standing among the threadbare and fallen, the ghosts of their names flash past as the desert winds rustle the sheaves of the discarded past annuals of Wall Street and Dun & Bradstreet and the flimsy yellowed pages of the Centennial Edition of The Official Guide.

Born amid the open wounds of war, you stitched together a continent with sweat and grit and vision, where under a blazing sun, once sworn enemies swung spike mauls side-by-side, the faded blue or gray trousers covered by the same Wyoming dust du-jour. No one jacked with the Casements.

There was a brief day in the sun when, accompanied by the unceasing winds rolling across the Utah highlands, pilots touched and three dots went out over a copper lifeline and The West was no longer separated from The East.

Then you got down to the business of running a railroad and building a nation.

Love them or not, there are those who sired you, and those who served you; their names forever woven within the historical fabric of national consciousness. From transcontinental aspirations they fashioned a transportation system of continental proportions and global reach, and in doing so crafted a brand whose status can only be labeled as legendary.

You’ve served “… all the West,” and then some.

The “Road of the Streamliners” was tamped down in style by the heavyweight Pullmans of The Overland Limited, and “Dependable Transportation” meant “We Will Deliver.”

You were at the forefront of development, stretching the limits of technology and industry to tackle the grades at Sherman Hill and the ramparts of the Wasatch; the fruits of those endeavors arriving on the property in the form of the impressive Challenger locomotive.

But the pinnacle of simple expansion came in the form of two words chalked across the face of a 6,290-horsepower Alco-built masterpiece: Big Boy.

From the visionary M-10000 were born the Streamliners, and diesel exhaust and Armor yellow replaced coal smoke and basic Engine black as your calling card.

Your red-white-and-blue shield has embellished not only innumerable freight cars laden with the commerce of a great nation, but the inimitable signature high-horsepower diesel locomotives that led them to their destinations. It has become a symbol of transportation quality, a descendant of the worldwide icon of strength and freedom: The 50 stars and 13 bars of Old Glory which now adorn the flank of many modern-day locomotives of your vast fleet.

You’ve become one of the most universally recognized names over the past 150 years.

And you’re still “Building America,” dressed in the same work-a-day red that’s been a part of the railscape since that day on the high desert of Utah.

Here, you’ve traded the alkali dust for limestone mud splattered on your flanks as you roll along the margin of an upland farmstead in Texas, far from the hand-hewn ties and link-and-pin couplings of your pioneering youth.

You have indeed come a long way from Promontory, but there is no denying that it will forever be ingrained in your DNA; not as a start point, nor as an ending, but as at Appomattox Courthouse, a defining moment in the timeline of what was once called The Great American Experiment.

Some said that it could never be done.

You showed them otherwise.


Rick Malo©2019

Back to Top