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08. Union Pacific Train of Today
Union Pacific Today
Mural Depiction

This modern day Union Pacific diesel electric locomotive weighs in at 425,000 pounds and puts out 4,400 horsepower.  Twenty percent of all international freight going to various destinations throughout the United
States passes through Benson.  There are 50-plus (count them!) trains going through Benson every day. 
This is the story of the first transcontinental railroad; the greatest, most daring engineering effort the country had yet seen. The time was the 1860's. Imagine the task.

"The idea was to span the West with iron rails from Omaha to Sacramento, to build a railroad across two-thirds of the continent and some of the most difficult terrain on earth. 'Ruinous Space', a Boston paper called it. Not in all that distance, not in 1,700 miles, was there a single settlement of any appreciable size except at Salt Lake. The railroad would join what essentially were two different countries: California and back East. Construction crews would cross hundreds of miles of desert; push into the mountains at elevations as high as 8,000 feet. It's hard to believe that one river alone, the Weber, would have to be crossed 31 times. And all this without benefit of bulldozers or rock drills, modern explosives or modern medical facilities."

"They called it a work of giants. But like all great stories, it's about people; construction bosses, politicians, thousands of workers, and the people who got the whole thing started in the first place."

David McCulloch, "The Iron Road" for The American Experience, PBS.

Background Information

The Union Pacific Railroad (UP) is a freight-hauling railroad that operates 8,500 locomotives over 32,100 route-miles in 23 states west of Chicago, Illinois and New Orleans, Louisiana. The Union Pacific Railroad network is the largest in the United States and employs 42,600 people. It is also one of the world's largest transportation companies.

Union Pacific Railroad is the principal operating company of Union Pacific Corporation; both are headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska. Over the years Union Pacific Corporation has grown by acquiring other railroads, notably the Missouri Pacific, Chicago & North Western, Western Pacific, Missouri-Kansas-Texas, and the Southern Pacific (including the Denver & Rio Grande Western).

Union Pacific Corporation's main competitor is the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway, the nation's second largest freight railroad, which also primarily services the Continental U.S. west of the Mississippi River. Together, the two railroads have a monopoly on all transcontinental freight rail lines in the U.S.

The original company was incorporated on July 1, 1862, under an act of Congress entitled Pacific Railroad Act of 1862. The act was approved by President Abraham Lincoln, and it provided for the construction of railroads from the Missouri River to the Pacific as a war measure for the preservation of the Union. It was constructed westward from Council Bluffs, Iowa to meet the Central Pacific Railroad line, which was constructed eastward from San Francisco Bay.        

The line was constructed primarily by Irish labor who had learned their craft during the recent Civil War. The two lines were joined together at Promontory Summit, Utah, 53 miles (85 km) west of Ogden on May 10, 1869, hence creating the first transcontinental railroad in North America. Under the guidance of its dominant stockholder Dr. Thomas Clark Durant, the namesake of the city of Durant, Iowa, the first rails were laid in Omaha.

Subsequently, UP purchased three Mormon-built roads: the Utah Central Railroad extending south from Ogden to Salt Lake City, the Utah Southern Railroad extending south from Salt Lake City into the Utah Valley, and the Utah Northern Railroad extending north from Ogden into Idaho. It built or purchased local lines that gave it access to Denver, Colorado, to Portland, Oregon, and to the Pacific Northwest and acquired the Kansas Pacific (originally called the Union Pacific, Eastern Division, though in essence a separate railroad). It also owned narrow gauge track into the heart of the Colorado Rockies and a standard gauge line south from Denver across New Mexico into Texas (both parts of the Union Pacific, Denver and Gulf Railway).

Mural Information

Artist:  Doug Quarles

Size:     5' x 42'

Completed: September 2013


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   Benson Beautification

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