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Ride the rails: A storytelling exploration of Utah's early railroad

When the last tap pounded the Golden Spike into place, the telegraph operators standing alongside tapped out the word DONE. Whistles blew and hats flew through the air – the Transcontinental was done but railroading in Utah had really just begun. 

Within a few years, a railroad spur to Salt Lake was completed, Ogden had started to become a bustling junction city and the Utah Northern was coming over the Mendon Hill and dropping into Cache Valley.

At UPR, we’ve been collecting train stories. We celebrate by saying hats off to those who worked on the trains and three cheers for the people who lived on the tracks.

Ride The Rails is made possible in part by the Ogden Downtown AllianceOgden City, and Visit Ogden hosting the Heritage Festival’s 150th anniversary in downtown Ogden, May 9, 10, and 11. Information can be found at

This program is also made possible with a grant from the Utah Department of Heritage & Arts and the Spike 150 project. Information can be found at and

Ride The Rails is an original production by Utah Public Radio with program director Mary Heers, lead producer Kirsten Swanson, research assistant Rachel Ross and project manager Dani Hayes.

Special Thanks to story contributions from Jeannie Campbell, Barbara Bergman, Katherine Skelton, Jane Beckwith, Gloria Thompson, Lyndia Carter, CD Davis, Jackie Thayne, Ronald Jewkes, Virginia Gordon, Judge Raymond Uno, Joan Shaw, Lorie Brassaw of USU Eastern Library and Learning Commons, and local chapters of Daughters of the Utah Pioneers.  Special thanks to Karen Kriger, USU Special Collections, Rick Hughes, and Ogden's Union Station.

A special treat! Below is the film documentary DONE - The Story of the First Transcontinental Railway. It was first broadcast to a nationwide audience in May 1969 on the 100th anniversary of the completion of the first transcontinental railroad and the driving of the "Golden Spike". Special thanks to Rick Hughes and Mary Heers for digitizing this documentary so we can continue to learn about railroad history. Enjoy!

Kirsten grew up listening to Utah Public Radio in Smithfield, Utah and now resides in Logan. She has three children and is currently producing Utah StoryCorps and working as the Saturday morning host on UPR. Kirsten graduated from Utah State University with a Bachelor's degree History in 2000 and dual minors in Horticulture and German. She enjoys doing voice work, reading, writing, drawing, teaching children, and dancing. Major credits include StoryCorps, Utah Works, One Small Step, and the APTRA award-winning documentary Ride the Rails.
Mary got hooked on oral histories while visiting Ellis Island and hearing the recorded voices of immigrants that had passed through. StoryCorps drew her to UPR. After she retired from teaching at Preston High, she walked into the station and said she wanted to help. Kerry put her to work taking the best 3 minutes out of the 30 minute interviews recorded in Vernal. Passion kicked in. Mary went on to collect more and more stories and return them to the community on UPR's radio waves. Major credits to date: Utah Works, One Small Step, and the award winning documentary Ride the Rails.