TRIVIAL PURSUITS: What Was the Last Word on the Transcontinental Railroad?

May 11, 2010 ( – On May 10, 1869, the presidents of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads drove a ceremonial golden spike into a rail line at Promontory Point, Utah, that connected their railroads.

When that last spike was driven into the ground, and those railroads joined, a single word was telegraphed to the nation announcing the feat.  What was that word?



The hammers and spike were wired to the telegraph line so that each hammer stroke would be heard as a click at telegraph stations nationwide—the hammer strokes were missed, so the clicks were sent by the telegraph operator.

As soon as the ceremonial spike had been replaced by an ordinary iron spike, a message was transmitted to both the East Coast and West Coast that simply read, “DONE.”

And with that joining, travel from coast to coast was reduced from six months (or more) to just one week.