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Transcontinental Railroad antique returns home to Sacramento

Steam train rolls in at Utah’s Golden Spike historic site

No. 119 is one of two replicas of 1860s steam trains at Golden Spike National Historic Site in northern Utah. The site marks the spot where America's first Transcontinental Railroad was completed in May 1869. The two trains chug back and forth fro
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No. 119 is one of two replicas of 1860s steam trains at Golden Spike National Historic Site in northern Utah. The site marks the spot where America's first Transcontinental Railroad was completed in May 1869. The two trains chug back and forth fro

Sacramento was once home to a stop on the Transcontinental Railroad line in the late 19th century, and now a piece of that American history is making its way to the capital region.

In 1869, a golden spike was nailed into a railroad at Promontory Summit, Utah, to commemorate the unification of the nation’s rail lines as the Transcontinental Railroad. A locket featuring a mini golden spike made from the leftover casting materials of the original Golden Spike will be on display at the California State Railroad Museum as a part of the 150th anniversary celebration of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad.

The locket was inherited by the Abbott family in Florida, who asked Sacramento auctioneer and California history expert Brian Witherell to appraise the item in 2016. Witherell valued the commemorative necklace at $20,000, and worked with the Sacramento Pioneer Association and the family to donate the locket to the museum.

“This is very exciting,” Witherell said in a news release. “When you touch that, you’re touching history. ... This is real consequential history in your hands. It’s humbling.”

Sacramento businessman David Hewes commissioned the original full-size Golden Spike back in 1869 and made an estimated 12 mini spikes out of the leftover casting materials, according to a news release from Sacramento auction house Witherell’s. Only five still exist, including the one that will be displayed at the museum.

Hewes’ portrait was placed inside the locket and given to his second wife, Anna Maria Lathrop, according to the release. Historians believe when Lathrop died, she passed the locket to Hewes’ sister, who married into the Abbott family in Florida. The locket has been there ever since.

The locket will be on display with the original Golden Spike, along with a spare golden spike commissioned by Hayes and “The Driving of The Last Spike,” painted by Thomas Hill in 2000.

“The new exhibit will tell the story of the railway and get younger generations interested in history, perhaps attract a different audience,” said Cheryl Marcell, CEO of the California State Railroad Museum Foundation, said in the news release.

The locket will debut at the California State Railroad Museum in May.

This article was updated at 10:52 a.m. on March 28 to indicate there will not be a reception in March to welcome the locket to Sacramento.

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