Mile Zero Since 1863
The first Pacific Railway Act was signed in 1862. Central Pacific was tasked with building a railroad east from Sacramento, California, while Union Pacific (UP) was created to build west from a point on the Missouri River. The fact that the UP's west point was not named in the original Act caused confusion until President Lincoln designated ‘Mile Zero’ for Union Pacific in Council Bluffs, Iowa, in 1864.
Completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad
On May 10, 1869, the first transcontinental railroad was completed as a ceremonial golden spike was driven into the track. The photo on the right shows the dedication of Council Bluffs' Golden Spike Monument in 1939, honoring the moment.
The Railroad Transformed Council Bluffs
The effect of the railroads on Council Bluffs was extraordinary as the city grew from an isolated town on the Missouri River with a population of about 2,000 in 1860 to a bustling city of just over 10,000 residents a decade later. By 1870, Council Bluffs had become the fifth largest city in Iowa. By 1883, Council Bluffs boasted eight railroad depots and roundhouses and six freight depots along with 51 livery stables and 31 hotels. That year, the city’s residents were also introduced to running water, electric lights, and standardized time.
Celebrate With Us
We invite you to join Council Bluffs as we reflect on the 150th anniversary of the completion of the nation's first transcontinental railroad and what it meant for our town and beyond.
The engineering feat not only changed Council Bluffs but the entire country. It affected the thousands of people who worked for the railroad, those in communities along the railroad's route, and the indigenous people living along the path of the railroad's expansion.
Join us in celebrations, reflections, and more as we embark on the 150th year anniversary of the first transcontinental railroad.
Throughout the 150th anniversary year, Council Bluffs will host a number of events reflecting on the effects of the first transcontinental railroad. Events will be added throughout the year.
November 2 - Bison Community Conversation - Last event!
*Header image of the construction of the Union Pacific Bridge (1887) is courtesy of the Council Bluffs Public Library.