Workers drive last spike into transcontinental tracks to Seattle on January 6, 1893.

  • By Heather M. MacIntosh
  • Posted 6/13/1999
  • Essay 1322

On January 6, 1893, amid cheers, shouts, and gunshots, workers drive the last spike into the Great Northern Railway track that opens transcontinental travel to Seattle. They lay the last rails at Madison, Washington (later Scenic), 13 miles west of the summit of the Cascade Range. The completed Great Northern line stretches 1,816 miles to St. Paul, Minnesota, from where other tracks made their way to the East Coast. The Great Northern becomes the sixth transcontinental line to cross the United States.

A Momentous Achievement

Railworkers began their last day at 6 a.m. and worked until 8 p.m. that evening, laying 9,000 feet of track. The 200 rail workers in attendance shouted in excitement as superintendents Cornelius Shields and J. D. Farrell fired their revolvers in the air after driving the final spike.


Carlos A. Schwantes, Railroad Signatures Across the Pacific Northwest (Seattle: University of Washington, 1993), 78; Thomas W. Prosch, "A Chronological History of Seattle from 1850 to 1897," p. 382, 424, typescript prepared in 1900 and 1901, University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections, Archives and University Manuscripts, Seattle.

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