Golden Spike Monument.

Giant Golden Spike

Field review by the editors.

Council Bluffs, Iowa

The 70th anniversary of the Golden Spike ceremony -- the one that marked the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad -- was celebrated in 1939 with the release of a Cecil B. DeMille movie, "Union Pacific." Hollywood staged the film's world premiere in Omaha, Nebraska, across the river from the eastern terminus of the Union Pacific Railroad in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Council Bluffs, always second banana to the bigger city across the river, still wanted to get into the act. So it built a Golden Spike 56 feet tall -- 100 times bigger than the original -- out of reinforced concrete and topped it with an American flag. The Union Pacific called the Spike spot "Milepost Zero" as a way to draw attention to the site.

The Spike was built next to the railway tracks because in 1939 that's how most travelers arrived in Council Bluffs. By 1955, however, most people arrived by car, and Council Bluffs wanted to move the Spike to a more auto-friendly spot. The plan went nowhere and the Spike fell into neglect. After only two decades, it was in danger of falling down.

But the Spike, like the drive to link America's coasts with a railroad, outlasted its critics. Today the big monument is kept in good shape.

Cecil B. DeMille spoke at the Spike's dedication ceremony on April 28, 1939, and said that he expected it to last 100 years. So far, he's been correct.

Giant Golden Spike

2073 9th Ave., Council Bluffs, IA
On the south side of 9th Ave. just east of its intersection with S. 21st St.
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
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Nearby Offbeat Places

Spiky ViaductSpiky Viaduct, Council Bluffs, IA - < 1 mi.
Coffee Pot Water TowerCoffee Pot Water Tower, Council Bluffs, IA - 1 mi.
Odyssey: Iowa's Spiky TowersOdyssey: Iowa's Spiky Towers, Council Bluffs, IA - 1 mi.
In the region:
Brick Lincoln Highway from 1920, Elkhorn, NE - 17 mi.

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