‘Arizona Spike’ From First Transcontinental Railroad Put Up For Auction

‘Arizona Spike’ From First Transcontinental Railroad Put Up For Auction

By Justin Franz 

NEW YORK CITY — If you’re looking for a new piece of railroadiana to add to your collection, check this out: Last week, Christie’s auction house listed the long-lost “Arizona Spike,” a steel spike clad in gold and silver to mark the completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad. 

But be warned, this piece is estimated to go for a bit more than the timetables and railroad china you might come across at the local train show. In fact, Christie’s estimates that it could go for anywhere from $300,000 to $500,000, perhaps making it one of the most expensive pieces of railroadiana ever. 

The “Arizona Spike” was one of four that were used during the ceremony at Promontory, Utah, on May 10, 1869, to celebrate the joining of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads. The spikes were placed into the ties along the last stretch of rail and were gently hammered in before being replaced with regular iron spikes. After the celebration, the four pieces of memorabilia scattered to the four winds. The “Arizona Spike” had been presented by that state’s territorial governor and was most likely made by G.W. Laird of San Francisco. After the ceremony, it was initially believed that the spike went to Arizona but it actually ended up with a UP official, Sidney Dillon. Dillon kept it in his family for decades and apparently told few people that he had it. In 1943, one of Dillon’s descendants donated it to the Museum of the City of New York. But even after that, its whereabouts were not widely known. It wasn’t until 1978 when it was loaned to the Smithsonian that its fate became more widely known. 

Now that the museum has decided to sell, the spike could be headed for a private collection or public museum. Bidding begins at the end of this month. 

This article was posted on: January 10, 2023