Northern Utah's mountains will ring Aug. 13 with the sound of steel smashing onto iron as a score of muscular men compete in the world championship railroad spike driving contest.
"It's a dying art," Denny Davies, Golden Spike National Historic Site superintendent, said Thursday. "We'll only have about 20 contestants, but they're the best."Five-time winner Dale Jones and defending champion Blair Cutler, who defeated Jones last year, are the favorites in the eighth annual World Championship Spike Driving Contest, held during the annual Railroaders' Festival.
The annual festival "is to celebrate how the United States has changed as a result of railroading and to help visitors relive some of the recreational pursuits of railroad workers and their families over 100 years ago," said Davies.
Jones, who works for Union Pacific Railroad in Lehi, is a legend among railroad spike drivers. He holds the world record in the event, set in 1984 when he slammed home his six iron spikes in 26.4 seconds.
But last year Cutler, a Southern Pacific Railroad employee from Ogden, ended Jones's five-year reign when he edged the champion to claim the $400 first prize. Jones had to settle for $250 in runner-up money.
The Railroaders' Festival is held on northern Utah's Promontory Summit where the nation's first transcontinental railroad was completed May 10, 1869, with the joining of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads.
The events also will include a re-enactment of the last spike ceremony, contests in buffalo chip throwing, boiler stoking and rail walking, and rides on a "gandy-dancer" railroad handcar, Davies said.