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Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
Gov. Gary Herbert blows on a train whistle during a press conference at the Union Pacific Depot at The Gateway in Salt Lake City on Friday, Feb. 1, 2019, declaring 2019 the Year of the Train in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the completion of the first transcontinental railroad.

SALT LAKE CITY — The Chinese zodiac may have named 2019 the Year of the Pig, but Utah Gov. Gary Herbert just declared it the year of the train.

At a press conference at the Union Pacific Depot Friday afternoon, Herbert, along with members of the Spike 150 Foundation board and art directors from around Utah, gathered to announce Utah's monthlong celebration of the 150th anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad and ceremonial driving of the golden spike at Promontory Summit on May 10, 1869.

“The construction of the transcontinental railroad showed the world that the remarkable is possible through vision, hard work, dedication and collaboration. Principles that ring true today,” Herbert said.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
Gov. Gary Herbert speaks during a press conference at the Union Pacific Depot at The Gateway in Salt Lake City on Friday, Feb. 1, 2019, declaring 2019 the Year of the Train in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the completion of the first transcontinental railroad.

The Spike 150 Foundation, a state-led initiative, has partnered with many Utah organizations for a series of activities, events and performances to commemorate the historical milestone in May of this year.

Herbert said many Americans today might not think about or recognize the significance of the railroad coming together.

"(The railroad) joined our country at a very difficult time — post-Civil War,” he said. "The country was divided by a Civil War, it was divided by geography, but people came together and joined the country post-Civil War with a lot of workers from different walks of life and backgrounds."

The celebration will feature a star-studded musical lineup including the Utah Opera, Utah Symphony, The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square and Broadway stars Brian Stokes Mitchell, Megan Hilty and Ali Ewoldt.

There will also be original works performed during the May celebration, including "As One," a reenactment of the driving of the spike written by Gentri-member Stephen Nelson and Utah musician Anjanette Mickelsen, and "Gold Mountain" by Jason Ma and Alan Muraoka. This musical tells the love story set during the building of the railroad.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
Mack Wilberg, director of The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square, blows on a train whistle during a press conference at the Union Pacific Depot at The Gateway in Salt Lake City on Friday, Feb. 1, 2019, declaring 2019 the Year of the Train in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the completion of the first transcontinental railroad.

“We are extremely excited about this lineup that includes everything from Utah’s famous musical icons to award-winning performers from a variety of genres, all of which are world-renowned,” said Doug Foxley, Spike 150 Foundation chair. “I’ve always liked a good party, but we’re going to have a great party. Move over Winter Olympics … We’re going to party like it’s 1869. So let’s get on the train, let’s get on the tracks and let’s start moving this thing around.”

Foxley has reason to be ready to get the celebration going. He told the Deseret News that plans for the anniversary have been in the works for almost two years, and the depot lobby echoed with whistles and laughter after Foxley handed out train whistles at the press event.

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Max Chang, a Spike 150 board member, said in an interview with the Deseret News that this moment was unique in history because it established Utah as the crossroads of the West. He also said he considers Utah the caretaker of the transcontinental railroad's history — everything that happened from Iowa to California, both the good and the bad.

"The demise of the buffalo in the plains and the Native Americans, to the great things of helping connect this country and really having the commerce throughout," Chang said. "I think it’s also parallel to what’s happening in the future that Utah will continue to be the crossroads of the West and crossroads of the world."