-Stephen Ambrose wrote a book in 2000 entitled Nothing Like It In The World. It is the story of the Transcontinental Railroad that was built from 1863-1869. In that book he describes what happens during the building of the rails that led West.
There were a series of wagons that were pulled by great horses. One wagon would carry about forty rails, another would be filled with the proper amount of spikes and railroad ties. From that wagon four men would grasp the rail and anchor it into place. At the command of “Down!” they would drop the rail into it’s place.
Every thirty seconds there came that brave “Down, down, down!” from either side of the track. The chief spiker was ready; the gauger stooped and measured, the sledges rang out. Two rails every thirty seconds, one on each side, four rails a minute.
As the rails went down, they were gauged by a measuring rod exactly 48 ½ inches. When the wagon was emptied, in about ten minutes time, covering a little over 80 feet further down the line, another horse drawn wagon was immediately settled into place to follow the same suit.
There were thirty men driving in the spikes, on the outside and on the inside, with three strokes of the sledgehammer per spike, ten spikes to the rail, four-hundred rails to the mile, and it was 1800 miles across Nebraska and into San Francisco on the Union Pacific Rail. Twenty-one million times those sledgehammers had to be swung. The pace of the rails going down was as fast as a man could walk at a normal pace. In the end, when the finishing touches had been placed on the track, an average of nine to ten thousand spikes had been placed in the rails per mile.
-But the spikes that helped wield that foundation of the railroad tracks pale in comparison to only three spikes that were used a little less than two-thousand years ago.
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