New Exhibit Highlights Chinese Laborers’ Contributions to Transcontinental Railroad at Western Mining and Railroad Museum

A new exhibition at the Western Mining and Railroad Museum will explore the history of Chinese railroad workers through photographs, historical documents, and excavated ceramics. Entitled Through Toil and Labor: The Forgotten History of Utah’s Chinese Railroad Workers, the exhibition will open on Thursday, August 15 from 6 to 9 pm during the Helper Gallery Stroll. It will run through September 12.

The exhibition, presented by the Utah Division of Arts & Museums Traveling Exhibits program, will provide insight to the daily lives and culture of these laborers as they brought the Central Pacific railroad over the Sierra Nevada mountains and across the Great Basin desert to complete the United States’ first Transcontinental Railroad.

The momentous meeting of the rails at Promontory Summit, Utah, meant goods and services could begin moving across the country in quantities and at speeds previously unknown. Key to this massive effort to connect the nation were the contributions of thousands of immigrant workers from around the globe.

Chinese immigrants composed over 75 percent of the Transcontinental Railroad workforce between 1865 and 1869, numbering more than 11,000 by its completion. These Chinese laborers, mostly young men ages 15-25, left their families and homes in China to seek new economic opportunities. The contributions of these Chinese railroad workers to Utah and the United States are slowly becoming better known.

Through photographs, historical documents, and excavated fragments of imported Chinese ceramics, this exhibition shows the unique history of the Transcontinental Railroad’s Chinese workers in Utah and shares what’s been learned from the artifacts they left behind.

Through Toil and Labor will be shown at the Western Mining and Railroad Museum, located at 294 S. Main Street, Helper. The Museum is open Monday–Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm. For more information on viewing the exhibition, please call (435) 472-3009.

About Utah Arts & Museums and the Traveling Exhibit Program
Utah Arts & Museums’ Traveling Exhibit Program is a statewide outreach program that provides schools, museums, libraries, and community galleries with the opportunity to bring curated exhibitions to their community. This program is supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. For more information on participating in the program, please contact Fletcher Booth at or call 801.532.2617. For media inquiries, please contact Josh Loftin at or 801.245.7205.

Utah Arts & Museums is a division of the Utah Department of Heritage and Arts (DHA). To enrich the quality of life for the people of Utah, DHA creates, preserves, and promotes Heritage and Arts. The Division provides funding, education, and technical services to individuals and organizations statewide so that all Utahns, regardless of race, gender, ethnicity or economic status, can access, understand, and receive the benefits of arts and culture. Additional information on the programs and services can be found at