"Distant Thunder" Sculpture at Golden Spike National Historical Park Honors Bison's Past

Life size sculpture of a bison in front of building
Michael Coleman's 3,000 lb bronze sculpture of the American Bison.

Michael Coleman, a Utah artist internationally known for his award-winning sculptures and paintings of the landscape and wildlife of the American West created a bison sculpture to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Transcontinental Railroad in 2019. The Transcontinental Railroad was completed in 1869 and signaled a change within the United States, the moment that the West was no longer recognized as an unknown frontier. As railroad networks expanded, the bison population could not escape, and they met their downfall on the Plains. This mighty sculpture titled, “Distant Thunder” honors the bison’s demise due to the railroad and celebrates their eventual resurgence.

Trying to capture the bison’s strength and vulnerability, Michael spent the year leading up to the 150th anniversary of the Transcontinental Railroad designing and casting the sculpture to perfection. The result is a magnificent sculpture that embodies the essence of the can-do spirit created by the railroad and those who built it.

3,000 lb bison sculpture being placed in front of building by a crane
The life-size bison was hoisted into place by a crane at Golden Spike National Historical Park.

Spike 150, an initiative of Utah’s Transcontinental Railroads 150th Celebration Commission established by Utah State Legislature and Governor Gary Herbert, was responsible for the Anniversary at Promontory and other events hosted throughout the state. Doug Foxely, the commission’s chairman represented Spike 150 at the bison placement ceremony. Spike 150, along with the donor of the sculpture Naoma Tate, were instrumental in pushing for the bison to be placed at Golden Spike.

Congressman Rob Bishop played a significant role in helping the park secure the bison and elevating the park’s status on a national stage. In 2019, Congressman Bishop led the charge to change Golden Spike from a National Historic Site to a National Historical Park.

Golden Spike National Historical Park is in Promontory Summit, Utah. Situated in a remote region, the park is 32 miles west of Brigham City. This National Park Service unit commemorates the spot where the Transcontinental Railroad was completed on May 10, 1869. The park features two fully functioning steam locomotives and the ability to walk or drive on old railroad grades where the trains used to run through scenic territory. For more information about Golden Spike National Historical Park, visit

Golden Spike National Historical Park

Last updated: June 4, 2020