Monday, February 07, 2005

Re: Dates relating to gauge of Pacific railroad.

From: "Randall Hees"

I have a thought, and couple of other dates: Of course, the Market Street Railroad was 5' gauge, and by eventually was controlled by the SF&SJ (the Sacramento Valley was 5' as well, but that line was not as politially connected as the SF&SJ, so is less important for this discussion)

July 15, 1862 Letter from James A McDougall and James H Campbell (chairs of Senate and House committees on Pacific Railroad) to Lincoln, asking him to set gauge, and suggesting 5’ (letter in Lincoln papers, LofC)

January 24, 1863 Telegram from A. Brody to Lincoln questioning choice of track gauge for Pacific Railroad (LOC, Lincoln papers) (this seems to confirm the date of early January for the gauge decision)

This reads in part " I have been informed that the question of gauge of the Pacific Railroad is about to be decided & that a gauge different fro that all the roads in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Northern Missouri is likely to be adopted. I understand that the argument in favor of a five foot gauge as the fact that a portion of the line on the Pacific Coast has adopted that gauge... "

James McDougall is a Senator from California, a San Francisco "war" democrat (supports the Union) and chair of the Senate committee for the Pacific Railroad. He is one of two men (the other being Timothy Guy Phelps, house member from San Mateo) identified as being present when Huntington and Judah agree to release the rights to build between Sacramento and San Francisco (the Western Pacific) toa group of primarily San Francisco business men. This group, while not identical to the groups building the San Francisco and San Jose and later the Southern Pacific, have many common directors. As chair of the Pacific Railroad committee McDougall will appoint Judah as clerk of the committee.

Both Phelps and McDougall will hold board positions with the three San Francisco railroads. I suspect, but so far can't prove that both men were at least peripherally members of Ralston's Bank Ring. (McDougall on one of the earlier boards of the SF&SJ, Phelps on the SF&SJ, and is the President of the first incorporation of the Southern Pacific)

Phelps a Republican runs against Stanford for governor. Later Phelps will be run out of the Republican Party, in an effort lead by E Soule. I am suspicious (but can't prove) that the attack is payback from Stanford. Locally (on the Peninsula) Phelps is well liked and known as an honest man.

E Soule is a Sacramento area blacksmith/wagon builder, who builds some of the push carts used to build the CP, who is one of the organizers of the May 10 1869 celebration in Sacramento, will later purchase part of the Kimball works, and will sue Kimball asserting bankrupcy (The court turns down the claim, and Soule's lawer for the attemp is associated with Stanford) Soule will later be the head of grounds for Stanford University. Finally, Soule and Stanford grew up together in New York...

With both Phelps and Kimball possibly associated with Ralston, can some of this be explained as a conflict between Ralston and the CP?

I am going to have a week in Washington DC next month. I plan on spending time with the Lincoln papers... There may be stuff there. Phelps is supposed to have been a friend of Lincoln, and "had his ear". Last year I went through the Pacific Railroad Committee notes, but only the Standing committee stuff. It was a select committee until 1861, then made a standing committee. The committee records are incomplete, and the archivist not particularly helpful (not bad, just not helpful) and now that I have done more background research I should understand better. I have already read most of the Secretary of the Interior information on the WP, but will go to the archives at College Park to tie up some loose ends. I have identified the WP ledgers in the Bureau of public dept as another target. If people have specific requests I will try to oblige.