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The Railroad Photographs


Alfred A. Hart, Artist


Edited by Peter E. Palmquist

The California State Library Foundation Sacramento, California

Copyright © 1995 by California State Library Foundation
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without written permission from the publisher.

ISBN 0-929722-85-X

Printed in the United States of America

Alfred A. Hart, Artist

Table of Contents

Editor's Foreword IX

Author's Preface XI

Introduction and Brief History of the Construction

of the Central Pacific Railroad 15

Starting The Railroad 18

Judah's Death at 37 22

CPRR Tunneling Methods 25

Nitroglycerin Adventures 28

Building the World's Longest Barn 33

Racing to Utah 35

Crocker's Bet to Lay Ten Miles in One Day 36

A Day of National Rejoicing 39

The Problem of Local Time 43

Photographing at Promontory 44

Notes on railroad books and appendixes 45

Alfred Hart: Photographer, Author and Publisher 51

Dating Hart's RR Construction Stereos 54

Dating Stereos with Tax Stamps 60

Dates the CPRR reached various points 62

The Fate of Hart's CPRR Negatives 69

Hart's years after 1869 73

Hart's Photographic and Production Methods 79

Methods in the Field 79

Light Sensitive Materials 80

The Wet Collodion Process 81

Necessary Ingrediants 82

Preparing The Plates for Exposure 84

Developing and Fixing the Negative 85

Hart's Camera and Equipment 89

Shutters 95

Stereograph Production 96

Making Stereo Prints 96

Sensitizing the Paper and

Printing the Negative 99

Masking 100

Toning, and Fixing the Prints 102

Transposing 103

Title Strips 104

Viewing Stereographs 105

Looking for the Photographer 109

Hart's Non-Railroad Photographs 111


A Reproductions of Hart's CPRR Stereo Views 113

B Numerical List of Hart's CPRR Stereo Views 153

C Geographical List of Hart's CPRR Stereos 167

D Public Sources of Hart's CPRR Stereo Views 177

E Glenn Willumson's Article on Hart 187

F Transposing and some Stereo Camera Details 203

G Replicas of somePages of Hart's Travel Book 213

Reading List and Short Bibliography 231

Index 233

List of Illustrations 238

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A Brief History of the Construction of the Central Pacific Railroad

On April 28, 1869 the Central Pacific Railroad Company (CPRR) paid eight Irish track layers four times their usual pay of a dollar for one day's work. In eleven back-breaking hours on the desert at the north shore of the Great Salt Lake, they had set an amazing and strangely American world record.

The rails used by the CPRR were ten yards long and weighed 56 pounds per yard, or 560 pounds for the rail. After the ties were laid a small handcar brought up rails to the end of the track, and four track layers (using track tongs) picked up a rail from the left side of this car and quick-stepped forward 30 feet to carefully lay the rail in place, ready for spiking down to the ties. At the same time the other four completed the same operation with a rail from the right side of the car. Each track layer on that day lifted his 140 pound share 1,762 times. By noon they had laid six miles of rail and were offered the chance to quit while a substitute gang took over. Those iron men refused the offer and laid four more miles in the afternoon.

When the whistle blew at seven that evening they had lifted 1,973,440 pounds of steel, not counting their heavy track tongs, and had advanced the CPRR ten miles and fifty six feet in a single day. Two days later, construction was completed and the CPRR had won its race with the Union Pacific Railroad Company (UPRR) to reach their junction point at Promontory, Utah. For 690 miles and 2,304 days, thousands of men had worked together to build the railroad eastward from Sacramento, yet only one woman and one photographer had repeatedly traveled the entire route. The woman was the wife of the construction superintendent, James Strobridge, and the photographer was Alfred A. Hart of Sacramento.

This is a story about Hart's stereo photographs, especially the remarkable set of 364 published images he took between 1864 and 1869 to document the building of the CPRR. The construction scenes are unique because they depict the last great project in the United States built almost entirely by manpower. The excavation "technology" was limited to black powder and a thousand or fewer horses. (The newly patented nitroglycerin was used for only 900 feet of the 690 miles.) Because of the enormous distance from the industrial East, and the pressing needs of the Civil War, millions of cubic yards of earth and stone were moved by methods common in the eighteenth century. Even the 75,000 tons of steel rails were lifted across the docks at Sacramento by hand powered cranes.

Hart's photographs clearly documented the incredible tasks accomplished, without being heavy handed. His stereographs of local Indians, for example, picture them as a dignified people and he carefully recorded the names of the tribes to which they belonged. Such scenes are also subtle indicators of the remarkable accomplishments in race relations made by CPRR superintendent, Charles Crocker.

To the east, the UPRR workers had been in constant conflict with the Native Americans encountered, and even required the protection of U.S. Army troops. Charles Crocker not only refused the proffered services of Army protection, but personally arranged a treaty with the tribes along the CPRR between California and Ogden, and later with the Apaches along the Southern Pacific. In 1888, the CPRR could proudly state that the treaty:

...has on each side been most faithfully maintained from that day to this. Many times since the construction of the road these tribes have been at war with the United States. In no single instance have they ever violated that solemn treaty or injured a man connected with the railroad or a passenger borne upon its trains...In striking contrast to the faith kept by the Piutes and Apaches stands the broken faith of a civilized nation with this company.

(The "broken faith" referred to changes attempted by the U. S. Government in the original Railroad Act.)

The story of the building of the Central Pacific Railroad has been repeatedly told in a number of well- researched books and articles. As a result, this account will only touch briefly on a few of the historic details and will include bits of information derived from previously unused original sources. It should also be understood that a unique set of incentives regarding the grand plan of a transcontinental railroad existed well before Alfred Hart

began taking his stereographs of the building of the Central Pacific Railroad. Nationally, the recognition of the need of a Pacific railroad actually predated the 1848 purchase of California by the United States. An early example began in 1841, when at his own expense, Asa Whitney of New York researched and later promoted a detailed plan for financing a railroad to the Pacific. Beautifully simple, the plan proposed that the United States sell him 80 million acres, in a strip 60 miles wide from Lake Michigan to the Pacific Ocean, for 10 cents an acre. He would then build a railroad along the center of this property, paying construction costs by selling some of the land as he progressed.

When the tracks reached the Pacific Coast he would donate the completed railroad to the United States Government and retire on the modest profits available as he sold off the remainder of the 80 million acres. Remarkably, the legislatures of over 20 States approved the plan, but it failed in Congress because of Southern opposition. Mr. Whitney died, broke, on a milk route in Washington, D.C.

San Francisco's first newspaper, The California Star, on April 10, 1847, had noted the talk of a Pacific Railroad. In a surprising prediction of the need for the Dutch Flat Wagon Road, which in 1864 was built to parallel and precede the Central Pacific, the editor strongly favored building a road for wheeled vehicles before a railroad was attempted.

In his State of the Nation address in 1849, President Zachary Taylor predicted the rapid growth of large cities in California and the necessity of a railroad within the United States to reach them. (A charter already existed for an inter-ocean railroad across Panama.) At this time (1849), Alfred A. Hart was listed as a portrait painter at 7 Pearl Street, Hartford, Connecticut.

Congress also recognized the national importance of a Pacific Railroad. In March, 1853 it directed the War Department to review Lt. Beckwith's 1849 survey and complete surveys of four new possible routes from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean. These enormous projects were carried out with such speed that on February 27, 1855 the printed report was submitted to Congress by the Secretary of War, and future president of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis. The title page of the first volume tells the story and reads:

Reports of Explorations and Surveys to Ascertain the most practicable and economical route for a Railroad from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean. Made under the direction of the Secretary of War, in 1853-4, according to acts of Congress of March 3, 1853, May 31, 1854 and August 5, 1854.--Volume I.

This single volume contains 641 pages 8-1/2 by 11-1/4 inches. The report was continued through Volume XIII and totalled about 7 thousand pages. It was not just a railroad report, but also described in detail vast areas of the Trans-Mississippi West. For example, the naturalists attached to the survey parties made beautiful engravings of birds, snakes, fish, sea-shells, minerals, and trees, all of which are included. Some of the engraved maps fold out to sizes as large as 36 inches by 40 inches.

In 1857, a Sacramento resident and Chief Engineer of the newly completed railroad to Folsom, Theodore Judah, had prepared a pamphlet titled "A Practical Plan for Building the Pacific Railroad" which he sent to every member of Congress. Meanwhile (in 1857) Alfred Hart was still in Hartford, Connecticut, and had become a partner of daguerreotypist, Henry H. Bartlett.

Californians in particular agreed that the railroad would change their history forever--Robert Draper, for example, in his Sacramento City Directory for 1`866, predicted that it would "prove an incalculable blessing to the whole nation"


The Central Pacific Railroad Company (CPRR) was incorporated in Sacramento on June 28, 1861, with Leland Stanford as president, Collis Huntington, vice president, Mark Hopkins, secretary-treasurer, E. B. Crocker, company attorney, Charles Crocker (E. B.'s brother), a director, and Theodore Judah, chief engineer.

In October, Judah was sent to Washington to induce Congress to assist in financing construction by providing appropriations of land and guaranteeing the interest payments of the CPRR-issued bonds of the railroad.

As possibly the most successful lobbyist of all time, Judah saw the Pacific Railroad Act signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln on July 1st, 1862. In addition, 17 senators, 44 representatives and the Secretary of the Senate wrote to Judah: "We cannot let this opportunity pass without tendering to you our warmest thanks for your valuable assistance in aiding the passage of the Pacific Railroad Bill through Congress."

After lengthy negotiations, the bill enacted provided that the United States would receive a mortgage on all the assets of the two corporations building the Pacific Railroad (the CPRR in the West and the Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) in the East). In return the two corporations would be granted a strip of land 200 feet wide on both sides of the right-of-way and 6,400 acres (10 square miles) for each mile of railroad completed. This land had been available for years to the public at $2.50 per acre and was thus reckoned as being worth $16,000 per mile, but most of it was worth far less and remained unsold by the railroads for over a century. Most importantly at the time, the railroads would also receive a loan (not an outright subsidy) in the form of $16,000 in 30-year six percent government bonds for each mile constructed. Because of construction difficulty in the high desert between the Rockies and the Sierra Nevada, this rate was doubled to $32,000 per mile and in the Rockies and the Sierra Nevada it was set at $48,000 per mile. The interest and principal were to be repaid by the railroads.

No bonds or land was to be given either railroad until it had completed 40 miles of track, and payment for transportation and other services by the railroad to the government were to be credited to interest and principal on the bonds until all had been paid in full. Possibly because of this provision, the CPRR repaid all the interest and principal before it was due. As a final "incentive" the bill required that if the railroad were not completed by July 4, 1876 it would be entirely forfeited to the government. The legislators seemed assured that the railroad bill would do more for the country than the builders of the Pacific Railroad. From subsequent letters and recorded conversations, it is evident that the management of the CPRR also felt the bill was short on carrots and long on sticks, but the best they could get under the circumstances.

The Railroad Act, by not setting a junction point for the Central Pacific (coming from Sacramento) and the Union Pacific (from Omaha) made the project a race between the two railroads, with only the completion date, "before July 4, 1876," an established requirement. The intelligence of Congress in this matter was later demonstrated by the fact that the railroads were completed over seven years before the required date.

Before returning to California, Judah had purchased cars, locomotives, and enough track hardware to build 50 miles of rail. Huntington remained in the East to sell CPRR bonds, pay for the equipment, and arrange shipping, which would have to pass Confederate raiders on the trip south to pass around Cape Horn.

The CPRR builders were under enormous economic pressure to construct as rapidly as humanly possible--both for loan guarantees and land grants during construction, and then a greater share of all future freight revenues involving the CPRR and other carriers. Never before or since has such a huge project been built where its starting point (Sacramento) was so far from its suppliers (New England). From Boston by sailing ship around Cape Horn it was over 16,000 miles to Sacramento. As a comparison- when they reached the far end of the Trans-Siberian Railroad in Vladivostok, the Russian builders were "only" 4,750 miles from Moscow. The long sea voyage for CPRR supplies ended at the railroad docks at the foot of I, J and K Streets in Sacramento. (Fig. 3)

Regardless of the distance factor, the incredible difficulties of building a railroad over the Sierra were widely recognized--an example being the prospect of boring through solid granite at the summit, one of the longest and at the time, the highest tunnel in the world. (See Fig. 9)

Captain (later General) William Tecumseh Sherman, an experienced Army engineer and surveyor who had spent years in California, wrote to his brother of this project: "If it is ever built, it will be the work of giants." Using the flowery language of a nineteenth-century orator, and 20 years after the fact, Creed Haymond described the conditions actually overcome:

From Newcastle to Emigrant Gap [a distance of 53 miles] the work was about as heavy as the average of the work on the Pennsylvania Road across the Allegheny Mountains. From Emigrant Gap to Truckee the difficulties encountered can never be described so as to be appreciated by one not conversant with that range of mountains or who has not lived among them during the months of almost constant storm. On the Western slope the [annual] snow-fall will vary from 30 to 60 feet in depth and snow has remained upon the summit to the depth of four feet as late as July.

The CPRR directors were experienced merchants, but prior to the start of construction on January 8, 1863, only Theodore Judah, the chief engineer, had done any railroad building.

Kibbey Figure 3

(Fig. 3) Alfred Hart: CPRR dock at foot of "I" Street, Sacramento from the deck of the steamer Capitol, looking northeast. At left center hay scows, often seen on the Petaluma River, have been altered to carry long timbers for railroad bridges. Three hand powered cranes (painted white) are located along the edge of the dock, and a man proudly stands on a pile of 12 x 12 timbers with his hand on the closest crane. Nearby are 20 or 30 kegs of track spikes and the shiny object to their right is the stack of a locomotive. This image is enlarged from a portion of an untitled Hart stereograph probably taken in the winter of 1867/1868.

Kibbey Figure 4

(Fig. 4) July 1990, Inside wooden snowshed at Norden just after a locomotive passed. Huge roof and wall timbers were required at this 7,000 foot elevation about one mile west of the Donner Summit Tunnel. It is not unusual for snow depths here to reach 18 feet. (MBK photo)

Judah previously had designed a rather difficult section of track in New England and had been chief engineer for the first passenger railroad in the West, the 22-mile Sacramento Valley Railroad (SVRR) to Folsom from Sacramento, completed in 1856.

In laying out the route of the Central Pacific, Judah examined many alternative routes. In the period ending October 1, 1861, he reported making barometrical surveys (using a barometer as an altimeter to obtain elevations) of 765 miles, and preliminary and location surveys of 580 miles for a grand total of 1,365 miles. The route finally built was quite close to the one he laid out, but in regard to Sierra snows he sadly underestimated both their power and intensity. When Judah reviewed his research, he concluded that two snow plows, working east and west from the summit, could always keep the track clear.

In a strong display of faith in the ultimate victory of the Union forces in the Civil War then raging, the formal construction of the CPRR was commenced at Front and K Streets in Sacramento on January 8, 1863. The UPRR did not lay their first rail until July 10, 1865 when the war was over and the CPRR already had over 50 miles of track in place.

On the CPRR, the first shovel full of earth was turned by Leland Stanford who was both the president of the railroad and governor of California. From that day forward the building of the CPRR never stopped, although shortages of capital occasionally slowed its progress.

Judah earlier had designed a large timber bridge crossing the American River at Folsom as part of an extension of the SVRR to Auburn. In this bridge, called a deck bridge, the tracks were supported on the top of the structure just as Judah specified on the last bridge he designed for the Central Pacific at Dry Creek near Junction (now Roseville). In his last formal report to the Directors, dated July 1, 1863, Judah described the details of the Dry Creek Bridge as well as those of the 220-foot Arcade Trestle and the 384-foot CPRR American River Bridge at Sacramento .


Shortly after filing this report (in October) Judah sailed for New York and while crossing the Isthmus of Panama, contracted Yellow Fever, from which he died on November 2, 1863 in New York at the age of 37. After Judah's death, engineering continued under his 33 year-old former assistant, now Acting Chief Engineer, Samuel S. Montague. However in most construction matters, the driving force and strategic planning of CPRR Director Charles Crocker became supremely important.

Kibbey Figure 5

(Fig. 5) Alfred Hart: No. 148 View of American River Bridge, near view-3 miles from Sacramento. Taken on March 16, 1865 during an excursion to celebrate the arrival of the new freight locomotive CONNESS which can be seen in the enlarged inset, loaded with men at the far end of the bridge. (At the near end is the HUNTINGTON.) A close view of the CONNESS appears in (Fig. 33) on page 56. The bridge was designed by the CPRR chief engineer, Theodore Judah, and completed in 1863. Later it was destroyed by fire, and Arthur Brown (who built 37 miles of snowsheds in six months) had it repaired and open for traffic in 40 hours. Standing in the foreground is Judge E. B. Crocker looking at the small locomotive HUNTINGTON and the ladder at the extreme right used by Hart to bring his camera down from the trestle to take this picture. This trip is also mentioned on page 59 in column one.

William Hood, who was closely associated with Crocker during construction, said he had the gift:

...of sound common sense. I never heard Mr. Crocker reproving or speaking to any one except in encouragement and in a manner to increase the man's self respect and instill a desire to continue in his good opinion. He was able to convince those working under his direction that he believed they were doing their best, and they did it....

In 1864, about the time Hart started making stereographs for the CPRR, James H. Strobridge was appointed superintendent of construction, and he remained in day-to-day charge of the actual work until the final spike at Promontory. He was a tall, hard-driving New Englander, whose vocabulary was rumored capable of removing the hide of a mule at 40 paces. When Charles Crocker was faced with a serious shortage of laborers in 1865, he proposed using Chinese workers for railroad construction. Strobridge at first objected, but after working with them for a short time he became their great champion, and trained them for most construction jobs.

Almost as soon as construction began, the need for extra work on certain portions of the road required crews to be sent far in advance of the actual end-of-track. This stretching forward, increased over time and by early 1865 when the railhead was only a bit above Auburn, camps had already been established and work begun on the larger projects all the way to the Summit Tunnels, 60 miles beyond. At this time Hart used his photo-wagon to take a number of scenes beyond the end-of-track which he later published. Some examples of these early construction stereographs are found in Appendix A: Nos. 70-72, 80-92, 116 125, and 196-204. It is interesting that the transport of his photo-wagon on a flatcar to reach the railhead, may well be the first photographed examples of an off-rail vehicle accomplishing what is now referred to as "piggy-backing."

Until June 19, 1866 when Congress lifted the ban, The Pacific Railroad Act limited the Central Pacific from building beyond a point 150 miles east of the California border. Up until that time, it was expected that the terrible difficulties in the Sierra Nevada Mountains would hold them back while the "easy" work facing the Union Pacific would permit both of them to reach the California border at about the same time.

It gradually became obvious that Congress had underestimated James Strobridge's "dedicated fury" and the incredible drive of the railroad construction team assembled by Charles Crocker. (For a close view of some of these men, see Fig. 2.) In addition to enormous cuts and fills, bridges, and retaining walls, the CPRR had to bore a total of 6,213 feet in 15 tunnels while crossing the Sierra Nevada Mountains. All of the CPRR tunnels were completed well before the Union Pacific commenced the boring of the four tunnels with a total length of 1,792 feet on their section of the Pacific Railroad.

The longest CPRR tunnel was 1,659 feet and the shortest 92 feet. The majority were in hard granite, which is often thought of as being similar to marble or limestone. It is actually a very common igneous stone even harder than steel or glass, and impervious to virtually all chemicals. It can be polished to a mirror finish, and can bear a compressive load of over 1,000 tons per square foot. A block of granite 2 x 3-1/2 inches (the size of a business card) would support a 46-ton CPRR locomotive without being crushed. Because of granite's amazing durability, 125-year-old drill holes made in split boulders at the summit are still sharp edged, and look only days old.


The excavation of a tunnel was started by laying out a staked line beginning at the outside of both ends and extending over the top of the hill to be pierced. This was immediately followed by making a cut in the hill toward the mouth of the tunnel until reaching a vertical face the full size of the bore. This initial open cut was a little wider than the planned tunnel width and the bottom of the cut slightly below the tunnel floor. The vertical back of the cut became higher as the cut entered the hill and when its height exceeded the height of the bore (about 20 feet), driving the tunnel was commenced. The tunnel bore was usually a rectangle 16 feet wide by 11 feet high surmounted by a half circle of 8 feet radius. The completed bore thus had somewhat the shape of the end view of a loaf of bread.

After clearing the vertical face, the real tunnel was begun at the upper, or rounded portion called the "heading," and this area was kept about 20 feet ahead of the lower area called the "bottom." This process allowed the all important survey lines, which kept the bore on course, to be maintained safely overhead by spads--a sort of nail with an eyelet in the head- accurately set in wood plugs driven into holes drilled in the ceiling. As construction progressed, the floor of the heading was kept about 11 or 12 feet above the floor of the tunnel and provided a working area near the ceiling without the use of scaffolding.

Kibbey Figure 6

(Fig. 6) Rare photograph of a tunnel "heading". Enlarged from a portion of Hart, No. 197, Summit Tunnel before completion.

Details of underground surveying by the CPRR engineers under Montague are sketchy, but contemporary surveyors often sighted at weighted wires hanging from spads in the ceiling with a candle held behind the wire for precise location in the dark. A more sophisticated device for long underground surveys, was the Coxe Plummet-Lamp, which contained a small kerosene lamp to illuminate a tiny self-contained sighting post. It too was hung from the ceiling, using gimbals and brass chains. ABOVE: (Fig. 8) Hand-drilled blast hole in Summit Tunnel which resulted in a perfect splitting of the stone (right down the middle of the hole). This example of Chinese drilling skill has been passed at close range by possibly a million passengers who never saw it in the darkness of the tunnel. (MBK photo)

Kibbey Figure 7

LEFT: (Fig. 7) Bloomer Cut near Auburn, California in 1990. This cut is over 600 feet long in hard, cemented stone. It delayed the CPRR construction for many months and James Strobridge lost one of his eyes to a delayed blast here. (MBK photo)

Kibbey Figure 8
By means of such devices, in 1875, the Brookfield Tunnel in an Ohio coal mine was bored 4,016 feet through 43 turns or angles with a final alignment error of only 6 inches.

Surveying the absolutely straight CPRR 1,659-foot-long Summit Tunnel was rather simple by comparison, and the headings met with an error of less than 1/2 inch. A central vertical shaft was dug to allow this tunnel to be worked simultaneously from four faces (further described in footnote 129, page 160, Appendix B). The alignment of this central portion required particular care as the line-of-sight had to be carried 73 feet down a shaft only 12 feet wide.

The surveying of each of the longer CPRR Summit Tunnels was similar. As soon as the heading had penetrated 25 or 30 feet, very accurately located spads were set overhead and these formed the basis of alignment for the remainder of the tunnel. This latter step was necessary because of the heavy snow outside which halted the use of exterior backsights.

Rock encountered in this work was broken by blasting.

Black powder blasting was accomplished by hand drilling holes of 2-inch diameter about 2 to 3 feet deep (Fig. 8) and where possible, at a downward angle. Down-sloping holes allowed the powder to be poured in, while an upward sloping hole required the powder to be loaded in a metal or paper canister. The holes were filled to 1/3 the depth of the hole with granular black powder, a length of fuse inserted, and the remainder of the hole packed with dry clay, sand or even hay, and tamped until closed tight.

Tamping was done with a wood pole or brass bar. A steel bar could strike sparks from the sides of the hole and ignite the charge prematurely. The fuse burned at about three feet per minute and the inner end was placed at the middle of the charge for maximum effect. Nearly simultaneous discharges of multiple blasts were often used for greater efficiency, because in a confined space, the smoke from several blasts cleared in about the same length of time as that from a single explosion. Setting fuse lengths and the order of lighting thus required some exact calculations. Blasting in those days, like making fine beer, was both a science and an art; so figures given here are merely averages which varied according to the taste of the individual foremen.

Through the strength, type, and placement of the charges, a skilled powder man could split a boulder the size of a bus into two unshattered halves or reduce it to gravel fine enough to load with a shovel.

The CPRR tunnel workers were divided into gangs of about 107 men per working face (the heading and bottom together). These were further divided into three eight-hour shifts of 33 laborers, one blacksmith to sharpen drills, one helper, and one horse and driver to pull loaded wagons of broken rock out of the tunnel. The two foremen each worked 12-hour shifts, supervising one eight-hour shift and half of another. The payroll data in Gillis's report (see footnote 32) indicate that all the tunnel workers on the larger tunnels were Chinese and the foremen, blacksmiths, and helpers, Caucasians.

While neither the problem nor its solution is mentioned in contemporary reports, melting snow water must have been a problem while drilling the west end of all the Summit Tunnels (Nos. 6 through 13) as they sloped down to the east at 5/8 inch per yard of length. In August 1994, after a very dry winter, water still leaked into the tunnels at many spots, and after the terrible winters of 1866 and 1867, it must have come in torrents.


The long Summit Tunnel (No.6) was obviously the most difficult both in time and effort, and after 396 twenty four hour days using black powder, their average progress was only 14 inches per day in the headings. At this point Charles Crocker decided to employ nitroglycerin. It had been patented in the United States by Alfred Nobel on October 24, 1865 and promptly developed a reputation for great power and a nasty propensity to explode at unexpected times.

Crocker and Strobridge may well have learned of nitroglycerin because of an incident at the San Francisco office of Wells Fargo & Company involving a salesman's sample sent by Nobel from Hamburg to his California agent:

[In April 1866] ..explosion occurred in the office of Wells Fargo & Co., by which eight persons lost their lives. The explosion involved a further loss of a quarter million dollars. A man passing by Wells Fargo & Co. office heard one of the employees address a man riding past on horseback, saying 'Doctor we have got a case of glonoin oil and it seems to be smoking, I wish you would step in and advise us what had better be done with it'. The doctor (Hill) dismounted requesting a passer-by to take charge of his horse and walk it up and down the block, the animal being too high spirited to stand without an attendant.
Scarcely had the person in charge gone a block from the office when the explosion occurred. It can only be inferred that in breaking open the case to discover the cause of the leakage of red fumes, the Nitro-Glycerine was exploded.
Nitroglycerin is a clear, odorless, oily liquid having a pleasant, sweet taste. It is poisonous when inhaled, swallowed, or introduced into the body through the pores, producing headaches and sickness. Quality nitroglycerin is not sensitive to friction or moderate percussion. If placed on an anvil and struck with a hammer (not recommended), only the particle receiving the blow explodes, scattering the remainder. In Germany, an experiment showed that nitro-glycerin confined in containers of glass, tin, and wood did not explode when dropped 85 feet onto rocks. These remarks apply to very pure, well-washed specimens, not likely to decompose. Impure nitroglycerin, contained in a can at Yonkers, New York, was exploded by the impact of a rock thrown by a boy.

Nitroglycerin is made by treating glycerin with nitric acid in the presence of sulfuric acid, and its chemical formula is C3H5(NO2)3O3. It is heavier than, and insoluble in, water and the excess acids resulting from its manufacture are removed by repeatedly passing it through a water bath. Washing can also be accomplished by passing water or a mixture of air and water upward through the nitroglycerin. The water is continuously drawn off at the top, leaving the purified product at the bottom of the container. Unlike black powder which has a slower effect and follows the line of least resistance, nitroglycerin explodes almost instantly in all directions with no regard for the resistance met. It is particularly effective in hard rock which it tends to shatter into small, easily loaded pieces. Since nitroglycerin was much more powerful than black powder, smaller holes could be drilled, and being oily, it worked perfectly in wet rock or even under water.

Nitroglycerin freezes at 45 degrees Fahrenheit and had to be warmed in winter before pouring into the blast holes of the Summit Tunnel. One can imagine the attention lavished on this process in order to avoid overheating to the point of ignition. It is unsafe to bury quantities of nitro glycerin because it may later react with its container or chemicals in the soil to become unstable and easily exploded. The usual method of disposal was by burning in the open without a restricting container.

Since Crocker had no desire to see parts of his new railroad to the west blown up while transporting the liquid explosive, he arranged for it to be manufactured at the summit as needed. For the remaining 655 days, using nitro glycerin, progress in the headings of the Summit Tunnel increased to 22 inches per day. In the bottoms it was even more effective, increasing progress from 17 inches to 53 inches per day. Despite its advantages, Crocker did not allow nitroglycerin to be used anywhere on the railroad after completion of the Summit Tunnel in November 1867.

Because they only manufactured the nitroglycerin as needed, there was no disposal problem, and the unused ingredients which were caustic, but nonexplosive, could have been resold.

Kibbey Figure 9

ABOVE: (Fig. 9) Engineering profile of the CPRR's first seven Summit Tunnels (Nos. 6 through 12) sloping down from the actual summit at the left edge of the illustration. The vertical (distance) lines are 100 feet apart and the horizontal (elevation) lines are five feet apart, resulting in the pointed appearance of the mountains. The great retaining wall between tunnels 7 and 8 (shown in Fig. 11) was built across a small creek formerly used to reach Donner Pass. (From John R. Gillis Report on the Pacific Railroad Tunnels to the American Society of Civil Engineers, January 5, 1870. Courtesy of Nigel Croft, Document Services Manager, Engineering Societies Library.)

Kibbey Figure 10

LEFT: (Fig. 10) Ice in Donner Summit Tunnel, looking East at tunnel 8 in January, 1993 (a very mild winter). The railroad men used shotguns fired from the rear of work trains to shoot down the massive icicles (up to 3 feet thick). (MBK photo)

Kibbey Figure 11

(Fig. 11) Great wall between Donner Summit Tunnels 7 and 8 started in 1866 and continued under a snow cavern through the winter of 1866/67 when 44 feet of snow fell. The Chinese workers carefully laid the lower courses from both sides in good weather, but the upper courses were built inside the cavern on the back of the wall making alignment of the face very difficult. (MBK photo)

Kibbey Figure 13

ABOVE: (Fig. 13) Old snowshed timbers east of tunnel 8. The 20 degree angle roof frame can be seen at right foreground. Taken in August 1994. (MBK photo)

Kibbey Figure 12

LEFT: (Fig. 12) Portion of Hart No. 202 taken from upper left of Fig. 11 which shows the construction of the lower part of the great wall between tunnels 7 and 8. Hart made this photograph in late fall of 1866. Light snow was already present and the steam engine was operating in the central shaft house at the extreme top of the picture. At the bottom a horse and wagon can be seen coming out of tunnel 8.

The Summit Tunnels Nos. 6 through 10 completed by the CPRR in 1867 remained in continuous use until July 1993 and the rails and track hardware were finally removed between July 11, and August 5, 1994. (This did not end rail travel over the Donner route as a more modern and much longer parallel tunnel had been built in about 1910, and remains in use.) The rails extended 119 miles to Truckee on April 3, 1868, and from that point construction speeded up across the level expanse of Nevada until advances of two or three miles in a day were common.


In 1868, despite rapid construction on the plains, the Central Pacific was still facing a major problem in the High Sierra that Crocker, Strobridge and Montague had felt they understood- snow. They, as well as all the directors had been born and raised in New England where snow was always a consideration. They knew about blizzards, 30-degrees below zero temperatures, and snow in city streets drifting up to 3 feet deep. How bad could Sierra snow be where the temperature seldom dropped below zero? The answer was given to them in the winter of 1866/67 and the answer was -- Beyond Belief! The winter of 1865/66 provided a preamble of what was to come; the rain in the foothills was so heavy that the stage coach en route from the railhead at Colfax for

Kibbey Figure 14

(Fig. 14) Spikes and tie plates from Summit tunnels, 1994.

Virginia City was stuck in the mud at Gold Run and left standing in the street for six long weeks. All wagon traffic ceased and construction supplies moved with great suffering and difficulty, on the backs of mules. By November 1866, the railhead had climbed to Cisco and the 1866/67 winter was even worse than the previous one. (Figs. 80 and 81) Civil engineer John R. Gillis reported:

In November and the early part of December [1866] there were several snowstorms, just enough to stimulate without denying the work. The rough rocky sides of Donner Peak [Hart's "Crested Peak"] soon became smooth slopes of snow and ice covering the trail from tunnel 8 to 9: it remained impassable until spring....Snow storms, 44 in number, varied in length from a snow squall to a two week gale, and in depth from 1/4 inch to ten feet....The heaviest storm of the winter, began February 18th [1867] at 2 p.m.,
and snowed steadily until 10 p.m. of the 22nd, during which time 6 feet fell." [The total snowfall that winter was 44 feet and 7 inches] "Of course these storms made the road impassable even for sleighs. They were opened by gangs of men, kept for that purpose, with heavy ox sleds. The snow when new fallen is very light, so that a man without snowshoes would sink to his waist or shoulders. Into this the oxen would flounder, and when they lay down, worn out, be roused by the summary process of twisting their tails.

Obviously teams of exhausted oxen could not precede trains through the snow-bound passes. Worse, the huge new snow plows built in 1866 could not be forced through the immense drifts--even with eight or ten locomotives, and the 2,500 men employed in shoveling the snow from the tracks could not keep the line open more than half the time.

Despite these daunting problems, Charles Crocker had not totally lost his sense of humor when he placed the following advertisement on page 5, column 6 of the January 20, 1868 Sacramento Union:


I desire to contract for the hauling of 2000 Tons
of Iron from Cisco to Coburn's Station to be delivered in 90 days. Snow all the way and Splendid Sleighing ! A Liberal price will be paid.
Chas. Crocker, Superintendent, CPRR

His effort was evidently successful as the notice appeared only on that one day. (Coburn's Station was on the Dutch Flat Wagon road near Truckee, and 2000 tons of rail would build 20 miles of track.

Hart is known to have photographed only a handful of scenes in deep Sierra snow, one being No. 207 showing a snowplow at Cisco. A number of reasons can be suggested in addition to the obvious discomfort of just being there. Wet-plate photography was brutally difficult in freezing temperatures, travelling on the crowded railroad to the rail head may have been restricted at that time of year, and it is highly likely that Hart used the winter respite to complete his photographic work and to prepare and market his stereographs. A winter sojourn in the valley would also explain the almost universally leafless trees in his Sacramento views.

With all these snow problems, something radical had to be done to ensure the passage of supplies to the crews on the Nevada desert during the crucial winter months of 1868/69, and also to accommodate the new transcontinental traffic following the joining of the CPRR with the Union Pacific. With great reluctance the directors agreed that they must take a step unheard of in railroading before. They would have to build nearly 40 miles of heavy wooden sheds covering large parts of the railroad eastward from Blue Canyon to Coldstream Valley on the other side of the summit.

In addition to the main problem of snow, the sheds would protect the rails from rocks falling from the cliffs above. In 1990, a stone was seen (about half the size of an automobile) which had fallen through the modern concrete roof of the snowshed between tunnels 8 and 9 below Donner Peak. The maintenance supervisor who was driving the high railer (a pickup that can run on rails) didn't seem at all surprised and merely observed that the rock wasn't touching the track and probably weighed no more than two or three tons.

In 1867 the job of building the snowsheds fell to Arthur Brown, Superintendent of Bridges and Buildings, a 37 year old Scotsman. He said later:

It was decided...that the only means of protecting the road was by means of snow sheds and galleries [at first Hart called them "snow coverings"], although the expense of building a shed nearly 40 miles in length was appalling and an unprecedented extra in railroad construction. In the summer of 1867 we built some experimental sheds. The snow shed building was commenced in earnest in 1868.

The simple words "in earnest" when used by a construction superintendent on the Central Pacific had meaning that can only be described as without modern comparison.

Because of the snow and mud, only about six months of the year could be used for building. The tracks inside the sheds had to be cleared for the passage of up to 40 trains each day, and the local sawmills had such an insufficient capacity, that round timber for posts had to be cut nearby in the woods and brought up on sleds. (See Appendix A, views No. 246 to No. 254) Brown's description continued:

As the road was then rapidly progressing up the valley of the Humboldt, it became a matter of the most vital importance that the sheds should be so far finished that the supplies and building materials for the construction ahead should not be interrupted...We, therefore, had to gather men from all quarters and pay high wages: carpenters, $4.00 per day; and suitable laborers $2.50 to $3.00. We employed about 2,500 men, with six trains with locomotives distributing material...The snow sheds and galleries were finished in the fall of 1869. In them was used 65,000,000 board feet of lumber and 900 tons of bolts and spikes. The total length of sheds and galleries was, when finished [in 1869], about 37 miles.

More sheds were added later bringing the total to nearly 40 miles. Since 1960, the milder winters, more powerful snow- plows, and the installation of reinforced concrete snowsheds have resulted in the removal of miles of the old wooden sheds. The heavy old timbers quickly disappear where there is public access, but in a few lonely locations, they remain in piles 10 to 15 feet high and are still visible on the mountains across Donner Lake from its north shore (See Fig. 13).

Hart appears to have been very interested in the snowshed construction and published at least three variations of his No. 246, "Constructing Snow Cover," and many other views of the open frames before the roof covering was installed.

The lighter structures with the round posts started around Emigrant Gap, and the extremely heavy square sawn posts were used near the summit where avalanches could be expected. For a photographer on site at the right moment, the framed, but as yet unroofed, sheds allowed plenty of light for photography and provided unexcelled opportunities for Hart to demonstrate depth and composition in his stereographs (See Fig. 38).


In the great rush to Promontory, CPRR crews were actually grading in Palisade Canyon 300 miles ahead in eastern Nevada as the railhead neared Reno.

Nineteen years later in describing this effort, James Strobridge said:

It was necessary to have the heavy work done in the Palisade [Ten Mile] Canyon done in advance of the main force: and 3,000 men with 400 horses and carts were sent to that point, a distance of 300 miles in advance of the track. Hay, grain and all supplies for these men and horses had to be hauled by teams over the deserts [from Truckee] for that great distance, there being no supplies to be obtained on the entire route.

Despite problems of this nature on the desert, construction between Newcastle (California) and Truckee (3 miles east of Donner Lake) had been infinitely harder. With James Strobridge in charge and using an average of 11,000 men, it still took 38 months (February 1865 to April 1868) to complete the 88 miles over the Sierra summit. With a work force averaging only 5,000 men, the railroad was completed from Truckee, California, to Promontory--a distance of 571 miles--in 12 months and 27 days. Strobridge is said to have remarked that if the Union Pacific had never existed, the CPRR could have completed the 1086 miles from Promontory to Omaha in less than eighteen more months.


In a celebration strangely reminiscent of the review in Washington D.C. of the victorious Union Armies on May 23 and 24, 1865, Charles Crocker and James Strobridge planned a stunning demonstration of teamwork for April 28, 1869 on the lonely Utah desert between Monument Point and Promontory .

Kibbey Figure 15

(Fig.15) Hart No. 246(a) Arthur Brown on snowshed by Tunnel 8.

Kibbey Figure 16

(Fig.16) Hart No. 315 Water train near Humboldt Lake, in the Nevada desert. The CPRR tank cars carried water for locomotives and camps.

Kibbey Figure 17

(Fig. 17) Alfred Hart: No. 338 First Construction Train passing the Palisades, Ten Mile Canyon. Taken in December 1868 about 435 miles from Sacramento. The track was just laid, and the hardworking locomotive had the decorative front of its smokebox missing.

For the last time, almost the entire remaining body of the CPRR's mighty construction force was gathered for this day, intending to set a record that would stand forever. Of course this was an era noted for stupendous construction achievements; for example during the Civil War the Confederates totally destroyed the 600-foot military railroad bridge over Potomac Creek on the Aquia Creek & Fredricksburg Railroad. Two days later, Captain A.J. Russell photographed it just after it had been rebuilt by the U.S. Military Railroad Construction Corps in 40 hours. Some veterans of that effort may well have been working for the CPRR, but even they had never seen an accomplishment such as that proposed by Crocker and Strobridge. In a single 12-hour day they would place the ties, lay and spike down the rails, build the telegraph line, and ballast 10 miles of track!

At 7:00 a.m. on April 28, 1869, the first of some 80 cars of rails was unloaded and when the final whistle blew that evening, they had completed 10 miles and 56 feet of new railroad (see also Appendix B, page 165, footnote 141) As the reporter for the San Francisco Bulletin wrote that day about the construction:

The scene was an animated one. [a world class understatement] From the first 'pioneer' to the last tamper, about two miles, there was a line of men advancing a mile an hour; iron cars with their loads of rails and humans dashed up and down the newly-laid track; foremen on horseback were galloping back and forth. Keeping pace with the track layers were the telegraph construction party. Alongside the moving force, teams were hauling food and water wagons. Chinamen (sic) with pails dangling from poles balanced over their shoulders were moving among the men with water and tea." An Army officer remarked to Charles Crocker: "It was just like an army marching over the ground and leaving the track behind them.

Only a short section of track remained to be built, and by April 30th the reporter for the Alta Californian wrote: "The last blow has been struck on the Central Pacific Railroad and the last tie and rail were placed in position today. We are now waiting for the Union Pacific to finish their rock cutting."

The diary of Captain John Charles Currier who was with his regiment on the first train through from Omaha to Sacramento, disclosed a telling difference in efficiency between the UP and the CPRR. On the UPRR it took him three full days to cover the final 40 miles to Promontory, including riding in a set of cabooses pushed one at a time across an all-too-shaky trestle.

He earlier noted that the UPRR tracks were so uneven that he fell down while trying to get a drink of water in a moving passenger car. His confidence in the general management of the UPRR was further shaken when he learned that the vice president of the UP had his private car chained to the rails until workers were paid. In contrast, when Captain Currier had transferred to the train on the Central Pacific side after the joining ceremony, he left around midnight on May 10th and arrived in Sacramento (690 miles away) only 59 hours later. Captain Currier wrote in his diary:

At Humboldt Wells, Nevada Territory, 165 miles from Promontory. We are making excellent time. There is a perceptible difference in the running time from that of the U.P.[sic] We go faster....We run thirty miles per hour with very few stops. The Centrals carry their water along with them in immense tanks for it is very difficult to get water here. The grading of the road is perfect: for the last 80 miles we have run as smooth as a floor.
With all this we ran like lightening at a frightful speed. Made 200 miles last night. Some times our car, it being the rear one would snap as if it was a whip. Several of the officers became alarmed at our speed. On, On we rushed without a stop....All remark on how well this road is built, certainly fifty percent better than the U.P....The "C.P's" don't mean to keep us long on their road. They halt for nothing and seem impatient if we wish to stop for coffee. Somewhat different from the 'U.P.'

It is unfortunate that the informal construction methods employed by the UP were later attributed to the CPRR as well. The better construction provided by the CPRR, as noted by Captain Currier, can also be clearly seen in contemporary photographs. If one sees sawn ties with square ends, it is most likely CPRR track, and if round ties flattened on one side with pointed ends, UPRR track. Ties of this type were often used on the military railroads of the Civil War, and may have influenced their use on the UPRR where many former Union soldiers were employed.


The almost universal pride and joy felt by the nation regarding the joining of the rails at Promontory was certainly equal to that felt at the end of World War II. A telegraph wire was attached to the silver hammer driving the last (gold) spike while every telegraph instrument in the nation was kept silent. When the fateful "click" was heard, for the first time in United States history, the whole nation knew a momentous event had occurred at the very instant it happened. The silver plated hammer which drove in the last spike was held by Leland Stanford, the man who six years and four months before had turned the first spade of earth to begin the construction of the Pacific Railroad 690 miles to the west in Sacramento.

The spanning of the United States by rail elicited many forms of praise, one of the more remarkable being a woodcut used as the frontispiece of Crofutt's Trans- Continental Tourist in 1874. The Goddess of American Progress floats westward in revealing diaphanous garb while bearing a book marked "Common School" and a roll of telegraph wire (Fig. 20).

This was the only occasion where the United States Mint issued a commemorative medal at the time of the event, and a century later, it was still considered so important that its centennial was also commemorated by another issue.

In addition, on May 10, 1944, just 27 days before D Day, the Un it ed States Post Office issued a special stamp to commemorate the seventy fifth anniversary of the joining of the rails at Promontory. The allegorical scene depicted was not taken from any particular photograph, but featured the CPRR's locomotive JUPITER, whose number "60" was clearly visible. Even the world of music made contributions, an example being a happy song by Henry P. Work entitled "Crossing the Grand Sierras." © Brainard Publishing,'76.

The completion of the rails from coast to coast had a huge impact on the future of the United States. It did not, as expected, result in the country becoming a conduit for freight to and from the Orient. (The construction of the Suez Canal changed the cost structure of that trade and maintained it in European ships.)

Kibbey Figure 18

(Fig.18) Hart No.317 End of track near Humboldt Lake. Workers demonstrating their jobs during a visit by dignitaries (See pg. 15).

Kibbey Figure 19

(Fig. 19) Hart's full page advertisement in the 1870 Sacramento City Directory compiled in 1869. When Hart left Sacramento, Frank Durgan, who later published Hart views, used the same address.

Kibbey Figure 20

(Fig. 20) AMERICAN PROGRESS (Frontispiece) George A. Crofutt, Crofutt's Transcontinental Tourist (New York: G. W. Carleton & Co. 1876). The author designed the picture describing the central figure as "a beautiful and charming female, bearing on her forehead the 'Star of Empire'."

UNITED STATES MINT MEDAL FOR COMPLETION OF THE PACIFIC RAILWAY Engraved by William Barber. Mint catalog No. 623. The actual diameter is 1-3/4 inches.

Kibbey Figure 21

(Fig. 21) OBVERSE: Classic head of President U. S. Grant, in exergue "The Oceans united by Railway" The moment after the Gold Spike was driven the telegraph transmitted "done" followed by "The last rail is laid. The last spike is driven. The Pacific Railroad is completed!" President Grant made the official announcement from the White House.

(Fig. 22) REVERSE: The legend reads: "EVERY MOUNTAIN SHALL BE MADE LOW" The quotation is from Isaiah, Chapter 40, Verse 4, "Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight and the rough places plain." (Citation courtesy Miles Snyder, Esq. of Sacramento.)

In an address before the American Society of London on Thanksgiving Day, 1928, Stanley Baldwin, the prime minister of Great Britain said: "As the Pacific Coast became settled, the engineer came into his own and the railroad was thrown across the continent. By that means alone you prevented the possibility of a separate American nation growing up beyond the Rocky Mountains."

Interestingly, the railway helped end the war with the Native American Indians. During the years 1864 and 1865, the Quartermaster's department alone spent $28,374,228 for supplies and their transportation for use against the Indians. As the chief cost was transportation, and estimating it to be at least 60 percent of the whole, it would have averaged over $8,500,000 per year. For comparison, in 1887 for transportation of troops, passengers, supplies and other freight, the Central and Union Pacific together charged the government only $169,603.

Freight rates at points touched by the railroad dropped dramatically. Earlier, in 1863 the La Porte (Sierra County) Mountain Messenger noted that a 100-pound bar of Swedish Iron had been received by the blacksmith in La Porte. The attached freight bill showed that the cost of the transportation from Stockholm to Marysville, California, by water equalled the wagon freight for the final 60 miles from Marysville to La Porte.

Wagon rates in 1865 varied from $1.60 to $9.00 per 100 pounds per 100 miles, or at the lowest figure $0.32 per ton-mile (that is, the cost of hauling one ton of 2,000 pounds one mile.) The average rail rate charged by the Central Pacific was far less and by 1882 had dropped to $0.0181 per ton mile. Passenger rates dropped in proportion, and rapidly reached a level which allowed immigrants to transport themselves and their possessions by the railroad to Western locations for settlement.

In his last report as General of the Army in 1883, the always quotable, William T. Sherman remarked:

I regard the building of these railways as the most important event of modern times, and believe they account fully for the peace and good order which now prevails in this land. A vast domain, equal to two-thirds of the whole surface of the United States, has been made accessible to the immigrant; and, in a military sense, our troops may be assembled at strategic points and sent promptly to places of disturbance, checking disorders in the bud.


The completion of the Pacific Railroad brought to the attention of the United States the need for a solution to a very different problem--the way the nation, (and ultimately, the world) kept time. The problem became apparent in the United States with the advent of railroading and with the transcontinental telegraph. Early railroads tended to operate along the Eastern Seaboard and probably kept the time of their main terminals, but by the beginning of the Civil War, they had reached a 1,000 miles (and over one hour in time difference) to the West.

Newspaper reporter George Parker sent a letter dated May 10, 1869 from Promontory to the Sacramento Bee which was published on the front page as coming "from the front" (the Civil War had ended only four years earlier and he seemed to consider railroad building like a military campaign). Parker wrote: "The trains on the Central Pacific run only on Sacramento time, which is telegraphed to the various stations from solar observations made by the time keeper."

At any location in the Northern Hemisphere the sun is due south of the observer and at its highest point exactly at noon on purely local time. This instant can be determined with relatively unsophisticated instruments, even the astrolabe of Columbus, and can be rechecked on any sunny day. It was therefore easy for each city to set and keep its own local time. With the sun moving westward at about 900 miles an hour (actually 814 mph at the latitude of Sacramento) and, before the railroad, the fastest communication being by a galloping horse--say 10 miles an hour- local time differences were, to coin a phrase, of small moment. The east-west telegraph changed all this and shortly after the transcontinental lines reached California, the editor of the La Porte Mountain Messenger (March 1, 1862, page 2, col.3) wrote:

DIFFERENCE IN TIME.-When it is 12 o'clock M at, San Francisco, it is 14 minutes past 3, at New York, 25 minutes 48 seconds past 3 at Boston, 19 minutes 44 seconds past 2 at Chicago, 50 minutes and 40 seconds past 2 at Charleston, 9 minutes and 40 seconds past 2 at New Orleans, 9 minutes and 4 seconds past 2 at St. Louis and 41 minutes and 40 seconds past 1 at Salt Lake. These facts and figures are worth remembering in these days of telegraphic communication.
The death of a man in New York a few days since, which occurred in the afternoon was announced in San Francisco by telegraph before 12 o'clock, M the same day.

While receiving news of events before they happened was an interesting novelty, in the matter of operating trains in opposite directions on single track railroads, ambiguities in the time being kept could be deadly. Various solutions to the problem were suggested and in 1869 Charles F. Dowd, a school principal in Saratoga, New York, proposed the use of time zones within which every location would use the same time.

The work of an international conference in 1884 led to the adoption of 24 such time zones, each nominally having a width of 15 degrees of longitude. The difference in time between adjoining zones was set at exactly one hour, and at any instant the minutes and seconds would be the same around the earth (See also note 3, Appendix G, page 212).


Alfred A. Hart was on the train that brought the Stanford party from Sacramento to Promontory, and took a number of historic stereo views commemorating the ceremonies. Moments after the Gold Spike was driven, the UP and CPRR locomotive engineers moved their locomotives together until the pilots (cowcatchers)

touched over the last spike. They then handed each other wine bottles, said by some to have contained Atlantic and Pacific water, while standing on the fronts of their locomotives. Andrew Russell's record of this joyous occasion is probably the most famous photograph ever taken of an event in the nineteenth century. At about the same moment, Hart set up his camera on the other side of the track where in deference to the temperance views of the CPRR management the bottles were withdrawn, giving another reason to believe they probably were not filled with seawater.

Hart carefully followed his usual custom of including both the locomotive and tender of each train. Although the pilots of the locomotives were actually touching each other, this still required two separate stereographs. If Hart had moved the camera back enough to include both tenders, the image on the negative would have been too small and details of the people lost. Russell's genius lay in realizing that the pilots and smokestacks outlined the dramatic scene and that it took little imagination to envision the cab and tenders of the attached locomotives.

Hart called his stereo views "Monarch of the West" and "Monarch of the East" (Nos. 358 and 359). Despite the impressive titles, his resulting images are only a useful record of the day and the lavishly entertained Army Band. In Fig. 24 Hart's two views (probably taken within seconds of each other) have been combined for the first time to yield a scene somewhat comparable to Russell's, but with a more relaxed California feeling. The Army Band also appeared to have been really hitting the "seawater."

The railroad had been completed seven years before the required date, and at a huge celebration in Chicago, United States Vice President Schuyler Colfax, foresaw a future: "...Beyond the portrayal of language, beyond any words my heart could devise or that my tongue express to you upon this joyful night, the opening of the new history of the American Republic." [Italics provided]


The full story of the building and use of the Central Pacific has occupied the efforts of many authors, starting with Alfred Hart's The Traveler's Own Book in 1870, and W. F. Rae's, Westward by Rail: The New Route to the East, in 1871. Hart's book also includes a folding map of the rail route from Chicago to San Francisco which provides miles, elevations, local agricultural products, and stagecoach connections along the way (See Appendix G). The text is both detailed and enthusiastic about the scenery, but strangely never mentions the years Hart spent along the CPRR or the fact that stereographs of the railroad made from his negatives were available for sale. He does however mention in the preface, that his book could be used as: "Auxiliary to the stereoscopic and other views which all travelers gather in their travels."

Four modern books, each containing a wealth of information and extensive bibliographies about the construction of the CPRR will be informative.

This volume is specifically intended for librarians, collectors and researchers as an aid to identifying and understanding Hart's railroad photographs.

The next section deals with Hart as the CPRR photographer until 1870 and his activities in painting, publishing and inventing during the following 38 years until his death in 1908..

The following section gives details of the camera equipment and finishing processes used in his time.

Appendix A includes a reduced copy (3/7 scale) of every one of the 364 CPRR views published by Hart plus a number of variations. The titles in section A are not always those used by Hart, but are intended to give the present-day name of a location or explain some important detail. Hart's exact titles are used in Appendix B.

Appendix B which provides a numerical list of Hart's 364 known CPRR titles with many footnotes.

Appendix C is a geographic listing of the 364 CPRR titles arranged by miles from Sacramento so that all the titles near a given location will be found together. With these lists a researcher can obtain a desired image without looking at every view in a Hart collection. Appendix D provides a list of available public sources for most Hart railroad stereos.

Appendix E consists of a reprint of Glenn G. Willumson's well researched 1988 article on Hart's life published in History of Photography Magazine. This essay provides more biographical information than anything else available on this subject.

Appendix F covers some details of the optics of stereo cameras, negative formats of Hart's day, and notes on a nineteenth century dark tent.

Appendix G features a reproduction of the CPRR portion of the map from Hart's 1870 pamphlet The Traveler's Own Book, and a few pages of text to indicate his literary style.

Kibbey Figure 23

(Fig.23) Hart No. 356 The Last Rail is Laid. Taken from pilot of the CPRR locomotive JUPITER. Leland Stanford holds a hammer at the center. The stick in the foreground may have been a track gauge to ensure the proper separation of the rails.

Kibbey Figure 24

(Fig. 24) Composite of Hart Nos. 359 & 358 The Monarch from the East (at left) and (at right) The Monarch from the West. The same man was at the front of the UPRR locomotive in both views and the hills behind indicate the trains did not move between exposures. (See p. 45)

RIGHT : (Fig. 25) Alfred Hart: No. 333 Curving Iron, Ten Mile Canyon. Rails were often bent to the proper curvature using sledge hammers and crowbars after they were spiked to the ties. However in this view the large supply of rails and the track car at the left suggest this crew may have been bending the rails to a template and sending them forward a short distance to the track layers.

Kibbey Figure 26

NEXT PAGE: (Fig. 26) Alfred Hart: No. 357 The Rival Monarchs. Taken from the cab roof of UPRR locomotive No. 119, Captain Currier proudly stands before his troops, possibly to be photographed by the camera on the high tripod at the left of the locomotive JUPITER in the distance. (Fig. 24) was taken from the rise at the right.

Kibbey Figure

Kibbey Figure 27

Kibbey Figure 28

(Fig. 28) Portion of Augustus Koch's Bird'seye View of Sacramento. Small arrows indicate Alfred Hart's locations at 135 J Street and later at 65 J Street. Sutter Lake is to the north, and Front or First Street is at the lower left. In Hart's day, Sacramento street numbers ran continuously from Front Street eastward with 32 numbers on each 320 foot block. Odd numbers were on the north side of the street; thus 135 J Street was on the north side of J, in the middle of the block between 5th and 6th; and 65 J was at the northeast corner of 3rd and J--a postman's nightmare! (View drawn in 1869)



Courtesy Mead B. Kibbey, Author, and a Director of the California State Library Foundation. Reproduced by permission.
This web page which is not for republication was generated from a revised version of the original manuscript file that according to the author, "contains all the text of the Hart book, corrected for the errors found after publication. The section on 'Location of Stereos' has been brought up to date in the K column and some corrections in the Swackhamer and Huntington Columns."

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