"The Story of the Central Pacific"
by William F. Bailey
The Story of the Central Pacific.
The Rise of the Big Four: Huntington, Stanford, Crocker, and Hopkins
By W. F. Bailey
The PACIFIC MONTHLY
[later known as Sunset Magazine]
January & February, 1908
THE need of better means of communication between the Pacific Coast and the East in the days that preceded the railroads was a far more important question to California than it was to any other section. If ever there was a community of one mind it was it in regard to the building of the Pacific Railroad. They had held conventions, memorialized Congress, agitated it in the press, made it a siñe quâ non of political preferment; and it was the one subject of which they never tired.
The reasons for this were many: Political, financial, social and sentimental.
Attempts of the rebel sympathizers to involve the state in secession, the repeated scare of a Southern army from Texas, seizure of Government property by Knights of the Golden Circle, and the possibility of some foreign power taking advantage of the unprotected condition of the coast constituted the political reasons. Financial ones were a desire for accessibility to Eastern markets and Eastern capital. Home ties which still drew a majority of the people back East and the hope of hearing from and revisiting the old scenes constituted the social and the sentimental feeling of being one with and an integral part of "our country."
The people of the North Pacific Coast, while just as much in favor of building the road and fully convinced that it was coming, were more conservative and rather disposed to wait developments.
In California it was the question of the day. The Overland Stage, the Pony Express, the Pacific Telegraph all were hailed with delight, but at the same time regarded as steps toward, the "GRAND NATIONAL PACIFIC RAILROAD" that was to knit the East to the West with bands of iron, that was to bring to their doors the manufactures of the East, that would free them from the monopoly which controlled their water routes, that was to provide them with a safe, speedy and economical communication with the homes of their youth in the Far East. That was to do away with the danger of the redskin on the plains, the long dusty stage ride, the Isthmus route and its dreaded fevers or the terrors of the tedious trip around "the Horn."
Every class joined in this. The sunburnt emigrant, the nerve and body-racked stage passenger, the seasick ocean traveler, the merchant whose stock needed replenishing, the fortunate miner who wanted to return back East or the unfortunate one who had sent back for his folks to stake him, all looked forward to the Pacific Railroad. When we look back at conditions as they existed in California in 1860, we do not wonder at the persistency with which they demanded as they did that the road be built. In 1858 the senior Senator from California [Dr. William McKendree Gwin] had said in a speech in the Senate that, while patriotic and loyal as any man present, it was his firm opinion "unless you establish direct communications with our possessions on the Pacific Coast there will be an independent government there within fifteen years."
It was the general feeling that the project was too big for anything less than the National Government or a corporation with all the strength and financial backing of the Government behind it. Not that there were not numerous individuals and cliques with their lightning rods set up in hope that the thunderbolt of Government aid might strike in their vicinity.
Many were confident that they had just the right plan, provided Congress would furnish the millions.
From the time in 1848, when Senator [Thomas Hart] Benton, of Missouri, introduced his bill for a National Highway, up to 1862, when the Pacific Railroad Bill was passed and became a law, the proposition was constantly before Congress in some shape or other. It had gradually gained ground until it had resolved itself into a question of ways and means, with an overwhelming majority in favor of the general idea.
The bill of Benton's was the first practicable move toward it. It called for the location and construction of a "Great National Highway" from St. Louis, Missouri, to the Pacific Ocean, straight as may be, with branches to Oregon and Mexico. The Government was to reserve a strip one mile wide for it, so as to provide for every kind of a road and means of conveyance – railway, plank, macadamized, with railroad trains, wagons, stages, pack trains and even sleds in Winter. Funds for its construction were to be provided by the sale of the public lands.
At the time it was introduced there were no railroads west of the Mississippi, neither, in fact, were there any reaching it from the East. In 1850, under the patronage of the State of Missouri, the first one west of the river was projected. This was the South Pacific Railroad of Missouri, which was to be located along the south bank of the Missouri River from St. Louis to the western frontier of the state. This was successfully started by citizens of St. Louis, and when overtaken by the outbreak of the war in 1861 was halted at Sedalia, some sixty-five miles from the state line.
The discovery of gold and silver mines on the east slope of the Sierra Nevadas in the so-called Washoe District greatly accentuated the desire and demand of Californians for rail communications with the interior. It also added an interior, or Nevada, population, who were even more clamorous for it. In 1860 the prevailing situation was this:
The California Legislature in its session of 1854-1855 had authorized
the construction of a wagon
road across the Sierras by the best route that could be discovered.
This was principally for the benefit of the incoming tide of overland emigration.
Eight different surveys by as many different routes or passes had been
made, and the state authorities had finally centered on the route viâ
Placerville, the north fork of the American River, Strawberry Valley and
Lake Bigler (Tahoe) as the best. This had been constructed at an
expense of $585,000, and to this day is the main channel of travel other
than railroad between California and Nevada. Naturally this had drawn
a tremendous business and had brought this route into prominence as being
a practicable one for a railroad.
The City of Sacramento was the railroad center of the state. The first railroad projected west of the Rocky Mountains, if we except a short portage road around the falls of the Columbia River, was one from Sacramento to Coloma, known as the Sacramento & Coloma Railroad. This was agitated in 1850 to reach Coloma, the location of the first discovery of gold in California and the then center of mining operations in the state. The times were not ripe for railroad building and nothing ever came of it. The only line in operation was the Sacramento Valley Railroad, from Sacramento to Folsom, twenty-two and one-half miles due east along the American River. This had been commenced in February, 1855, with Robison Seymour & Co., the contractors, starting their grading at Sacramento at that time. The first ship load of iron arrived in June and track-laying was commenced the August following. It was opened to Folsom on February 22, 1856. The estimates as to its cost had proven to be far below the actual. Financial difficulties resulted from this which occasioned the road falling into the hands of the contractors, who reaped a profit from its operation, selling it to the Central Pacific Railroad Company in 1865. The cost of this line was $70,000 per mile, $1,567,000 for the twenty-two and one-half miles, notwithstanding it was built over a perfectly level country without an obstruction of any character. Originally planned to run through to Marysville, its cost had proven too much for its promoters and they were forced to stop at Folsom.
Its rates were what we would regard as high, ten cents per mile for passengers and fifteen cents per ton per mile for freight, $2.25 and $3.00, respectively, for the twenty-two and one-half miles. In fact its competitors, the ox teams, were able to cut under it on freights,
Several extensions from Folsom were under consideration, one to Placerville with the idea of reducing the stage and wagon haul on business to and from the Washoe mining towns. This was enormous, the tolls paid on the Placerville Toll Road, over which it passed, amounting during one year, 1863, to $90,000.
Another extension was planned to Marysville, this being another point of departure for the Nevada mining region and having a large local territory dependent on it, and a third extension was to be to Auburn, some eighteen miles to the northeast, the distributing point for the mining camps of Dutch Flat, Grass Valley, etc. All of these projects hoped to be a link in the great chain of the Pacific Railroad when it materialized, as they were confident it would some day, but none of them had the nerve to appropriate the importance of being the Pacific Railroad itself.
This remained for an unassuming enthusiast, with the courage of his convictions, to conceive, plan and carry out the idea.
This was Theodore D. Judah, a civil engineer. Born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, in 1826, educated at Troy Polytechnic School, he had come to California in 1854 as engineer for the Sacramento Valley Railroad. Under his administration it had been built from Sacramento to near Folsom, when, owing to disagreements between him and the contractors who were building the road, he had resigned his position. He then entered into a project to build a railroad from Sacramento to Benicia viâ Davis, known as the San Francisco & Sacramento Railroad. He made an exhaustive survey of the proposed line, publishing a report of it which included his estimates of its cost and prospective business The sixty-two miles he thought could be built, including a steamboat to run between Benicia and San Francisco, for $3,000,000, and, as it "would be a link in the great Pacific Railroad," he prophesied a remunerative business for it. Nothing, however, came of it, and he then entered the service of the California Central Railroad between Lincoln and Folsom. Finally he returned to the Sacramento Valley Railroad, being employed by them to explore the Sierra Nevadas to the north and east of their line for practicable wagon routes and at the same time solicit freight shipments.
This took him over the route adopted by the Central Pacific, and the fact that he had discovered and made known a practicable route for it was the occasion of trouble between him and his employer, resulting in his discharge, they claiming that the benefit of any discovery made by him belonged to them.
Through his initiative the California Legislature arranged for a convention to be held in San Francisco in September, 1859, to discuss ways and means looking to the construction of the Pacific Railroad. The Governor of California [John B. Weller] was requested by the Legislature to call the convention and to invite Washington, Oregon and Arizona to send delegates, Judah himself being present as delegate from the City of Sacramento.
At this convention a memorial to Congress was adopted praying that the National Government take steps toward the creation of an organization to build the Pacific Railroad, and by resolution expressed a preference for the central route, something that Congress thus far had been unable to settle upon. The convention also suggested that the States of California and Oregon create a debt of $15,000,000 and $5,000,000, respectively, which, together with the receipts from the sale of the submerged and swamp lands belonging to the states, should constitute a fund to aid in this purpose. This done, the meeting adjourned to reconvene at Sacramento in February, 1860. At this later meeting the executive committee reported that they had printed and distributed 25,000 pamphlets regarding the proposed road; that their representative, Theodore D. Judah, who had been the bearer of the memorial to Congress, had performed his task, and while there had assisted in drafting a bill on the lines recommended at the previous meeting.
Evidently Judah was thoroughly impressed with the idea, being regarded what today is called "nutty" over the Pacific Railroad. On November 11, 1860, a pamphlet appeared over his signature, issued, as stated in its opening paragraph, for the purpose of "directing attention to some newly discovered facts with reference to the route of the Pacific Railroad through the State of California." In it he said, "Being confident of having found a practicable line, I have devoted the past few months to explorations, resulting in the discovery of a route from the City of Sacramento to the Truckee River in a nearly direct line to Washoe, with a maximum grade of 100 feet to the mile. In view of the Pacific Railroad Bill, as matured in the last Congress, having been made the special order for the third Tuesday in next December, and inasmuch as the road in California most needs to be constructed by an organization effected under the laws of the state, it is proposed to organize a company in anticipation of the passage of the act by Congress."
He proceeded to call attention to the state law requiring that as a preliminary to the organization of a railroad company, stock shall be subscribed for to the amount of $1,000 a mile, ten per cent of which shall have been paid up in cash. Thus his proposed line from Sacramento would be about 115 miles long, requiring stock subscriptions to the amount of $115,000, with $11,500 to be paid up in cash. To the accomplishment of these ends the necessary papers as required by law had been drawn up and bona fide subscriptions received to the amount of $46,500 in the towns of Dutch Flat, Grass Valley, Nevada City, and Illinoistown, leaving but $70,000 to be made up in the cities of San Francisco and Sacramento. To this end the co-operation of those receiving the pamphlet was requested. The plan, he stated, would receive the support of our delegation in Congress, evidencing he had submitted it to them.
Then followed the very significant statement: "It is intended that no further call than the ten per cent required by law shall be made. It is estimated that the entire road can be graded for the amount of the Government appropriation, leaving only the rolling stock, rails, etc., to be provided for through other means. An issue of $12,000 first mortgage bonds per mile will do this. The road may connect either with the Sacramento Valley Railroad at Folsom or the California Central Railroad at Lincoln."
Aid was also to be asked from the State of California, Placer, Nevada and Sacramento Counties, these to issue their own bonds, for which there would be a ready sale in exchange for the bonds of the railroad company, the ten per cent cash on subscriptions to be used in making the necessary surveys, location and estimates,
In view of the great expense that would be incurred in operating the line, he proposed that permission be obtained from the state to charge fifteen cents per mile for passengers and thirty cents a ton per mile for freight on through business, the statutory ten cents and fifteen cents to apply on local.
The pamphlet then proceeds to give his estimate of the reasonable expectations in the way of business, instancing that it is not unusual to meet or pass 300 teams a day en route for Washoe, loaded with an average of two and one-half tons, at the prevailing rate of six cents per pound, or $120 per ton, these rates being doubled or even trebled when roads are bad.
His estimate of business that the California end of the Pacific Railroad would be apt to handle was, per diem:
|50 tons of outward freight at $50............................||$2,500|
|100 tons of return freight at $25..............................||
|25 passengers each way at $25...............................||
A daily total of $6,250, or $1,956,250 for a year of 313 days. Some six months after the date of this pamphlet, in the Spring of 1861, Judah called a meeting in Sacramento to consider questions in connection with the Pacific Railroad. At this meeting he made an unsuccessful appeal for assistance in his work of developing a practicable and satisfactory route, stating if Sacramento was to be the terminus of the great road, it behooved her people to be up and doing. He himself had crossed the Sierras twenty-three times on foot or on horseback thus far in his exploration, and was confident that the route he had discovered would prove a practicable one.
Apparently the result of the meeting was nil. Among those present was Collis P. Huntington, one of the leading merchants of Sacramento, a dealer in hardware both wholesale and retail. Contrary to his usual custom in matters of public moment, he remained in the background, making no subscription as did some. On being approached to that end he expressed his opinion that the Pacific Railroad was not to be carried on by voluntary contributions at a public meeting. That method might answer for a picnic or Fourth of July celebration, but it was totally inadequate for a work of this magnitude. He, however, invited Judah to call at his store some evening, as he would like to talk the matter over with him.
The following evening Judah, all enthusiasm, put in an appearance and the two spent the night discussing the proposition, the first of many so spent. The result was that Huntington agreed to find among his acquaintances five men who with himself and Judah should stand the expense of a thorough preliminary survey and to get up the estimates of the cost of building a road, organizing and incorporating a company. This, Judah estimated, would cost $35,000, Huntington making it plain that he would agree to nothing beyond this; that they should wait until they had the, result of the survey and figures as to cost before deciding upon further action.
Mr. Huntington was a Connecticut Yankee, quick-sighted, cool and with few equals as a business man in Sacramento, where his opinions carried great weight. He despised nothing that had a dollar's profit in it for him. In the conduct of the future affairs of the road to him fell naturally the financial end of their deals - the negotiation of loans, floating of securities, purchase of materials and supplies and their dispatch from the East, establishing his office in New York City in 1864 the better to accomplish this. If there was a dominant influence in their organization it was exercised by him.
Through Huntington five other Sacramentans were induced to join the syndicate. These were Leland Stanford, then Governor of California and a leader of the Republican party just coming into power. A lawyer, diplomatic and popular, he had had some little experience and practical knowledge in construction work, having served with his father, who had been a railroad and canal contractor in the East. His was the part of diplomacy.
Another was Charles Crocker, a self-made man, remarkable for his energy, of strong physique and will power, fearless and earnest, one of the leading merchants of Sacramento, with several branch stores in the interior. He had had considerable experience in handling men, having been in the iron business before coming to California. To him fell the actual construction work at the front seeing to the grading, laying the track, etc. In 1862 he sold his Sacramento business so as to devote his entire time and resources to the road.
Mark Hopkins, the fourth member of this remarkably strong organization, was also a merchant, in Sacramento, the next-door neighbor and warm personal friend of Huntington, known to his friends as "Uncle Mark" and described by one of them as "the truest and best man that ever lived." His inclinations and abilities ran in the direction of inside or office work; methodical, accurate and painstaking, the natural man to handle the company's finances. [Search the National Portait Gallery]
Hopkins, Methodical, Accurate, Painstaking. To Him Naturally Fell the Charge of the Office Work.
Collis P. Huntington, the Dominating Influence of the "Big Four." A Connecticut Yankee, Who Despised Nothing That Had a Dollar's Profit in It for Him. To Him Naturally Fell the Financial End of Their Deals.
Leland Stanford, a Popular Politician. His Was the Part of Diplomacy.
Charles Crocker, a Self-Made Man, Remarkable for His Energy. To Him Fell the Actual Construction Work at the Front.
Two others, L. A. Booth and Charles Marsh, came into the deal through Huntington, but, awed by the magnitude it developed, dropped out early in the game.
James Bailey, a Sacramento jeweler, was brought in by Judah, his personal friend, and originally acted as secretary of the company, but he, too, dropped out, either seared or "frozen."
These constituted the syndicate that raised the $35,000 necessary to carry on the work which was pushed ahead under Judah's supervision during the Summer of 1861.
On June 28 of that year these, together with D. W. Strong, of Dutch Flat, and Charles Marsh, of Nevada City, California, organized the Central Pacific Railroad Company of California, with a capital stock of $8,500,000 -- 85,000 shares of a par value of $100 each. The original subscriptions were $150 each, by Stanford Huntington, Hopkins, Judah and Crocker, and 730 shares by all others, in all 1,480 shares, par value $148,000, thus just bringing them within the limits as set by the laws of California, which required that $1,000 worth of stock be subscribed for each mile of road contemplated.
The board of directors as named above organized by electing Stanford president, Huntington vice-president, Bailey secretary and Hopkins treasurer, Judah remaining chief engineer.
Two days later – July 1 – the company was incorporated under the General Railroad Law of California. The purpose of the organization as set forth in the incorporation papers was to construct and operate a railroad from the navigable waters of the Pacific Ocean at the City of Sacramento to the eastern boundaries of the State of California.
Among their friends and acquaintances this was regarded as an act of insanity, that if they proceeded it would result in their dropping all they had in the cañons of the Sierras. The combined possessions of the five principals at this time amounted, according to a statement made later by one of their number, to $159,000. The enterprise they were undertaking meant the expenditure of a hundred times this amount.
During the entire Summer of 1861 Judah prosecuted the surveys and reconnoisances through the Sierras, confining his attention largely to three routes, viâ‚ Georgetown, viâ‚ Nevada City and viâ‚ Dutch Flat and Donner Lake Pass, demonstrating to his own satisfaction that the latter was the best, developing as he did a line with a maximum grade of 100 feet to the mile. This result was set forth in a report made by him as chief engineer addressed to the president and board of directors of the company under date of October 1, 1861. In this he states: "Agreeable to instructions, I have completed the preliminary surveys the Sierra Nevada Mountains." [A similar report was included by Judah in his Annual Report to the CPRR's Board of Directors in June, 1863]
He proceeds to explain the route, pointing out that it follows the ridges between the valley of the Bear River on the north and that of the north fork of the American on the south, about six miles across. Starting from Lincoln, the terminus of the California Central Railroad, he enters exhaustively into the question of snow and the probabilities of its giving trouble in the operation of the line, explaining that while the average annual fall aggregated thirteen feet, it was the result of numerous storms, but, in his opinion, if a locomotive with a snowplow was started each way from the summit after each fall of snow there would be no difficulty found in keeping the line open. He thought eighteen tunnels, aggregating in length 17,100 feet, would be required; that the following passenger train schedule could be maintained by trains going East:
Across Sacramento to Barrimore's, thirty-one miles, one hour.
Stop at Barrimore's, half-hour.
Barrimore's to Summit, eighty-one miles, four hours.
Four stops en route, fifteen minutes each, one hour.
Stop at Summit, quarter-hour.
Summit to Truckee River, eleven miles, three-quarters-hour.
Total for the 123 miles, seven and one half hours, including stops aggregating an hour and three-quarters.
He estimated the cost of constructing the line from Sacramento to the state line, a distance of 140 miles, at $12,380,000, an average of $88,428 per mile.
While favorable to the Dutch Flat route, evidently they were not blinded to the possibilities of a better one existing, and accordingly the company inserted in the Sacramento papers an advertisement to the effect that information regarding other practicable routes was desired and any information pertaining thereto received before October 1, 1862, would be welcome and given due consideration.
The next recorded move was the passage of the Pacific Railroad Bill by Congress, being approved by President Lincoln, and thus becoming law July 1, 1862. This, after granting right-of-way through the public lands and giving alternate sections as designated by the odd numbers to the amount of ten sections, 6,400 acres, to the mile, also Government bonds to the amount of $16,000 per mile, which were to be a first mortgage on the road, designating that nothing but American iron was to be used on the road, which was to be completed within twelve years, its gauge to be fixed by the President, proceeded to say:
"And the Central Pacific Railroad Company of California, after completing the road across said state, is authorized to continue the construction of said railroad and telegraph lines through the territories of the United States to the Missouri River, including the branch lines specified in this act * * * until said road shall meet and connect with the Union Pacific Railroad and the whole line of said railroad and branches and telegraph is completed.."
The hows and whys of this action of Congress were fully set forth in a report dated September 10, 1862, made by Judah. He had been appointed by resolution of the board of directors of the company "accredited agent," with instructions to proceed to Washington in the interest of the company, with a view of obtaining aid from Congress. Sailing from San Francisco on October 10, 1861, he returned in August, 1862, putting in the intervening time at Washington, his labors resulting, as he put it, in the "unexpectedly favorable bill." Evidently his advice and knowledge of the country had been appreciated, as he brought back with him a testimonial signed by seventeen United States Senators and forty-six members of the House, thanking him for assistance rendered in connection with the Pacific Railroad Bill. The telegraphic announcement of the passage of the bill and the naming of their company which he sent to his Sacramento associates read:
"We have drawn the elephant, See if we can harness him up."
On his return, reconnoisances were made from Lincoln viâ‚ Middle Feather River and Beckwith Pass and also viâ Yuba Gap and Downieville, but neither of these were considered as good as his first love, the Dutch Flat route. Consequently, on December 1, 1862, formal acceptance of the terms and conditions of the grant was filed with the Secretary of the Interior, with an outline of the route selected. After filing this notice the law gave them two years to complete the first fifty miles, none of their land grant or Government bonds being available until they had finished the first forty.
During November and December, 1862, two engineering parties were kept in the field obtaining final data necessary to enable them to secure bids on the first fifty miles. This section they described as a line "Sacramento to Griders (Roseville), eighteen miles; thence California Central Railroad to the Auburn Railroad, opposite Folsom, nine miles; thence Auburn Railroad to Auburn, fifteen miles; thence eight miles to Clipper Gap."
From this description it was evidently their intention to tie up with the California Central and Auburn Railroads as outlined above.
To provide means for the commencement of the work, a partnership was formed amongst the seven principals. Each was to contribute $34,000 in gold and the $238,000 thus obtained was deemed sufficient to build the first section or at least to New Castle, thirty-one miles. All the preliminaries having been arranged, it was decided to inaugurate the work with a celebration. This was held at Sacramento January 9, 1863, the scene being Front Street near K Street. Owing to the muddy condition of the ground underfoot, hay was scattered over it to give dry standing room. The tone of the celebration was decidedly patriotic, as was natural at the time.
The exercises opened at 12 o'clock. Charles Crocker, as master of ceremonies, introduced Governor Stanford, who in a brief speech expressed his gratification at being chosen to throw the first dirt on what was to be to the West what the Erie Canal was to the Eastern and Central States, the tie that bound, assuring his hearers that the work would go on without interruption or delay.
At the close of his remarks, the Rev. J. A. Benton, of Sacramento, offered a petition that the Divine blessing might rest on the enterprise and that the road here inaugurated in his name might go forward to speedy completion and prove a highway for the people that would make the wilderness and the solitary place blossom like the rose.
Two wagons, gaily decorated with the National colors and filled with dirt, were then driven in front of the speakers' stand and Governor Stanford lustily shoveled their contents to the ground, while the "Sacramento Union Brass Band" played the National airs, winding up with the peculiarly appropriate tune of "Wait for the Wagon."
Speeches by the presiding officers of the Legislature and others followed, the affair winding up with a few remarks by Mr. Crocker to the effect that they meant business; that even while he was speaking a contractor was hauling piles to the banks of the American River with which to commence the bridge across it; that the road was going through and that all he had was devoted to the section he had undertaken to build.
During 1862 the Sacramento, Placer & Nevada Railroad was constructed from Folsom to near New Castle. It had been organized in 1859 to build an extension of the Sacramento Valley Railroad from Folsom viâ‚ Auburn to Grass Valley and Nevada City. Funds furnished by public-spirited citizens of Auburn had enabled this to be built from Folsom to Wildwood Station, some eleven miles, where it stopped. The promoters of this road were the Robison brothers, who had built and were largely interested in the Sacramento Valley Railroad. The cost of this eleven miles as represented by outstanding securities was $278,000. It proved a losing venture, especially after the Central Pacific was built, and in the Spring of 1864 was sold at foreclosure sale for $75,000, the Robisons buying it in. A controlling interest in its stock was purchased by the Central Pacific Company when they were planning to use it as a part of their line. The purchasers undertook to take up its ties and rails but were bitterly fought in this by the people who had contributed toward building it. Not only were the courts appealed to, but recourse was had to force. On account of the violence that resulted the state militia was called out, but the Robisons succeeded in their efforts and the material in its track was removed and relaid on the line from Folsom to Placerville, known as the Latish or Placerville & Sacramento Valley Railroad, the citizens of Auburn having the doubtful satisfaction of seeing nearly a hundred of the workmen who removed, them, including the Robisons, arrested for contempt of court.
The other line that the Central Pacific contemplated using as part of their line was the California Central. It was in operation from Folsom to Lincoln, eighteen-and-one-half miles, financial troubles having, prevented its being extended to Marysville as originally planned.
In a prospectus issued by the Central Pacific about this time they stated that they had ordered eight first-class locomotive engines from Norris & Co., of Philadelphia, two of these being of the heaviest class used on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad on its mountain grades in the East, having cylinders eighteen by twenty-five, six driving wheels four feet in diameter, capable of hauling thirty loaded cars or 360 tons over the heaviest grades there would be on the Central Pacific. Two were sixteen by twenty-four, with four and a half-foot driving wheels, these being intended for mixed train service. Two were fifteen by twenty-two, five-foot driving wheels, intended for express trains, and the other two were light tank engines for construction trains. Other equipment ordered were eight passenger coaches with all the latest improvements, four combined baggage and mail cars, thirty box cars, thirty platform cars, six track and six hand cars, an equipment larger and more complete than possessed by any railroad west of St. Louis. All of this equipment was announced as being on its way around the Horn.
The freight on these engines averaged, so it was afterward claimed, $4,000 each, and their cost, set up at Sacramento, $32,000 apiece. Some little delay was occasioned in the shipment of these engines by an army officer putting in an appearance at the locomotive works just as they were about ready and taking possession of them and all others on hand for the use of the army in the name of the National Government.
Appeal was made by the Central Pacific Company, and upon it being made known to the authorities at Washington that part of the seized engines were intended for the use of their company, they were ordered released on the grounds that the construction of the Pacific Railroad was a military necessity second to none in its importance. The funds for paying for this equipment came partially from $1,250,000 raised on the credit of the directors, five of them becoming personally responsible for the amount of the loan by endorsing the company's notes.
Actual construction work was commenced in February, 1863, though considerable work on the bridge across the American River was done the two months preceding. The contract for the first section, eighteen miles, was taken in the name of C. Crocker & Co. on December 27, 1862. The first annual report of the company was dated July, 1863. In it President Stanford stated that, excepting the bonds issued for rolling stock, rails, etc., the company did not owe $1,000; that iron to lay seventy miles and all the equipment they were apt to require had been contracted for and arrangements made to pay for same; that the first eighteen miles were ready for iron; the American River bridge in such shape that it would be finished in August, and that contracts were under consideration for thirty-two miles more, this to complete the fifty miles which had to be done by July 1, 1864.
As yet none of the Government subsidy had been received. Individual subscriptions for or stock had been made to the amount of $600,000. Bonds had been received from Sacramento County, $300,000, and $250,000 from Placer County, railroad bonds having been given them in exchange. That a subsidy of $600,000 had been voted the company by the City of San Francisco, the proposition receiving an overwhelming majority, but its payment was temporarily held up by hostile officials. In addition to this the state had agreed to pay the interest for twenty years on $1,500,000 ($10,000 per mile for 150 miles) bonds of the company. Coupled with this was the report of Chief Engineer Judah in which he announced that their original plans of utilizing the Central California and Sacramento, Placer & Nevada roads from Roseville to Folsom and thence to Auburn would have to be abandoned, it developing that these roads were not laid with American iron and consequently not coming within the provisions of the act of Congress, and further that it was deemed inadvisable to make them a part of their line for the reason that Congress had excluded from the benefits of the Pacific Railroad Bill any and all railroads then in operation, adding that their construction was not up to the standard required, and also being encumbered with mortgages already, which would necessarily have to be discharged were they to try to obtain authorization from Congress to make them a part of their line.
It is evident that Judah was piling up reasons for changing his original plan. He had used as an argument in working up the company that they could avail themselves of this twenty odd miles of road already in operation, and as the companies owning it were in financial extremities it could be secured very reasonably. And it is also quite probable he was in some measure getting even with the Sacramento Valley people for their treatment of him in the past.
In his report Judah proceeds to say that the section (eighteen miles) under construction was being laid with redwood ties, 68,000 of them having been contracted for to be delivered at Sacramento as required. That 6,000 tons of iron, sufficient to lay seventy miles, had been purchased and was being delivered at the rate of 500 tons per month. His estimate of the cost of the first fifty miles is $3,221,496. The second fifty he states is being surveyed under S. S. Montague, and he expects to have the figures so it can be submitted for bids by December.
This he never lived to see accomplished. His duties in connection with Congressional legislation called him to Washington, and while in the East he was taken sick with fever, from which he died in New York City in November, 1863.
During the Summer of 1863 the affairs of the company assumed a critical aspect. Huntington had gone East to arrange for rails and equipment. While there he had availed himself of the power of attorney he held from Stanford, Hopkins, Crocker and Judah to borrow $1,250,000 on their personal credit. This had been exhausted and the need of more funds was becoming more and more pressing. A division of opinion arose among the directors as to how these should be obtained. Three of them, including Judah and Bailey, were in favor of using the road and equipment as collateral for a new loan, while Huntington, Stanford, Hopkins and Crocker opposed it, on the grounds that a second encumbrance would so lower their credit as to prevent future loans except at ruinous rates. They wanted to have the directors put up personally to keep the work going until they reached New Castle, when their Government subsidy would commence to be available, and also because they would have a part of the road in operation to give them some standing as borrowers.
The differences came to a showdown. Huntington and his supporters gave the other side their option of four courses: Buy us out, sell out to us, pay your proportion of what is necessary to keep the work going, or quit. In fact, for a few days work was suspended. Eventually, Judah and his friends sold out their interest to the other side.
A decision of great importance to the company was made by President Lincoln during the Summer of 1863. By the terms of the Pacific Railway Bill the company was to receive bonds to the amount of $16,000 per mile for its line west of the Sierras and $48,000 for the section through the mountains. Just where the one ended and the other began was a question. The Interior Department was disposed to put the point at the end of the first fifty-mile section. The matter was taken up with President Lincoln, who decided it should be seven and eighteen hundredths miles east of Sacramento, saying to the applicant that "here was a case where Abraham's faith has moved mountains." In other words his belief in the statements made on the part of the company had brought the official decision as to the location of the mountains that much farther west. This meant a difference of over a million dollars to the road. On April 26, 1864, the tracks reached Griders, or California Central Junction, now called Roseville, and the operation of that much of the road was commended by the company.
Thus far the eastern end of the through line had made little or no progress. The Union Pacific Company had been unable to raise funds to prosecute the work. They had accordingly made a further appeal to Congress, which resulted in legislation entitled "An act to aid in carrying out the provisions of the Pacific Railroad Bill, act of Congress of July 1, 1862."
By its terms the land grant was doubled, made twenty sections instead of ten. The Government bonds were made a second instead of a first mortgage, and the companies were authorized to issue their own first mortgage bonds to the same amount amount as the Government bonds. Two-thirds of these latter were made available upon evidence being presented to the Secretary of the Treasury that the necessary grading for the roadbed had been done. The sections on which bonds were to be issued were reduced from forty miles to twenty.
All of these provisions applied equally to the Central Pacific as well as to the Union Pacific, though called out by the condition of the latter.
Coupled with the above provisions was one that provided "where the Central Pacific Railroad Company of California is authorized to construct a railroad and telegraph line in the State of California and in the Territory of the United States lying east of said state toward the Missouri River, said rights are hereby confirmed to the extent of 150 miles to the east of the boundary of California."
This completely changed the financial status of the company. Up to this time they had been hard pushed to keep the work going. The only securities they had to offer were their bonds, which were a second mortgage on the road, the Government holding the first to the amount of their prospective issue, and their stock, which was practically unsalable. Most of the money expended thus far was obtained on their personal credit, and this, as we have already seen, was pretty-nigh exhausted.
What money they had borrowed had been obtained in currency in the East and expended as gold in the West, they having to stand the heavy premium prevailing on the latter, the local rate of interest, two per cent. per month, being prohibitive as to borrowing at home.
Under the now conditions matters were greatly improved. They now had a first mortgage bond of their own to sell and this, with the Government aid behind it, was worth pretty near par. Then they had the Government bonds immediately available, not only in sections of twenty miles where it had been forty, but two-thirds of them as soon as the grading was done.
To further improve their credit came the result of the operation of the eighteen miles from Sacramento to Roseville. This showed for the year, April 26 to December 31, 1864, gross earnings of $103,557, divided: From passenger, $63,403; freight, $38,667, and from express, $1,487. This was not only encouraging, but also materially helped their financial status, evidencing as it did that they not only had a railroad in operation, but that its earning power per mile was exceptionally high. The fact is that thus far the company had had but little or no standing, especially in California. The general opinion prevailing was that its projectors did not have the money themselves to build it and would not be able to raise the immense amount that would be required and consequently must make a fizzle of it, resulting in either killing the whole proposition of a Pacific railroad or else giving it such a setback as would delay its construction for years. What added to this feeling was a side issue undertaken by the directors of the company in the way of a wagon or toll road from Dutch Flat to Virginia City, Nevada.
Soon after the Central Pacific Company was launched, Huntington and Crocker had made a personal inspection of a route discovered by Judah from Dutch Flat to the Washoe mining regions. On their return the Dutch Flat and Donner Lake Wagon Road Company, with a capital stock of $100,000, had been organized and incorporated, its directors being identical with those of the Central Pacific Company. Work on the road had been commenced in the Fall of 1862 and completed in June, 1864. This followed very closely the survey of the railroad line from Dutch Flat through Emigrant Gap, Donner Lake, into the Carson Valley, a distance of ninety miles. On its completion they had arranged with the California Stage Company to put a line of stage coaches on it, and entered into an active solicitation for traffic for their wagon road as though it constituted their principal business.
It is quite probable that originally they regarded it as an anchor to windward in case of their being unable to carry out the much greater project of a trans-mountain railroad. Later it proved a source of large income at a time when they were badly in need of money, and even after they were on a sound financial basis the wagon road was of great assistance in transporting material, supplies and their workmen to points ahead of the track.
Outside of the revenue to be derived from the traffic over the wagon road, its construction undoubtedly was prompted by a desire on their part to get back at the several interests that were doing a transportation business over the Placerville route. They wanted to divert from the Sacramento Valley Railroad the Washoe business that was proving so remunerative as to occasion them to build an extension from Folsom to Placerville and to cause considerable talk about a further extension over the Sierras into Nevada.
But to the general public the idea was preposterous. Here was a corporation that had the construction of a Pacific railroad on hand going off on a tangent and taking up a wagon road when they had only been able to build eighteen miles of railroad in twelve months. In the general estimation they had emasculated their project by assigning, as they did, the construction of the line from San Francisco to Sacramento to another company,
In the eighteen months that elapsed after the passage by Congress of the Pacific Railroad Bill the total accomplished was eighteen miles of road constructed, the Union Pacific having none. At that rate it was going to take a hundred years to complete the line, and yet, regardless of the great task ahead of them and its importance to the people of California, here was the Central Pacific Company building wagon roads. The general opinion became that they were using their connection with the transcontinental railroad simply as a means to extort aid from not only the nation and state, but even the counties and cities were being worked; that they had no notion of ever building more than a Jim Crow local road from Sacramento to Dutch Flat, which, in connection with their wagon road, was to give them the Washoe business, and beyond this their ambition did not go. Besides this, there was the element of local pride involved. Here was a little coterie of merchants from an inland town, of no special note and comparatively little means; by methods but little understood they had obtained recognition from Congress, and without so much as saying by your leave were building what they claimed was the Pacific Railroad. The metropolis was not to be ignored in this way if they could help it, and the wagon road gave an excuse for a warfare that soon found an echo all over the state. The Dutch Flat swindle, as the Central Pacific was called, soon became a by-word and a reproach and the object of a general attack.
One form this took was the introduction of a bill in the Legislature of 1864 voting a subsidy of $3,000,000 to the first Eastern railroad company that should complete its line to the eastern boundary of the state. As there was no road within 2,000 miles, the animus of this evidently was to discredit the Central Pacific Company in the East by showing lack of faith in it on the part of California. Through the efforts of Governor Stanford this bill was reported adversely by the finance committee, they giving it as their efforts being made by the National Government by concentrating aid on the Central Pacific.
One of the influences that was very much in evidence in its opposition to the Central Pacific was the management of the Sacramento Valley Railroad. This line had come into disfavor in Sacramento, so much so that the city government had placed onerous and almost prohibitive restrictions on its doing business there. This was occasioned by the decrease in the amount of business being done in the city, which it was claimed was occasioned by the passengers to and from the mining camps going right through to San Francisco instead of "laying over" there; that the facilities furnished by the railroad enabled a man to reach Sacramento early enough in the day to catch a boat for San Francisco instead of stopping in their town over night or making his purchases there, as had been the custom in the days when the stage coach was the only means of travel. The hotelkeepers, transfer men, hack drivers, saloonmen, and merchants all felt the loss of patronage and attributed it to the railroad which insisted on maintaining a train schedule that made connection with the steamboats instead of running their trains so as to compel the passengers to stay overnight in Sacramento.
For this reason and also on account of the high rates charged by the road, the antagonism between the citizens and the railroad had become very bitter. The city showed this by exacting heavy wharfage fees on the railroad traffic, restricting them in the matter of switches, rate of speed through the city, etc. The railroad company had retaliated by building a branch line from Brighton, five miles east of Sacramento, to the river below the city. Here they had started a new town, which, to emphasize the absence of any wharfage or other charges, they called Freeport. The railroad company then used their utmost endeavor to turn all of their business over the branch, which was known as the Freeport Railroad. Naturally this diversion of travel and the attempt to build up a new town at their expense increased the ire of the people of Sacramento and vice versa.
The interests back of the Sacramento Valley Railroad were responsible for the introduction in the Nevada Constitutional Convention of a proposition to donate $3,000,000 to the railroad company that should first construct a line connecting Nevada with tide water on the Pacific. "We don't ask you to name our road, simply put up the subsidy and let the first engine that reaches the state line carry it off," their argument being that the Placerville route was so much shorter and better that they could construct their line before the Central Pacific got through, and do this so much cheaper as to nullify the National, state and county grants made their opponents. This, like the similar proposition in the California Legislature referred to above, was intended to discredit the Central Pacific. Governor Stanford appeared before the convention and was able to induce them to eliminate the proposition, though unsuccessful in an attempt to divert the subsidy to his line.
After worsting the Central Pacific over the line from Folsom to Auburn (Sacramento, Placer & Nevada Railroad), the Valley Road had taken up their ties and rails, and in 1863 commenced the extension of their line from Folsom to Placerville. This was known as the "Latrobe Road," its corporate title being Placerville & Sacramento Valley Railroad. They got it down to Latrobe, fifteen miles from Folsom, where it hung fire for several years. The route was doing an immense business, nearly all of the Washoe traffic going this way until the Dutch Flat wagon road divided it. At one time there were twenty-one stage lines radiating from Latrobe. Those were the flourishing days of the haughty stage-driver and the nervy express messenger.
Part II (February, 1908): Driving the Last Spike
In 1865 the Placerville & Sacramento Valley Railroad was built twelve miles further, or to Shingle Springs, the intent being to complete it to Placerville and there connect with another line projected by the same interests, the San Francisco & Washoe Railroad, which was to be built from Placerville to Virginia City. The through line they confidently asserted would he in operation before the Central Pacific could get across the Sierras. Before they had even started on their project their Latrobe Road went into bankruptcy. The County of El Dorado had voted it $200,000 in county bonds. When mining operation decreased and the population of the county greatly diminished these bonds nearly bankrupted those who were left, at one time the tax levy reaching $7.25 per $100. For several years the county supervisors would immediately resign on being elected or appointed so as to prevent the serving of papers on them looking to the collection of the arrears on the bonds.
The road was a source of much litigation, at one time being controlled by Louis McLane, of the Wells Fargo Company. Eventually it fell into the hands of the Central Pacific, who extended it to Placerville, Through the workings of the amended act of 1864 the Central Pacific Company was free from all the financial troubles that were hampering its competitors. The "Big Five," as they were commencing to be called, i.e., Stanford, Huntington, Hopkins, Charles Crocker and his brother, E. B. Crocker, ex-Justice of the Supreme Court of California, who had been taken into the inner circle upon the expiration of his term in 1864 were in full control. They had absorbed Judah's stock except twenty-five shares which were given his widow. They also bought in the stock of numerous small holders, concentrating the power in their own hands.
They also changed their policy of subcontracting the work so as to eliminate subcontractors' profits, making a deal with "C. Crocker & Co.," i.e., themselves, to build the line from New Castle to the state line. In addition to the 500 white men that had been working on the construction, they employed some 2,000 Chinese. In fact, new life and vim was put in the whole project with the cessation of their financial troubles.
A natural result of this was to stop much of the local opposition and all talk about the "Dutch Flat swindle" became a thing of the past.
The last effort of their opponents was made through the Nevada Legislature. Instigated by the friends of the Placerville route, that body ordered, in 1865, an investigation into the plans, prospects and promises of the several railroad enterprises across the Sierra Nevadas. The committee having this in charge reported that there were but two such. The Central Pacific, built and in operation from Sacramento to New Castle, thirty-one miles. That its slow progress was occasioned, according to the statements made by its officers: First, by the shortage of coin in circulation; the big premium on gold, the only medium in use, had driven it East to such an extent as to make it almost impossible for the company to secure coin in sufficient sums to carry on the work. Second, that the action of the San Francisco supervisors in holding up the $600,000 in bonds voted them at the recent election had not only financially embarrassed them, but had also affected the sale of their securities. Third, that the difficulty in securing material and equipment consequent to the Civil War had delayed them greatly, and also largely increased their expenses. Fourth, the death of their chief engineer, notwithstanding all of which the company was prosecuting the work with absolute good faith and all possible vigor.
The reply of the other company, the San Francisco & Washoe Railroad, to the committee was more of an attack on the Central Pacific than an exposition of their own plans. They stated their company had been organized January 6, 1865, by responsible citizens of Placerville; that they had surveyed their proposed routes and taken the preliminary steps toward building the line in good faith. That they had been delayed by the failure of the Placerville & Sacramento Valley Railroad to reach Placerville, but that now that line was in operation to Latrobe and had accumulated there the necessary material to complete their line it was anticipated that this source of delay would soon cease to exist. In regard to the Central Pacific, they alleged that its route was longer, more difficult and expensive than their own. That Judah in advocating it had been dominated by the desire to hurt the Placerville route and had only done so in consideration of $100,000 in Central Pacific bonds, his ownership of which had developed in the settlement of his estate. That these had been given him as a bribe to induce him to keep quiet as to the superior advantages of the Placerville route and the difficulties of the Dutch Flat line. That the Central Pacific had not even investigated the Placerville route.
This lead to a bitter controversy, the defense of Judah and the Central Pacific being made over Stanford's signature in a series of pamphlets, while the other side was carried on by L. A. Robison, one of the principal owners of the Valley Railroad and the head of the firm of contractors who had built it. It was with him that Judah had had the disagreement that occasioned his leaving the Valley Railroad in 1856. He claimed to have been on terms of intimacy with Judah, and at the same time, both by innuendo and direct charge, attacked both his ability and character. Stanford was able to disprove these charges and also to produce a letter in which Robison offered to quit his attacks on the Central Pacific for cash consideration.
The Nevada Legislature was not slow to see that the Washoe road was a very uncertain factor, its incorporators being characterized by one of the speakers as "ten Placerville millionaires whose combined fortunes would not suffice to buy a steam whistle, much less build a railroad."
During all the controversy the Central Pacific Company continued on the even tenor of their way, making progress slowly but steadily. They had adopted the policy of not going beyond their resources in hand. All material and supplies as well as their pay rolls were settled promptly for cash. It was necessary for them to anticipate their requirements by nearly a year, having from one to three million dollars' worth at sea all the time, involving heavy marine insurance, costing from five to seventeen cents premium on account of war risks, not to mention interest on investment.
Their policy in regard to placing their securities was equally conservative, their argument being that a low price on their bonds made them a dubious investment, while fair returns enabled them to put the value in the road that insured their value.
The annual statement for 1864 consisted of the report of Samuel S. Montague, acting chief engineer, dated October 8. In it he stated that the railroad from the foot of K Street in Sacramento to Roseville (Griders), eighteen miles, had been let to C. Crocker & Co. in December, 1862. Work commenced in February, 1863; completed and ready for operation in February, 1864. That the next thirteen. miles up to New Castle had been built by five different contractors and put into operation in June, 1864. The telegraph line had been completed from Sacramento to New Castle at the same time. That the board of commissioners appointed by the President of the United States had examined and accepted the first twenty miles. That six locomotives named "Atlantic," "Pacific," "Governor Stanford," "T. D. Judah," "C. P. Huntington and "John Conness," were in use. His report then proceeds to give his estimate of prospective business and earnings, closing with the announcement that the California Stage Company was running a line of stages in connection with the road between New Castle and Fullers Crossing, Nevada, fifty-three miles east of the California, state line.
This point is now the City of Reno, being named for General [Jesse] Reno [USA], killed at the battle of South Mountain.
On December 31, 1864, a report of the operation of the road for the year was made by the secretary of the company. This gave the gross earnings as $103,557.54; operating expenses, $56,289.17; net earnings, $47,268.37. This on eighteen miles, April 26 to July :10, and thirty-one miles, July 11 to November 30.
By the act of 1862 the company had been authorized to build from tide water of San Francisco Bay east. The company had felt that they had their hands full with the line east of Sacramento, and had made a deal with the Western Pacific Railroad Company by which the latter acquired their rights so far as the line from Sacramento west to San Jose were concerned. This assignment had been confirmed by Congress on March 3, 1865, conditional on the Western Pacific Company completing twenty miles within one year from rom July 1, 1865, and the entire distance within four years, the scheme being for it to connect at San Jose with the San Francisco & San Jose Railroad, incorporated in 1860.
During the year 1865 the Central Pacific track crawled slowly up the mountainside. Clipper Gap, altitude 1,600 feet and forty-two miles from Sacramento, was reached June 10; Illinoistown, now called Colfax, altitude 2,443, feet and fifty-six miles, on September 4. During July the chief engineer of the New York Central was engaged to examine and report on the road, which he did, finding the road and the line surveyed entirely satisfactory, he complimenting Judah's work in his printed report.
Under date of October 10, 1865, Governor Stanford made a report to the President of the United States [Andrew Johnson] and the Secretary of the Interior as to progress made, stating the first shipment of rails had reached Sacramento October 8, 1863, and that track laying had thereupon immediately commenced, being continued without interruption except for a few days' delay caused by non-receipt of material. That these were of the best quality of American iron, sixty pounds to the yard. That the progress, while hardly satisfactory, was the best possible under the circumstances. That bringing rails, equipment and material around the Horn consumed on an average ten months and involved the running of the gauntlet of rebel pirates. The exclusive use of gold coin on the Pacific Coast, with it at a premium of 200 to 250, with local rates of interest two per cent a month, necessitated recourse to the East for funds and that obtaining them was conditional on the prompt issue of the Government bonds as fast as they fell due. That forty-three miles of the road had been completed before the company received a dollar of the Government bond aid. If assured of more promptness on the part of the Government, the company being assured of funds necessary, would then be able to proceed much faster. Up to the date of the report they had expended $5,596,476.
As to the use of Chinese labor, Governor Stanford explained that sufficient white labor was unobtainable, necessitating recourse to them to complete the line anywhere near within the stipulated time. That the company had found them to be quiet, peaceable, patient, industrious, ready and apt to learn, soon becoming as efficient as white laborers. More prudent and economical, they were content with less wage. "We find them," he states, "organized into societies for mutual aid and assistance. These, counting their members by the thousands, are conducted by shrewd, intelligent businessmen. No system similar to peonage or serfdom prevails, their agents, generally Chinese or American merchants who furnish them their supplies, accounting to them for all moneys earned."
In his report to the stockholders for the year ending November 1, 1865, President Stanford gave the following figures: Passenger earnings, $101,684.11; freight, $197,074.24; mail and express, $14,645.42; total, $313,404.07. Operating expenses, twenty-nine per cent, or $93,448.77, passenger service consisting of one train) a coach and baggage car, each way a day. The total number of stockholders he gives as 297, of which 230 were residents of Sacramento.
Chief Engineer Montague made his report for the year under date of November 25, 1865. In it he states that the force of graders at work on January 1 was 300. That it had been increased to 1,200 April 1, to 2,000 June 1 and to 4,000 by the latter part of July, most of these being Chinese, "who, under proper supervision, soon became skillful in the performance of their duties and even expert in drilling, blasting and other departments of rock work. That while at first there had been some distrust felt as to their capacity, this no longer existed."
From September 4, 1865, to May 8, 1866, but ten miles of new track was laid, but during the entire winter work was maintained on the grading and tunnels. It was this winter's experience that fixed the policy of protecting the line by snow sheds, a considerable distance being so protected that year. When the line was completed in 1869 twenty-three miles of snow sheds, erected at a cost of $10,000 per mile, were one of the assets. With the opening of spring, track-laying was resumed with more vigor. Alta, altitude 3,625 feet, seventy-three miles from San Francisco, was reached July 10; Cisco, 5,915 feet, ninety-four miles, November 9, and the summit, 7,042 feet, 105 miles, July, 1867.
During the winter of 1866-67 work on the Summit tunnel, 1,658 feet long, was kept up steadily, as was also grading on the line beyond it. The necessity for engines and cars arising on the line beyond the uncompleted tunnel, two locomotives were taken apart and transported over the summit on sleds, where they were put together again so as to be used on the tracks which had been constructed in advance.
In September, 1867, the tunnel was finished, and on January 1, 1868, the rails were laid up to the state line. Up to here was a completed line, fully ballasted and equipped, stations, side tracks, water tanks, snow sheds, telegraph line -- everything necessary for the operation of the road being completed as they went along. Up to January 1, 1866, the company had expended approximately $15,000,000 on construction and equipment, making the cost of the mountain section somewhere about $100,000 a mile.
While this first 150 miles was five years in building, it was done thoroughly and well. In the forty years that have since elapsed it has not been found necessary or advisable to make any material change on this part of the road, while the section east of there, built with much greater speed, has been practically all relocated, in places the new track being miles away from the original location.
The news that the Central Pacific had completed its line through California and had now the comparatively easy task of building across the desert was hailed with delight and was made the subject of much congratulation. The construction of the road over the Sierras by a practically uniform grade of from seventy-five to one hundred and five feet to the mile, in no case reaching the maximum of 116 feet allowed them by act of Congress, avoiding all rivers, deep cañons or high ridges, and reaching an altitude of 7,042 feet within the distance of 105 miles was felt to be the greatest achievement ever accomplished by civil engineers. The credit of this, from an engineering point of view, was due to Judah, who had located the line. It was his line the road followed, though in some minor points it had been improved on by his successor, Montague.
The construction work was done under the supervision of Charles Crocker, superintendent, who, to use his own words, "went charging up and down the line like a mad bull raising old Nick with the boys who were not keeping up to time." To him had fallen the hardest part of the job. Through summer heat and winter frosts, the notoriously heavy rainfall of that region and the ten to twenty feet of snowfall, he had kept everlastingly at it. Little wonder that when the state line was reached he said: "If I can have a clean shirt I'm willing to let what I have go and throw up the job."
It was at this stage that the "Dutch Flat Swindle" was given its death blow, the wagon road having been superseded for four-fifths of its distance by the completed railroad.
The general feeling prevailing is illustrated by a long article that appeared in the San Francisco Bulletin in February, 1868, in which the correspondent states "he had felt that Stanford & Co. had stolen a march on San Francisco in getting possession of the franchise and that heretofore had thought the whole thing would fall through. But it is evident that they mean business and were bound to carry it on to a completion."
In 1867 the financial agents of the company, Fisk & Hatch, brokers, New York City, issued a pamphlet for the purpose of facilitating the sale of the securities. Reference was made to the Central Pacific as a part of the "Great National Pacific Railroad Line," constructed with the aid and under the supervision of the National Government to connect the Mississippi Valley and the Pacific Ocean. That the mines of the Pacific States, which in the past eighteen years had produced a thousand million dollars in gold and silver and yielding then a hundred million per annum, would, with the added facilities of this road, greatly increase their production. That there was a great business in sight for the company in carrying machinery and supplies in to the mines and their products out, not to speak of the limitless trans-Pacific traffic. That already its earnings were suffice, sufficient to pay handsome dividends on the stock over and above the interest on the bonds issued on the completed portions of the line.
These statements, which were semi-official, were seized upon by the enemies of the road and an adverse sentiment worked up that to this day has never entirely been overcome. The owners of the stage lines, toll roads, road houses, telegraph lines, competing railroads, both constructed and prospective, including the powerful Wells Fargo Express, were all "ferninst" the company, the latter on account of the injury it was expected to do its business and in some degree owing to the ownership by Louis McLane, president of Wells Fargo, of the Pioneer Stage Line, numerous toll roads and a large interest he had in the Sacramento Valley Railroad. All of these interests were commencing to feel the loss of business consequent on the construction of the Central Pacific. It was easy for them to work up a public sentiment against the road.
The first expression this took was that it was charging extortionate rates, i.e., ten cents per mile on passengers and fifteen cents per ton per mile on freight. Using the statements made by Fisk & Hatch in connection with the company's annual report for 1866, it was pointed out that while the gross earnings were $865,016, its net earnings were $655,883 on the seventy-five miles operated. Consequently operating expenses were only twenty-five per cent, leaving seventy-five per cent profit. The accusation was truthfully made that the company was charging about five times the rates in vogue in the East. Petitions signed by a large proportion of the citizens of Placer, El Dorado and Nevada Counties were presented to the California Legislature, praying for legislative action reducing the legal rates so far as the Central Pacific was concerned, on the grounds that they were excessive, oppressive and, in view of the statements made by the company, totally unwarranted.
This put the company between the devil and the deep sea. In the East it was necessary that they make a good showing as to earnings, both present and prospective, to maintain their credit and to obtain good prices on their securities which they must needs market. At home any such statements were used to create a public sentiment against the company that was apt to result in hostile legislation, leading to reduction in rates and loss of earnings. In answer to the plea that they reduce their rates the company stated that it was an unfair comparison to make between California's population 500,000 and the more densely settled East; that they were only charging the legal rates as authorized by the state law, and that these same rates prevailed over other roads in California without protest; that these rates were not to exceed fifty per cent of those prevailing over the stage lines that gave such inadequate service before their road was built. It was also contended by the company that they held a charter from the National Government and that consequently the state had no jurisdiction, especially as the Government was in a sense a partner in the enterprise, interested in the earnings and entitled to a say in anything that affected the value of its bonds.
The consideration that carried most weight and which prevented any action by the Legislature was the belief that if anything affecting the company adversely were done it would hurt their financial standing, and thus retard the completion of the road, a tacit understanding being reached that no action would be taken until the road was finished.
This was very unsatisfactory to the petitioners, who figured if it took five years to build 150 miles, it was going to be a long time before it built 700 miles more, and a feeling that the company got more consideration from the Legislature than did the people commenced to prevail, increasing the antagonism already existing.
This was indicated by several movements that were started about this time. The first was a Board of Inquiry appointed by Placer County to investigate and, if found true, to take steps to oppose the transfer of the rights and privileges of the Central Pacific as to the construction of the line from Sacramento to San Francisco to the Western Pacific Railroad Company. Common report had it that the National grants were held by the "Big Five" as a personal asset and that they individually were the gainers by the transfer to the Western Pacific. Investigation developed that though a deal had been made, the company had been credited with the profits thereon, and further that, owing to financial embarrassment of the Western Pacific and the contractors building it, the Central Pacific had stepped in, was building the road and that it would revert to them.
The next thing was a rumor that the Central Pacific claimed the mineral lands lying within their land grant in California and Nevada. Originally all such had been specifically excluded. Later an amendment to the Pacific Railroad Bill had canceled this so far as coal lands were concerned. Agents of the company gave rise to the impression that the Central Pacific proposed to claim their alternate sections, regardless of mineral claims or filings thereon. The matter was brought up in the California State Senate and a telegram sent to the President at Washington, D. C., requesting that no further patents be issued the railroad pending the receipt of a memorial mailed the same day. This telegram, sent December 31, 1867, was not delivered until January 8, 1868. In the interim the Central Pacific applied for and received patents on some 450,000 acres in the Counties of Placer and Nevada.
Later developments demonstrated that the raining interests were in no way affected and that it had been a case of "more seared than hurt."
In selling their land the company fixed the price at two dollars and fifty cents per acre on agricultural land, giving the option of five years' time with interest at ten per cent on deferred payments. Oakland was fixed at five dollars per acre and pine land at ten dollars, these two latter being cash.
Then trouble arose over the valuation and taxation of the line. The company reported this at $6,000 per mile. The assessors raised it to $20,000 at first and afterward fixed it at $12,000. The company refused to pay on this valuation and the matter was carried into the courts.
At the instigation of the company the Legislature arranged that the stock held by Placer and Nevada Counties should be sold back to the railroad company and the proceeds used to retire the county bonds they had issued to aid in its construction, although the county authorities were in no way desirous of getting rid of their holdings in Central Pacific. The railroad company, however, was anxious to eliminate them as stockholders, they having presumed on their being such to inspect the company's accounts and in other ways take a hand in its affairs.
Reference has already been made to the authority given the Central Pacific Company to construct that portion of the Pacific Railroad lying within the State of California (act of 1862) and later to extend their line eastwardly not to exceed 150 miles (amended act of 1864).
This restriction was now removed (act of 1866) and their authorization made to read "To locate, construct and continue their road eastwardly in a continuous completed line until they shall meet and connect with the Union Pacific Railroad; provided, that each of the above-named companies shall have the right * * * to work for an extent not to exceed 300 miles in advance of their continued completed line."
The occasion of this action was that the Central Pacific was showing
an earnestness and progress much greater than that of the Union Pacific,
as illustrated by the following comparisons:
||Central Pacific||Union Pacific|
|Ground broken||Jan. 9, 1863||Dec. 2, 1863|
|Grading commenced||Feb., 1863||Spring, 1864|
|Completed: Dec. 31, 1863||18 miles||None|
|Completed: Dec. 31, 1864||31 miles||None|
|Completed: Dec. 31, 1865||60 miles||40 miles|
This in view of the fact act that the Central Pacific was in the midst of the most difficult part of its line, the crossing of the Sierras, while the Union Pacific was working on a level plain, and that ahead of them were the Rocky Mountains and the desert to overcome. It clearly indicated that the Central Pacific, once across the Sierras, would, if confined to the 150 miles east of the California line, arrive there long ahead of the Union Pacific. Consequently the restriction would result in delaying the completion of the line indefinitely, there being no inducement for either line to hurry forward.
Altogether Congress had appropriated $1,000,000 in bonds to aid the through-line, $10,000,000 more being appropriated to the Eastern branch lines, Pacific Railroad legislation in Congress was largely handled by Western men. A California Representative being chairman of both the House and Senate committees, and Nevada also being represented, the Central Pacific always seemed to be specially favored in the matter of "friends" in Congress. Consequently there came the suggestion that the fair thing to do would be to divide the bond aid equally between the two companies, letting the mileage of the respective lines be governed accordingly.
Under the circumstances it seemed fair to put both lines on an equality, as was done by removing the 150-mile restriction. This gave them both an incentive to hurry. It became a race between the two as to which should complete the greatest amount of the total mileage, the immediate prize being $64,000 a mile in bonds and 12,800 acres of land, with the traffic of Salt Lake City and valley for the future, both well worth the race.
In the Fall of 1867 the Central Pacific tracks emerged from the hills, Reno, Nevada, just east of them, being reached May 1, 1868. Owing to this being the most accessible point on the line to the Washoe mines, it immediately sprung into prominence. A correspondent of the Alta Californian wrote: "On May 1 the population here was two men, one woman, three pigs and a cow. A week later there were thirty buildings up and occupied." The railroad company had held an auction sale of town lots that resulted in the sale of seventy-four of them to bona fide settlers at an aggregate price of $30,000. Wadsworth, on the edge of the Nevada desert, was reached in July, 1868. Behind them now was all state and county aid. Nevada, having given the company a charter, never did more. Ahead was the desert, which presented no difficulties to the men who had spent five years of mountain work. With them was a well-trained and experienced force and backing them were ample funds. Thus equipped, they stripped themselves for the race. Crocker, in the capacity of superintendent, had said: "When we reach the desert we will do a mile a day." This had not been taken seriously, it being considered impossible.
On, reaching the state line they had completed the C. Crocker & Co. contract, covering the construction of the line from New Castle to there. This method of co-partnership had been found unsatisfactory, so, borrowing the idea from the Union Pacific of its construction company (the Credit Mobilier), they organized among themselves the Contract & Finance Company. This was to stand between the railroad company and the sub-contractors. In this way they could prevent any personal liability and at the same time cover up any undesirable data as to cost of the line, etc. Neither National nor state authorities would have any right to go behind their contracts. The Contract & Finance Company owed nothing to either. What if the railroad company did pay it exorbitant prices? Who else was there to do the work?
Under this arrangement the road from the Nevada-California line eastward was built. Ten thousand laborers, teamsters, mechanics and engineers were employed. The capacity of all the foundries, machine shops, wagon and blacksmith shops, harness factories and sawmills within reach were contracted for, twenty-five of these latter being put to work along the Truckee River getting out the necessary lumber for the line. In the East all the available tonnage was engaged. At one time there were no less than thirty ships loaded with Central Pacific material en route around the Horn.
The net result for 1868 was the construction of 362 miles, practically the mile a day promised by Crocker. This carried them well into the middle of the Nevada desert, where wood was twenty-five dollars per cord; redwood ties cost them two to three dollars apiece; where all the water required by their engines and workmen had to be hauled for miles. It was well for the company that they had the patient, peaceful Chinese to deal with, as the hardships encountered by their construction forces were far greater than those on the Union Pacific. There was no big crowd of camp followers to create headquarter towns at the end of the track, the "hell on wheels" that made North Platte, Sidney, Julesburg, Cheyenne, and Benton infamous. The Central Pacific Company would not stand for any such, and in this their autocratic rule was beneficial. Their white employes were housed largely in boarding cars that kept pace with the progress of the work. The Chinese either constructed shacks or dug-outs, or else availed themselves of the shelter tents furnished them by the company. These latter were low cloth tents, three to four feet in height, but their preference was to burrow in the earth mounds, making dug-outs, which were really the most comfortable quarters obtainable, Their hours were from sunrise to sunset. Their wages were thirty and thirty-five dollars per month out of which they fed themselves. Most of them retained their distinctive Chinese clothes, though some few adopted a semi white costume.
A significant statement appears in the annual report of the Secretary of War for 1868. In explaining the presence of troops in Nevada, though the Indians had shown no disposition to make trouble there, the Secretary said: "Military protection is specially required along the Central Pacific. The Chinese laborers cannot be retained if exposed in the slightest degree to Indian raids or otherwise threatened, owing to their timidity and cowardice." This otherwise presumably refers to the report of the General in command of the Department of the Pacific. In it he states that on July 8, 1868, he had been called upon by the Governor of Nevada for troops to protect the Chinese within that state, as organized bodies of men were endeavoring to drive them not only from their work, but also out of the state. In compliance with this call he had sent two companies of cavalry to the vicinity of the threatened trouble and their presence had prevented this from materializing. In addition to the two companies referred to the Army was represented along the Central Pacific by six companies of cavalry and two of infantry, located at Camp Ruby and Camp Hallett. While there was an Indian scare in September, the hostiles from Arizona did not get within 300 miles of the road, the only trouble from this source during the construction of the line being some petty pilfering.
The Alta Californian of November 9, 1868, contained a long description of conditions at the "end of the track," written by their special correspondent. In this he states that upon arrival there he found Superintendent of Construction James Strowbridge in charge, having a movable hotel, telegraph office, store, etc., all of these being included in the "camp train," which provided comfortable sleeping rooms and a traveling home that would not discredit San Francisco. In it were housed the officials, clerical force and white laborers; at home, yet constantly on the move.
When he reached there early in the morning he found long lines of horses and mules and wagons standing in the open desert near the camp train, the animals feeding on hay and barley preparatory to the day's work.
Trains could be seen in the distance coming from the west with supplies and material for the day's work, the foremen and superintendents of the various departments galloping back and forth on horseback, giving or receiving orders, while swarms of laborers – Chinese, European and American were hurrying to their work. On one side of the track stood a movable blacksmith shop, halted for the day, within it some twenty or more smiths busily hammering away repairing tools or shoeing horses and mules. In one of the cars of the camp train was a fully equipped harness shop in full blast. To the west were the rails and line of telegraph poles stretching back as far as the eye could reach, the camp train occupying the extreme end. The telegraph wire dropped from the last pole into the car equipped as the telegraph office.
Looking eastward was the long stretch of newly-turned earth marking the grade. By the side of it can be seen groups of blue-clad laborers, the smoke of their camp fires curling lazily up in the clear morning air. These blue-clad "haythens" constitute the vanguard, plying the pick and shovel, leveling the hills, filling up the valleys, raising the embankments and making ready for the coming of the track-layers. These Chinese work on a thorough system, keeping things moving in perfect order. Each division is in charge of an American foreman, who keeps the time book for each gang under him. These gangs, consisting of about thirty men, have each a "head man," elected by themselves. The foreman each evening gives the head man an account of the time credited to his gang and he in turn divides it among the individuals. The head man also buys and pays for all -provisions used by his gang, the amount due them being paid him at the end of the month, they receiving thirty to thirty-five dollars wages in gold, which, after deducting their living expenses, leaves them twenty to thirty dollars as the result of their month's work.
They work from sunrise to sunset, six, days in the week, spending Sunday washing and mending up, gambling and smoking. Their camps are like those of an army, the tents in regular rows and well policed.
Away back some miles behind the track gang and the camp train comes the rearguard, who ballast and finish the roadbed. These also are Chinese, their camp keeping close up with the track gang, moving every day or so,
With the rising of the sun the signal is given at the camp train for the track gang to go to work and immediately all seems to be confusion, but it is soon evident that the confusion is only apparent. A train of from twenty to thirty cars, known as the "doubleheader" from having an engine at each end . has drawn up close behind the camp train. This leaves the supply station where material and supplies are accumulated early every morning so as to reach the end of the track by sunrise. On it are ties, rails, spikes, bolts, telegraph poles, wire, etc. The ties are placed on wagons drawn by six, eight or even ten mules, and distributed along the grade. At the same time the iron is being loaded on wagons, which haul it around the camp train, where it is reloaded on low platform cars, which are hauled by horses to the end of the track as it advances. The first or "tie gang" places the cross ties on the grade, seven to the rail length. Behind them comes the "rail gang," who take the rails from, the platform car and put them in position. While they are doing this a man on each side drops the spikes, one to each tie; another distributes the splice bars and a third the bolts and nuts by which the ends of the rails are spliced together. Then the spikers, two on each side, spike the rails to the ties, two more adjust and bolt the splice bars.
As fast as a platform car is emptied it is turned over on its side to let another loaded one pass it. Then it is put back on the rails and hurried back for a new load. While this is proceeding wagons are distributing the telegraph poles to the side of the grade. The cross arms are bolted on them. Another gang digs the holes for them and a third erects the poles, keeping pace with the "rail gang." A wagon proceeds slowly. On it is a reel of wire which unrolls as it goes along. As fast as it uncoils it is carried up on the poles and fastened to the insulator. Thus the telegraph and railroad proceed together, not a glitch or a halt, steadily and evenly, little noise and no confusion, hardly a word of command excepting it be in the nature of a signal for concerted action.
But half the ties are put in as the track is laid. Following behind the camp train comes another laden with ties which are distributed along the track. These are placed in position by the "follow-up gang," who also level up the track, perfect the alignment and make it ready for the "ballast gang."
Meanwhile at the camp train the cooks have been preparing dinner, the clerks making up the accounts and records, and the telegraphers have been calling for rails, ties, tools or whatever may be required.
Twice a day it is moved to the end of the track. At noon so as to furnish the force with their dinner and at evening to give them supper and accommodations for the night. Immediately on reaching the end of the track the telegraph wire is "cut in," and with the operators' report of two, four or six miles of track laid the day ends.
One thing greatly to the credit of the Central Pacific management was the absence of all the ruffianism that prevailed along the Union Pacific. The orders against drinking and gambling were stringent and enforced. Superintendent of Construction Strowbridge was several times involved in legal proceedings through his destruction of gambling paraphernalia and liquors, but regardless of same the appearance of these evils was the signal for immediate action on the part of the railroad management looking to their destruction and the expulsion of the proprietors.
In the Fall of 1868 the question of where the two lines were to establish their common terminal assumed great importance. Many interests were at stake. The two companies with their bonds and land grant, the Government to see that their bonds were equitably divided, the Mormon population of Salt Lake Valley, real estate speculators, etc.
The Secretary of the Interior had said, in response to an inquiry from the House dated February 14, 1868: "The point of junction has been assumed to be 78.295 miles east of Salt Lake City, or at a point that will entitle the two companies to an equal amount of bonds."
The Union Pacific had surveyed and located their road clear up to the California line and had their graders at work as far as Humboldt Wells, 460 miles west of Ogden. The Central Pacific located their line east to Echo Cañon, eighty miles beyond Ogden, and did their grading the greater part of this distance. They also issued a pamphlet addressed to the Senate Committee on Pacific Railroads, giving the arguments on which they based their claim that the junction should be at Ogden. These were: Equal division of bonds; convenience for handling the traffic of Salt Lake Valley; that their grade "was built eighty miles east thereof, offsetting the work done by the Union Pacific to the west, and that as they had had the hardest part of the line, the Sierras, they should be given a fair share of the easier part.
The Central Pacific Company got in some very fine work in the matter of Government bonds for the grading east of Ogden. Producing formal evidence of this having been done, they demanded of the Secretary of the Treasury that he issue them the two thirds of the total amount accruing on these eighty miles. He naturally demurred, knowing that the Union Pacific had constructed a parallel line. The Central Pacific procured an opinion from the Attorney General to the effect that if the evidence of their having constructed the grade was en regle, there could be no doubt but that they were entitled to the two-thirds of the bonds as claimed. On the last day of President Johnson's administration, March 3, 1869, these were issued them to the amount of $1,333,000.
The Salt Lake Reporter of November 6, 1868, gave the substance of a compromise which was effected between the two companies in regard to the paralleling grades then under construction from Echo Cañon on the east to Humboldt Wells on the west. This was that "the Central Pacific and Union Pacific have agreed that each shall grade up to Monument Point, but that this is not to be considered the terminus, the first line reaching there to be privileged to continue their track on until they meet that of the other." The point Monument was about fifty-seven miles west of Ogden, its name coming, from a cairn or monument built as a landmark by Fremont on one of his exploring expeditions. The two tracks came together sixteen miles east of this point at Promontory. At the time the agreement was made the two lines were about equidistant from there, the Central Pacific 545 miles, the Union Pacific 522, the latter having their Wasatch tunnel to dig.
As the two lines drew nearer each other the rivalry grew intense. It extended from the rank and file to the highest officers. Each company was putting down an unprecedented amount of track daily. Naturally their respective ability to cover the greatest distance within the day became a matter of dispute and, it is said, the subject of a wager of $10,000. The Union Pacific forces led off with four miles in one day, the highest record ever accomplished in railroad building up to that time. The Central Pacific forces came back with six miles in the same time. Then eight miles were done by the Union Pacific, which they considered good enough on which to risk their laurels. But Crocker, in charge of the Central's forces, thought different. He held full sway, having all power and authority. "Let us wait," he said, "until they can't get back at us." So, carefully preparing his plans, he waited until there were only about twenty-five miles separating the two tracks, then started in to beat the record.
Some of his subordinates had questioned their ability to even equal the eight miles of the Union Pacific, but were told by Crocker that he had set ten miles as the day's work. Eight thousand men and five long trainloads of material were massed for the day, April 29, 1869. Each man had been told off for a specific task and thoroughly drilled in it. All were cautioned to keep in line and out of the way of every one else. Thus, when it came to spiking down the rails, there was a gang especially designated, one man to each spike, which, when driven, the whole gang would move forward to the next rail, each man in relatively the same position, striking the same spike in the next rail, and so on, no passing or interfering with each other. Two squads of Chinamen, those between the rails with shovels, those outside with picks, did the ballasting behind the spikers.
The honors of the day were carried off by the gang who adjusted the rails into position. These eight men - Michael Shay, Michael Kennedy, Michael Sullivan, Patrick Joyce, Thomas Dailey, George Wyatt, Edward Killeen and Fred McNamara by name - alone and unaided handled more than 3,500 rails, 1,000 tons, in the one day.
When a halt was called for the mid-day meal eight miles had been added to the track and the record broken. The point where they rested was named Victory, but since renamed Rosel. A "camp and water train" served dinner to the force, who, after an hour's nooning, went at the task again,
A General of the United States army, who was present, compared it to an army in movement, the regular, ranks, strict discipline, regular movement, marching across the country leaving behind it a completed railroad, at times the track going down as fast as his horse walked.
Between daylight and dark 185 feet over ten miles of track were laid, a world's record never equaled. This day's work left three and one-half miles for the Central Pacific and six miles for the Union Pacific. The following day saw this laid and the two tracks brought together, two rail lengths being left open until questions at issue between the two companies could be adjusted and also that the completion might be done under more formal conditions. The program was set for May 8, but owing to the Union Pacific delegation being delayed en route, it was finally arranged for May 10. The ceremonies took place at noon. As early as 8 A. M. the spectators began to gather. These were mostly workmen and the people from the construction camps. Three-quarters of an hour later the first train arrived over the Central Pacific, bringing a number of passengers. Then two trains, heavily laden, came in over the Union Pacific. At 11:15 Governor Stanford and a party of invited guests arrived on a special from Monument Point, where they had been sidetracked over night, his train being hauled by the Central Pacific engine "Jupiter," gaily decorated for the occasion. Considerable comment was occasioned by the equipment of the two lines, that of the Union Pacific being characterized as elegant. The difference between Governor Stanford's car and that of Vice-President Durant of the Union Pacific received special comment. The latter was described by one of the guests as a "superb piece of cabinet work called a Pullman car," it completely overshadowing the unpretentious one of the president of the Central Pacific.
The total number of spectators present numbered about 1,100. Edgar Mills, of Sacramento, officiated as master of ceremonies, his program being a prayer by the Rev. Dr. Todd, of Pittsfield, Mass., followed by the presentation of the last spikes. The first was of gold, being presented by Dr. Harkness, of Sacramento, on the part of the State of California, for whom he said, "within whose borders and by whose citizens the Pacific Railroad was inaugurated, desires to express her appreciation of the vast importance to her and her sister states of the great enterprise about to be consummated. From her mines she has forged this spike and from her woods she has hewn this tie and by the hands of her citizens she offers them to become a part of the great highway which is to unite her to her sister states on the Atlantic. From her bosom was taken the first soil, so let hers be the last tie and the last spike."
The spike thus presented was about the size of the regulation spike and was made out of twenty-three twenty-dollar gold pieces. On its head was engraved the words "The Last Spike," on the sides "The Pacific Railroad, First Ground Broke. January 8, 1863. Completed May 10, 1869.[sic] Presented by David Hewes, San Francisco, Cal."
A silver spike similar in size was then presented to Vice-President Durant of the Union Pacific by the Honorable F. A. Fryth, of Nevada, with the sentiment, "To the iron of the East and the gold of the West Nevada adds her link of silver to span the continents and weld the oceans."
[Anson Pacely Killen Safford, third territorial Governor of Arizona], being present as a guest of Governor Stanford, then offered a spike composed of iron, silver and gold, saying: "Ribbed with iron, clad in silver and crowned with gold, Arizona presents her offering to the enterprise that has banded the continent."
Suitable responses were made by both Governor Stanford and Dr. Durant.
A silver maul was then presented to Governor Stanford by Mr. Coe, of the Pacific Union Express.
The "Last Tie," a beautiful piece of California laurel, highly polished and suitably inscribed, was then put into position. At a given signal, Governor Stanford on the one side and Vice-President Durant on the other struck the spikes, driving them into the tie, thus completing the Pacific Railroad.
While the tracks of the two companies connected at Promontory, it was understood and agreed that this was not to be the terminus. The Central Pacific wanted Ogden and offered the Union Pacific $4,000,000 for their tracks west of there, but though they were admittedly hard up financially the offer was refused. It took a joint resolution of Congress to settle the matter. The act in question, which is attributed to Central Pacific influences, was entitled "For the protection of the interests of the United States in the Union Pacific and Central Pacific Railroads and for other purposes."
It contained a proviso that while the common terminus should be at or near Ogden, the Union Pacific tracks west thereof should be paid for and owned by the Central Pacific. Their cost was $2,625,000.
The two companies agreed that "at or near Ogden" should be interpreted five miles west of Ogden. There they planned to build their depots, siding, yards, etc., including a large hotel for the convenience of through passengers. In fact, they proposed founding a city to be called Bonneville or Union Junction.
Before they had made any move in the matter Brigham Young, the president of the Mormon Church, got wind of it and on his suggestion the Mormon owners of the land refused to sell. The railroads did not care to tackle condemnation proceedings in the Utah courts, so arranged temporarily to make Ogden the point of interchange. This suited the Mormons exactly as, in anticipation of the city that must inevitably grow at the point where the two lines connected, they had laid out the city for a little real estate speculation of their own.
Early literature of the two roads for some time made reference to the town of Bonneville and the Wasatch Hotel that was to be erected there, but once located at Ogden and having bought from the Mormons the necessary grounds, they became fixed, the five miles of the Union Pacific west of Ogden being leased to the Central Pacific.
With the opening of the through line passenger fares between Omaha and San Francisco were fixed at one hundred dollars for first class express train service, seventy-five dollars second class on express train and forty-five dollars emigrant, the latter being good only in emigrant coaches, which were hauled on freight trains, requiring from nine to eleven days between the two points. The express train schedule was: Leave Omaha daily at 12:15 noon, say on Monday, arrive at San Francisco at 5:35 P. M. the following Friday, four and one-half days, practically. There was no such a thing as through equipment, the Union Pacific cars including Pullman sleepers only going as far as Ogden, where passengers had to transfer into Central Pacific coaches and their Silver Palace sleeping cars, the charge for the latter being six dollars from Ogden to San Francisco.
Meals en route were served at eating houses at the general rate of one dollar, though the eating house at Colfax charged but seventy-five cents.
[Detailed first person accounts of construction and early travel over the Central Pacific can be found in Albert D. Richardson's 1867 volume "Beyond the Mississippi" and in a series of letters by him published in May and June, 1869 in the New York Tribune, entitled "Through to the Pacific" as well as in "The Pacific Railroad Open: How to Go and What to See" by Samuel Bowles.]
Finished but not complete was the verdict of the board of commissioners appointed by the Government to report on the road in November, 1869. They stated it would require about $5,000,000 to bring the road up to the standard. Portions of it, especially east of Truckee and along the Humboldt River, which had been constructed in such a hurry, were reported as in need of considerable work. In 1874 another set of commissioners reported that considerably more than the amount specified by the first board had been expended and that they found the line was complete.
The Government bonds were practically indispensable in the building of the road, but with its completion they immediately became a source of much trouble. They having thirty years to run, the principal could be left for the future, but their interest must be taken care of right along and a sinking fund provided. It had been supposed that the earnings of the road on Government business would more than take care of the interest, and so it would have had the movement of troops and supplies been kept up on the same scale as had been necessary before they were built.
The road proved more efficacious in policing the country it traversed and in subduing the Indians than did all the troops the Government ever put in the field. The necessity for troops removed eliminated that item from the companies' earnings.
How this debt to the Government was finally adjusted is, as Kipling says, another story, too long for the limits of this article.
Soon after the completion of the through line the Central Pacific Railroad of California and the Western Pacific Railroad were consolidated under the name of the Central Pacific Railroad Company. The Western Pacific had already absorbed the line from San Jose to San Francisco, i.e., the San Francisco Bay Railroad Company. Thus the new company owned the line through from Ogden to San Francisco.
Numerous lines in California and Oregon were built or absorbed, extensions reaching into Arizona and New Mexico constructed and leased to the Central Pacific. In 1885 a division was made of the California lines, a part of them being retained by the Central Pacific and the balance turned over to the Southern Pacific Railroad Company of California. Then both systems, the Central Pacific and the Southern Pacific of California, were leased by a new company called the Southern Pacific Company of Kentucky, which conditions prevail to this day.
[The UPRR acquired control of the Southern Pacific in 1901 and operated both the Southern Pacific's and Central Pacific's routes until 1912 when the United States Government brought suit against the UPRR under the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. In December, 1912, the United States Supreme Court handed down its decision in the case declaring that the ownership by the Union Pacific of the Southern Pacific was unlawful and ordered the railroad to sell all of its interests in the Southern Pacific. For details see "The Separation of the Central Pacific and Southern Pacific Railroads" by Fred G. Athearn, Esq., Western Counsel, The Union Pacific Railroad Company, 1922.]
The following figures, taken from the annual report of the Central Pacific
for the year ending December 31, 1869, illustrate the business done:
|Mail and Express||
Total Gross Earnings
Less Operating Expenses
|Capital stock authorized||
|Capital stock outstanding||
|Bonded indebtedness, first mortgage||
|Bonded indebtedness, Government bonds||
Total outstanding obligations......
The statistics of business handled being:
|Tons freight moved--|
|Total number tons moved||...............||
Long before the last spike was driven, Stanford, Huntington, Hopkins
and the two Crockers were all millionaires. They owned practically
all the stock, the shares in other hands being very few. Outside
of the other sources of income, including large pay as officers of the
company, were the profits on the construction contracts. What these
were can only be guessed at, but from the indications they certainly were
no small pickings.
Transcribed and annotated by, and Courtesy of the Bruce C. Cooper Collection.
Book by the same author: "The Story of the First Trans-Continental Railroad; Its Projectors, Construction and History ..." by William Francis Bailey (1861-19??). Fair Oaks, Cal., W. F. Bailey, 1906. 164 p.
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