Rights & Permissions; Homework
By Rebecca Cooper Winter
Pacific Railroad Surveys
As early as 1832, many wanted to connect California to the rest of the Union. Emigrant Societies formed in the 1840's established a passable wagon road, known as the California Trail. By 1850, it was quite obvious that a railroad was necessary to connect the eastern and western United States. Mr. J. J. Warner's Report on Railroads to the Senate of California in early 1851 stated:
The Corps of Topographical Engineers, also called "Topogs," was a division of the U.S. Army whose purpose was to "discover, open up, and make accessible the American West." In 1850, the Topogs had already been in existence for 25 years and many explorations had already been conducted. Surveys of the Grand Canyon and the U.S.-Mexican border, the building of transportation systems, the explorations of John C. Freemont in 1842-1845, Howard Stansbury's surveys through Black Hills and south of Salt Lake City in 1849, and the discovery of new routes to California were just a few of the accomplishments of the Topogs. The Pacific Railroad Surveys, performed on the instructions of the Secretary of War, were a series of explorations of the American West performed by the Topogs which allowed for the building of the first transcontinental railroad.
The major question in Congress concerning the railroad was where it should be built. Even the least expensive proposed routes would equal the federal budget for one year. There were many lobbyists trying to influence Congress and the press, in an attempt to get the railroad routed differently because the stops along the railroad would receive huge social, political, and economic importance.
On March 3, 1853 Congress gave $150,000 and authorization to the Secretary of War, Jefferson Davis, to order the Topogs to explore the West and "ascertain the most practical and economic route for a railroad from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean." Soon after, four cross-country survey expeditions were organized. These surveys covered at least 400,000 square miles of the American West. Isaac Stephens led a northern expedition through Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon. Captain John Gunnison led an expedition through Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and California. Lieutenant Amiel Whipple, who had previously surveyed the U.S.-Mexican border, led an expedition from Fort Smith, Arizona to California, with Albuquerque, New Mexico as a stop. Finally, Lieutenant John Parke and John Pope led two expeditions to scout a possible route parallel to the border with Mexico. In each of the expeditions, small groups were sent out from the main party to explore possible alternate routes. There were also other later surveys that were needed to complete surveying the route. The four major Pacific Railroad Surveys were well equipped for that time, but were still very dangerous. Crossing rivers of ice flows in the North, violent storms, water shortages, fire (both natural and made by Indians), and encounters with unfriendly Indians were difficulties in making the explorations.
Survey Route Map - Pacific Railroad Surveys
Courtesy Jack Petree / Tom McAloon (Ed.) Ingersoll-Rand.
On August 16, 1856, Mr. Denver of the House Select Committee on the Pacific Railroad and Telegraph reported that:
Construction of the Central Pacific Railroad
Joseph C. G. Kennedy, Superintendent of the 1860 Census, reported to Congress that:
Finally in 1862 Congress passed the Pacific Railway Act establishing that the Union Pacific Railroad Company was to build west from Omaha, Nebraska and the Central Pacific Railroad Company was to build east from Sacramento, California. It also provided for a telegraph line to be built adjacent to the railroad, stating that each railroad:
The Central Pacific Railroad broke ground on January 8, 1863 at Front and "K" Streets in Sacramento, California. Finally, on October 8, 1863, the first rails reached San Francisco on the ship Herald of the Morning. The first rail was laid on October 26th and on November 10th the first locomotive, the "Governor Stanford," rode on the rails. By February 29, 1864, the railroad had been built 18 miles to Roseville and train service began. The CPRR laid 20 miles of track before running out of money. Since the North and the South were deeply engaged in the Civil War, the price of equipment was becoming greatly inflated. During the building of the railroad, the price of 1 ton of rails went up from $55 to $115. The price of one keg of black powder went up from $2.50 to $15. A large locomotive once cost $10,000 but due to inflation, a small engine cost $14,000. The federal government paid in "greenbacks" that were not trusted and converted to only 57 cents on the dollar. The Big Four developed the Contract and Finance Company, in which they pocketed $63 million, held $100 million of stock, and had power over 9 million acres of land from federal grants. They did, however, play the leading role in organizing and permitting the building of the Central Pacific Railroad.
Although the building got off to a slow start, due to the Civil War, shortage of money, and other problems, the two railroads were well into a race to earn the most money and obtain the most land by 1865, trying to overcome the difficulties of lack of supplies, shortage of laborers, bad winters, extreme heat, hard granite, and Indians.
A. A. Hart stereoview #34, "Locomotive 'Atlantic' at Colfax."
Courtesy Michael Croke, Poor Warren's Antiques.
The CPRR reached Newcastle, 31 miles from Sacramento, on January 31, 1865. Clipper Gap, 43 miles away, was reached on June 10, 1865, and Colfax, 55 miles away, was reached on September 10, 1865. Grading beyond Colfax started August, 1865, the same date that work began on the Summit Tunnel No. 6. Trains ran as far as Dutch Flat starting in July, 1866 and extended 94 miles from Sacramento to Cisco on November 9, 1866. Because the Summit Tunnel was not completed until August, 1867 and there continued to be a seven mile gap in the track between Coldstream and Tunnel No. 12 in December, 1867, work had to proceed separately on a 50 mile segment of track which was laid to the east, beyond the Summit. The segments had been connected and work on the track was completed to Truckee on April 3, 1868, to Reno on June 19, 1868, 154 miles from Sacramento, and to Wadsworth on July 22, 1868, 189 miles from Sacramento. An additional 501 miles of track was built between July, 1868 and early May, 1869 from Wadsworth, Nevada to Promontory, Utah. Due to the indecision as to where the rails would join, by May 1, 1869 the Central Pacific had graded 50 miles beyond Promontory, the location where the two railroads would unite. Codifying the decison and agreement of the U.S. Pacific Railroad Commission, the Federal law passed April 10, 1869:
An eastern newspaper described the work on the railroad:
"A light car, drawn by a single horse, gallops up to the front with its load of rails. Two men seize the end of a rail and start forward, the rest of the gang taking hold by twos, until it is clear of the car. They come forward at a run. At the word of command the rail is dropped in its place, right side up with care, while the same process goes on at the other side of the car. Less than thirty seconds to a rail for each gang, and so four rails go down to the minute ... close behind the first gang come the gaugers, spikers, and bolters, and a lively time they make of it. It is a grand 'anvil chorus' ... It is played in triple time, 3 strokes to the spike. There are 10 spikes to a rail, 400 rails to a mile, 1,800 miles to San Francisco — 21,000,000 times those sledges to be swung: 21,000,000 times are they to come down with their sharp punctuation before the great work of modern America is complete."One of the main problems in construction of the Central Pacific Railroad was the lack of materials and the difficulty of transportation. While wood for ties was plentiful in California, the rails, engines, cars, wheels, and other equipment had to be made in the industrial East and brought to California. Since there was no practical overland route, the materials had to be shipped 18,000 miles around Cape Horn, the tip of South America, a process that took many months and was very expensive and dangerous. Some locomotives and rails were sent across the Isthmus of Panama, a shorter but much more costly route. Arriving in San Francisco, the materials were loaded onto steamers or barges and shipped 130 miles through San Francisco Bay and the Sacramento River to Sacramento. Once the materials reached Sacramento, the rails, spikes, and rods were loaded into the flat cars of a supply train that was sent to a worksite of awaiting laborers. Each rail was approximately 700 pounds (56 to 66 pounds per yard) and took five men to lift. The rails were manufactured in mills in the East conforming to the Pacific Railway Act of 1862. The ties and wood for bridges were cut from the Redwood forests of California. There were generally between 2,260 and 2,640 ties per mile. Stone for culverts, bridge piers, and building foundations was obtained along the line through the mountains. An average of two to three miles was laid per day and the men worked six days per week. Base camps were built about 70 miles apart.
The shortage of laborers was another major concern of the Central Pacific. The white men that were willing to work for the railroad often only worked until reaching a gold field and then abandoned their job. The CPRR intended to have 6,000 men to break through the mountains, but ended up with only 600. In solution to this, Charles Crocker suggested to James Strobridge, the superintendent of construction, the idea of bringing men from China to work on the railroad. The white men, including Strobridge, discouraged the idea of using "yellow men" because they were thought too small and weak. Eventually, despite much protesting, the Chinese were brought to work on the railroad in January, 1864 and turned out to be much better and more diligent workers than the Americans. Their enthusiasm and diligence outweighed their short stature. Another advantage of employing the Chinese was that they could be paid less and given worse living and working conditions than the white Americans working on the railroad. Nine out of ten workers on the CPRR in the second year of construction were Chinese. At the height of construction, over 10,000 Chinese were employed by the Central Pacific. Once the labor problem was solved, there was usually one foreman (working in 12-hour shifts) for each 30 or 40 laborers.
The Nevada Office Superintendent Indian Affairs, Carson City, wrote on January 9, 1866:
Snowdrifts of over 40 feet closed the railroad in winter. As a result, the Central Pacific built 37 miles of snow sheds covering the track in 1868 and 1869, employing 65 million board feet of timber, the "longest barn in the world."
Among the hardships of the Central Pacific Railroad, the most difficult construction occurred in the tunnels of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, where they fell way behind in their race with the Union Pacific to build the most track. The 6,213 feet of tunnels (compared to only 1,792 feet of tunnels in the UPRR) were mostly built near the summit of the Sierra Nevada mountains. The CPRR built a total of 15 tunnels, all of which were within 60 miles of mountain. The shortest tunnel was the Red Spur, which was 92 feet in length. There were seven tunnels that had to be built within two miles of hard granite and steep grades. There was a total of 11 tunnels, No. 3 through No. 13, between Cisco and Lake Ridge, a distance of only 20 miles. These were at 6,000 to 7,000 foot elevation, where the snowfall was heaviest. Tunnels No. 1 and No. 2 were built west of Cisco, within 13 miles of the summit, and were completed in 1866. Although snowstorms made the route through Tunnels No. 8 and No. 9 on Donner Peak impassable, the most challenging and longest tunnel was Summit Tunnel, No. 6, built 105 miles from Sacramento. It was built parallel to and 400 feet north of Donner Pass and is 1,659 feet long and 124 feet below the surface. In order to speed construction, the workers drilled an 8 feet by 12 feet by 72.9 feet shaft in the center and starting on August 27, 1866, also built outward in both directions from the center, while workers were building inward from both entrances at the ends of the tunnel.
During the construction of the Summit Tunnel, 500 kegs of black powder were used each day. The granite was so hard that much of the blasting had little or no effect. In order to blast, holes had to be drilled for the explosives. It took three eight-hour shifts to drill twelve inches and steel drills had to be given new edges by blacksmiths every two hours. In one part of the construction near Cisco, nitroglycerine was employed because it was a much more powerful explosive than black powder. Nitroglycerine was introduced to the railroad in 1867 and was made on the spot by James Howden. It was used in the four headings of Tunnel No. 6 and some in Tunnel No. 8. In the headings, nitroglycerine had 54% additional progress over black powder and in the bottoms, it had 74% additional progress. Nitroglycerine, however, was abandoned quickly due to its extreme instability, making it very dangerous to the workers handling it. In 1868, the CPRR finally broke out of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
After conquering the Sierras, the race was on to get to the Salt Lake Valley, "establish a depot, and capture the lucrative Salt Lake business." Each railroad was grading a line "far beyond where the tracks would finally meet" and was hoping that the government would approve their line over the other. In the end, the Federal Railroad Commission compromised and selected a meeting spot, Promontory Summit, halfway between their parallel grading to be the meeting point. This allowed for the completion of the railroad without crossing the Great Salt Lake.
Although the Union Pacific Railroad far out-built the Central Pacific Railroad (1,086 miles vs. 690 miles), the CPRR is accredited with the record for the most track laid in one day. On April 28, 1869, the men of the CPRR broke all records, before or since, by laying ten miles of track in twelve hours.
As the completion of the railroad was in sight, the ceremony to join the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific to form the first transcontinental railroad was organized for May 8, 1869 at Promontory Summit, located 56 miles west of Ogden, Utah. The ceremony of completion that was eight years ahead of schedule, however, was delayed two days to repair washed-out track due flash flooding in Weber Canyon, and the kidnapping of Thomas Durant, the vice president and architect of the Union Pacific. Many workers who had been unpaid for part of their work revolted at Piedmont, capturing Durant and announcing that they would hold him until they received their back pay. The New York Board of Directors wired the $500,000 necessary to pay the subcontractors and Durant was freed.
Hart Stereoview #354, detail. "The First Greeting (Meeting) of the Iron Horse. Promontory Point, May 9, 1869."
Courtesy National Park Service.
With the ceremony already postponed two days, the Union Pacific members finally arrived 10:30 a.m. on May 10, 1869. Western Union, the telegraph company, was standing by to relay the completion of the railroad to the east and west coasts. Also present were reporters and the photographers, Andrew J. Russell, Charles R. Savage, and Alfred A. Hart, to immortalize the ceremony. CPRR's engine, Jupiter No. 60 (with a diamond smokestack containing screening to prevent sparks from being thrown into the forest and starting fires), was arranged head-to-head with UPRR's engine, No. 119 (with a standard straight smokestack). As the ceremony began, the UPRR Irishmen laid the next to the last rail. Then the CPRR Chinese men laid the last rail and drove a few spikes. The two superintendents of construction, J. H. Strobridge and S. B. Reed, laid the last tie. By chance, three companies of the twenty-first U.S. Infantry arrived and their regimental band provided music. Durant, of the Union Pacific, was responsible for driving a silver spike and Stanford, president of the Central Pacific, was responsible for driving the final golden spike.
As the whole nation awaited the completion, the telegraphers prepared for last hit:
Omaha Telegraph: "To everybody: keep quiet. When the last spike is driven ... we will say "done." Don't break the circuit, but watch for the blows of the hammer."With 600 onlookers at the ceremony, both men missed hitting the spikes into the pre-drilled holes, but regardless the telegrapher at Promontory, W. N. Shilling, imitated the final hits and tapped out with his key "DONE" at 2:47 p.m. (EST). With the building of the first transcontinental railroad complete, the nation was now united by the 3,500 miles of track.
Promontory Telegraph: "Almost ready. Hats off. Prayer is being offered."
Chicago Telegraph: "We understand. All are ready in the east."
Promontory Telegraph: "All ready now. The spike will soon be driven. The signal will be three dots for the commencement of the blow."
Train service on the transcontinental railroad began five days later. The fares were $111, $80, and $40, depending on comfort of the cars. The total time to cross the country on the railroad was four days, four hours, and forty minutes.
Founders of the Central Pacific Railroad
Theodore Dehone Judah was the chief engineer, lobbyist, railroader, and surveyor for the Central Pacific Railroad. He was born in 1826 in Bridgeport, Connecticut and lived until 1863, when he died in New York without seeing the completion of his dream, the first transcontinental railroad. In 1854, he was asked by Charles Wilson, President of the Sacramento Valley Railroad, to survey. He finished the Sacramento Valley Railroad, California's first railroad, in 1856. This initiated his desire to build a transcontinental railroad. Between 1854 and 1860 Judah lobbied in the Senate and the House of Representatives for a plan to build a railroad and in 1861 a survey was finally made that was very similar to the route of the final railroad. As chief engineer of the Central Pacific Railroad, he surveyed routes over the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Once the Pacific Railway Act was passed in 1862, Judah was ready to quickly get to work, but the Big Four (the major financiers) had different ideas than he. Arguments led Judah to leave California in October of 1863 on a route through Panama, and while crossing the Isthmus of Panama he caught typhoid fever and died less than a week later in New York.
The Big Four (also called "The Associates") came to be known as the major source of finances for the Central Pacific Railroad. The Big Four consisted of Mark Hopkins, Collis P. Huntington, [Gov.] Leland Stanford, and Charles Crocker. These men were merchants drawn to the west by prospects of finding riches in California, but instead found a gold mine in investing in the railroad. Mark Hopkins was born in 1813 in New York and died in Yuma, Arizona in 1878 while on a trip. He helped to form the Central Pacific Railroad Company in 1861 and was the treasurer for the CPRR throughout the construction until his death. Collis Huntington was born in 1821 in Connecticut and died in 1900 in New York. He was important in getting the federal grants and loans and founded the Southern Pacific Railroad Company. Leland Stanford was born in 1824 in New York and died in 1893 in California. He made a great deal of money selling supplies to miners during the California Gold Rush and used the money to buy stock in the CPRR in 1861. He was given the honor of driving the symbolic golden spike to join the First Transcontinental Railroad on May 10, 1869 in Promontory, Utah and was the President of the Southern Pacific Railroad Company for five years. Charles Crocker was born in 1822 in New York and died in 1888 in California. He was president of the Contract and Finance Company, the construction firm of the CPRR and solved the problem of the lack of laborers by using the Chinese. He was also one of the organizers of the Southern Pacific Railroad Company.
OF CPRR & UPRR DIGNITARIES]
[ADDITIONAL CPRR PORTRAITS]
Thirteen image E. Muybridge panorama of San Francisco from Nob Hill where the CPRR founders built their mansions, 1878. [Click to enlarge] Composite courtesy of Bruce C. Cooper.