Frequently Asked Questions about the Transcontinental Railroad
Central Pacific Railroad Photographic History Museum

FAQ's 2

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FAQ's (Page 1 of  2)

Also see the CPRR Discussion Group

"A little after 2 o'clock, Monday last, the telegraph noted the final completion of
the grandest undertaking of modern times, that of laying 1776 miles of
continuous rail ... uniting the Atlantic to the Pacific ... "
Wellsville Free Press (NY newspaper), May 12, 1869.
Richard 6x13 cm Stereo Transparency Viewer
Beautiful wooden stereo viewer with rack and pinion focusing, adjustable
eyepieces and ground glass.  Courtesy Adorama Camera.
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"If it is ever built, it will be the work of giants." William Tecumseh Sherman, writing to his brother

"In a railroad to the Pacific we have a great national work, transcending, in its magnitude, and in its results, anything yet attempted by man." —Henry V. Poor, Editor, American Railroad Journal, 1858

"The Central Pacific Railroad, thus far, is unquestionably the best constructed piece of work I have ever passed over in any part of the United States." The Marysville Daily Appeal, July 22, 1868

Quick Answers:

Where did the first transcontinental railroad originate and end?  How long was the railroad?
The 1,776 mile long first transcontinental railroad, originally called the "Pacific Railroad" and later the "Overland Route," (690 miles built by the Central Pacific Railroad and 1,086 miles built by the Union Pacific Railroad) that started construction in 1863 and was completed with the joining of the rails at Promontory Summit, Utah on May 10, 1869 went from Omaha, Nebraska (UPRR) to Sacramento, California (CPRR), thereby connecting with other railroads from the east (for example, from Boston and New York via Chicago, Illinois or St. Louis, Missouri) to span the continent by rail from the east coast to the west coast for the first time. (Also see more about rail travel routes from NY to Chicago, and from Chicago to Omaha.) After the junction of the UPRR with the CPRR was changed to Ogden, Utah, 52 1/2 miles east of Promontory Summit, the CPRR was 742 miles long, extending from Sacramento to Ogden, and the UPRR was 1,032 miles long, extending from Ogden to Omaha.  Sheet Music CoverSoon thereafter, the route was extended from Council Bluffs, Iowa (on the eastern shore, just across the Missouri River from Omaha, Nebraska) to San Francisco, California, as the Western Pacific Railroad west from Sacramento (merging with the CPRR of California on June 22, 1870 or in August, 1870) became part of the Central Pacific along with ferry service carrying whole trains on the world's largest ferries replaced the boat trip from Sacramento on Sacramento River Steamboats

When first opened in 1869, Central Pacific trains reached the San Francisco Bay area via a 140 mile line which had been built by the original Western Pacific Railroad by way of Stockton, over Altamont Pass, and on through Niles Canyon to the CPRR's two mile long pier at Alameda on the east side of the Bay from which San Francisco was then accessed by ferry. In 1876, however, the CPRR acquired a line built by the California Pacific Railroad from Sacramento to Vallejo and in 1879 completed an extension of that road 17 miles across the Suisun Marsh to Benecia where it established a railroad ferry to carry its trains a little more than a mile across the Carquinez Strait to Port Costa from which they ran down the southern shoreline of the Strait and San Pablo Bay, and the eastern side of the San Francisco Bay to Oakland and Alameda thereby cutting approximately fifty miles off the journey from Sacramento.

Charles Nordhoff wrote in the May, 1872 issue of Harper's New Monthly Magazine:

The regular route runs from New York [via Ferry to Jersey City], by way of Philadelphia and Pittsburg, to Chicago — this is called the [Pennsylvania Railroad's] Pittsburg and Fort Wayne road — thence to Omaha, either by the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy, the Chicago and Northwestern, or the Chicago and Rock Island.  At Omaha you take the Union Pacific road to Ogden, and thence the Central Pacific to San Francisco.  If you wish to see Colorado on your way out, you may go also from Chicago to Denver, over the Chicago, Burlington, and Missouri and the Kansas Pacific roads ....

CPRR - UPRR  Timetable Map, 1881
CPRR–UPRR Timetable Map, showing railroad land grants, Rand McNally, 1881 (verso, detail). Courtesy Bruce C. Cooper Collection.

"August 14 [1869]: Reached Promontory ... at noon. A fearful place composed almost entirely of open gambling booths and whiskey shops. They tell one someone is killed here nearly every day. One of our passengers fleeced of all he had by the gamblers. Glad to get away after about two hours stay. Weather warm."
—From the Diary of Henry Carter Austin, August, 1869.
Courtesy National Park Service and Grandson David B. Austin.
Silvis. Promontory


If we can help, don't hesitate to ask!

Click here for PERMISSIONS and HOMEWORK requests.

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For Kids. Image courtesy National Park Service.HOMEWORK:  I'm a student and my parent/teacher wants me to use the CPRR Museum to do a school project.  How do I get pictures for my homework assignment? Is there anything I can print for a school project?
Students can click here to get instant permission to use our printer friendly "Favorite Homework Pictures" pages to choose pictures, make them the size they want, and print them for school projects. [Students have won local, state, and national awards in the National History Day competition using pictures and information from the Central Pacific Railroad Photographic History Museum.]

"I'm not going to buy my kids an encyclopedia. Let them walk to school like I did." Yogi Berra

TEACHERS:  Many elementary education curricula include study of the transcontinental railroad in the 4th grade.  What TCRR lesson plans and other educational resources are available for school teachers?
See our website's "Great Railroad Race" Interactive Railroad Project (a classroom game for school kids) located at <> which has a teacher's notes page, with linked math problem set, questions for the CPRR and UPRR teams, and a final skit. Also see the:

Other links that we have found to be of particular interest to teachers are about the Chinese RR workers (Caution: much of what is written about the Chinese railroad workers online and in books is not accurate), history readings, and instant permission for students to use favorite homework pictures. Also see the Children's Train History Project.

"The last great innovation to transform classroom instruction occurred during the presidency of Thomas Jefferson: the invention of the chalkboard, around 1801."

"As long as there are tests there will be prayer in public schools." —Anonymous

"Too much is plenty!" —Benjamin Cohen, c. 1952

"Ideally a book would have no order to it, and the reader would have to discover his own."Mark Twain

"Too much of a good thing is great." —Mae West

How is the CPRR Museum organized?
This website is very large and growing (more than about 5,000 web pages, 12,500 files, 70,000 links, including more than 11,000 external links, more than 1,000 discussion topics, 150 books, and 5,000 megabytes, most available for public viewing) with a terrific heavily used (>1 terrabytes/year) on-line library of 19th century pictures (more than 4,500), maps and descriptions of railroad construction and travel from more than 250 collections — but, as the Sitemap outlines, it follows a simple, commonly used style with three main pages:

1Welcome page>> 2Home page>>

>> 3Exhibits index page>> ...Favorite Stereoviews Exhibit page

Frequently Asked Questions (where you are now) and offsite Links pages are also provided, and numerous text links cross reference related topics.  Navigation is assisted by a navigation bar (tan, see above) showing the most important links, with a search feature, and a pull down menu outlining the site.

Chronological organization is provided as timelines, a construction chronology, the ordering of articles about building the railroad, within the webpages of the introduction, as well as by the on-line Southern Pacific Bulletin magazine's chronological account of the railroad and in Galloway's book, Regrettably, the historic photographs were not dated, so a precisely chronological exhibit of them is not possible, although Hart's stereoview numbering may provide a rough approximation. We also have a reorganized catalog of Hart's views arranged by location or organized by Stanford Album Geographic Sequence Number. The next FAQ has much additional information about how to search and navigate the CPRR Museum.

We've tried to tell the story of the Pacific Railroad in human terms with lots of exhibits and first person accounts that visitors can relate to.  It is true that the railroad was finished in 1869, long before the 1876 deadline set in the Pacific Railroad Act which Congress passed in 1862, but nobody thought it was going to be easy.  Most "experts" in fact thought it was impossible.  It was only by dint of the hard work of people like L.M. Clement and the determination of the men who risked all to finance it that it got done.  It was a truly "American" story of accomplishment by a can do, free people in charge of their own destiny.

"I generally avoid temptation unless I can't resist it." —Mae West



Please ask first before taking pictures from this website.  No pirating!  Please don't jeopardize the CPRR Museum website's continued existence. Donors won't allow us to show their valuable pictures online if they are being stolen.  (Although not typical, Alex Novak reports that "a washed-out faded printing, Andrew Russell’s Meeting of the Rails, the Golden Spike in stereo brought a record price of $21,850 at a Swann Auction in April, 1998.") All content of the CPRR Museum website is Copyright ©  1999-2016 by and may not be copied or republished without permission.

Pirated copy of Reilly #215
Pirated copy of J.J. Reilly stereoview #215 "Eastern Bound Tea Train at Blue Canon, C. P. R. R., Cal."  Pirated images were also a problem in the 19th century!  This is a poor reproduction with the title showing the wrong railroad.  Reilly's photography business failed and he committed suicide.  Image Courtesy William Jaeger.

"one day, materials that aren't searchable online simply won't get read" attributed to James Hilton, librarian at the University of Michigan

"You could look it up." —Casey Stengel

Is there an index to the CPRR Museum? What navigation aids are available?
Yes, there are several:

A pulldown menu that outlines this website (requires Javascript) is also included on the navigation bar (tan, see above):


"we pass through this world but once, so do now any good
you can do, and show now any kindness you can show, for we shall not pass this way again." —William Penn

How do you pay for the upkeep of this web site?
We rely on donations. As an Amazon Associate and through other affiliate sales, we earn from qualifying purchases. Thanks!

"The mark of a well educated person is not necessarily in knowing all the answers, but in knowing where to find them." —Douglas Everett.

Pop-up Captions
– Pop-up Image Caption –

Where can I find the captions for the images?
Stereoview images typically have captions printed below the right image, or sometimes on the verso (back of the card). Many images on this website have pop-up captions, but we regret that our software isn't yet up to the task of placing captions with every stereoview image. However, all of the captions as published in the 19th century are available in our image catalogs which are arranged by photographer/publisher listed in order by the view numbers. On our welcome, home, and exhibits index pages, image titles should pop-up if you point to each image with the cursor and then hold it still (see above image showing a pop-up caption on the image).

"Nobody on his deathbed ever said,'I wish I'd spent more time at the office.'" Paul Tsongas

How can I help?
We are volunteer retired educators, and the CPRR Museum depends entirely on private funding. We hope that you have enjoyed visiting our website and will express your appreciation by clicking to make a gift:

Be a part of railroad history.Great American Railroad Route Poster

Where can I read more about the first transcontinental railroad?
See the on-line readings, book list, and links to related websites.

Some excellent recent books are available at the Museum Bookshop:

WarningOne railroad historian warns that books containing any of the following fables (contradicted by all available first person reports) are unreliable and cannot be recommended: at Promontory Stanford supposedly swung at the spike and missed [but see Alexander Toponce's autobiography which confirms this tale]; at Cape Horn Chinese supposedly swung in baskets; claims that there were thousands of railroad construction fatalities; claims that more than 2 workers were killed at Tunnel 6 (the summit tunnel); claims that workers were killed by poor use of nitroglycerine.

Search available antiquarian books:  Transcontinental Railroad, Pacific Railroad, Pacific Tourist, and Pacific Tourist Railroad Guidebooks.
Search the world's bookstores for any antiquarian books using Chambal, Bookfinder, AddAll (or ABEBooks which is included in the others).
Search the electronic catalogs of Academic Research Libraries.

Book Search Tips:

Note: Google has also announced (December, 2004) agreements with major research libraries to publish the full text of their book collections online over the next six years, including all eight million books at Stanford University and all seven million at the University of Michigan. Additional material will come from the Harvard and Oxford University Libraries and the New York Public Library. Search results for copyrighted books will be limited to short excerpts. Some historic books relating to the Central Pacific Railroad are already available online via the Google Library Project.

Television documentaries are available on videotape.

For general information, visit the University of Connecticut Library's page on Sources for Railroad History Research in the United States. Also see History Matters: Making Sense of Evidence.and Andrew Smith's Railroad Pathfinder.

Also see the railroad message forums at the CPRR Discussion Group, RailServe Train Talk, Trainorders Western Railroad Forum, Railway Preservation News - Interchange, or Trainboard, and the antique photography discussions at the Old Photo Forum, or use Google (formerly DejaNews) to search Usenet postings relating to the transcontinental railroad and the Central Pacific Railroad.

You can also join the Railroad & Locomotive Historical Society, where you can participate in the members-only Internet discussion group (where your research question might be answered by one of the nation's leading scholars in the field), and receive a subscription to Railroad History, the oldest railroad journal in North America.

A few of the links on this page are Easter Eggs — Can you find them?

"If you steal from one author, it's plagiarism; if you steal from many, it's research." Wilson Mizner

I'm writing a report for homework at school.  I need to cite your website and give you credit in my bibliography – how should the citation appear? How do I get homework pictures?
Title: Central Pacific Railroad Photographic History Museum.
URL: <>
MLA format:
[Substitute today's date.] Central Pacific Railroad Photographic History Museum. 31 Jan. 2024 <>
Credit line/
Copyright notice
[Substitute current year.]
Courtesy Central Pacific Railroad Photographic History Museum,
© 2024,
Note: Please use the above formal citation (or a narrative equivalent) rather than an acknowledgment of any individual.

"Better here than in Philadelphia." not on the gravestone of William Claude Dukenfield

"That's Inter-City Rail for you. ... I'm a qualified brain surgeon.  I only do this because I like being my own boss."
Monty Python's Flying Circus (The Dead Parrot)

Can I visit the Central Pacific Railroad Photographic History Museum?
You're there now!  This is a virtual museum in cyberspace. [Please note that is not located in MoorvilleMoorvilleMoorville, Kansas; and, fortunately, we don't suffer from a common museum malady, the "edifice complex."]  So the museum address is and the hours of operation are open 24 hours/day, 7 days/week for the past quarter century. We are deeply honored to have the author of what the Wall Street Journal called the "definitive" history of the building of the US transcontinental railroad describe the Central Pacific Railroad Photographic History Museum as "the best RR website on the planet."  The photographs, maps, documents, readings and other items displayed on this website are physically scattered in various locations around the United States, in more than 250 collections.  Many are too delicate to handle.  The photographs are also small (most measure 3 1/2") and light sensitive.  The restored and enlarged digital images presented here are often much easier to see than the original!  (Due to the ravages of age and technical factors, each image has typically required extensive restoration and modification using digital tools to eliminate defects and achieve what we believe is the most esthetic and historically accurate rendition of each picture.  Skillfully performing such magical transformations by digital image restoration requires considerable subjective judgment, artistry, originality, and creativity, as well as technology. (Arthur C. Clarke, the famous science fiction writer once remarked that "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.")  We are most grateful to contributors who may have lavished hours of ingenuity on a single image to create apparent perfection from a seriously flawed originalWhere it all began.MoorvilleFor example, it is often feasible to improve color and contrast, modify brightness, remove stains, and recreate missing or damaged portions.  We want you to be aware that the images on this website consequently are not the "exact" copies which many image archives prefer, and consequently caution researchers to compare original images when appropriate.)  The CPRR Photographic History Museum is a family website that has been expanded with the help of people with similar interests who have submitted scans of railroad images and copies of 19th century articles and maps from their collections. Your contributions are welcome.

"... the most magnificent project ever conceived." Theodore D. Judah, 1857

What did the Chinese do when they finished working on the Transcontinental Railroad?
"With the completion of the Central Pacific, many Chinese workers moved to other railroad construction jobs, including some for the Central Pacific. Others returned with their savings to their families in Canton. Others still sent to China for wives and settled in various western communities as laundrymen and restaurateurs. The majority who remained, however, returned to the Pacific Coast." Some continued building railroads, for example, the line from northern to southern California via the San Joaquin Valley. Others became miners or worked in a variety of service trades.  Many Chinese were employed by the CPRR at Rocklin’s roundhouse, and approximately 1,000 built water courses and stone fences at the Whitney Ranch near Rocklin. "In December 1869, the Central Pacific launched the construction of a line down the San Joaquin Valley.  By 1872 the railhead had reached Goshen.  Subsequently, construction of the section from Goshen on south to Los Angeles was turned over to the Southern Pacific which had been acquired by the Central Pacific in 1870." "The 1870 federal census listed about 400 Chinese in Truckee and Boca Post Office." The Sacramento Yee Fow Museum proposal states about the Chinese CPRR workers that "most of them later settled in Sacramento's China Slough."

"Trestles & Snowsheds: the Sierras ... February, 1867, I went on the Central Pacific Railroad to build bridges on the Truckee River. I was still in debt. ... I worked all Summer at a good salary and sometime in November when I was raising a bridge at the Cascades above Cisco and had it nearly completed I accidentally made a misstep and fell from the top, a distance of fifty feet, breaking six ribs and injuring my shoulder and spine. I was unconscious until the next day and was not able to walk for nearly two months. ... The next Spring I went back to Cisco on the Central Pacific and got up plans for a machine to frame timber for the snow-sheds. In March went down the Truckee to the State line and had a gang of men getting out ties for the railroad. In May moved the gang to Cold Stream, above Truckee, and made ties until the first of June. I then got orders to go to Sacramento and have my machine built at the Company's shops. I had my machine finished by the 20th of June and shipped it up to Summit Valley. Put in a side track, where the snow was still four feet deep and soon got the machine in good working order. With six handy men it would do the work of fifty carpenters. In July I commenced putting up snow sheds and by the middle of December had completed six miles of snow shed at the summit of Sierra Nevada Mountains. At one time I had a very narrow escape. In going down to Truckee with my construction train we had a collision with a freight train coming up just opposite Donner Lake. I was on the engine, sitting on the firemans side. The trains got so close before any alarm could be given that they could not slacken speed until they collided. I was thrown headlong against the door of the fire box and all the wood from the tender on top of me. I soon crawled out and found the Engineer and Fireman both bleeding, the Locomotives smashed up, steam flying all around, the cars off the track, several men badly hurt and everything in confusion. The only injury I sustained was a slightly sprained wrist and some scratches on my head from the wood piling on me. One man who jumped off the train on some wood fractured his scull so that it caused his death. About the middle of December 1868, having completed my section of sheds, the Company wanted me to move to an uncovered section opposite the lower end of Donner Lake and put up two miles more of snowshed, which I declined, as the ground was now covered with snow and it was getting quite cold and disagreeable and would be no better before the next May. ..."
James Abram Kleiser (1818 – 1906), autobiography ... hand-written in 1885. Courtesy Harry A. Kleiser & the Cloverdale Historical Society.

How much did it cost to ride the train? - Ticket price:

Ten Dollar Gold Eagle Coin, 1869.  Courtesy Heritage Rare Coin Galleries.
Ten Dollar Gold Eagle Coin, 1869.  Courtesy Heritage Rare Coin Galleries.


"It is perfect insanity, or the next step to it, for any one to indulge in further discussion about the feasibility of a railroad from the Mississippi to the Pacific Coast at the present time ... If Congress had common sense, they would not discuss such a subject ... " Horace Greeley, 1848

Earth from Space. Courtesy NASA.

"Water was scarce after leaving the Truckee and Humboldt Rivers ... There was not a tree that would make a board on over 500 miles of the route, no satisfactory quality of building stone. The country afforded nothing." Lewis Metzler Clement

"What do we want with this region of savages and wild beasts, of deserts of shifting sands and whirlwinds of dust, cactus and prairie dogs?" —Daniel Webster

What were the difficulties, obstacles, and hardships faced in building the first transcontinental railroad?

In his 1873 book, California for Health, Pleasure, And Residence: A Book for Travellers and Settlers, Charles Nordhoff described these obstacles:

" ... these five Sacramento merchants, who undertook to build a railroad through eight hundred miles of an almost uninhabited country, over mountains and across an alkali desert, were totally unknown to the great money world; Blizzardthat their project was pronounced impracticable by engineers of reputation testifying before legislative committees; that it was opposed and ridiculed at every step by the moneyed men of San Francisco; that even in their own neighborhood they were thought sure to fail; and the 'Dutch Flat Swindle,' as their project was called, was caricatured, written down in pamphlets, abused in newspapers, spoken against by politicians, denounced by capitalists, and for a long time held in such ill repute that it was more than a banker's character for prudence was worth to connect himself with it, even by subscribing for its stock. Nor was this all. Not only had credit to be created for the enterprise against all these difficulties, but when money was raised, the material for the road — the iron, the spikes, the tools to dig, the powder to blast, the locomotives, the cars, the machinery, every thing — had to be shipped from New York around Cape Horn, to make an expensive and hazardous eight months' voyage, before it could be landed in San Francisco, and had then to be reshipped one hundred and twenty miles to Sacramento by water. Not a foot of iron was laid on the road on all the eight hundred miles to Ogden, not a spike was driven, not a dirt-car was moved, nor a powder-blast set off, that was not first brought around Cape Horn; and at every step of its progress the work depended upon the promptness with which all this material was shipped for a sea-voyage of thousands of miles around Cape Horn. Men, too, as well as material had to be obtained from a great distance. California, thinly populated, with wages very high at that time, could not supply the force needed. Laborers were obtained from New York, from the lower country, and finally ten thousand Chinese were brought over the Pacific Ocean, and their patient toil completed the work."

" ... the plural of 'anecdote' is not 'data.' " Jon "Hannibal" Stokes

"Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of truth and knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods." —Albert Einstein

"Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored." —Aldous Huxley

"For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled." —Nobel laureate Richard Feynman

"Alice laughed. 'There's no use trying,' she said: 'one ca'n't believe impossible things.'
'I daresay you haven't had much practice,' said the Queen. 'When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.' " Lewis Carroll,
Through the Looking-Glass

"The great enemy of truth is very often not the lie—deliberate, contrived, and dishonest—but the myth—persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic." —John F. Kennedy

"It ain't what a man don't know as makes him a fool, but what he does know as ain't so." Josh Billings

"Believe those who are seeking the truth; doubt those who find it." —Andre Gide

"History is a myth that men agree to believe." —Napoleon

"Every person has two reasons for everything he does—a good reason and the real reason." —J.P. Morgan

It is a common yet deadly myth that while trespassing on train tracks you can hear the train coming before it kills you.

What are some common incorrect rumors, errors, or myths about the Central Pacific Railroad?
Flying Spaghetti MonsterThe rails were joined on May 10, 1869 (not May 8th as engraved on the golden spike) at Promontory Summit, Utah, north of the Great Salt Lake, NOT at Promontory Point, but correcting this may be a lost cause as Promontory Summit was often called Promontory or Promontory Point in 1869. (Promontory Point at the southern rocky tip of a peninsula jutting southward into the lake from its northern shore, 30 miles farther south [ ... and the confusion gets worse! – with the Lucin cutoff, the railroad was moved South decades later to go through Promontory Point and across the Great Salt Lake on a causeway, not North around the Lake through Promontory Summit as it originally did – and early maps show yet a third abandoned route South around the Lake as originally planned, but not as built]).  There were several gold and silver ceremonial spikes that would have been squashed if hit with a sledgehammer (and matching laurel wood last tie with predrilled holes for these spikes), but the actual last spike was iron, and it is disputed whether Stanford and Durant really did swing and miss, but there is a first hand account that confirms this tale. "It was the tappng of an ordinary iron hammer in the hands of Governor Leland Stanford on an ordinary iron spike that formed the electric contact which flashed the telegraphic message over the country, May 10, 1869, that the last link had been made in the rail lines of the first transcontinental railroad." The golden last spike wasn't stolen in the 19th century, it was donated to the Stanford University Museum, but the spike there now apparently does not match photographs of the original gold spike donated by David Hewes.   There are a number of other often repeated stories and factual details about the CPRR that are probably untrue.  For example, claims of "thousands killed" in construction accidents appear likely to be greatly exaggerated (for example, there were no more than two fatalities in building the summit tunnel – nitroglycerine made on site was used there with surprising safety),  and the Chinese workers who came to California (they called San Francisco "Old Gold Mountain") were lured by the gold rush and recruited by advertisements, experienced considerable anti-Chinese sentiment and discrimination, but no Chinese CPRR workers were ever slaughtered following completion of the CPRR to avoid paying them (perhaps a rumor resulting from confusion with the 1871 Los Angeles riot, the expulsion of Chinese lumbermen from Truckee, 1878-86 [with the railroad interests apparently resisting and eventually switching to coal to boycott the whites] or the 1885 Rock Springs, Wyoming Massacre of Chinese miners), and they were not "slave laborers" like many of the "coolies" sent to South America and the Caribbean in earlier generations, and did most of the labor in building the CPRR, for which they were paid in gold coin; it is not true that no photograph taken at Promontory on May 10, 1869 showed Chinese workers; nor that the Chinese workers were excluded from the celebrations at Promontoryin fact the San Francisco Newsletter, reported on May 15th, 1869 that "J.H. Strobridge, when the work was all over, invited the Chinese who had been brought over from Victory for that purpose, to dine at his boarding car. When they entered, all the guests and officers present cheered them as the chosen representatives of the race which have greatly helped to build the road ... a tribute they well deserved and which evidently gave them much pleasure.", the Central Pacific Railroad never went into bankruptcy as often claimed and repaid its bonds in full by 1909; Bloomer Cut was not named after the bloomer costume (19th century ladies' trousers);  the "Big Four" were actually five in number (brother E.B. Crocker who had a stroke just after the completion of the railroad is often forgotten) and got very rich only after taking on enormous personal financial risk and years of herculean labors — various government authorized bonds (which had to be repaid) were issued only after demonstrated construction accomplishment, but the government did not subsidize the construction, except by providing land grants which consisted in the west mostly of almost worthless and unsaleable arid land (any later value to the CPRR of a small portion of these granted lands was largely the result of the successful railroad construction and similarly benefited the U.S. government which retained ownership of the half of the checkerboard land parcels that were not granted to the railroad);  there were no wicker baskets on the ends of the ropes used to lower the Chinese workers down the (non-vertical) slope at Cape Horn to blast a ledge (the origin of this wicker basket fable has been meticulously documented);  the UPRR Irish and CPRR Chinese workers who never even worked near one another in Utah (where Mormon contractors were used by both railroads) didn't try to blow up one another, the crew that laid ten miles of track in one day near Promontory Summit, Utah, was not entirely Chinese (the names of the 8 Irish tracklayers are known);  and, CPRR Chief Engineer Theodore Judah who became ill on board ship from Panama to New York City probably died of typhoid fever, not yellow fever.  Jules Verne includes a journey on the CPRR in his novel "Around the World in Eighty Days" (Chapter 26) but in describing Phileas Fogg's passage across the Sierra Nevada mountains includes the misinformation that "There were few or no bridges or tunnels on the route." [ ... and don't get us started on the brontosaurus.] So don't believe everything that you read in the newspaper or urban legends on the internet. It would be a bad pun to consider 1776 miles of track as the ultimate irony. Also see the Swiss Spaghetti Harvest, 1957 which may be of especial interest to pastafarians.

"Tis better to be silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt." Abraham Lincoln (some say Mark Twain)

Did you know that actor Edwin Thomas Booth "saved the life of Robert Lincoln, son of the president, by grabbing him by his coat collar as he fell in the gap between two moving passenger cars and hauling him to safety," in March 1865, a month before Edwin's brother assassinated the boy's father.

What institutions not affiliated with the CPRR Museum also have collections of transcontinental railroad photographs?
The CPRR Museum provides convenient access to a large number of artistically restored historic images – unrestored transcontinental railroad images are also available from a number of other sources:

Also see the on-line Appendix D of Mead Kibbey's book – republished on this website – The (364) Railroad Photographs of Alfred A. Hart, Artist.

Where can I find primary sources about the transcontinental railroad?
This website contains a large amount of 19th century primary source material, including both pictures and historical writings, including some 1865-66 California Newspapers.  For help in researching the Central Pacific Railroad, and to locate other sources, in addition to the above institutions, see Library Research Using Primary Sources, Railroad Research Resources, Syracuse University's C. P. Huntington Manuscript Collection which is available on microfilm, Stanford University's Special Collections, Hopkins transportation collection, Sacramento History Online, the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society, the Nevada State Railroad Museum, the University of Nevada, Reno, the State Libraries in California, Nevada, Utah, and Nebraska, the State Archives in California, Utah, Wyoming, and Nebraska, the Historical Societies in California, Nevada, Utah, and Nebraska, Treasures of Congress at the National Archives (Also see the Guide to Railroad Records at the National Archives), British Library, 19th Century in Print, our list of CPRR Manuscript Collections from the Library of Congress' National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections, newspapers, the Collaborative Digital Reference Service, Interstate Commerce Commission Library (1887-1995) at the University of Denver's Penrose Library, our index to the Abraham Lincoln Papers (Pacific Railroad), the Gouverneur Kemble Warren papers describing the Pacific Railroad Surveys, the legislative history in the United States Congressional Globe, the Railroad Historical Research Guide and the Railroad Periodicals Index, 1831-1999 by Thomas Townsend Taber, the U.S. Newspaper Project, the National Digital Newspaper Project, the California Newspaper Project [locate historic California newspapers], The California Digital Newspaper Collection, Center for Bibliographic Studies and Research, New York Times index, back to 1851, California Historical Societies, other items,  the U.S. Patent Office [search all historic "railways" patents in reverse order by date; in classification #104, 105, 213, 238, 246, 258, or 295; this table of historic patent numbers vs. year may help; another patent date vs. number chart] our Links page, and the reference lists and footnotes in our recommended books.  See the Bibliographic Directory of Published CPRR Steam Locomotive Photographs. You can also search the Research Libraries Information Network and California History & Genealogy. Also the University of Utah, Utah State University, University of Wyoming, and University of Nebraska, as well as our Index to CPRR images at The Bancroft Library's California Heritage Collection.  The California State Railroad Museum [CSRM Library Online Catalogs] including the CSRM Library's collections Central Pacific Railroad payroll, voucher, and other documents which are cataloged, summarized and listed. Also see the Directory of Railroad Research Locations, list of railroad historical societies, and Southern Pacific Valuation Engineer Lynn Farrar's list of sources. If you encounter broken links because the web page you want to read has been removed from the internet, you should try searching for the old web page using the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine to take you back by linking to the past internet.

"It is old news, but there is nothing else the matter with it." Mark Twain

" ... if it's in the news, don't worry about it. The very definition of 'news' is 'something that hardly ever happens.' " Bruce Schneier

Where can I locate the "Huntington Papers" with the correspondence among the big five about the construction of the CPRR?
Salvador A. Ramirez responds that between 1891 and 1894 four volumes of correspondence between Huntington and his associates were produced for private use. The generally accepted force behind their publication was Collis Huntington's adopted son, Archer. His motivation, however, is unclear. They are generally cited as follows:

One set of these books can be found in the Huntington Library, in San Marino, California; another at the Mariners Museum, Newport News, Virginia; and a third set at Syracuse University. They can also be found in Series IV, Reel 3, of the 115 reel Collis P. Huntington Papers available on microfilm. ... Collis Porter Huntington autographThese are the only printed sources, and are reproduced in a manner similar to my book [of later correspondence, "The Octopus Speaks: The Colton Letters." Tentacled Press, 1982.]. The problem, as you will have quickly noted, is that the time period for what you seek is short in the above cited sources, and the correspondence one-sided. What is Collis Porter Huntington autographmissing, in printed form, are the letters that are extant, between 1865 and 1869, of which the most valuable for your purposes are the ten to fifteen page letters from Edwin Crocker to Collis Huntington, writing three times a week, detailing the problems, progress, and personalities involved in the construction. Mark Hopkins AutographThese are on microfilm in Series I, Reels 1-4, of the Huntington Papers. Permit me to quote from my biography of Mark Hopkins to underscore the importance of Edwin Crocker's correspondence:

"With Huntington in the East, Charles Crocker making extended trips to direct construction, Charles Croker autographStanford spending increasingly more time in San Francisco, Hopkins and Edwin Crocker holding down the fort in Sacramento, communications, always a crucial factor in their association, became even more critical. Whenever possible, the four continued their frequent strategy sessions, while advising Huntington of their deliberations. Edwin Crocker was designated the primary letter writer. It was not that Hopkins did not write to Huntington, but Crocker's letters were in such detail, frequently twelve or more handwritten pages, three or more times a week, he felt it was unnecessary to duplicate the effort. When he did write, his letters, in his tight distinctive penmanship, were clear, concise, to the point, and usually on one small piece of paper. During the period of construction, Charles Crocker virtually gave up letter writing, relying on his brother to be his communicator; and Stanford wrote only when he could not avoid it."

[Note: The Collis P. Huntington Papers, 1856-1901 by Collis Potter Huntington, Microfilming Corporation of America, Sanford, North Carolina, 1978
Microfilm reproduction of private and business papers of Collis P. Huntington on 115 reels of microfilm:
     Series 1. Incoming correspondence, 1856-1904. reel 1-54.
     Series 2. Letterpress copy books, 1868-1901. reel 1-35.
     Series 3. Legal and financial records, 1797-1901. reel 1-23.
     Series 4. Personal papers, 1862-1901. reel 1-3.
Accompanied by printed guide (56 p.)
Available at the following libraries:
University of Arizona, Tucson; California State University, Hayward; California State University, Long Beach; California State University, Sacramento; San Diego State University; Stanford University, Stanford, CA; University of California, Irvine; Florida State University, Tallahassee; University of Iowa, Iowa City; Michigan State University, East Lansing; Rutgers University, Camden, NJ; Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY; University of Oklahoma, Norman; Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA; Central Washington University, Ellensburg, WA; Wisconsin History Society, Madison; University of Wyoming, Laramie.]
Chris Graves notes that the these are also available at the California Room of the California State Library, 9th and N St., Sacramento, and remarks that the handwriting is awful, and the microfilm is worse, but, there is a wealth of information.

Also see: "Researchers create tool to automatically search handwritten historical documents."

"The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed – and hence clamorous to be led to safety – by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary." —H.L. Mencken

Is there any place I can physically go or visit to get information on the Transcontinental Railroad?
[Note: The following are not affiliated with the CPRR Museum.]

The best place to visit is the fabulous California State Railroad Museum at the site of the original depot, the western terminus of the Central Pacific Railroad, at the old Sacramento, California waterfront, created due to the efforts of a group of railroad enthusiasts who in 1937 formed the Pacific Coast Chapter of the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society and immediately began gathering historical locomotives and cars for their ultimate goal of a museum celebrating railroading in the West, to which they donated more than 40 rare locomotives and cars.  Fewer than 30 full-size steam locomotives built prior to 1880 exist in the United States, and the resulting CSRM collection of 19 steam locomotives dating from 1862 to 1944 includes five of them. They have model trains too. The exhibits include a railroad surveying exhibit with a mannequin of Lewis Metzler Clement greeting visitors near the CSRM entrance, Chinese railroad workers, the original Gov. Stanford locomotive as well as the C. P. Huntington locomotive built for the Central Pacific Railroad by Danforth, Cooke & Company of Patterson, New Jersey in  1863 and shipped around Cape Horn to arrive in San Francisco on March 19, 1864: Also in Sacramento is the Leland Stanford Mansion and the Crocker Art Museum.

C.P. Huntington Locomotive at the California State Railroad Museum
Courtesy California State Parks - California State Railroad Museum, Sacramento
"Southern Pacific Railroad Steam Locomotive No. 1, C. P. Huntington"

"The Nevada State Railroad Museum [in Carson City] preserves the railroad heritage of Nevada, including locomotives and cars of the famous Virginia & Truckee Railroad and other railroads of the Silver State. Many were bought from Hollywood studios, where they were made famous in movies and television shows."

Also, the location in Utah (Promontory Summit) where the rails were joined has been recreated as the Golden Spike National Historic Site, now operated by the National Park Service. ("The 119 and Jupiter Locomotive replicas [at the National Historic Site] were designed from archival photographs, by Bob Dowty at [the Chadwell O'Connor Engineering Laboratories of Costa Mesa, California, painted by Walt Disney employees and] ... the reconstruction of the ... locomotives [1975-1980] was funded by an act of Congress [with $1.5 million in federal funds].")Ogden, Utah Postcard

The Utah State Railroad Museum is located at Ogden Union Station. Ogden Utah Postcard, Right.

According to Christopher Smith, writing in the Utah The- Salt Lake Tribune, quoting Smithsonian officials, The "America On the Move" transportation exhibit opened in November, 2003 at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. features a surviving original 1876 steam engine from the Santa Cruz Railroad also named "Jupiter," (one of many early locomotion given this name) and the closest original locomotive type still in existence to the Central Pacific Jupiter engine that became scrap iron more than a century ago.

The old Council Bluffs, Iowa Carnegie Library has been beautifully renovated as the new home for the relocated Union Pacific Railroad Museum. [Also see the webpages of The Union Pacific Collection at the Durham Western Heritage Museum of Historic artifacts and photographs.]

It is also likely that you can find a nearby railroad museum or an upcoming railroadiana event. See a map of railroad attractions, nationwide.

"No man's life, liberty or property is safe while the legislature is in session."
—attributed to Will Rogers, paraphrasing Mark Twain

"Conservatives say the government can't end poverty by force, but they believe it can use force to make people moral. Liberals say government can't make people be moral, but they believe it can end poverty. Neither group attempts to explain why government is so clumsy and destructive in one area but a paragon of efficiency and benevolence in the other." Harry Browne

"politics is not a simplistic line that runs from Left to Right" —Sharon Harris

I am interested in obtaining vacation train travel information in order to explore the transcontinental railroad route from Chicago to Sacramento so that we might mix beautiful scenery with history.
John Pitt, author of USA by Rail says that he can certainly recommend a train trip between Chicago and Sacramento, California, traveling on Amtrak's California Zephyr.  This train operates daily in each direction and for much of the time follows the tracks of the country's first transcontinental route.  More details can be found on John Pitt's "USA by Rail" website and there is a full route guide in his USA by Rail guidebook.  When traveling during summer it's a good idea to make reservations well in advance if possible, especially if you require sleeping accommodation (highly recommended).  Don't miss visiting the Golden Spike National Historic Site in Utah and the superb California State Railroad Museum which you can easily walk to from the Sacramento railroad station.  [Note that this Amtrak route over Donner Pass (constructed by the Central Pacific RR) is not the Western Pacific Railroad route of the original train called the California Zephyr which instead used the scenic Feather River Canyon and also that the current Amtrak route does not follow the route of the UPRR portion of the first transcontinental railroad, the Amtrak train going through Denver and Salt Lake City to Elko, Nevada instead of through Wyoming to Ogden, Utah. (Confusingly, the Feather River Western Pacific Railroad route that is no longer used by the Calfornia Zephyr is not the historic Western Pacific Railroad of the same name that merged with the CPRR c.1870.)]  Additionally, there have been track realignments of the original CPRR route, for example in Nevada, and the Lucin cutoff that goes across Utah's Great Salt Lake, instead of north of the lake via Promontory Summit.  The section from Sacramento to Reno, which is also suitable for a day trip (you can fly home from Reno), includes the spectacular Sierra Nevada mountains part of the transcontinental railroad that was built by the Central Pacific.
Courtesy John Pitt.
Order a copy of the Amtrak System Timetable and see a map of Amtrak stations, nationwide.
Note: 5/3/2004 UP Detour: "Amtrak No's 5 and 6 [are] being rerouted via Cheyenne and Ogden during this summer's Moffat Tunnel closure." [From R&LHS Newsgroup]

American Orient Express also offers a rail tour of the Rockies and Sierras.

"I consider what I have just now done to be among the most important acts of my life, second only to my signing the Declaration of Independence, if indeed, it be even second to that."
Charles Carroll, last surviving signer at age 91, speaking when the first cornerstone was laid for the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, ceremony July 4, 1828.

Are tours of the route available?
From time to time, we at the CPRR Museum receive a question regarding tours of the old Central Pacific grade.  WarningThe CPRR Museum does not offer or recommend tours, urges you to avoid trespassing, to stay off the tracks, and any tours or travel would be entirely at your own risk.  Maps on this website are historical in nature, may contains errors, do not reflect current conditions and are not for use in navigation. Please let us know if you are aware of available tours. ( ... and remember that life threatening winter blizzard conditions can start as early as October, as happened, for example, in 1846 and 2004 when there was an October record of 4 feet of snow.) Author, Larry Hersh also relates some harrowing close calls with flash flooding in the Nevada wilderness while doing photography along the CPRR old grade for his book "Central Pacific Railroad Across Nevada, 1868 & 1997: Photographic Comparatives" which retraces the steps of 19th century photographer Alfred A. Hart.

See: Central Pacific Transcontinental Railroad Grade Trail

G.J. "Chris" Graves of New Castle, California writes:

"TOURS OF THE CPRR OLD GRADE:  Chris Graves at Bloomer CutG.J. 'Chris' Graves, of Newcastle, Cal., has taken a number of folks over the old grade, from Sacramento to Promontory Summit.  He has escorted the producers of a TV series, "THE AMERICAN EXPERIENCE", sponsored by WBGH in Boston, as well as David H. Bain, author of "EMPIRE EXPRESS", over the grade from one end to the other, with no fatalities.  Should you wish to contact Chris regarding a personalized, tour of the old grade, you can reach him at email or by phone at 916-663-3742.  His mailing address is: P.O. Box 8063, Auburn, Cal. 95604.  Due to weather conditions, tours are suggested to be planned for the months of May, June, July, August, September, and the first 15 days of October.  You can see original construction tunnels still in use, (#3 and #4), the abandoned Summit Tunnel (#6), the snow sheds, Lookout Mountain, WarningBloomer Cut, NewCastle Cut,  and Cape Horn, as well as the Dutch Flat and Donner Lake Toll Road, built by the Big Four.  Because the old CPRR grade parallels the early emigrant roads, from time to time you will be able to see the wagon ruts left by the early pioneers.  The old grade through Nevada and Utah is dirty, rough, and has few civilized conveniences.  WarningCaution is recommended— at least TWO spare tires, floor jack and lug wrench  are usually necessary due to road conditions. ... (One fellow had 5 flat tires in one day, East of Wells.) ...   Four wheel drive is not required, but suggested.  A minimum of a high clearance pickup truck is mandatory."

Warning"[When approaching Cape Horn from] Carpenter Road ... That barrier in front of you is to keep cars, and visitors off the tracks. From this point on, you are trespassing – the UPRR does not want you here! ... 1/4 [mile] up that road and you will be directly over an improvised firing range, used by locals to test rifles, pistols and shotguns. ... those folks are shooting at targets above and below you. ... Please, stay off the tracks, and do not use a [music player] ... trains can be on either track, and if you don't hear them coming, you are in deep problems. ... it is a dangerous place to be. It is. Last year a train derailed at the Cape, and had you been standing there, looking at the view, you would become the view. You go there at your own risk – I would suggest you go with a sponsored group, that has UPRR approval."

"Cape Horn excursion.  ... the old grade, off Sawmill Road, above the Cape ... was abandoned in 1915 or so, and is a pleasant ... walk.  No trains, no railroad detectives arresting you, no one shooting at you. And, once you get above the Cape, you can look down on it ... and see the view with no challenge."

" ... I have escorted The American Experience from Sacramento to Ogden, and David H. Bain ([author of] Empire Express, [and] The Old Iron Road) from Ogden to Sacramento.  In between I have led The Walt Disney Co., Bill Moyers Productions, the BBC and others from ... NewCastle, California ... to mid-Nevada. ... "

"The old grade (1863-1869) has been largely abandoned, in favor of the 1909-1913 grade.  I have traveled the old grade from Sacramento to Promontory Summit many times, mostly in small spurts.  Additionally, I have traveled the old grade non-stop twice.  WarningAdvice?  Take a least three spare tires, lots of water and snacks, snake bite kit, mechanical tools for the breakdowns that will occur, fresh air filters to replace the dusty ones, know where the doctors and hospitals can be found in emergency, and, in the words of Patty Donner 'hurry right along, and don't take no cut-offs'! ... "

"There is some real nice old (1867) grade in the 40 miles or so east of Reno. Rock culverts are still in place, original construction spikes are to be found, original construction stumps of telegraph poles still are in the ground. Coming up the hill, from Reno towards Auburn, the Summit Tunnel is easily accessible, as are the timbers from the original construction snow sheds. All of that route is now abandoned, and the train goes through a tunnel under Mt. Judah. Tunnels 2 and 3 are still in use, 113 years later — those are at Cisco. Lookout Peak is still accessible, used by the fire watcher from 1874 until 1935. Donner Trail is easily followed from Dog Valley to Truckee, and then in places over the Summit. Relics can still be found (ox shoes, etc.) at Carpenter Flat, and all over the Nevada desert. ... Original construction timbers over the Truckee River are still in place, a fellow found a rail chair from 1864 down there near Fallon last summer. ... 60 lb iron rail bends, while steel rail tends to break — When I go wandering along the old grade, I always look for bent rail, knowing that the bent stuff is iron. ... just hauled home a chunk of original rail from 90 miles west of Promontory, and the rail weight is 60 lbs.per yard. Last year we hauled home a full length of rail from East of Elko, it was 25 feet long. ... it too was 60 lbs to the yard."

Railway History on Track [Caption, photo above left] "Historian Chris Graves stands in Bloomer Cut, a massive path carved out of the earth in the summer of 1864 by 45 laborers, using shovels, picks and black powder. The Transcontinental Railroad landmark, located west of Auburn near Recreation Park, measures 800 feet long and 63 feet deep. It was one of the sights Graves took the makers of the American Experience documentary Transcontinental Railroad to during location scouting." Photo by Ben Furtado/Auburn Journal, courtesy G.J. "Chris" Graves.

You might enjoy seeing the copiously illustrated exhibit showing an August, 2003 tour along the original CPRR Sierra Grade from Newcastle to Donner Pass, August, 2003, conducted by Chris Graves.

If you aren't able to make the trip yourself, you can read historian David Haward Bain's travelog, The Old Iron Road: An Epic of Rails, Roads, and the Urge to Go West.

You can also read Mike Green's story about some experiences with his son searching for historic telegraph insulators along the old Union Pacific Railroad grade in Wyoming. Also from a different unrelated person with the same name, see Michael Green's Off Road Experience – Railroad Adventures and Towns, Trains and Trails of Nevada 2004.

Some rail adventures of the American Association of Private Railroad Car Owners are open to the public.

Also see the book, Rails, Tales and Trails: A step-by-step guide to secret locations, fascinating people and historic towns of the old Central Pacific Railroad from Sacamento to Reno by Bill George.

> Hank Raudenbush has some travel tips for northern California:

" ... Donner Pass route of SP - now UP provides some spectacular locations for pictures and is paralleled throughout by the [Interstate 80 Highway]. It takes a little bit of exploration to find the back roads that go across from I-80 to the RR, but its worth the effort. The best area is from Auburn to Donner Lake. Exit I-80 at Alta and follow a small blacktop road to the east; after many winds it crosses the tracks, cuts through the woods and comes out at a point where the road and RR are 1000 ft or more above the American River. The town of Colfax is an interesting spot. Exit above Emigrant Gap (the exit for Cal Rte 20), and there is a local road alongside the RR just east of Tunnel 35, where the City of San Francisco was snowbound in the 50's. Traffic on this line is erratic, but you should be able to catch a train somewhere. If you stay in the area long enough to find the picture spots, you can wait at an outlook on Eastbound I-80 above Donner Lake until you see a train up on the mountainside on the other side of the lake, and chase it down the line. Because of the all the curves and the grade, trains can't go over 35 anywhere, and it's hard to go less than 75 on I-80, so you can catch the same train at a couple of places. Railroad Hobbies, a model RR shop on the main street in Roseville always has a scanner going, and may be a source of information. Looking at Roseville Yard is sort of like looking at the Pacific Ocean - its much too large to be seen from the edges; but the replica passenger station and the engine house are close to local streets on the west/north side of the tracks. Rotaries are parked there and sometimes at Truckee, where they are more accessible. Amtrak's #5 and 6 go through this area in daylight. ... " [From R&LHS Newsgroup]

"Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm." Ralph Waldo Emerson

Where is the Golden Spike and what happened to the other "last spikes" — silver, etc.?  Was the Golden Spike made of gold or was it painted?
The golden spike was pure gold (not painted), a gift of David Hewes of San Francisco to CPRR President and Director, California Governor Leland Stanford who drove the last spikeActually, there were several last spikes because pure gold is too soft to be struck by a hammer, so it was dropped into a predrilled hole in the last laurel tie (there were also several last ties).  Supposedly Stanford & Durant both swung and missed the "last" spike.  The spike was wired up to the telegraph line so striking the hammer signaled the nation that the railroad was done.  The engraved Golden Spike is on display behind glass in a safe at the Stanford University Museum in Palo Alto, California and never actually was missing.  The soft pure gold spike was slightly damaged by being hit by army officers while in transit after the ceremony.  As for the rest of the "last spikes," see "Where are the Spikes?" Tom Allen of Old Dominion University summarizes: "... there were actually four precious metal spikes that were "driven" into pre-drilled holes in a tie made of polished laurel wood from California. Today, at the last spike site, there is a replica of the original laurel tie, complete with a silver plaque engraved with the names of several of the Central Pacific's officers. A silver plated spike maul was also used in that now famous ceremony. The fate of the original spikes, maul, and tie are as follows: The golden spike is on display at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California along with the silver spike from Nevada and the silver plated spike maul. The silver and gold plated spike from then Arizona Territory is in the Museum of the City of New York. A second, smaller San Francisco Newsletter golden spike's fate is unknown. Finally, the laurel wood tie that was highly polished and adorned with a silver plaque, was destroyed in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire. ..."

"rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add 'within the limits of the law,' because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the right of an individual." —Thomas Jefferson

"The two ideas of human freedom and economic freedom working together came to their greatest fruition in the United States. Those ideas are still very much with us. We are all of us imbued with them. They are part of the very fabric of our being. But we have been straying from them. We have been forgetting the basic truth that the greatest threat to human freedom is the concentration of power, whether in the hands of government or anyone else... I am a limited-government libertarian." Milton Friedman, Nobel Prize winning economist

"Keep the government out of your wallet and out of your bedroom." John Tierney, New York Times Op-Ed columnist

Appleton's Guide, 1898.Where can I find a description of what train travel was like in the early days? What was it really like to travel across the country at night in a CPRR sleeping car? How would passengers eat their meals and sleep on the journey?
See Bits of Travel at Home:  From Ogden to San Francisco, 1887 for a wonderful description of nighttime travel.  Also see the other historical readings giving 19th century contemporary accounts about travel on the transcontinental railroad and page 8 of Williams' Pacific Tourist Guidebook. The CPRR Museum has a number of photographs of passenger trains and of the interiors of coach, dining, and sleeping cars. The Car Builder's Dictionary has diagrams showing the layout of the cars. "All trains stop at regular eating stations, where first class meals are furnished at prices ranging from 75¢ to $1.00 for Express Trains, and from 50¢ to 75¢ for Emigrant Trains."

"We found the quality of food on the whole bad. All three meals were almost identical: tea, buffalo steaks, antelope chops, sweet potatoes and boiled Indian corn with hoecakes and syrup ad nauseum." —William Robertson, 1873

"The foods were the best of ducks and fowl, roast beef, roast ham, boiled ham, fresh potatoes, fresh baked breads, desserts made on board, even fresh rocky mountain trout when crossing over the continental divide, caught and delivered directly to the train." —Kevin Bunker, California State Railroad Museum, on "Modern Marvels" video

(Dining car service was not available west of Ogden on the Overland Route until the acquisition of three dining cars by the SPRR in 1894.) See descriptions of meals in a magazine article and another description in William's Pacific Tourist Guidebook [Index] and the fabulous advertisements for restaurants serving meals to passengers along the Central Pacific Railroad route in the May, 1870 Pacific Coast Railroad Gazetteer. Also see Pullman Commissary [Dining] Car where food was served on the UPRR trains and passengers could eat in a setting of elegant dining. Also see "blinds drawn down ... red plush ... cushions." The best in print source is "RIDING THE TRANSCONTINENTAL RAILS: OVERLAND TRAVEL ON THE PACIFIC RAILROAD, 1865 - 1881."

"This road I propose is necessary to us—and now. The title to Oregon is settled, and a government established there. California is acquired, people are there, and a government must follow. We own the country from sea to sea, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, upon a breadth equal to the length of the Mississippi, and embracing the whole temperate zone. We can run a road through and through, the whole distance, under our flag and under our laws. An American road to India, through the heart of our country, will revive upon its line all the wonders of which we have read, and eclipse them. The western wilderness, from the Pacific to the Mississippi, will start into life at its touch. Let us act up to the greatness of the occasion, and show ourselves worthy of the extraordinary circumstances in which we are placed, while we can. An American road to India—central and natural—for ourselves and our posterity, now and hereafter, for thousands of years to come." —Senator Thomas H. Benton of Missouri, U.S. Senate, Feb. 7, 1849.

What is the historical significance of the first transcontinental railroad? What was the purpose for building the transcontinental railroad?

Republican Party Platform, 1860."16. That a railroad to the Pacific ocean is imperatively demanded by the interests of the whole country; that the Federal Government ought to render immediate and efficient aid in its construction ..." Republican Party Platform 1860

"4. Resolved, That one of the necessities of the age, in a military, commercial, and postal point of view, is speedy communications between the Atlantic and Pacific States; and the Democratic party pledge such Constitutional Government aid as will insure the construction of a Railroad to the Pacific coast, at the earliest practicable period."  Democratic Party Platform 1860

"... completing the transcontinental railroad ... did usher in the golden age of the nation's railroads, which enjoyed a near monopoly on moving freight and passengers for many decades, and connected every town and city in the country. Today, even with competition from cars, trucks, airlines and pipelines, U.S. railroads carry more than 23 million passengers a year and move nearly 1.8 billion tons of freight." The railroad connected east and west so that people could safely travel across the country in a week for $100, instead of at great risk for $1,000 taking six months by wagon, perilous ship voyage around the tip South America, or by taking a shortcut across Panama with a good chance of dying from tropical disease.  Railroads were America's first "big businesses." (The Central Pacific Railroad was included in Charles Dow's second version of his stock "average" – a list of twelve railroads and two industrials – of February 16, 1885 in the Dow Jones & Co.'s Customer's Afternoon Letter, a daily two-page financial newsletter which became the Wall Street Journal in 1889.) The Unique map of California. by E. McD. Johnston, SPRR and the State Board of Trade, 1888. Courtesy Library of Congress.This newly available easy, safe, inexpensive travel made it practical for the west to be part of the United States, resulted in tremendous westward migration to California and similarly allowed much less expensive shipping of goods by rail instead of by wagon causing a great increase in economic activity with a rapidly rising standard of living. California's "rapid development into the sixth largest economy in the world was made possible, to a great extent, by the railroad." Leland Stanford became fabulously wealthy as an entrepreneur by betting his life savings on the possibility of his sucess in building the CPRR, and later when Stanford's son died, put that wealth into founding Leland Stanford Junior University which a century later gave rise to Silicon Valley. The ability to ship bulk commodities by rail resulted in California becoming the nation's number one agricultural producer. "Railroading was America’s great industrial occupation for much of the 19th and 20th centuries, employing millions of people ..." "Chinese immigration to New York didn't begin until 1869, when the transcontinental railroad was completed."  However, the anticipated trade between Europe and Asia via the transcontinental railroad was lost to the Suez Canal which opened the same year. Wendell Huffman observes that the railroad truly made America because the term "Manifest Destiny" did not first appear in print until six months after Asa Whitney first submitted his plan for a Pacific railroad in January 1845. See Impact of the Transcontinental Railroad, Changes that the Railroad Brought, and the historical readings such as the 1853 Putnam's Monthly article arguing for the importance of such a project, articles in travel guides, Beyond the Mississippi, What the Railroad Will Bring Us, or the 1883 Harper's Monthly article that looks back to explain the significance of the transcontinental railroad.   Also see the California Historical Society website about the impact of the transcontinental railroad, which was not immediately realized. See "Railroad Communication with the Pacific: Central Pacific Railroad." The Galaxy. 4(8), 1867. Also see the section of the National Park Service Golden Spike Historical Handbook on the Significance of the Pacific Railroad, and Horace Greeley's comments from his book "Overland Journey from New York to San Francisco in the Summer of 1859."  California's direct democracy which lead to the recall election of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was the outcome of Gov. Hiram Johnson's 1910 efforts to remove the immense political power of the Southern Pacific Railroad. But, "often the Southern Pacific's corporate interests were consistent with the public welfare, promoted economic development and encouraged enlightened resource practices. 'As a result the company was a major force shaping agricultural, industrial, commercial, and urban growth and modernization.' " The transcontinental railroads were predecessors of America's interstate highway system that was begun in the 1930'sA dispute with the railroad led the U.S. Supreme court in 1886 to elevate corporations to the status of persons entitled to equal protection of the law under the 14th Amendment to the constitution, prepared the way for the rise of powerful multinational corporations, thereby changing the course of history.** The origin of America's wealth is our unique late 18th century innovation of people owning the surveyed land, and the purpose of the railroad land grants was to transform the western wilderness into privately held property as real estate made valuable by the access provided by the transcontinental railroad and which could be sold, bought, borrowed against, and developed. (Poverty today in the third world results primarily from their failure to get this right, but fortunately, once understood, this is easy to fix and the systems of property rights and common rule-of-law which allowed the successful American westward expansion and economic prosperity is only now being understood and consequently is spreading around the world.)
**[George Draffan notes: 1886 "The court does not wish to hear argument on the question of whether the provision in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which forbids a state to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws, applies to these corporations. We are all of the opinion that it does." With that, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down local taxes on railroad property – and declared that corporations were persons; Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad, 118 U.S. 394, 396 (1886)). Sixty years later, Justice William O. Douglas stated that "there was no history, logic or reason given to support that view" (Grossman and Adams, Taking Care of Business, p. 20, citing Douglas in Wheeling Steel Corporation v. Glander, 337 U.S. 562, 1949). There were, however, the facts that U.S. Ninth Circuit Court Judge Lorenzo Sawyer was a shareholder in the Central Pacific Railroad, and that he and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen J. Field were close friends of Leland Stanford and other parties involved. "Sawyer was uniquely placed to expand the rights and prerogatives of corporations," that "what is extraordinary is the extent to which Sawyer used unorthodox techniques of statutory interpretation and judicial review in granting the corporation additional powers... [Sawyer's decisions] "served as an avenue for the expansion of a corporate construction of economic life, the judicial approval of vast aggregations of wealth and power, and the subordination of the public trust under public utilities" (David J. Bederman, The Imagery of Injustice at Mussel Slough: Railroad Land Grants, Corporation Law, and the "Great Conglomerate West," Western Legal History, Summer/Fall 1988 1(2): 257-269, citing Shuck, Bench and Bar in California. See also David C. Frederick, Railroads, Robber Barons, and the Saving of Stanford University, Western Legal History, Summer/Fall 1991, 4(2): p. 229, note 20, and p. 253, note 132, citing Swisher, Stephen J. Field: Craftsman of the Law, p. 265; and Charles McCurdy's "Justice Field and the Jurisprudence of Government-Business Relations: Some Parameters of Laissez Faire Constitutionalism, 1863-1897" in Friedman, Lawrence and Harry N. Scheiber, eds. American Law and the Constitutional Order: Historical Perspectives. Harvard University Press, 1988).]

"They that can give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." —Benjamin Franklin

"Now what liberty can there be where property is taken without consent?" —Samuel Adams, Founding Father and leader of the Boston Tea Party

Our class is doing a History Day project.  What gave the Big Four and Washington D.C. the idea for the transcontinental railroad?  Why did they think it was important?  Why did they decided to build a railroad?  How was the Transcontinental Railroad a Turning Point in History? Why was the Transcontinental Railroad built?
American Progress allegorical painting by John Gast, 1872.The Big Four were merchants in Sacramento and knew about 19th century travel — how slow, difficult, and dangerous it was to cross the continent on the overland trails, hardships of life along the trail, to cross Nevada and reach California.  They wanted to connect the east and west coasts and to make it easier to trade with the east coast and open up transcontinental trade with Asia.  The discovery of gold in 1849 (150 million ounces of gold came from California in the 19th century) also started the gold rush and lead to the building of the transcontinental railroad, which also used hydraulic gold mining construction methods. Like the present day Silicon Valley visionaries, they were the great entrepreneurs of their day and used both business savvy and engineering genius — It was the greatest engineering project of the 19th century, permitting transcontinental travel in 6 days instead of 6 months and allowed the United States to expand across the entire continent and to become a world power.  They wanted to get very rich while building a railroad, and succeeded at both while helping to build a great nation and an enormously successful California economy.

"Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. ...
Error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it ...
That government is best which governs least. ...
All eyes are opened or opening to the rights of man. ... "
— Thomas Jefferson, in a letter, 1814

What did the Pacific Railroad Act do for the Transcontinental Railroad?
The first Pacific Railroad Act was signed by former railroad lawyer, President Abraham Lincoln in 1862.  The Pacific Railroad Acts formed the Union Pacific Railroad, authorized the route to be constructed by the Central Pacific Railroad and the Union Pacific Railroad, and provided funding for the transcontinental railroad in the form of government bonds (which had to be repaid with interest) and land grants (half the land for the railroads and half for the government in a checkerboard pattern so both would benefit financially when the initially almost worthless land would become valuable [in places where water was available] after the railroad was constructed). Williams' Pacific Tourist, 1877, has advertisements regarding lands for sale from $1 - $10 per acre according to location (see pages 282, 283, and 284). Also see the Land Office Reports of 1861 & 1862.

Land Grant Composite Map
Land Grant Checkerboard Maps
(Click to enlarge)

"85% of statistics are invented" Unknown

... and the other half are wrong John P. A. Ioannidis

The $64,000 question:  How much did it cost; in dollars and land grants, to build the first transcontinental railroad? ... Total price of the railroad?
It was not in the railroads' interests to retain all the financial information relating to profitability (although many records are available), and the market value of railroad bonds and lands varied greatly, so accurate answers are not possible:

"For years after the completion of the transcontinental, the cost of financing new construction and of maintaining and operating the system continued to be a problem.  The associates were slow in realizing any substantial profits from the road itself.  The first real money they made came from their various construction companies, the earliest of which was the Crocker organization.  But the profits from this firm were insignificant compared to the fortunes piled up under its successor, the Contract and Finance Company.  This company built over 550 miles of road, for which it received in excess of $47,000,000, half in gold and half in stock, amounting to $86,000 per mile.

[California] Governor-[Frederick Ferdinand] Low later told historian [Hubert Howe] Bancroft that the real story of the Contract and Finance Company could never be told, because of what he termed 'inside workings.'  No one on the outside could get to the inside, and those on the inside who knew the truth would never tell.  Low was right: no accurate account of the cost of building the Central Pacific Railroad can now be made, since the fifteen volumes of the Crocker Company and Contract and Finance Company books were destroyed.  Who destroyed them and what was the exact reason may never be known.  Daniel Yost, Stanford's private secretary, said that the last time he saw the books Mark Hopkins was packing them for the company's move from Sacramento to San Francisco.  Charles Crocker said that Hopkins had probably destroyed the books, thinking them not worth keeping.  Hopkins, of course, was now dead and could not deny or explain the actions attributed to him.

The 1887 Pacific Railway Commissioners were convinced that the construction of the road cost far less than the amount paid to the companies working on it.  After investigating the Central Pacific's finances, they concluded:

Putting all these facts together the existence of a strong motive on the part of Stanford, Huntington, Hopkins and Crocker to suppress the books; the impossibility of accounting for their disappearance, except in pursuance of the act or direction of one of these four persons; the evidence of Yost that he saw Hopkins engaged in packing the books in boxes; the evidence of John Miller of their sudden disappearance, and the statement of Mr.  Crocker connecting their disappearance with Mark Hopkins it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that the suppression of these books has been intentional and willful.
The total cost of the Central Pacific Railroad from Sacramento to Promontory, about 737 miles, could not have exceeded $36,000,000.  For this the railroad received in par terms approximately $38,500,000 in land grants and government bonds, all of which were worth far less than their face value.  But even Stanford conceded that the $54,000,000 in Central Pacific stock received by the Contract and Finance Company was in time clear profit.  Stanford, Huntington, Hopkins, and the Crocker brothers were equal co-owners of this company, and each received $13,000,000 in Central Pacific stock from it when it was later dissolved.  With these kinds of profits described in the company books, it is not surprising that they were 'lost.'"

[Tutorow, N.E., “Leland Stanford: Man of Many Careers” (Pacific Coast Publishers, 1971).  pp. 108-109.  Courtesy Bruce C. Cooper Collection.]

[However, unlike modern intrusive government, in the 19th century, American courts protected civil liberties, so there was a strong legal basis for the Big Four keeping their financial affairs private as a personal freedom: Mr. Justice Field while holding the circuit court, in Re Pacific Railway Commission, 32 Fed. 251 held that the Pacific Railway Commission could not compel Leland Stanford to disclose his private papers, stating "It is the forcible intrusion into, and compulsory exposure of, one's private affairs and papers, without judicial process, or in the course of judicial proceedings, which is contrary to the principles of a free government, and is abhorrent to the instincts of Englishmen and Americans ... of all the rights of the citizen, few are of greater importance or more essential to his peace and happiness than the right of personal security, and that involves, not merely the protection of his person from assault, but exemption of his private affairs, books and papers from the inspection and scrutiny of others. Without the enjoyment of this right, all other rights would lose half their value." The U.S. Supreme court similarly respected such privacy protections: " ... any compulsory discovery by ... compelling the production of his private books and papers ... is contrary to the principles of a free government. It is abhorrent to the instincts ... It may suit the purposes of despotic power, but it cannot abide the pure atmosphere of political liberty and personal freedom." Boyd v. U S (1886).]

In 1888, the Senate Select Committee estimated the cost of the Central Pacific Railroad at about $36 million, but this was disputed and, as just explained, the account books were never located;  the cost based on testimony by CPRR Secretary Edward, H. Miller, Jr. and then Senator Leland Stanford (valuing bonds at 75% of par) was $46,989,320 (about $64,000 per mile).  Similarly, the UPRR construction cost was calculated to be $77,559,370.61 (valuing bonds at 30% of par in 1873). [See Galloway, The First Transcontinental Railroad.] The UPRR land grants were mostly valuable land that could be farmed, but the western CPRR lands were largely (approximately 84%) worthless, arid, barren, and/or mountainous, and ultimately unsaleable.  The following table was calculated from information on pages 282-283 and 288-291 of the 1883 Annual Report of the Commissioner of Railroads:

Transcontinental Railroad Bonds and Land Grants

Railroad Character of Bond Payable in— Amount Issued Date of Issue   Est. Acres of Land Granted
CPRR California State aid Gold $1,500,000 July 1, 1864    
" United States subsidy Currency $25,885,120 Jan., 1865 — July, 1869  
" First Mortgage (A, B, C, and D) Gold $6,378,000 July 1, 1865 — July 1, 1866  
" First Mortgage (E, F, G, H, and I) Gold $19,505,000 Jan. 1, 1867 — Jan. 1, 1868  
" Central Pacific Bond Subtotal   $53,268,120 July 1, 1864 — July, 1869  
" Central Pacific Land Grants     July 1, 1862 & July 2, 1864 7,997,600
UPRR First Mortgage Gold $27,237,000 Jan. 1, 1866 — July, 1869  
" United States subsidy (second mortgage) Gold $27,236,512 Jan., 1866 — July, 1869  
" Land-grant mortgage (first mortgage) Currency $10,400,000 Apr., 1867 — 1869  
" Union Pacific Bond Subtotal   $64,873,512 July 1, 1864 — 1869  
" Union Pacific Land Grants     July 1, 1862 & July 2, 1864 12,000,000
  TOTAL BONDS   $118,141,632 July 1, 1864 — 1869  
  TOTAL LAND GRANTS     July 1, 1862 & July 2, 1864 19,997,600

Central and Union Pacific Railroads from Omaha, Nebraska to Sacramento, California through 1869, excluding the Western Pacific RR and Kansas Division of UPRR.

"First-Class Railroad Securities which we can recommend with confidence." Fisk and Hatch

See the discussion of "dollars per mile of track" including the question of exactly where do the Sierra Nevada mountains begin and end.

See comments regarding the role of the government in financing the transcontinental railroad. G.J. Graves states that the 1887 Pacific RR Commission said the cost of construction from Sacramento City to Promontory, as of July, 1869 was $61,249,916.11; cash or cash equivalent was $32,397,135.58. The bonds were sold at par in New York, then transferred to San Francisco where they were converted to cash/gold. A $1,000 bond in New York was valued at $600 to $850 in San Francisco.

"Railroad Reorganization: Union Pacific." By Stuart Daggett, Ph.D., Harvard Economic Studies, 1908PDF, states on page 256 that: " ... the government debt was paid off in cash ... both principal and interest were paid in full." Regarding the CPRR and Western Pacific RR, Tutorow, p. 1004 reports that final payment to the government was organized by a commission appointed by an 1898 act of congress, determined to be $58,812,715.48 on Feb. 1, 1899, and that the complex transaction was completed on February 1, 1909 when the last of the government debt was duly paid.

"To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men." —Abraham Lincoln

How much iron and lumber was used in the construction of the transcontinental railroad?
About 200,000 net tons of iron total were used just for building the railroad from Omaha to Sacramento [at 2000 lbs/net ton, the modern useage, also called the short ton; not using the gross ton unit of weight, also called the long ton, used historically by the CPRR which were 2240 lbs/gross ton; also not the metric ton = 1000 kg ]. Details, at 60 lb/yard (per single rail) single track from Omaha to Sacramento: 1776 miles x 60 lb/yard x 5280 feet/mile x 1/3 yards/feet x 2 rails x 1/2000 ton/lb = (1776*60*5280*2)/(3*2000) = 187,546 tons of iron. If the rail is 56 lb/yard, then the total rail weight is about 175 thousand tons (about a hundred tons of rail per mile). To this you would need to add the weight of about 5,500 spikes and 1,408 bolts per mile, 900 tons of iron used in the construction of the Sierra snow sheds, plates, switches and sidings, iron hardware used in constructing wooden trestle bridges, 20-40 ton locomotives, cars, etc. Other sources speak of "fifty-ton locomotives" and "two or three tons of spikes and fish plates" per mile. For locomotive numbers and weights, also see the multi-page CPRR and UPRR locomotive lists. (Not sure if the weights of locomotives listed are shipping weight or maximum track loading including water.) If you estimate from the available data that about 21,000 miles of track were put in place during the 1860's in the U.S. and that the amount of iron used is proportional to the track miles built, then the percent of iron used in building the transcontinental railroad (compared to all U.S. railroads' iron use during 1860's construction) is about: (1,776/21,000)*100 = 8.5%
According to Galloway: "The number of ties varied from 2,260 to 2,640 per mile, depending upon alignment and grade. ... The total completed length of the sheds and galleries was about thirty-seven miles, the building of which consumed 65,000,000 feet board measure of lumber and 900 tons of bolts, spikes, and other iron."

> G.J. Graves comments that amazingly, "each and every pound of rail was accounted for, as shown by a letter from Collis P. Huntington, in New York, dated 1873, to a supplier of rail, The Pennsylvania Iron Co., in Danville, Pennsylvania. Mr. Huntington says, in part that he contracted to buy ' ... rails, equal to 3,384,360 pounds.' but when he weighed those rails ' ... they weigh 3,355,170 pounds-which is 29,190 pounds less than your invoice ...' ... can you imagine the labor of weighting 3 million, three hundred fifty five thousand, one hundred an seventy pounds of rail?"

> Edson T. Strobridge comments: I can't speak to the Union Pacific rail but can add to the information on the Central Pacific's 690 miles of "Iron." Here is some information on the Central Pacific track. The first approximately 112 miles of rail varied in weight from 60 to 66 lb pattern, that is 60 to 66 lbs per lineal yard. All rail ordered for the Central Pacific Railroad was by the metric ton, 2240 pounds per ton. After the 112th mile the rail was reduced to a 56lb. per lineal yard pattern.  The rail requirements were usually calculated by the men who ordered it and by the men who installed it as requiring an average of 100 tons per mile, that was the way it was measured as it was impractical to measure by the foot. One hundred tons per mile included the main line and all the side track, incidental uses and waste. Using that method of measurement the Central Pacific railroads 690 miles of track would have been approximately 69,000 (metric tons 2240#) tons of rail. Not a scientific way to calculate but as close as you will ever get for just the rail. I can imagine that the Union Pacific's requirement was about the same so — for the total mileage of the transcontinental railroad of 1776 miles required 177,600 tons (metric tons) of rail for the track alone.   Consider that a metric ton weighs 240 lbs. more that a standard 2000 lb ton and that if you reported the rail tonnage at a 2,000 lb./ton the total rail weight alone would weigh 198,912 tons of iron rail. So there you have it. Just remember that in the 1860's that rail was measured by the metric ton but bolts, spikes and rail fastenings were measured by the standard 2,000 lb. ton, at least on the Central Pacific.   Then you would have to add the weight of spikes bolts, rail chairs, fish plates (rail fastenings). I would think that [the above] estimate of approximately 200,000 tons of iron, just for the track, is as close as you will ever get without access to the original records scattered in archives across the country, and then it is doubtful they are even close to being complete.   On the matter of engines, there was 159 engines built for the CPRR between 1863 and May 1869 and 152 engines built for the UPRR during the same period. The CP's engines ranged in weight from 56,000 to 77,450 at the heaviest and they would average out at about 62-65,000 lbs.  The UPRR's engines were a little heavier, ranging from 54,500 to 93,300 lbs for an approximate average of about 75,000 lbs. Total engine weight would be about 10,000 tons or so. But then there were the engines acquired by both companies from other railroads, and on infinitem.
The greatest amount of lumber used for one project was the 37 miles of Snow Sheds, as mentioned above. Some other major uses for lumber: There were many, many wooden trestles, most of them were huge and they required an enormous amount of lumber. I cannot give any estimates on the trestles or the many bridges, some of which were over a thousand feet long; and then there was the lining and shoring inside the tunnels. Both railroads constructed hundreds, if not thousands of buildings, most of them were huge in size, Depots, Warehouses, buildings for housing employees stationed along the line and the like. That would require a great deal of research to even estimate. Then there were the ties. This should be an easy one to develop a reasonable estimate as there was an average of about 2,500 wood ties per mile over the entire 1,776 miles of the transcontinental railroad. The average size of the tie was 6"x8" x 8 feet long. The ties varied in size, some as long as 10 feet and some as large as 8"x10" in size, depending if the track was being laid in the mountains or the deserts, on heavy  or gentle grades, on curves or tangents (straight track). Imagine 2,500 wooden ties x 1,776 miles. That's a lot of lumber. I'll leave that one for you to figure out the Board Feet required. It was in the tens of millions. Then there were the side tracks which amounted to about  10% of the mainline track. At one time the Central Pacific had as many as 25 Saw Mills in Truckee just milling lumber for the railroad which required as many as 40 trains to supply the front with ties and timber – and they just managed to keep up with the track laying forces. Entire forests were cut back for miles from the line, some taking a hundred years or more to recover. To drive through the Sierra Nevada Mountains today you would never know what occurred  there 140 years ago. ...

"I always wanted to be somebody, now I realize I should have been more specific." Lily Tomlin

"Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocrities." Albert Einstein

"A rich man is nothing but a poor man with money." W. C. Fields

"I'm not bad, I'm just drawn that way." Jessica Rabbit

Were the CPRR's Big Four "Robber Barons?"
The answer is NO, because these Sacramento shopkeepers Collis P. Huntington (1821-1900), Charles Crocker (1822-1888), Mark Hopkins (1814-1878), and Leland Stanford (1824-1893) became fabulously wealthy only as a result of their success in Stanford Residence, San Francisco, 1889.building the first transcontinental railroad which dramatically improved the speed, cost, and comfort of cross-country transportation – years of incredibly hard work while staking their entire personal fortunes in their daring attempt to build the Central Pacific Railroad across the Sierra Nevada mountains – a project that people at the time did not even believe was possible. The U.S. Supreme Court held in 1878 that "Great undertakings like this, whose future is at the time uncertain, requiring as they do large amounts of money to carry them on, seem to make it necessary that extraordinary inducements should be held out to capitalists to enter upon them, since a failure is almost sure to involve those who make the venture in financial ruin." (Jim Guthrie notes that in bankruptcies before limited liability laws – until the 1880's – stockholders in failed companies found themselves assessed for losses in foreclosure procedings.) "Collis P. Huntington attributed his own and his fellow Associates' success to their obtaining 'a national reputation not only as railroad builders but as honest men that watch over and protect the interest of all [the company's] stock holders however small their interest.' " Reminiscing years later, CPRR telegraph operator T. R. Jones wrote of Governor Stanford that "we employees all loved him." J.M. Fulton looking back at 57 years of service, concluded: "I trust all realize what our wonderful hospital department, our pension system, and the insurance we have been given ... Surely all must appreciate all of this and the fair treatment given." The notion of the fictional "robber baron" is not just erroneous, but the portrayal is also offensive because it expresses hatred and envy* instead of deserved gratitude towards men whose great achievements have enormously benefited us all. (However, later, "Leland Stanford ... after serving as governor and U.S. senator from California, used his political ties to get the state to pass laws blocking competition for his Central Pacific railroad.") Stanford Residence, San Francisco, 1889 color engraving, above, right.
T. J. Stiles in Robber Barons or Captains of Industry? explains that the original criticism was that transportation costs to the public were being lowered so dramatically by the actions of these men that existing monopolies were being harmed, certainly a very different meaning from what the words "robber baron" now imply.
Robber Baron Books: The Myth of the Robber Barons by Burton W. Folsom, 1993 versus The Robber Barons by Matthew Josephson, 1934, see Chapter 4, "The Winning of the West."
*Adam Smith wrote in 1776 that the extremely wealthy "only select from the heap what is most precious and agreeable. They consume little more than the poor, and in spite of their natural selfishness and rapacity, though they mean only ... the gratification of their own vain and insatiable desires, they [inevitably] divide with the poor the produce of all their improvements. They are [thus] led by an invisible hand to make nearly the same distribution of the necessaries of life [as] ... had the earth been divided into equal portions." – or as Neil Simon put it "Money brings some happiness. But after a certain point, it just brings more money." So, disliking the ultra-rich for their wealth shows profound ignorance about both money and history, because all the money in excess of whatever limited amount they can quickly spend for their personal use, however ostentatious, has to be put somewhere – and as a result, rich people are essentially forced by the nature of wealth to either permanently give their wealth away to others (charity/gifts), or (if they wish to remain rich) to temporarily give their wealth away as loans to others who need it most (as debt such as bonds, mortgages, etc.), or (as equity investments such as company stock) to put their wealth in the hands of others who can benefit because they know how to use the capital most productively – so, whatever their intentions, the "rich" have little choice but to give away their "excess" wealth (temporarily or permanently) and thus to use their wealth principally to the benefit of others. For example, much of the wealth of the "Big Four" just consisted of a few nicely engraved pieces of paper representing their ownership of the CPRR or its construction company, but you can be certain that it was primarily other travellers who got themselves (or their freight) speedily across the country to wherever they wanted to go, and not four men who owned the railroad who filled most of the seats on the trains. [If you wish to disagree about this and think that the ultra-rich are the primary beneficiaries of their wealth, we'd be glad to hear from you. But remember that "when asked what he considered mankind's greatest invention, Albert Einstein's reply was: 'compound interest' " – so even before you tell us exactly how it is possible to spend a huge fortune, you'll need to be prepared to tell us in detail exactly how, if you had $50 billion invested (earning 7% ) you would be able to spend the $10 million dollars a day on luxuries (if you buy art or other items that retain their value, it doesn't count) necessary just to avoid becoming richer each day with the passage of time.] Remember the history – that in fact, the men called "robber barons" could not spend the fortunes they created. For example, Stanford's only son died at age 15 of typhoid fever, so in 1885 at age 61 he used his railroad wealth to create a great University, named for his son, which less than a century later gave rise to Silicon Valley and the technology revolution that makes it possible for you to read what is before you. The Big Four did build spectacular Nob Hill San Francisco mansions none of which survived the 1906 earthquake and fire, but Judge Edwin Bryant Crocker, the seldom remembered brother and fifth of the big four used his wealth collecting art and his mansion in Sacramento and art collection became the Crocker Art Museum. Crocker started the Crocker Bank which eventually became part of Wells Fargo Bank. "In 1878, Central Pacific railroad founder Mark Hopkins [died] before he [could] move into his new 40-room, Gothic-style mansion on Nob Hill. His widow Mary [moved] in and shortly after [took] up with Edward T. Searles, an East Coast interior designer thirty years her junior, to whom she later [left] her $70 million estate – and her late husband's mansion – when she [died] in 1891. In 1906, the mansion was destroyed in the San Francisco earthquake and the ensuing fire." In 1890, Charles Crocker's daughter, Harriet Crocker Alexander, donated a building to Princeton University. Jane Lathrop Stanford had a painting made of a collection of her jewelry in 1898, before auctioning the collection to support the Stanford University Library. The Crockers donated 2.6 acres in Nob Hill on which Grace Cathedral now sits.The Collis P. Huntington fortune built the inter-urban rail lines in Los Angeles (his widow, Arabella Duval Huntington, married Henry Edwards Huntington, his nephew) and the fortune survives today as the Huntington Library in San Marino. Similarly, the new home for the Union Pacific Railroad Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa is located in one of the many library buildings built by steel magnate, Andrew Carnegie's fortune.
> Wendell Huffman comments [R&LHS Newsgroup] that "... As to the business methods of the Central Pacific I was surprised to read in the preserved Huntington correspondence some of the discussion relative to the organization and construction of the California & Oregon line northward from Junction (modern Roseville). There already existed the California Central, running as far a Lincoln on the way to Marysville. Some urged that they project their own line northward from Arcade Creek, driving down the value of the California Central bonds, which they could then pick up wholesale. Huntington, however, argued that "it was better to be [fair] than sharp," and so they paid the market value for the California Central. (That is for the railroad itself—they already owned a mortgage on the railroad's rollingstock.) Likewise, when faced with the prospect of the California Pacific providing a more direct route from Sacramento to the Bay, some urged that the CP build their Stockton line direct from Junction (Roseville) thus preventing any connection with the CalP and the desertion of any business. Rather, because Sacramento supported the CP in its early days, it was decided that the transcontinental railroad would continue to run through Sacramento—even though doing so meant that trains had to run from the American river bridge (Elvas) to Front Street, south on Front to R, east on R to Brighton Junction. Though the track from the American River bridge to Brighton (past modern Sac State) was completed in 1868, it was not used for through trains until the opening of the Roseville yard circa 1907. To make transcontinental trains run Front and R streets legally, those foreign-made rails of the SVRR from Front & K streets to Brighton Jct were replaced by expensive American iron. One thing Hopkins and Huntington learned in the wholesale hardware business—it is okay to control the market, but if you screw your retailers out of business, you destroy your own market. I am afraid that in the eyes of late 19th century journalists, the directors of the CP must have been crooks merely since they succeeded. I think they were probably more responsible than many in business today."

RAILROAD MONOPOLIES, political news cartoon from the New York Daily Graphic (NY City), April 25, 1873, the first daily American newspaper with daily illustrations, above left: "In the cartoon 'Columbia in the Toils,' the people of the United States may read their fate, if they chance to slumber while railway monopolists are at work. The spiders are old faces with new forms, and dangerous as ever. They lose no time, though their victim seems not to know that delays are dangerous."

"Good fortune is what happens when opportunity meets with planning." —Thomas Edison

"An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest." —Benjamin Franklin

"If I seem unduly clear to you, you must have misunderstood what I said."
—Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, Congressional Testimony

Economic perspective:

"In the important field of security for our old people ... voluntary contributory annuities by which individual initiative can increase the annual amounts received in old age. It is proposed that the federal government assume one-half of the cost of the old-age pension plan, which ought ultimately to be supplanted by self-supporting annuity plans."
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Message to Congress on Social Security, January 17, 1935.
[FDR's total social welfare spending was only 2% of the federal budget a decade later]

While we're on the subject of the fabulously wealthy, you are blowing it big time if you ignore this critical information or think that how to become rich is difficult or some well kept secret:


"The Chinese [railroad workers] ... are paid from $30 to $35 in gold a month ... They are credited with having saved about $20 a month." Alta, California, November 9, 1868 Newspaper.

" ... Chinamen ... receive $35 per month (gold) ... Of this they save from $20 to $23. ... " —The New York Tribune, June 26, 1869.

On a personal note, Woody Allen observed that "money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons," so if you would at least like to achieve financial independence for yourself, you can decide to pay yourself first to easily become an "Automatic Millionaire" — just systematically save at least 1-2 hours a day worth of your income over your entire working life starting today, especially while you're still youngInvest globally as a do-it-yourself investor using a few prudently chosen extremely well diversified ultra-low cost (~0.10% expense ratio) no-load total market index mutual funds such as those offered by Vanguard, Fidelity, iShares, or Charles Schwab to achieve capitalization weighted  buy-and-hold investing in US Stocks, International Stocks, and Bonds. (Even better, max out all your retirement plan and IRA contributions – and prefer fixed income investments in tax deferred accounts, and stock in taxable accounts – to help do this by minimizing taxes; and occasionally rebalance to your desired asset allocation.) Do the math — there are no guarantees in life, and diversification is crucial as the ultimate outcome with individual investment categories becomes increasingly uncertain over the very long term, but the magic of compounding makes this approach, when followed relentlessly over the very long term, as close as you're ever likely to come to a sure thing! Need a painless way of getting started? — When you get your next raise, save all of the extra money you're getting instead of starting to spend more. Such systematic automatic saving and investing, staying the course, lifetime buy-and-hold, never panic selling, while reinvesting all distributions, over an entire working lifetime will likely allow any ordinary American to easily become among the richest 1% of people in the world! In a land where four small town grocery and hardware store shopkeepers can build a transcontinental railroad, anyone can be a success.

" ... anyone not only can be rich but ought to be rich." John Jakob Raskob, Lady’s Home Journal, 1929.

"Many persons, as they begin to prosper, immediately expand their ideas and commence expending for luxuries, until in a short time their expenses swallow up their income, and they become ruined in their ridiculous attempts to keep up appearances ... The road to wealth is, as Dr. Franklin truly says, 'as plain as the road to the mill.' It consists simply in expending less than we earn." Art of Money Getting by P.T. Barnum, 1880

"What's the use of happiness? It can't buy you money" Henny Youngman

Starve the Squander Bug, WW II Poster, detail. Courtesy Truman Library."I've been rich and I've been poor ... Believe me, rich is better" Mae West

"Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but only those specifically enumerated."Thomas Jefferson

"You are destitute because you have idled away all your time ... Go to work is the only cure" Abraham Lincoln

"The lottery is a tax on people who are bad at math.".
[The amount Americans spend per year on state lotteries and casino gambling is slightly more than the amount Americans contribute per year to defined contribution pension plans and IRA’s. Spend til the End, by Kotlikoff and Burns]

"The lessons of history ... show conclusively that continued dependence upon relief [welfare] induces a spiritual and moral disintegration fundamentally destructive to the national fiber. To dole out relief in this way is to administer a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit. It is inimical to the dictates of sound policy. It is in violation of the traditions of America. ... . The federal government must and shall quit this business of relief." —President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1935

"If you think education is expensive, try ignorance." —Derek Curtis Bok

" ... we would not be a great country without" ... "programs like Medicare and Social Security ... " —Barack Hussein Obama, II, President of the United States

"Social Security operates on a basis that would send the owners of any private insurance company to prison." Harry Browne

Warning"FINANCIALLY UNSUSTAINABLE": Current "Social Security" is a Charles Ponzi, 1920Ponzi scheme that is demographically unworkable, already $11.1 trillion in the red (worsening by $600 billion/year) that despite twenty previous tax increases (totaling 1500%) and benefit cuts which included raising the retirement age to 67 (and the Greenspan Commission doubled the payroll tax!), will start to implode in 2017, about a decade from now [Update: Oops, Social Security is already in the red ahead of schedule in 2010 even before the baby boomers' retirements]. Including the Medicare portion of Social Security, the implosion has already begun, currently $76.5 trillion in the red (worsening by $4.7 trillion/year). You might become really angry at the huge missed opportunity, when you realize that if the current 15.16% Federal payroll tax taken out of each paycheck supposedly for your retirement had actually been invested in your personal retirement account as FDR wanted (and privately managed, funded plans are are already a component of the social security systems of more than 30 nations around the world) instead of being sent to Washington, D.C. to be immediately squandered, you and every working American would inevitably already be or be well on their way to becoming extremely wealthy, and the effect of all this needed savings would have been to expand the U.S. economy, create jobs, and make everyone much wealthier. The success of these approaches has been amply demonstrated, for example, by how much better the Galveston County employees did (even without taking any stock market risk) by being allowed to opt out of Social Security in 1981, and by the Thrift Savings Plan available to Federal employees. — Are you really going to believe that a private Social Security account that is identical to the Thrift Savings Plan that Senators and Members of Congress created for their own retirement savings isn't also a great deal for you? Don't let yourself be conned into staying poor and don't think kindly of people with their hand in your pocket trying to dupe you into believing that owning your retirement savings — that you can spend as you please or leave to your kids — is somehow a bad thing for you, that Social Security hasn't already spent every dime ever collected, that Congress hasn't already embezzled every cent of the supposed "Social Security Trust Fund," or that you becoming rich using exactly the same investments that they sell and use to fund their own retirements is some "risky scheme." While Social Security and corporate pensions are in a shambles, individuals investing their own money have been spectacularly successful: "American consumer's total financial net worth comes to an eye-popping $26.1 trillion." [Your comments, please.]
Policy Resources: Discussion, Cato Institute; AAII; Stocks; Mutual Funds; Historical Investment Returns; Debt; Introduction; Retirement; Books; Medicare Meltdown

"Your mileage may vary."

"A disturbing new study finds that studies are disturbing." —Ellen Degeneres

How did they decide where to lay the tracks for the railroad?
"An American national interest in a transcontinental railroad system manifested itself as early as 1832 when [Judge S. W. Dexter, of Ann Arbor, Michigan, ... in an editorial in his paper, The Emigrant, of February 8, 1832] ... published at Ann Arbor, Michigan, suggested that the country should begin to make plans for an East Coast-to-West Coast railway [from New York City to the Great Lakes, then over the Mississippi River and on to the Missouri River, then up the Platte, over the mountains, and on to Oregon]. Dr. Hartwell Carver is said to have written an 1832 article in the New York Courier & Enquirer advocating the building of a transcontinental railroad from Lake Michigan to Oregon. In early 1845, Asa Whitney, a New York businessman and China trader, proposed to Congress that the government grant a sixty-mile-wide strip between Lake Superior and the Oregon country to any company willing to risk construction." Asa Whitney wrote a book A Project for a Railroad to the Pacific, printed by George Wood of N.Y. in 1849. Various possible routes across the country were proposed by men such as John Plumbe (1838), Asa Whitney and Edwin Johnson and explored by the Army Topographical Engineers in the Pacific Railroad Surveys of the early 1850's.  "On March 8, 1881 the second transcontinental railroad was completed linking the Southern Pacific Railroad with the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad at Deming in New Mexico Territory. Five Transcontinental Railroad 's were once a dream.  The completion of the Great Northern Railway [on] January 6, 1893, made completion of five sprawling transcontinental [railroads] basically following the original surveys commissioned in 1853 by the government " The Central and Union Pacific, Southern Pacific, Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe, and Northern Pacific Railroads, among others, built along essentially all of the proposed routes.  The Central Pacific Railroad's route across the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California was the idea of Theodore Judah and Dutch Flat's pharmacist Dr. Daniel W. Strong but other routes across the Sierras were considered and surveyed. After Judah died, the final location for the tracks was determined by Chief Locating Engineer Lewis Metzler Clement who was also the Central Pacific Railroad's First Assistant Chief Engineer. The CPRR/UPRR's was the first route built when the deadlock between north and south over the proposed route ended when the southern Senators left the U.S. Congress at the start of the Civil War.

"You are welcome to the use of the school house to debate all proper questions in, but such things as railroads and telegraphs are impossibilities and rank infidelity. There is nothing in the Word of God about them. If God had designed that His intelligent creatures should travel at the frightful speed of 15 miles an hour, by steam, He would clearly have foretold it through His holy prophets. It is a device of Satan to lead immortal souls down to hell." School Board of Lancaster, Ohio, 1828.

What was the Central Pacific Railroad's Construction Schedule?
The construction dates are very well documented because the issuance of government bonds to the railroads to finance construction was based on miles completed.  (For CPRR details, see Galloway, and the table in the report of 1877, and the report of  1883.; the UPRR website has an "End of Track Dateline, 1865-1869" mappdf.) Also see the dates the CPRR was opened for traffic (data from ICC Report, 1916).

"Invention is the most important product of man's creative brain. The ultimate purpose is the complete mastery of mind over the material world, the harnessing of human nature to human needs."
Nikola Tesla, who invented the modern electrical world
(polyphase AC power, generators, motors, fluorescent lights, radio, radar, seismic exploration ... 111 patents)
— most of Tesla's inventions are necessary to make it possible for you to read this webpage!
Nikola Tesla, Cover of Time Magazine, 1932

Where can I find information about the Transcontinental Telegraph?
The first transcontinental telegraph, established as a result of the Pacific Telegraph Act of 1860, put the Pony Express out of business the day it was completed, Oct. 24, 1861, and provided a critical communication link with the Eastern U.S. needed in order to coordinate the building of the Central Pacific Railroad and to order locomotives, track, and other needed supplies to be shipped by sea to California.  Theodore Judah, in Washington, D.C. lobbying for passage of legislation to enable federal loans and land grants to fund the construction of the CPRR & UPRR, immediately advised the Big Four in California by this first telegraph line that President Lincoln had signed the Pacific Railroad Act on July 1, 1862, wiring: "We have drawn the Elephant, now let us see if we can harness him up."  The second transcontinental telegraph was built along the CPRR & UPRR track as a result of this 1862 law, and used to announce the joining of the rails on May 10, 1869 to a waiting nation: " . . . DONE!"
Also see: CPRR Brooks Telegraph Insulators (and links to telegraph websites), UPRR Glass Telegraph Insulators, CPRR Telegraph Key & Sounder, another CPRR Key, CPRR Telegraph Pole, and the first telephone used by the CPRR to replace the telegraph.

"Life is the art of drawing sufficient conclusions from insufficient premises." —Samuel Butler (1612-1680)

"Statistics means never having to say you're certain." —"SlashDot" [parody]

" ... nobody lives in California anymore, it's too crowded." —Charlie Jenner, 2005.

Where can I find statistics on population growth in the west due to the Transcontinental Railroad?
The United States Historical Census Data show that the population of California grew as follows:


Also see the population statistics for San Francisco, including the Chinese population living there.

"For God’s sake, let ... judgment [have] at least a fighting chance to triumph over process." —John C. Bogle

Do you have any data on "miles of track" laid in the 1800's in the US and into the 1900's?

Miles of Track in U.S.
(peak) 254,000

[Notice that the almost century long exponential growth of the railroads was stopped dead in its tracks, never to return, as soon as the Federal Government nationalized the railroads during World War I.]
Miles of Track in U.S. GraphAlso see the American Association of Railroads' Maps Showing the Progressive Development of U.S. Railroads - 1830 to 1950.

"For most of history, life has been nasty, brutish and short." —Thomas Hobbe

What happened to the Central Pacific Railroad after the track was joined to the Union Pacific?  What is the current status of the Central Pacific Railroad?
The Central Pacific Railroad later became a part of the Southern Pacific System in 1885 under a lease to the Southern Pacific Company, and in 1959 merged with the Southern Pacific Railroad (which was controlled by the UPRR from 1901 until the court ordered 1912 "unmerger"), but the SPRR was eventually purchased by the Union Pacific in 1996 for $5.4 billion forming the largest railroad in the U.S. (See the Corporate Family Tree for the Union Pacific Railroad, including the Southern Pacific and Central Pacific Railroads.)  "Union Pacific now [2002] has annual revenue of $12 billion and owns 33,586 miles of track, 153,272 freight cars and 6,921 locomotives. U.P. employs 48,000 with an average yearly payroll of $2.7 billion. It moves 8.92 million carloads of materials each year." As a leased line of the Southern Pacific (see reasons for the Central Pacific leasing its lines to the Southern Pacific), the CPRR ceased operating under the CPRR name by 1887, but it had a continued corporate existence until 1959.  Additional CPRR Corporate History may be found in the history by Charles Sweet, in the Encyclopedia of Western Railroad History, and in Lynn Farrar's note. Most of the original CPRR route is still in heavy use as part of the Union Pacific Railroad.   However, the original roadbed, track, and locomotives at Promontory, Utah where the rails were joined no longer exists (but have been recreated).    The line across the Sierra Nevada Mountains was later expanded to two tracks, with Cape Horn and a new long tunnel on the eastbound track, and Bloomer Cut and the original Summit Tunnel on the westbound track, and part of the route across Nevada was relocated.  (G.J. Graves comments that this new tunnel, "the Big Hole, bypasses the snow sheds that used to run along above Donner Lake. It is a tunnel that runs from west of the Summit to about Eder, (roughly MP 194.7 to MP196.7) eliminating Tunnels 6 thru 12, which are now abandoned. Tunnel 13 is at MP 201.1.  The Big Hole is officially called Tunnel 41, running nearly two miles in length, holed thru at 8:15 PM on August 25, 1925.  Official length is 10,322 ft.  It lowered the summit elevation by 132.7 feet, and shortened the line by 1.29 miles. First train thru Sept 19th, consisting of 55 cars of green fruit. On the West side of Tunnel 6 you will see the footprint of the original turntable, there is also a footprint of a turntable at Cisco.") Nothing is left of the original grading at Cape Horn after the Southern Pacific Railroad's widening of the grade at Cape Horn in 1929, removing thousands more of cubic yards of rock and debris and pushing it over the edge.  Sadly, the original summit tunnel after more than a century of use was recently taken out of service reportedly as a result of a property tax dispute.  Website visitors say (9/15/99) that there is a "drive tour through [the] Summit Tunnel, which is now open!"   "... you can hike, mountain bike, or drive [a regular passenger automobile] through the summit tunnels ... from the site of the Summit Hotel through Tunnel six and seven, up to the western portal of tunnel eight ... [and] could probably drive to Lakeview Canyon [with a high ground clearance vehicle] ...  The views are spectacular ...".  See current Railroad Infrastructure and Traffic Data >Amtrak Routes > Trains 5 & 6, California Zephyr. The telegraph line along the railroad lead to the microwave coast to coast long distance telephone company, Sprint Communications, while Southern Pacific Telecommunications Company, an SPRR fiber optic subsidiary, in 1995 acquired Qwest Communications and took its name, and the 1898 Southern Pacific Railroad magazine is now Sunset Magazine.  A recent government report prepared by the National Park Service reviews the history of the CPRR construction, including improvements made in between 1906 and 1925.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." —Thomas Jefferson, 1816.

How was the CPRR Sierra grade realigned? Is it true that most of the original Sierra Grade is still in use today?  I see that a second track was built with additional tunnels, but I still see track in Bloomer Cut and around Cape Horn. ...
Most of the line "over the hill" between Sacramento and the Nevada border does indeed still run along the original Sierra grade for which original Chief Engineer Theodore Judah (until his death in 1863), Samuel Montague, and my great great grandfather, Lewis Metzler Clement, were largely responsible for locating.   With the exception of a few sidings and passing tracks, when the Pacific railroad (CPRR/UPRR) was completed in 1869 it was entirely a single track line.   While the original Sierra tunnels were bored using hand drilling and black powder, with the advances in tunnel boring (mechanical drills and TNT), and the decision to double track the line, over the first quarter of the Twentieth Century a second set of tunnels were bored for the second track (the only double track tunnel on the line is #18 at Newcastle), a few sections of the track were realigned, and a second grade was created where not enough room could practically be made to add a second track on the original grade such as at Bloomer Cut. The last of the tunnels bored (1927) was the two mile long tunnel #41 ("The Big Hole") under Mt. Judah which is just south of the original Donner Pass summit grade through tunnels #6, #7 & #8.  (You can see this tunnel marked on the map at the top of the Donner Pass gallery page.)  When this double tracking was completed, the new track (#2) became the default Eastbound track, and track #1 was used mostly for Westbound traffic.   (Track #1 occupies the original grade for the most part, but at a few places such as Cape Horn the original grade is occupied by Track #2.)  In the early 1990's Southern Pacific management decided to remove some of the double tracking to "save money" and one of those places was where the line split just one mile west of Donner Pass at shed #41 at Norden.  Old Track #1 through tunnels # 6-8 and the snowsheds was removed and a new Track #1 was realigned to run next to Track #2 to Tunnel #41.   Here it merges into a single track alternately serving both eastbound and westbound traffic.  (The tracks split again into Tracks #1 & #2 at Eder just East of The Big Hole.) Many excellent  videos of the Sierra Grade are available.  A particularly good one is called "Across Donner Summit" by Pentrex video.  This video is especially interesting because it was made before the original Donner Pass Track #1 grade (Summit Tunnel) was abandoned. Courtesy Bruce C. Cooper.
Central Pacific Railroad Abandonments.
> Remembering that the CPRR was built 1863-1869, realignment began as early as 1871, when Tunnel "0" was completed, East of Clipper Gap. When the UPRR and CPRR/SPRR were united in 1908, realignment began in earnest.  Track One (the original grade) was largely abandoned during the realignment, the new grade runs from 10 feet to 75 miles off the original grade.  The grade thru Rocklin is near the original grade, however Track 2 (the new, second line installed in 1908-1012) leaves Track 1 just East of Rocklin ... Courtesy G.J. Graves.

"Don't go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first." —Mark Twain

"The only thing new in the world is the history you don't know." —President Harry S Truman

With some chagrin I've read that the famous Summit Tunnel over the Sierra Nevada's was removed from use in 1999, and the tracks removed.  Was wondering (a) why the route was removed and (b) what route is the UPRR and Amtrak now using instead to get over the Sierras from Sacramento to Reno?
The response to this question received from the Union Pacific is quoted as follows:  "Donner Pass is still the route used.  One track through the original tunnel was removed a few years ago.  Trains use another nearby and longer tunnel to bypass the trackage that was removed."
Courtesy St. Tikhon's Seminary Library.

"Give a person a fish and you feed them for a day; teach that person to use the Internet and they won't bother you for weeks." Deep Thoughts

What  was  the  color  of  Central  Pacific  passenger  cars  in  the 1870's?   Photos  were  only  black and white  back  then,  and  on  the colorized  lithographs,  I  see red,  yellow,  or  green  cars  for  a  dubiously  named  "Pacific" railroad.   There  were  so  many  railroads  that  had  Pacific  in  their name,  there  is  good  reason  to  doubt the  lithographs  show  the  Central  Pacific  railroad.  The  yellow  cars are  almost  certainly  owned  by  the  Union  Pacific,  and  red  was  a popular  color  for  passenger  equipment  on  many  eastern  railroads  in the  1870's.   Green  became  almost  the  universal  color  after  Pullman became  the  dominant  sleeping  car  operator,  but  nineteenth  century railroads  used  the  color  too.  Their  green  tended  to  be  brighter than  the  drab  olive  color  used  by  Pullman, or  at  least  the lithographs  make  it  seem  brighter.
Since only black and white photographs were taken in the 1860's and 1870's, the photo collection is not much help in determining the colors of the rail cars, except to exclude colors that would not have the correct brightness. ("All photographic materials until around 1890 were sensitive largely or entirely to ultraviolet and blue light, resulting in light or empty skies for pictures on sunny days unless" two separate negatives of widely varying exposure were used with combined printing, as innovated by Muybridge. But, in 1873, Hermann Vogel "discovered that the collodion plate, normally non-sensitive to colors other than blue, could be made more sensitive to green by treating it with certain aniline ... dyes.")  The CPRR passenger cars are fairly light to mid-gray, not very dark in the stereographs like the engines are, but the baggage cars were sometimes darker and sometimes lighter than the passenger cars, so the colors may have varied.   Empire Express (p. 174) reports that the passenger cars were bright yellow. The Car Builders Dictionary, has an advertisement for Parrot-brand varnish, with no colors specified.  That book has an incredible amount of information, not particularly well indexed, but didn't find specific information regarding colors.  The California State Railroad Museum has two CPRR engines and their website displays a photograph that includes cars — perhaps they have done research about the authentic colors.  The terminology "Pacific Railroad" was consistently used at least until the 1880's to refer to the first transcontinental railroad (Central and Union Pacific).  Lithographs, if in color, were generally hand colored in the 1860's and 1870's.  A notable exceptions is the Nelson Guide books, which include original chromolithographs on which the color of the CPRR cars is not clearly indicated.  The Currier & Ives lithographs were hand colored when published in the 1870's, but do not appear to be entirely consistent in showing car colors. Harper's Weekly and Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper included spectacular wood engravings which were not originally colored, but which may have been subsequently beautifully hand colored, perhaps recently, so the colors cannot be trusted as historically accurate.  For station colors, see the Historic Paint Colors webpage. For color of Mason locomotives like the Jupiter, see Jim Wilke's drawings at the Mason Bogie Color Archive and photographs of brass models.

Wendell Huffman has provided the following additional information regarding the color of CP passenger cars:  In telling various carbuilders how to paint CP passenger equipment in 1868, C.P. Huntington referred to the color chip being sent as "orange." First Train on the Central Pacific Railroad, Painting by Joseph Hubert Becker. [Click to Enlarge]There is a painting by Joseph Becker showing a CP train running through a snowy landscape between two snowsheds. This painting was reproduced on p.52 of December 1958 American Heritage magazine. I don't know the date of this painting, but presume it to be the work of the Civil War illustrator of the same name who lived 1841-1910. The colors of the locomotive agree generally with two other contemporary paintings, one by Hahn of CP Sacramento depot of 1870s [click on the image to zoom] and other by Virginia & Truckee machinist of their 18, as painted by CP shops. These suggest that the Becker painting is relatively accurate. In the painting, the passenger cars are yellow. Also, the private car "Stanford" was painted yellow when built in 1883. It may be that the early cars were orange and that the color was changed to yellow in 1870s. Or, perhaps the yellow was a dark "orange" yellow. Or, perhaps, Huntington didn't know much about colors. Or, perhaps oranges were lighter in color then.  In any event, in 1883 the CP made arrangements with Pullman to operate Pullman cars over the CP. Apparently in connection with this, the CP began to repaint their equipment to the Pullman color. Cars were reported being repainted in the Sacramento newspapers into 1885. At the same time, CP cabooses were painted from yellow to "bright metallic red." I presume these changes included cars of the SP and other related lines.  There is some reason to believe Pullman color then was not the same as Pullman color later—perhaps a change from yellow ocher and umber mix to black and yellow mix. In fact, there were probably as many mixes of Pullman color as there were railroad paint shops. Pullman color was described in Sacramento newspapers at time of change as "dark plum", "olive" and "dark olive."  The early Pullman cars had a black background behind the lettering on the name panel and on the letterboard. This distinction in hue between the letter background and the Pullman color is apparent in many black and white photos and underscores the difference between Pullman color and black. This black background was dropped in 1893-94, apparently in connection with the introduction of the wide vestibules and new lettering style associated with 1893 World's Fair train.

Wendell Huffman also writes that ... modelers of pre-1900 railroads ... really do care about things like colors. The topic seems to come up nearly every time someone starts a new model. The problem is, even when you find out that the Central Pacific's Jupiter was crimson and blue, you are left wondering what was what, and what shade of blue, and did the reporter who told us this priceless piece of information do so because this locomotive was different from all the others or merely because it happened to catch his eye one morning when he was trying to fill his page. And then C.P.Huntington's letters to car builders instructing them to paint the passenger cars "orange" leave us scratching our heads when everything else tells us they were yellow. Was he color blind? If you think answering questions about the "first transcontinental railroad" was difficult, stay away from the color question. Paint your equipment black and white, just like they appear in the photographs! [From R&LHS Newsgroup]

Charles Varnes of San Dimas, CA quotes information from John Beystehner, UPS's Senior Vice President of World-Wide Sales and Marketing in a March 25, 2003 Wall Street Journal article: "UPS is sticking with the chocolate-brown color splashed on almost everything at the company. Brown was first used on delivery vehicles and uniforms in 1916, chosen because it matched Pullman rail cars and hid dirt." Kyle K. Williams Wyatt, Historian/Curator, California State Railroad Museum, comments that: "Indications are that the original 19th century Pullman color was a chocolate brown (a dark olive brown believed to be very similar to the UPS color, but perhaps a shade lighter), but by 1916 this had been replaced by the familiar Pullman green (a dark olive green adopted just before the turn of the century). If you catch a UPS truck in bright sun, you can see the olive highlights form the color." [From R&LHS Newsgroup.]

Kyle K. Wyatt comments that the Southern Pacific started spray painting equipment in the mid 1890's. [From R&LHS Newsgroup.]

Jim Wilke found that the March 20, 1869 issue of the Sacramento Daily Bee newspaper stated that "The new engine Jupiter, fresh from the paint shop, gleaming in blue and crimson with gold appeared on the track this morning." Jim Wilke writes regarding the original color schemes of Central Pacific "Jupiter" No. 60 and Union Pacific No. 119:
I designed the color schemes currently on the [Promontory, Utah, Golden Spike National Historic Site] replicas (this was in 1994) and since that time I've been able to contunue the research and refine the information based on documentation which has since come to light. ... I've been able to revise the 119's tender based on Rogers records which surfaced some years after the replicas were painted. ... [The] drawing [below shows] the most accurate placement of the design. ... Here are the most accurate and current versions of the color schemes:

Dark Prussian blue: Engine and tender frames, lead and tender trucks, cylinder saddle, cowcatcher, pilot beam, cab, dome base and sandbox, headlight, headlight bracket, iron work on bell stand, springs, etc.
Dark crimson: Wheels, panels on sides and back of tender, headlight panels on side, raised moldings on cab
Gold leaf: Striping, lettering and ornamentation.
Varnished wood: Cab windows, interior
Dark Grey: Cab roof
Russia iron (a silver-grey, best represented in model form by using Testor's "Gunmetal Metallizer"): Boiler jacket
Black: Stack, smokebox, firebox

UP No. 119 Color Scheme.  Courtesy Jim Wilke.

For the No. 119:
Dark wine red: Engine and tender frames, lead and tender trucks, cylinder saddle, cowcatcher, pilot beam, dome base and sandbox, headlight, headlight bracket, iron work on bell stand, springs, etc.
Vermilion (an orangish red): Wheels, oval number panel on tender side
Dark green: Long panel on tender side, number plate
Varnished walnut: Cab exterior and interior, and sashes
Dark Grey: Cab roof
Russia iron (a silver-grey, best represented in model form by using Testor's "Gunmetal Metallizer"): Boiler jacket
Black: Stack, smokebox, firebox.

Also see the colorized photo of Rogers-built Buffalo No. 82 at Rocklin Roundhouse in 1870.

John Sweetser reports that The Silver State (Winnemucca) newspaper of October 17, 1883 states that: "For many years all of the passenger coaches, express, mail and sleeping cars of the Central Pacific Railroad have been a straw or yellowish color, unpleasant to travelers from the East, who are used to dark rich colors. The Sacramento Bee says the company has decided to repaint the cars and make them the rich dark color of Pullman sleeping cars of the present day, which is something darker than olive."

Also see Southern Pacific Depot Colors.

"There are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by the gradual and silent encroachment of those in power, than by violent and sudden usurpation." James Madison (1751-1836)

Did  the  yellow  passenger  cars  of  the  Union  Pacific  run  all the  way  through  to  Sacramento,  in  the  early  days?  I  know  the City  of  San  Francisco streamliner  did,  but  what  about  back  in  the  1870's.   When  did  the  name  train The  Overland  Limited  start  its operation?  I'm  pretty  sure  the  Pullman cars  on  that  train  ran  all the  way  from  Chicago  to  Oakland.  It  was  the  premier  train  on  the route,  before  the  City  of  San  Francisco.
Both the Hart stereoviews from the 1860's and Reilly and Anthony stereoviews from the early 1870's show only "Central Pacific" passenger cars on the CPRR, not UPRR cars, even after the rails were joined.  The UPRR Overland Express is described in a travel guide as early as April, 1868.  The Transcontinental Excursion of Railroad Agents, 1870 describes:  "OGDEN Where we were transferred from the Pullman palace cars of the Union Pacific to the Silver palace cars of the Central Pacific railroad.  Six of these magnificent coaches, with smoking and baggage cars, were provided for us.  In addition, the superintendent's car, laden with refreshments and fruits, the gift of the generous San Franciscans, brought up the rear.  A more beautiful train never stood at a depot to receive a more grateful party."  Williams' Pacific Tourist in 1879 indicates the same change of trains, as does Bits of Travel at Home in 1887.  The Rand McNally Official Railway Guide and Hand Book for August, 1881 notes the Pacific Express in the UPRR time schedule, and similarly in the May, 1888 edition. The May, 1888 (p. 289) edition, however, describes  UPRR "Through Trains and Through Sleeping Cars ... Westward from Council Bluffs and Omaha ... without change of cars ... to ... San Francisco".  Crofutt's Overland Guide for 1890 (p.16), similarly describes "THROUGH PALACE SLEEPERS— ... between Chicago and San Francisco ... By this arrangement passengers are not required to 'change cars' at every junction point, saving at times an immense amount of trouble and annoyance, particularly to ladies and invalids traveling alone, and in fact to all classes of travelers."

" ... the horse is here to stay, but the automobile is only a novelty—a fad." —President of the Michigan Savings Bank, turning down Henry Ford for a business loan, 1903.

"If I'd asked my customers what they wanted, they'd have said a faster horse." —Henry Ford

If a Union Pacific train came from Omaha what happened when it reached Promontory Point — did they change train crews or locomotives for the Central Pacific? ... Does the California Zephyr pass through Promontory Point where the last spike was driven [sic]?
You can still travel the CPRR's route across the USA by Rail on Amtrak's California Zephyr.  (This present day route is not the original California Zephyr route of Chicago, Denver, Salt Lake, and San Francisco via the Burlington, Rio Grande, and Western Pacific Railroads.)  But Promontory Point is not where the rails were joined (although this misidentification of Promontory Summit as Promontory Point dates from the time of the joining of the rails).  There were various plans as to where to put the first transcontinental railroad line in relation to the Great Salt Lake.  Originally the plan was to go south of Utah's Great Salt Lake, which was also strongly favored by the Mormons who wanted the transcontinental railroad to go through Salt Lake City, but the route through Ogden, around the north end of the Great Salt Lake was shorter and that was what was built in 1869, and where Promontory Summit is located.  The CPRR and UPRR couldn't agree on where to meet and started building past one another.   (The Mormons were hired to build both the CPRR and UPRR rail lines past each other.)  A government commission's recommendations resulted in agreement and in a law that settled the matter.  (Lewis Metzler Clement was a railroad commissioner.)  As a result, after the rails were joined at Promontory Summit (not Promontory Point) on May 10, 1869, and 8 months thereafter the CPRR acquired the track constructed by the UPRR from Ogden, Utah west to Promontory Summit, so that the change of trains from UPRR to CPRR was thereafter at Ogden where there was a larger town.  Promontory Point (not where the rails were joined) is at the southern end of a peninsula that juts into the Great Salt Lake from its northern shore.  In 1903 the location of the rail line was changed to cut across the middle of the Great Salt Lake on a long causeway (the Lucin cutoff).  [Although the original Promontory Branch continued to be used in its entirety until abandoned on September 8, 1942, after which the rail was salvaged for the war effort.]  As a result, Amtrak trains now do go through Promontory Point, but don't stop there, but this is not the location where the rails were joined.  The National Park Service has recreated the approximate location of the historic joining of the rails as the Golden Spike National Historic Site at Promontory Summit, north of the Great Salt Lake.

" ... few things are harder to put up with than a good example." —Mark Twain

"Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new." —Albert Einstein

What was the name of the first train or engine that went across the continental United States?
The first engines to cross the continent after the joining of the rails were CPRR No's. 156 "Success" and 157 "Excelsior," both manufactured by Rogers and delivered by rail, not shipSeveral trains were present at the ceremony on May 10, 1869. Regarding the first load of cargo and passengers:  First train on the transcontinental railroad arrives at the Oakland Pier, pulled by CPRR Engine No. 116."On May 11, [1869] the first true 'through' train of excursionists and emigrants rumbled through the arid slopes of Promontory Point, heading west, while from the other direction came a California freight carrying the first consignments of Japanese teas to the cities of the East Coast." [John Hoyt Williams. A Great and Shining Road. p. 268]   "On May 11 the Cheyenne Daily Leader—incidentally scooping the New York newspapers by a full day—carried a one-sentence telegraphic dispatch from Sacramento: 'The first invoice of Japanese tea was shipped today by the Pacific Railroad ... inaugurating the overland trade with China.'  ... [T]he brevity of the item conveys the matter-of-fact quality of an expected development: transcontinental rails fulfilling their manifest destiny, and right on schedule, too." [James McCague. Moguls and Iron Men. p. 333] The image at the right shows the first train pulled by engine No. 116 which has arrived at the Oakland wharf. The oral history of the McDonald family records that the passengers on the first transcontinental train from the east were able to attend the joining of the rails ceremony on May 10th. The Historical Society of Pottawattamie County, Iowa writes that "The first train arrived on May 12th in Council Bluffs over the Rock Island track linking Council Bluffs with the Great Lakes and Chicago. The R.I.'s original depot was located near Pearl and Broadway. Coincidentally, the cornerstone was laid for the Ogden House that same day, so a substantial celebration was held, with Mayor Bloomer leading the lengthy parade from the Ogden House to the depot where the C.R.I.&P. Silver Horse was joined by 4 other engines. Despite a drenching rain, the entire community joined the band, the engine whistles, and numerous cannons in a rather noisy celebration." See one of the earliest pieces of mail carried on the transcontinental railroad.

"The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible." Albert Einstein

How many Transcontinental railroads were there in 1900?
Overland Routes WestThere were many routes across North America in 1900 involving the following railroads in the West (in order from North to South):

You can see all the western routes on a UPRR railroad map dated 1900 from the Library of Congress (although only the Union Pacific lines are shown in bold).  Essentially all the routes contemplated by the 1850's in the Pacific Railroad Surveys were completed by 1893.  Also, there were an even greater number of routes from the east coast to the Missouri river.  For example, for the western part of the trip you could use the Union Pacific System across Nebraska or across Kansas, and could continue to the pacific northwest via the Oregon Short Line, or could go to California via the Central Pacific.  The Central Pacific no longer operated under its own name in 1900 but as one of ten owned and/or leased lines that made up the "Pacific System" of the SPRR all of which operated under the name of the Southern Pacific Company.
Overland Route Map Courtesy Library of Congress. [Great Northern Railway not shown on map.]

"The brakeman must understand that his proper position on the train while it is in motion, is on the top of the cars in the center of the train, ... so as to be able to use as many brakes as possible in case the engineer or conductor shall call for brakes by the known signal." —Baltimore & Ohio Railroad rulebook, 1866. Courtesy Herb Harwood.
" ... head, swing, and rear brakemen were always decorating when in motion ... in all kinds of sometimes miserable weather. ... They were not lounging in the caboose or engine cab. ... the narrow cab barely contained the engine crew." —Fred Gamst. [From R&LHS Newsgroup]

"We had to ride out on top when the train was moving. ... That took nerve, coordinatiom, timing, and a perfect sense of balance to go over the top of a freight train – Winter or summer, rain, snow, sleet, ice all over the roofs, and on brake wheels and handholds." Dick Nelson, 1871

Where can I find out more about Chinese railroad workers?
Where can I find out more about the Golden Spike National Historic Site?
There are detailed articles in the National Golden Spike Centennial Commission Official Publication "The Last Spike is Driven"
[Cooley, Everett L. (Ed).  Utah Historical Quarterly, Volume 37, Number 1, Winter 1969].

"Getting information off the Internet is like taking a drink from a fire hydrant." —Mitchell Kapor

What information is available about African American transcontinental railroad construction and other workers?
Professor John Hoyt William's book "A Great and Shining Road" recounts that "the Union Pacific did employ several hundred black workers on the Plains" [p.94] to build the line.  According to "Moguls and Iron Men" by James McCague, included in the Union Pacific's mostly Irish construction workers was a "three-hundred-man force of Negro freedmen of whom little is known except that they were said to have made good workers" [p.117].
> Based on passing mentions in some news articles, it appears that the Central Pacific used African-Americans [as sleeping car porters] on their Silver Palace Cars in the 1870s. Perhaps surprising in California, but there seems to have been a fair sized African-American community in the state back then. I've also come across mentions of the African-American community in Sacramento during that period, larger than one might expect. —Kyle Williams Wyatt Curator of History & Technology California State Railroad Museum [From the R&LHS Newsgroup]

"Imagine you won the lottery or otherwise came into a large sum of money, and you wanted to help the poor. You could give $100,000 to a private charity of your choice. Or you could write your check to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Which would you choose — and why?" Sharon Harris

I am doing a report for school on the building of the bridges and tunnels for the transcontinental R.R.  I would like to know how many there are and how they were built?
Read the article on this website, "Tunnels of the Pacific Railroad" from Van Nostrand's Eclectic Engineering Magazine, Vol. II, 1870 pp. 418-423, that gives a vivid account of the tunnel construction: "Between Omaha and Sacramento, there are nineteen tunnels.  Four of these are on the Union Pacific and fifteen on the Central.  The tunnels of the Central Pacific are nearly all near the summit ... "  The summit contour map shows many of the tunnels.  The tunnels were blasted out of solid rock with black powder (that came in 25 lb. wooden barrels), about 1.18 feet per day.  Nitroglycerine was introduced in 1867 for use on the summit tunnel (No. 6).  The average daily progress was 1.82 feet per day using nitroglycerine, significantly better than with black powder, but it was so dangerous and unstable that it could not be shipped to California without  detonating enroute [see Empire Express] and had to be manufactured on the spot by a resident chemist.  Many of the photographs in the Exhibits on this website show the construction of the bridges (see links below).  Also see drawings of the various types of bridges, the RailroadExtra page on bridges, Construction of the Central Pacific Railroad and the discussion of tunnels and bridges in the 1869 Commissioners Report.  A bridge was built over the Sacramento River in 1878. Hope that this helps with your report. Also see a list of CPRR Bridges and a list of CPRR Tunnels.

  • Bridges:
  • Hart_41. Long Ravine Bridge near Colfax, length 1050 feet.
  • Hart_42._Long Ravine Bridge from below. 120 feet high.
  • Hart_48. Secret Town, Trestle from the West, length 1100 feet
  • Hart_74. Secrettown Bridge, 1100 feet long, 62 miles from Sacramento.
  • Houseworth_1319. Train on Secret Town Bridge.
  • Hart_19. Trestle near Station at Auburn.
  • Hart_29. Trestle in Clipper Ravine, near Clipper Gap.
  • Hart_31. Trestle and Truss Bridge, Clipper Ravine, near view.
  • Reilly 201. R. R. Trestle Work Crossing Bear River, Cal.
  • Reilly 207. Railroad Trestle Work, Crossing Bear River, Cal.
  • Central Pacific Railroad bridge across Sacramento River, Sacramento.
  • Muybridge 753. Bear River crossing, near Corinne, looking West. Courtesy Wendy Ruebman:
  • Bear River Bridge

    "The secret of getting ahead is getting started.
    The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into
    small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one." Mark Twain

    "Eighty percent of success is showing up." Woody Allen

    Where can I buy copies of photographic prints of the Golden Spike Ceremony (May 10, 1869 at Promontory, Utah) where the rails were joined?
    A poster showing the famous A.J. Russell photograph is available for $12.99.

    The Union Pacific Railroad's website states that they sell 8" x 10" prints ($12.50 B/W; $23.50 color; +$3.00 shipping) and indicates that other sizes are available:

    Many other wonderful photographs are available for viewing or purchase on the Union Pacific Railroad's excellent website (which is not affiliated with  The Oakland Museum website similarly states that they make available reproductions of images from their collection, including the large format A. J. Russell Imperial Views. Inexpensive posters and postcard copies are also available from the Golden Spike National Historic Site Book Store. Books, railroad video's, and other railroad posters can be purchased via our on-line CPRR Museum bookshop.
    For requests for digital images as shown here, on the CPRR Museum website, see rights and permissions.

    "This is a splendid country for speculation and anyone with a few hundred dollars and half a Yankee head, can make a fortune here." —Samuel Chittenden, UP Surveyor, Ft. Bridger, WY, May 19, 1868

    Who was Lewis Metzler Clement?
    After a 149-day trip by wagon train from St. Louis to Sacramento, Lewis Metzler Clement joined the CPRR in the early summer of 1863 when he was hired by Central Pacific Railroad Chief Engineer, Theodore D. Judah, to be one of his two chief assistant engineers (joining Samuel S. Montague), and upon Judah’s death in November of that year Clement was appointed First Assistant Chief Engineer to Montague and later became Acting Chief Engineer. Between 1863 and 1869, Lewis Metzler Clement worked on the CPRR’s transcontinental route and was the man primarily responsible for the final location, design and construction of the section of the line from Colfax to Truckee which includes Cape Horn, all the tunnels, and the snowsheds.  Although he was in Washington, D.C. at the time of the driving of the Golden Spike at Promontory Summit, UT, in May, 1869, completing a report to the Secretary of the Interior as a member of the Special Pacific Railroad Commission appointed by President Andrew Johnson, Lewis Metzler Clement appears prominently in the Thomas Hill painting, The Last Spike, standing behind Judah (who was dead) and Charles Crocker.   L. M. Clement continued to work on the western railroads (Central Pacific, Southern Pacific, Atlantic & Pacific) and on the cable car systems of San Francisco and Oakland until his death at Hayward, CA, in 1914.  The Central Pacific Railroad Photographic History Museum website is dedicated to great great grandfather, Lewis Metzler Clement.
    Courtesy of his Great-Great-Grandson, Bruce C. Cooper

    "In one century we went from teaching Latin and Greek in high school to offering remedial English in college." —Joseph Sobran

    What educational background did the railroad  engineers and surveyors have?
    Some such as S.H. Long and G.B. McClellan were former Army topographical engineers who had studied at West Point; Theodore Judah attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1837; L.M. Clement studied engineering at McGill University in Montreal ; UPRR chief engineer Grenville Dodge attended Norwich University in Vermont then traveled west to work on the Illinois Central Railroad and came to Iowa in 1852 as a surveyor on the Mississippi and Missouri Railroad; others were either self taught or "apprenticed" with other engineers and learned through on the job training such as S.S. Montague who began his career at age 22 with the Rock Island and Rockford Railroad as a surveyor's assistant.
    Courtesy Bruce C. Cooper

    "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on not understanding it." —Upton Sinclair

    Where can I find out who the people are in the pictures of the Golden Spike Ceremony (Joining of the Rails)?
    While the people in the stereographs are not individually identified, see the key to all the portraits included in the famous Thomas Hill painting of "The Last Spike."

    "Life is like arriving late for a movie, having to figure out what was going on without bothering everybody with a lot of questions, and then being unexpectedly called away before you find out how it ends." Joseph Campbell

    When were the original iron rails upgraded to heavier weight steel?
    The original rail weight was 56 lbs. per yard on the main line and 52 lbs. per yard on side tracks, on the CPRR.  It was purchased by Judah's agent in the East, the first 5,000 tons from the Bay State Iron Co., in 1862.  That rolled iron rail was manufactured in 1863.  (The rail is sometimes incorrectly described as cast iron, but is actually rolled from a cast ingot which is then forged before rolling.)  The 56 pound per yard iron rail was kept in use through about 187l, when C. P. Huntington purchased steel rail manufactured by Terrenoire from Paris, France.  The Boston-based ship "Herald of the Morning" that brought the first iron rail from Massachusetts also brought the first Terre Noire steel rail from France.   As the engines and trains got heavier, it was necessary to get larger rail to handle the larger trains.  The U.S. Pacific Railway Commission on July 1, 1887, sent a crew to examine the rails between Council Bluffs  and Sacramento; their published report was as follows:

    All rails are steel except 3.6 miles of the 5 miles from Ogden to the junction under lease to the Central Pacific Co. (which are iron) as follows:
    [CPRR rail, 1887]
    of steel:
    56 pounds per yard
    569.5  miles
    60 pounds per yard 360 miles
    60 1/2 pounds per yard l04.6 miles
    67 pounds per yard 2.02 miles
    of iron:
    56 pounds per yard
    3.6 miles
    side tracks which are laid with iron rails, 52 pounds per lineal yard 224.6 miles
    The joint fastenings were 21-inch fish plates, 16 pounds per joint; 21 inch angle plates, 22 pounds per joint; 36 inch angle plates, 44 and 50 pounds per joint.  The joints were bolted with 3/4 inch bolts and nuts, having lock nuts of several kinds.  Spikes were 5 1/2 by 9/16th inch.
    Courtesy G.J. Graves, Newcastle, California, and Edson T. Strobridge.

    What did the Central Pacific Railroad's corporate logo look like?
    We don't think that there was a single CPRR corporate logo – railroad corporate logo's were not widely or consistently used prior to the 1890's.  (John Decker reports that the "[Travelers' Official Guide of the Railway and Steam Navigation Lines of the United States and Canada] ... from September 1881, [has] not a single corporate logo in it ... [while the] edition of June 1893 shows logos galore ... " According to Adrian Ettlinger, "... the Barriger Library in St. Louis ... has a solid, complete collection of Official Guides in the original paper [also NYPL using microfilm] – ... the SP logo was adopted in 1891. Indeed, from scanning through OG's, 1890 seems to have about the same level (very few) as does 1883. But starting in 1890, there seems to be a gradual buildup in the concentration of logos until they become very commonplace by 1893. ... As of 1893, [the Pennsylvania Railroad] did not yet show one. But the Erie had its familiar diamond as early as 1890." [quotations from the R&LHS Newsgroup]) The CPRR typically used fancy typestyles for its corporate name, but each document we come across seems to use a different fancy typeface.  The homepage includes a portion of a ticket and also an engraving from a bank check.  (A variety of fancy typestyles were used on CPRR bank checks.)  Alfred Hart's stereographs which were the principal advertising pieces for the railroad during its construction don't show a CPRR corporate logo, nor does the CPRR Bond Prospectus of 1868.  The 1871 CPRR timetable does have a nice map logo.  Also see the fancy intertwined "CP" on CPRR uniform buttons, such as a conductor's coat button and on a CPRR Corporate Seal on a Land Deed, 1884.  Courtesy Scripophily.comChina dinner plate c. 1880 (left). Don't confuse with the "Chicago Pneumatic" logo  CPRR 9.5" x 6.5" Marked Dining Car Serving Platter made by Knowles, Taylor & Knowles, East Liverpool, Ohio c. 1880. Courtesy Bruce C. Cooper Collection.Debbie A. Kenitzer observes that a linen CPRR 1868 survey map has an embossed copper CPRR company seal (right) with a raised train logo in the center surrounded by writing around the edge:  "... the raised letters read:  'Central Pacific Rail Road Co.' (around the top outside); 'of California' (along the bottom outside); 'Incorporated June 23, 1861' (along the bottom inside). The picture in the middle is ... difficult to see — it looks like the front and side of a train with smoke coming out of the stack rolling over to the back of the train."  Please let us know if you locate other examples of the decorative use of the "Central Pacific Railroad" company name.  The Union Pacific Railroad's website illustrates the history of the UPRR's Victorian Decorative Logos. Note that starting recently, the Union Pacific aggressively protects its logos and trademarks. (According to Kyle K. Williams Wyatt, Curator of History & Technology, California State Railroad Museum, the "Southern Pacific adopted their Sunset logo for freight cars in 1891 on the Pacific Lines, and said they got it (or a version of it) from the Texas Lines. Images ... from the Texas Lines include the Sunset identity, but a different graphic image, and not on cars. ... the SPC Sunset logo makes its appearance at the same time as the other Sunset logos - circa 1891. The Galveston, Harrisburg & San Antonio, one of the primary SP lines in Texas, was using the 'Sunset Route' name and a logo (but not the logo we are familiar with) on advertising in the 1880s." Clifford J Vander Yacht explains that: "The word 'logo' is an abbreviation of 'logotype' which technically means a single piece of moveable type (remember Gutenberg?) containing two or more letters, or one or more words. In the [Railroad & Locomotive Historical Society] Newsletter I use a logo as a end of story bug (a bug is any nonstandard piece of type) and it is one character on my keyboard and a single item in the font I use. Railroads used heralds for most of their advertising. However, Madison Avenue types ... started using the word 'logo' to mean 'herald' a long time ago. Probably what happened is that heralds were etched into zinc printing plates and glued to small blocks of wood. These could then be handled by a compositor as a single item in page makeup. Thus it is a rather large logotype. ... Frederic Eugene Ives in 1878 invented the swelled gelatin process which makes a mask on a zinc plate which then can be etched in acid. This made it possible to transfer an image from a photographic negative to a printing plate. By interposing a screen between the negative and plate a halftone (full range of tones between black and white) can be obtained. He did this commercially in 1879 in Baltimore and 1879 in Philadelphia as the Crossup and West Engraving Co. In 1881 the process was sold commercially. Prior to this, images had to be engraved by hand, typically cut into linoleum blocks or steel plates. This was the necessary technology that made the widescale use of heralds in printing." However, Chris Baer of the Hagley Museum and Library comments that " ... some of the fast freight lines used heralds at least as far back as 1866-70. The Union Transportation Company (Star Union Line) used a red star in a white circle. ... the Empire Line used an arrow. ... the PRR-related shipping lines used the keystone at an early date. In addition to the American Line, the Anchor Line on the Lakes (Erie & Western Transportation Company) used a white anchor on a red keystone. ... " Adrian Ettlinger comments that "Evidently, as of 1890, the means for reasonably cost-effective reproduction of art work had come into existence, although it had been around a few years, and perhaps it took until then for it to come into regular commercial use. ... the 1890's saw an escalation in competitive promotional activity, one clue to which is the 1890 date for the first advertising agency." Thomas L. De Fazio comments that "The logo issue has two branches, as I've read it: logos generally, to include trade marks and emblems; and American railroad logos. I'll speak of the first first. If late-night movies are to believed, personal marks go back at least as far as the Roman empire. But personal marks are not trade marks. Watermarks on paper go quite a way back too, certainly before 1870, and watermarks are surely trade marks. Makers' marks on precious metal items go a long way back too, and they are surely trade marks too. Wyler, Okie or Hughes date the London assay office to 1478. (I've not tried to learn whether the London assay office was the first anywhere.) That's not to say that makers' marks necessarily also go back to 1478, but it would probably be close, if not coincident in date. An assay office assays pieces for content and marks them ('hall mark') if satisfactory. Pieces previously had been marked with a unique maker's mark, a die-incised mark. Along these lines, many in the jewelry, precious metal and related trades marked pieces with makers' marks even if content was not controlled by an assay hall. A scan of Asher & Adams' Pictorial Album of American Industry, 1876, turns up several entities that had trade marks. Examples are: The Hartford Insurance Co., Hartford; Phoenix Mutual Life Insurance Co., Hartford; Osborn M'f'g Co., Bleecker St., NY (bird cages); Woods, Sherwood & Co., Lowell Mass. (wire ware); The Billings & Spencer Co., Hartford (wr. iron, steel, drop forging); Clark's (O. N. T.) Spool Cotton; L. Coes & Co., Worcester (screw [monkey] wrenches); The Health-Lift Co., NY (gym equipment); Providence Shell Works, Providence (tortoise shell jewelry, &c); J. R. Read, Providence (axle washers); Yale Lock Co., Stamford; Geo. Mather's Sons, Mfrs, NY (printing inks). This list is not exhaustive. Now to railroads. Railroad History of the R&LHS, #153, carries James A. Ward's On the Mark: The History and Symbolism of Railroad Emblems.Ward's paper is extensive, and supported by an extensive bibliography. Ward notes that RR's started adopting emblems in the 1880's. Ward's Table 1 lists emblems (trade marks, logos) that predate 1890. Examples from Ward include: 1834 Georgia RR; 1851 IC; 1870 Katy; 1870's C&A; 1874 Iowa Central; 1876 SP; 1877 PRR (note conflict with previous reference, 'by 1873'); 1879 P&LE; 1880's (many) MoP, CB&Q, C&N, Nickel Plate, Frisco, DSP&P, D&RGW, UP, Erie, D&H, Cotton Belt, TStL&KC, Santa Fe, NYNH&H, B&O, R&D, Soo, Silverton, C&NW, Big 4, RI, NC&StL, Ga.Pac, DSS&A." [quotations from the R&LHS Newsgroup])

    "Miracles do happen, but you have to work hard at them." —Chaim Weizmann

    "I believe we are here to do good. It is the responsibility of every human being to aspire to do something worthwhile, to make the world a better place than the one we found." —Albert Einstein

    Where can I research an ancestor who worked for the railroad?
    See our Great-Grandfathers' page with links to genealogy resources.
    Also see the Railroad Retirement Board's suggestions for Railroad Records and Genealogical Information.
    You might need the assistance of a professional genealogy researcher.

    Big Four: Amasa Leland Stanford genealogy; Charles Crocker genealogy, Mark Hopkins genealogy, and Collis P. Huntington genealogy

    My engine now is cold and still,
    No water does my boiler fill.
    My coke affords its flame no more,
    My days of usefulness are o'er.
    My wheels deny their wonted speed,
    No more my guiding hand they heed;
    My whistle - it has lost its tone,
    Its shrill and thrilling sound is gone;
    My valves are now thrown open wide,
    My flanges all refuse to glide;
    My clacks - alas! though once so strong,
    Refuse their aid in the busy throng;
    No more I feel each urging breath,
    My steam is now condensed in death;
    Life's railway o'er, each station past.
    In death I'm stopped, and rest at last.
    Epitaph on the gravestone in the "Old Yard" burial ground in Alton, Illinois of George Senior, a railroad engineer who was killed on November 4, 1853 in an accident on the Chicago & Mississippi Railroad. (This verse had been used, with only minor differences, on three graves in England, about ten years earlier.)
    Courtesy Andrew Dow, from the R&LHS Newsgroup.

    "He passed away and all those memories just vanished. Everytime a person dies, a library burns to the ground." Schuyler Larrabee

    Where can I find out about a train wreck?
    "Accidents and near misses involving humans and rolling equipment on railroads are, of course, not new kinds of events. They have existed since the dawn of steam locomotion on railroads and were extant during the two previous centuries when livestock pulled the rolling stock along the track. For example, ca. 1830, the Baltimore & Ohio had an accident in which the (horse) driver of a rail-coach fell to the rails and was killed. For another example, during the period of 1813-1833 on the 3.5-mile colliery railway from the coal pits at Middleton to Leeds, England, four of Blenkinsop's locomotive steam engines operated. By 1815, the four engines replaced the last of the previous horse power. The pioneering steam trains killed at least six members of the public, including persons saving time by attempting to beat the train to a point of crossing the track. ... " —Fred Gamst. [From the R&LHS Newsgroup]

    Benjamin Pierce, age 11, the only child of President-elect Pierce, died in a train accident while the Pierce family was en route to Washington, D.C. for the inauguration, in January, 1853. [Reported in the New Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette, Concord, Jan. 13, 1853.]

    Once a date, even an approximate date (within months, say) is available, tracing information on significant wrecks ca. 1900 becomes easy. The railroad professional journals of that day typically listed wrecks and other significant occurrences, giving not only the dates but also the most basic available details. From there, one can seek out and read the local press. A certain level of skepticism may be appropriate when reading local press descriptions. —Tom De Fazio . [From the R&LHS Newsgroup]

    See Early railroad accidents.
    "The late collision between the trains of the Western Pacific and S.F. & Alameda R.R. Cos., near Simpsons Station, Sunday Nov. 14th, 1869." Print, Nov.,1869. Adobe Acrobat PDF format Courtesy Sacramento Archives and Museum Collection Center.
    Great, Great Grandfather, Samuel McMullen and the Gravelly Ford Explosion
    Great Train Disasters (Videotape).
    "The Most Eventful Journey in the History of Railroading." Walter Scott Fitz, letter, 1872.
    The first California Aquarium Car, 1873.
    Reports of railroad accidents between 1911 and 1963 are cataloged.
    U.S. Department of Transportation Investigations of Railroad Accidents, 1911
    Recent Accident Reports from the National Transportation Safety Board - 1966
    Notes on Railroad Accidents. by Charles Francis Adams, Jr., G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1879.
    A History of Railroad Accidents, Safety Precautions and Operating Practices. by Robert B. Shaw, Vail-Ballou Press, 1978, 473 pp. (Appendix X lists significant railroad accidents from 1831 to 1972.)
    Death Rode the Rails: American Railroad Accidents and Safety, 1828-1965. by Mark Aldrich.
    Down Brakes, by Robert Shaw, McMillan, 1961.
    Train Wrecks, by Robert C Reed, Bonanza Books, 1960.
    According to Chris Baer of the Hagley Museum and Library, starting around the mid-1870's the Railroad Gazette (available on microfilm) printed a monthly synopsis of all railroad accidents which they apparently culled from newspapers or by polling the railroad companies.
    Danger Ahead! - Historic Railway Disasters
    See Ray State's page at Train Wreck Central about How to research train wrecks or contact him to answer questions about train wrecks and describing and/or identifying pictures using his database of train wrecks which now exceeds 15,000 items (especially boiler explosions) and master catalogue of 260 wreck sources.
    Current U.S. Federal Railroad Administration Accident Investigation Reports

    " ... in the future a typical factory will host three workers: a man, a computer and a dog. The computer will do all the work. The man will feed the dog. And the dog's job? To bite the man – if he touches the computer." Todd G. Buchholz

    "To err is human, but to really foul things up requires a computer." —Farmer's Almanac, 1978

    Why are the two rails 4 feet, 8.5 inches apart (U.S. standard railroad gauge)?
    See the San Diego Railroad Museum, the English website Railway Gauge, an urban legends page, a comment about the extra 1/2", as well as the perhaps fanciful How Specs Live Forever. Also see Abraham Lincoln's 1863 executive order setting the gauge of track on the Pacific railroad, and the book The American Railroad Network, 1861-1890 by George Rogers and Irene D. Neu.

    Why did the Central Pacific want so badly to use a 5' gauge when they asked Lincoln to approve it for the Transcontinental Railroad (instead of the 4' 8 1/2" gauge that was actually used)?
    The railroads already existing in California with which the CPRR might likely connect were laid with a 5' 0" track gauge.  These would have been the Sacramento Valley, the California Central, and the Sacramento, Placer & Nevada (though they had no rolling stock).  Initially (during the congressional process of writing the Pacific Railroad act and perhaps into August or September 1862) the CPRR expected to commence their construction from the railhead of the Sacramento, Placer & Nevada near Auburn or from Judah's California Eastern—also near Auburn in another direction.  Expecting to be an extension of existing railroads, the gauge was critical.  The Pacific Railroad Law itself canceled those plans by requiring (initially) that the CPRR build its first 40 miles on their own account, so it was imperative that the initial construction be as inexpensive as possible.  Imagine the expense to the CP if they had actually tried to build 40 miles directly east from Auburn on their own—as compared to building 40 miles out of Sacramento.  They couldn't have done it. The CP management likely didn't realized immediately that this requirement really forced them to build directly out of Sacramento; it probably took a while to sink in.  The gauge question was settled separately from the Pacific Railroad Law—settled by Lincoln rather than Congress.  Even when they realized that they were going to have to build out of Sacramento, they would likely still have wanted to share track gauge.  They likely didn't expect to acquire the other railroads, but they would probably have expected to interchange rolling stock—at least with the California Central, which they crossed at Junction (Roseville).  As it was, when they did connect with the California Central in August 1864, they were unable to interchange.  There was talk of laying a third rail on the CP to enable Cal Central equipment to run into Sacramento that way.  But, there was no way that could be done—the rail and spikes are too wide to fit in the 3 1/2" allowed.  They would have to have laid two extra rails.  The CP foreclosed on a mortgage on the Cal Central's rolling stock—which they had acquired (from Sam Brannan), and forced the Cal Central to change its own rail—in February 1866.  The SVRR was regauged soon thereafter (about April, 1866), and the Placerville & Sacramento Valley in June, 1866.  All of this was after Huntington, Hopkins, Stanford, and the Crocker brother's purchase of controlling interest in the SVRR in August 1865 (the CPRR never bought the SVRR and those two were never merged—the SVRR eventually becoming an SP property).  The locomotive Stanford was actually ordered at 5' 0" gauge, and had to be regauged before being shipped.  The San Francisco & San Jose was chartered to 5' 0" gauge.  The "first" railroad in California was the Sacramento Valley RR.  It was chartered in 1852 and built in 1855.  Authors have stated that it was originally to be built at 5' 2" gauge, but this is unverified.  The charter doesn't mention gauge.  The RR was actually built at 5' 0" in 1855.  It was most likely built to that gauge to take advantage of the one locomotive already in California—the Elephant.  This engine was brought out in 1850 (see Jack White's American Locomotives, an engineering history—revised edition).  Individuals associated with the SVRR may have owned this engine by 1854, when the SVRR equipment was ordered.  The Elephant had originally been ordered by the South Side RR of Norfolk, Virginia, so was built to the 5' 0" gauge of Southern railroads.  In other words, the fact that the SVRR and the Cal Central were 5' 0" gauge may have been an accidental consequence of the Elephant already being in California.
    Courtesy Wendell Huffman.

    Did Indian attacks disrupt construction of the Central Pacific Railroad as they did the Union Pacific?
    No, Indian attacks on the Central Pacific Railroad were not a problem, as they were for the UPRR.  "The problem had never seriously affected the C.P.   Charlie Crocker had made sure of that by issuing lifetime passes to Shoshoni, Cheyenne and other local chieftains permitting them to ride the passenger cars, and had also decreed that tribesmen of lesser rank might ride the freight cars free for 30 years."  Also, "many Native Americans were employed in the [CPRR] construction across Nevada." 

    A Great and Shining Road by John Hoyt Williams has a number of comments about Indians and the railroad, including the following [p.134]:

    "While the Union Pacific was led in the field by generals, protected by generals, and worked by armed veterans of every rank, the Central Pacific, Shoshonespared the threat of Indian depredations, had little need of the military.  The primitive Digger Indians of that part of the Sierras being pierced by Strobridge's men were—through epidemics—mere memories.[Bakeless, 386]  Descending from the Sierras to the Truckee and the flatlands below, however, the Central Pacific's surveyors encountered Indians neither primitive nor mere memories. Here lay the lands of the Paiute, Shoshone, and several migratory branches of the ferocious Apache.  In 1863, by the Ruby Valley Treaty, various tribes had assented to open their lands (at least a very narrow strip of them) to be used for and by the railroads—a vaguely understood concession to the right of eminent domain—and, for the most part, they had remained peaceful.[Odie B. Faulk, The Crimson Desert.-Indian Wars of the American Southwest (New York, 1974), 123-25]  The Central Pacific, which was granted permission by the Nevada legislature to build through the state only in 1866,[Bancroft, Chronicles, 6:229] was taking no chances. In that year the company signed its own treaties with the dreaded Apache subtribes, Paiutes, and others-treaties replete with generous "gifts," better defined as bribes. Some of the Indians, notably the Apaches, did not, of course, become converts to philosophical pacifism, but their warpaths seldom intersected the path of the railroad, with which they had a satisfactory arrangement. Not dependent upon the buffalo for their way of life, Nevada's Indians had less to fear from the railroad than did the Indians of the Plains. In fact, the company was to encounter only one potentially dangerous Indian problem along its entire route from Sacramento to Promontory ... and that passed without much bloodshed.[Haymund, 32-33]  Peaceful or not, the Indians along the Central Pacific right-of-way did little to inspire confidence among whites, from Frémont in the 1840s to George Crofutt, who wrote in his 1869 railroad guide of the "Shoshones and [Paiutes], two tribes who seemed to be created for the express purpose of worrying immigrants, stealing stock, eating grasshoppers, and preying upon themselves and everybody else."[Crofutt, 163]  In addition to giving the Indians interesting gifts, the Central Pacific soon had any number of Indians" on its payroll,[Mayer and Vose, 93] and, as workmen were tracking the alkali flats of Nevada and Utah, the company permitted Indians to ride the trains for free. As Huntington recalled, "They were given government passes to ride in first-class cars, in the Shoshone country," and all along the line company employees had orders "to let the Indians ride and treat them well.... We always let the Indians ride when they want to,"[Huntington papers, Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, C-D 773, 2/66] said Huntington, and the company's regular passengers felt they were witness to a Wild West show." See photograph of "Shoshone Indians looking at Locomotive" (above, right).
    Indians Hunting Buffalo
    "Hunting the Buffalo." In the foreground is a mounted brave with drawn bow, closing in on an already wounded buffalo. From the octavo edition of McKenney-Hall's History of the Indian Tribes of North America. Detail of a hand colored plate, published by Rice, Rutter & Co., from an 1844 -1854 edition. Courtesy Steve Armistead, Deja View Antique Maps and Prints.

    "The Central Pacific railroad was offered Army support for protection but turned it down. They had their own ideas on how to deal with the Native Americans. When the railroad came out of the Sierra Nevada Mountains into the Nevada flat land they started running into Paiute tribes. Central Pacific Dignitaries would meet with the Chiefs and offer them treaties. They were offered free passage on the trains, and jobs. They were also told if they gave the railroad problems that the railroad had a great army of men and would defeat them. The Central Pacific at that time started using Paiutes to work on the railroad. As they moved into Shoshone territory they began to use Shoshone workers. The Central Pacific used both their men and women. It was written by an observer of that day that those Native American women were stronger than the men in back breaking work. The C.P. also hired Chief Winnemucca and his tribe to be tourist attractions. ... The Paiute and Shoshone would work along side the Chinese workers."Native Americans and the Railroad by Kerry Brinkerhoff

    A.J. Russell stereoview, Group of Shoshone Indians

    In 1868, the Central Pacific Railroad reached "French Ford" (founded in the late 1850s by a Frenchman named Joe Ginacca who settled on the banks of the Humboldt River and traded with pioneers heading west on the Emigrant Trail to California and Oregon and who also operated a ferry service that transported wagons across the Humboldt) which was renamed Winnemucca in honor of a famous Paiute chief.

    In contrast with the CPRR's satisfactory arrangement with the Indians, Union Pacific Chief Engineer Grenville M. Dodge wrote that "In 1866 ... explorations were pushed forward through dangers and hardships that very few at this day appreciate, for every mile had to be run within range of the musket, as there was not a moment's security. In making the surveys, numbers of our men, some of them the ablest and most promising, were killed; and during the construction our stock was run off by the hundred, I might say, by the thousand." Dodge wrote to General William Tecumseh Sherman: "We've got to clean the Indian out, or give up. The government may take its choice."

    Did you know that Sohcahtoa helped build the railroad?

    How many buffalo were there before the transcontinental railroad was begun and how many were left after the completion of the railroad?

    The Union Pacific, not the Central Pacific Railroad, passes through the great plains where the buffalo herds roamed.  The buffalo herds were destroyed as a part of the war against the indians mostly in the years after the completion of the railroad, but hunting by Indians on horseback (introduced less than a century earlier) had already halved the bison population prior to the railroad.   See:Buffalo Hunters, Sharps Buffalo Rifle, Buffalo and Native Americans, The Buffalo Harvest, The Buffalo Harvest, and the Harper's Weekly engravings "Buffalo Hunting." The Buffalo Range, Harper's Monthly, Jan. 1869, p.148, engraving, detail

    I have recently come across an old chamber pot, or hand held toilet, that was at one time used by the Central Pacific Railroad.  It's a large brass flanged pot with a large handle, and a brass plaque affixed to the front which reads "Notice to Passengers — Do not empty this toilet out of train window — Central Pacific RR."  I was just wondering if you could tell me something about the toilet.
    We wondered about these for quite some time and finally concluded that these are late 20th century novelty items, not genuine antiques, that were produced in two sizes and variously labeled as a Toilet, Chamberpot, or Spittoon.  The CPRR Museum includes a stereograph showing the interior of a CPRR Palace Car, about 1870 with what appear to be porcelain-items on the floor. Also commonly seen are novelty (fake) "Central & Union Pacific Railroad" belt buckles, fake lanterns, fake knives, and fake bells.

    Where can I find information about Railroad Time and the creation of Standard Time Zones?
    Our Travel Guides article has a discussion about Railroad Time, Standard Time, and Time Zones. Times for various cities are shown in an 1868 table. Also see Ian Bartky's book Selling the True Time: Nineteenth-Century Timekeeping in America.

    "The best way to predict the future is to invent it." Alan Kay

    I have this Railroad Pocket Watch ...
    The CPRR Museum doesn't have information about true "railroad watches" because they were a much later development:

    "On April 19, 1891, a great train disaster occurred that would forever change timekeeping on the railroad. Two trains, because of an engineer's faulty timepiece, collided near Cleveland, Ohio with 9 casualties.  Following the disaster, a commission was appointed to adopt a UNIVERSAL set of timekeeping standards by ALL railroads. Precision was now needed in this enormous industry.  By 1893, the General Railroad Timepiece Standards were in effect. Watches that fit this description became known as 'Railroad watches.'  Webb C. Ball, a great watch inspector and entrepreneur, had his watches, marked Ball Watch Co., made by several manufacturers including Hamilton, Illinois, Waltham, Elgin and Hampden."
    But beautiful pocket watches were certainly used to keep time on the Central Pacific. Also see: Just What Is A Railroad Watch?

    Where can I find details about CPRR locomotives? What happened to the "Jupiter" and No. 119?

    Regrettably, the CPRR's Jupiter and the UPRR's No. 119 locomotives that were at the Promontory, Utah ceremony on May 10, 1869 were both scrapped (in 1901 and 1903, respectively). Sic transit gloria mundi:

    After the ceremony the two locomotives returned to their regular duties and worked for many years before being retired. U.P. No. 119 was renumbered No. 343 in July 1885 and was rebuilt with larger driving wheels and various other changes and improvements. In April 1903 it was vacated from the equipment rolls and scrapped. Its four mates had either been scrapped or sold to second-hand locomotive dealers. In 1903 President E. H. Harriman was busy consolidating all his railroads into one system and obviously gave no thought to No. 119's fate; the Union Pacific motive power officials probably cared even less.

    The Central Pacific's "Jupiter" soon became plain No. 60, and the fact that its owners had no sentiment whatsoever about the locomotive is seen in its later history. It was renumbered No. 1195 in 1891, received a new boiler in Sacramento in 1893, and was immediately sold to the Gila Valley, Globe & Northern Railroad, then under construction north from Bowie, Arizona, on the Southern Pacific, to Globe and Miami. As G.V.G.&N. No. 1, the old "Jupiter" worked out its days and was scrapped unceremoniously at Globe in 1901, two years earlier than old Union Pacific No. 119. The late Seth Arkills of Globe, first the fireman and then the engineer of No. 1, told writers after he had retired in 1936 that everyone in Globe knew that the "One-spot" was the old "Jupiter," that it was an historic engine, and that it had been at Promontory in 1869. Arkills had developed an affection for No. 1, which caused him to have several photographs made of it on different trains which it hauled—the only photographic record of the last days of the "Jupiter." Arkills even wrote a letter of protest to Superintendent A. M. Beal, asking that the engine be preserved at Globe alongside the station. The letter accomplished nothing, for the Southern Pacific had control of the road by then and the locomotive was worth over a thousand dollars as scrap. Sentiment played no part in their thinking.

    (From "Rendezvous at Promontory: The 'Jupiter' and No. 119." By Gerald M. Best in "The Last Spike is Driven" National Golden Spike Centennial Commission Official Publication. Utah Historical Quarterly, Winter 1969, Vol. 37, No. 1, p. 75.)

    Also see Steam Locomotive FAQ's. Also see the discussion of rail cars at Promontory.

    "History is the distillation of rumour." —Thomas Carlyle

    Where can I find technical drawings giving exact dimensions of locomotive engines?
    a) Engineering drawings for the replica Jupiter and No. 119 locomotives built for the National Park Service Promontory, Utah site
    b) Dimensioned drawings of the CPRR Jupiter and UPRR #119 (the two locomotives photographed head to head at the Joining of the Rails) can be found in:
    Best, Gerald M. Iron Horses to Promontory. Golden West Books, San Marino, Calif., 1969.  (See pages 156-161.)  Copies of this book are readily available(No original plans for the Jupiter survive; plans were recreated from photographs when a replica was built for the Golden Spike National Historic Site.)
    b) "UP Locomotive #119 & CP #60, Jupiter at Promontory Summit, Utah, May 10, 1869." by Roy E. Appleman, 1966.
    d) A drawing of the Central Pacific Railroad's Jupiter engine is also shown in:
    Mayer, Lynn Rhodes and Vose, Kenneth E.   Makin’ Tracks: The Story of the Transcontinental Railroad in the Pictures and Words of the Men Who Were There.  New York, Praeger, 1975.  (See pages 182-183.)
    e) For Jupiter & #119 colors, see Jim Wilke's drawings, and Bob Luce's photographs of brass models.
    f) Links to sources of locomotive plans and drawings (the website is just about geared locomotives, but see the linked collections).
    g) Detailed plans for numerous railroad cars are in:
    Forney, Matthias N., et. al., The Car-Builder’s Dictionary:  An illustrated vocabulary of terms which designate american railroad cars, their parts and attachments.  Compiled for the Master Car-Builder’s Association.  The Railroad Gazette, New York, 1884.  (Hard to find, but a modern reprint exists.)
    Here is one drawing of an unidentified engine from Lewis Metzler Clement's personal copy of The Car-Builder’s Dictionary:

    Locomotive Drawing
    (Click to enlarge)

    "The good old days–they were terrible!" Otto Bettmann

    How many died building the Central Pacific Railroad?
    While the number is uncertain, probably about 100-150 Chinese died building the railroad (this based on the very specific reports at the time), including some who died in Nevada from smallpox.

    The engineers reported that 15 or 20 workers died in an avalanche, a year earlier two workers froze to death and were not found until the following spring, and apparently there were a limited number of casualties in the construction of Cape Horn which required the Chinese workers to be lowered on ropes over the cliff edge to blast away the rock, but as best as we can determine descriptions of "thousands ... killed" appear to be inaccurate.The newspaper article from the Sacramento Reporter of June 30, 1870 reads in its entirety: "BONES IN TRANSIT. -- The accumulated bones of perhaps 1,200 Chinamen came in by the eastern train yesterday from along the line of the Central Pacific Railroad.  The lot comprises about 20,000 pounds.  Nearly all of them are the remains of employees of the company, who were engaged in building the road.  The religious customs of the Celestial Empire require that, whenever possible, the bones of its subjects shall be interred upon its own soil, and the strictness with which this custom is observed is something remarkable." David Bain comments that despite the dangers that made transporting nitroglycerine illegal in 1867 California, the CPRR "had a surprisingly good safety record" with nitroglycerine manufactured on site by British chemist James Howden to complete blasting the (longest) summit tunnel

    Unfortunately, there is a myth that "thousands" of Chinese died building the transcontinental railroad that likely arose from a dubious short newspaper article "Bones in Transit" that appeared in the Sacramento Reporter of June 30, 1870 (see right), which reported "about 20,000 pounds" of bones shipped by rail for return to China which it The newspaper article from the Sacramento Union of June 30, 1870 reads in its entirety: "BONES OF DEFUNCT CHINAMEN -- The Central Pacific freight train last evening brought to the city the bones of about fifty defunct Chinamen who died from disease or were killed by accident while working on the line of the Central Pacific Railroad.  They are to be interred in Conboie's private cemetery, as have been already the bodies of about one hundred others similarly deceased."equates to "perhaps 1,200 Chinamen." G.J. "Chris" Graves who researched this newspaper article notes that this "equates to [16 2/3] pounds of bones per worker (20,000 divided by 1200)" while the bones of a skeleton of a small woman that he measured weighed 35 pounds, so even if the estimated weight of bones reported in the 1870 newspaper were correct, this does not necessarily correspond to 1,200 deceased. These inconsistencies have been troublesome. Newspaper article courtesy G.J. Graves, Steven Mintz, and the California State Library.

    Update: Wendell Hufman has found another newspaper article that appeared in the Sacramento Union of June 30, 1870 (above, left), stating that there were only the bones of about 50 Chinese on that train, not 1,200 as stated in the Sacramento Reporter of June 30, 1870 article published by the other Sacramento newspaper on the same day. Newspaper article courtesy Wendell Huffman, Nevada State Railroad Museum.

    Moreover, it is important not to lose sight of the sixty-fold reduction in the passenger death rate when travelling by train rather than by using horses – so that the railroad's completion undoubtedly saved vast numbers of lives. ["In 1829, one coach traveler between New York City and Cincinnati recorded no less than nine overturns on rough corduroy (log-surfaced) roads."]

    Jack Chen writes in The Chinese of America:  From the Beginnings to the Present.  (San Francisco, Harper & Row, 1980, p.70.), quoting others:

    The builders lived an eerie existence.  In The Big Four, Oscar Lewis writes,
    Tunnels were dug beneath forty-foot drifts and for months, 3,000 workmen lived curious mote-like lives, passing from work to living quarters in dim passages far beneath the snow's surface. . . . [There] was constant danger, for as snows accumulated on the upper ridges, avalanches grew frequent, their approach heralded only by a brief thunderous roar.  A second later, a work crew, a bunkhouse, an entire camp would go hurtling at a dizzy speed down miles of frozen canyon.  Not until months later were the bodies recovered; sometimes groups were found with shovels or picks still clutched in their frozen hands.
    [The Big Four, Oscar Lewis, p. 74. {instead on p. 81 in the New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1941 edition which  contains a bibliography but cites no source for this information}]
    On Christmas Day, 1866, the papers reported that "a gang of Chinamen employed by the railroad were covered up by a snow slide and four or five [note the imprecision] died before they could be exhumed."  A whole camp of Chinese railway workers was enveloped during one night and had to be rescued by shovelers the next day.

    No one has recorded the names of those who gave their lives in this stupendous undertaking.  It is known that the bones of 1,200 men were shipped back to China to be buried in the land of their forefathers, but that was by no means the total score.  The engineer [John R. Gilliss] recalled that "at Tunnel No. 10, some 15-20 Chinese [again, note the imprecision] were killed by a slide that winter. The year before, in the winter of 1864-65, two wagon road repairers had been buried and killed by a slide at the same location ."
    [Quoted in The Chinese Laborer and the Central Pacific (San Francisco: The Southern Pacific Railway Co.[sic], 1978.)]

    A. P. Partridge, who worked on the line, describes how 3,000 Chinese builders were driven out of the mountains by the early snow.  "Most . . . came to Truckee and filled up all the old buildings and sheds.  An old barn collapsed and killed four Chinese. A good many were frozen to death."... One is astonished at the fortitude, discipline and dedication of the Chinese railroad workers.

    Construction Superintendent Strobridge testified: "During the winter of 1866 and 1867 and the following winter of 1867 and 1868 there were unusually heavy snowfalls in the upper Sierra Nevadas. ... In many instances our camps were carried away by snowslides, and men were buried and many of them were not found until the snow melted the next summer."

    Similarly, Stan Steiner, paraphrasing others writes in Fusang: The Chinese Who Built America:

    And thousands of these young men gave their lives in the building of the railroads.  The dead were never counted, nor have they been memorialized.  Some twenty thousand pounds of bones were gathered from shallow graves along the roadbeds and rights of way, according to a newspaper of 1870 quoted in The History of the Chinese in America, by Philip Choy and H. Mark Lai.  These bones of about twelve hundred Chinese who died in the building of the transcontinental line were eventually shipped home.  But many others lie to this day in unmarked graves in every western state.

    The Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program website states:

    The Chinese death toll was high, though no exact records are available for verification. The Sacramento Reporter of June 30, 1870, reported that a train bearing the accumulated bones of 1,200 Chinese workers on the Central Pacific passed through Sacramento. Perhaps this can be considered a minimum figure of the loss in Chinese lives.

    Iris Chang in The Chinese in America quotes the December 25, 1866 Dutch Flat Enquirer that "a gang of Chinamen employed by the railroad ... were covered up by a snow slide and four or five died before they could be exhumed. Then snow fell to such a depth that one whole camp of Chinamen was covered up during the night and parties were digging them out when our informant left." Referring to the "Bones in Transit" newspaper account that appeared in the Sacramento Reporter of June 30, 1870, she writes in a footnote that:

    Years later, some of the Chinese railroad workers would journey back to the Sierra Nevada to search for the remains of their colleagues. On these expeditions, known as jup seen you ("retrieving deceased friends"), they would hunt for old gravesites, usually a heap of stones near the tracks marked by a wooden stake. Digging underneath the stones, they would find a skeleton next to a wax-sealed bottle, holding a strip of cloth inscribed with the worker's name, birth date, and district of origin.

    G.J. "Chris" Graves reports that "The History of Northeastern Nevada, published in 1969, on page 189, says that the Elko IndependentElko Independent, in 'its early issues' mentions 'Chinese male bodies, being transported to the charnel houses in San Francisco,' and 'Elko had a charnel house, in later years.' "

    Elko Independent, Jan. 5, 1870:
    Six cars are strung along the road between here and Toano, and are being loaded with dead Celestials for transportation to the Flowery Kingdom. We understand the Chinese Companies pay the Railroad Company $10 for carrying to San Francisco each dead Chinaman. Six cars, well stuffed with this kind of freight, will be a good day's work. The remains of the females are left to rot in shallow graves while every defunct male is carefully preserved for shipment to the Occident.
    Courtesy Amber R. Johns.
    [Elko Independent copies are housed in the NorthEast Nevada Museum, 1515 Idaho St., Elko, Nev. 89801.]

    A letter dated January 20, 1868 from Charles Crocker to Collis Huntington regarding track laying gangs states that : " ... small pox has demoralized the workers ... We are breaking in Chinamen & learning them as fast as possible." Anna [sic] Strobridge, wife of James Harvey Strobridge, Construction Foreman, nursed the workers in the pest cars – she contracted small pox while nursing the workers in Nevada. Photos of her, from 1868 on, show the effects of the disease on her face.

    It is unexpected that there would be significant casualties in flat Nevada where the dangerous aspects of the Sierra construction such as blasting, avalanches, and mudslides were lacking. Perhaps these were not construction casualties, but instead were due to the January, 1869 smallpox outbreak among the CPRR workers. In California, as well as Nevada, in 1870, ... if one were to disinter a deceased person, a coroner or law officer was needed to prepare a report of the incident. ... the Placer County (California) archives [has] such a report ... but in the mid 1870's  ...  The Chinese cemetery in Auburn today contains only a few bodies, apparently, as in the 1880's most graves were entered, and the remains shipped to China.

    From the Elko Independent, 1868:

    "Killing Chinamen at Toana – On the afternoon of Monday last John Burke and Thomas Williams, employed on sections 128 and 124, at Loray, eight miles east of Toana, on returning from Toana on a hand-car, where they had been on a spree, requested the Chinese cook to help them lift the car from the track; who, on refusing, they attacked with a shovel, cutting his head badly.  The Chinaman ran to the house and gained admittance at the back door.  Another Chinaman come to assist him, who was beset upon by Burke and Williams, knocked down and bruised in such a way that he died in about an hour afterwards.  The first Chinaman will probably not survive.  The Chinamen were off duty at the time, and did not deem it their duty to help.  The men went to Toana and gave themselves up, and were brought down and incarcerated in jail on Thursday, to await the action of the Grand Jury."

    Chris Graves notes further that "There were a lot of Chinese workers in the mines in northern Nevada in 1870.  For example, the Federal Census, June, 1870 for Placerville Nevada says that there were 37 Chinese dwellings in Placerville; of the 160 residents in the town, 123 were Chinese males living in the 37 dwellings; total number of dwellings were 52 in the town.  Two of the Chinese were the town cooks, one was a laborer, four did washing, and 116 were miners.  Who is to say that the 6 rail cars, strung out between Elko and Toano weren't picking up some deceased miners, too?"

    ... [In] the Bancroft Library, Berkeley, Calif., Bancroft Scraps, Idaho Miscellany, P-H-3, the oral history of F. R. Starr ... says "300 Chinamen and 2 white men, on their way to Idaho" were attacked and killed by hostile Indians, in an area known today as Battle Creek. This battle took place in May or June, 1866.  He goes on to say "the soldiers dug a large grave 12 feet square and quite deep, into which the bodies were thrown and it is to be plainly defined by the mat of wild rose bushes that grow in the sunken spot ... the white men are buried a few yards away." Could these "300" be part of [the reported 1,200]?  Difficult to say. "300"? More difficult to validate.

    The Bureau of Indian Affairs (Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, 1867-1868, page 97, says in part "travellers coming over the road afterwards report finding 102 unburied bodies of Chinese lying exposed along the route." ... The Mexican War of 1846-1848 (according to the US War Dept) had 1,548 deaths due to battle, and 10,970 deaths due to illness.  I shouldn't wonder that if one were to compare the experiences of the soldiers in the War and the railroad workers of 1863-1869, similiar hardships would be surfaced.

    William F. Chew, great-grandson of two CPRR workers, and author of Nameless Builders of the Transcontinental Railroad attempts to calculate total deaths by adding up numbers he found published in the secondary literature totaling approximately 146 reported fatalities plus the "possibly 1200" reburied figure noted above to reach an estimated total of 1,346 Chinese workmen killed, but it is not correct to add the number reported killed plus (even if correct) the number of bodies reported reburied to reach a total, as this double counts the reported fatalities. Additionally, his estimate is dominated by the single report of "possibly 1200" which seems to itself be an estimate based on an approximate weight of 20,000 lbs., which appears to have been miscalculated in view of the Elko Independent report that instead makes clear that the male bodies were "carefully preserved," and were thus not lightweight bones. It is speculation as to what weight should be estimated per corpse, and whether the weight includes a casket, but dividing 20,000 lbs. by any plausible weight for each carefully preserved corpse does not result in a number remotely approaching "possibly 1200." (Working backwards using his data, if the 20,000 lbs is instead assumed to represent the same approximately 146 reported fatalities, this equates to a weight of 20,000/146 = 137 lbs. shipping weight/preserved corpse which seems at least somewhat plausible.) While his reliance on secondary sources and calculations of an estimated total Chinese workforce and number killed appear dubious [Supt. Strobridge's 19th century testimony was that our maximum strength ... very nearly approached 10,000 men on the work] and the engineers' and contemporary newspaper reports were of only few casualties (see above), Mr. Chew's book likely will be of very great interest, as he has for the first time extracted much detailed information about the Chinese workers from the recently available primary source CPRR payroll records at the California State Railroad Museum. Also see G.J. Graves' additional comments. Alert!See William Chew's Rebuttal

    Forensic Anthropologist, Professor and Chairman Michael Finnegan, PhD, D-ABFA, Kansas State University, Anthropology Program, advises that: "The weight of one of your CPRR skeletons is nearly impossible to tell. Was there any soft tissue, fat with in the bone, adherent dirt, etc. Time in ground, soil type, and any number of other variables will influence the weight of a skeleton. My recorded burial weights are from 5 lbs, to ca. 20 lbs.; my average is about 7 lbs. The lighter ones have been in the ground some 100 years and the heavier, in the ground a year or two. Your material is anybody's guess."

    Edson T Strobridge comments that "The agreements that the Central Pacific made with the Chinese Six Companies was that the bones of Chinese were to be returned to their homeland and that they were. But to get concerned about a newspaper article reportedly published in 1870 without any supporting information is nothing more than an interesting story. The Chinese Six Co.'s shipped back the bones of the dead from all over their area of influence and that includes men from all occupations, not just the Central Pacific. ... I do question ... the 20,000 pounds figure. Had they been weighed the figure would have reflected an actual weight ... a Charnel House car that was 25 x 8 feet when the standard car length was 30 feet also makes one think that the Central Pacific was prepared for this special event with a special car. ... [for the above newspaper story to be true] Charlie Crocker must have kept records as to where all the dead laborers lay so he could go back and pick up the bones ... [which does not agree with other claims that] Strobridge and Crocker [were] so heartless [they didn't even] keep track of the deaths and where the bodies were buried. ... 'nearly all' of the 1200 dead represent ... '... a lot of people,' a greater percentage than most military units lost in combat during the Civil War. The railroad being ... 647 miles ... from just east of Clipper Gap where the first Chinese were employed to Promontory Summit would equate to ... 1.85 bodies per mile. The question here is, did the Central Pacific actually lose, by death, more than 10% of their Chinese labor force and at the rate of nearly two men to the mile. No photographs, no reports, no written records, nothing in all the reminisces written by key people in later years, nothing in the newspapers. Nothing at all reporting the slaughter of two men per mile. ...  So where do we go from here? For one, I am a skeptic ..." ... "In general the deaths that were reported were during the building of the railroad over the Sierras but once over the mountains and into the deserts of Nevada and Utah there are no records of any deaths except during a Jan. 1869 smallpox epidemic when nearly all that went into the Pest Cars died. Even then, no nationalities or numbers were reported." ... "Engineer John R. Gillis reported "At Donner pass I only recollect two accidents [using nitroglycerine] and those would have happened with powder. ... [ASCE Transactions, Tunnels of the Pacific Railroad, Vol. I 1872, pg 160.] ... the CPRR didn't keep records on any deaths, white or Chinese. The fact of the matter is that the builders, including the engineers that worked for the Contract & Finance Co. west of the California State line, of the Central Pacific were employees of the contractor and would have been recorded  in the contractors books (which were never found) and not the CPRR's. This of course does not include those Engineers hired directly by the CPRR, like Judah, Montague, Clement and their fellow associates."
    [Note: The report that nearly all that went into the Pest Cars died suggests an unusually virulent strain of smallpox. The Control of Communicable Diseases Manual, 18th edition, 2004 states that "Two types of smallpox were recognized during the 20th century. Variola minor (alastim), which had a case fatality rate of less than 1% and variola major with a fatality rate among unvaccinated populations of 20-50% or more."]

    So it seems that the notion that "thousands" died building the CPRR is an exaggeration of a possibly miscalculated estimate taken from an 1870 newspaper account about the weight of exhumed bones being shipped to China.  But, as best as we can determine the number of documented fatalities during the CPRR construction reported by those actually participating is quite small, perhaps less than 50 [actually, (15-20)+2+(4-5)+4+(3-5)=(28-36)].  Although any loss of life is tragic, this small number would be an excellent safety record considering that they were working in the mountains in blizzard conditions and across deserts away from civilization doing incredibly difficult and dangerous work with only manual labor, black powder, and nitroglycerine manufactured on the spot.  The descriptions of individual fatal incidents (see above) are so specific that it is hard to imagine that there were so many others that weren't mentioned by the engineers actually in charge of the construction.  We also have not found any evidence that safety was an issue when the Chinese workers went on strike for a week in June, 1867.  It is hard to accept that the workers would go on strike asking for a pay raise from thirty-five to forty dollars a month without demanding improved safety if there had been mass casualties with ultimately about 1 in 7.5 (1,200 of 9,000, or 13.3%) supposedly killed as the newspaper article cited above would have us believe.  (Note that if William F. Chew's much higher estimate of the size of the Chinese workforce were correct, this would correspondingly lower the calculated death rate, but he attempts to calculate the size of the workforce despite his reseach showing names of the many headmen listed but almost all of the "nameless" Chinese laborers left unrecorded and most of the monthly payroll documents missing. How can you add up worker counts from multiple but incomplete payroll records and eliminate duplicates so as not to repeatedly recount the same workers month after month when most of the laborers are as he states in the title of his book "nameless"?) Taking into account the arid conditions along 80% of the CPRR right of way, is it consistent with the current knowledge of forensic science that bodies buried in shallow graves would leave bones in 1-3 years as would be required for the scenario described to be correct?  If true, who recovered these bones for shipment to China?  How were graves located and massive amounts of bones retrieved along hundreds of miles of track in the wilderness? Were the bones returned to China really limited to railroad workers only, as reported in that newspaper, or did the opening of the railroad make it feasible for the remains also of miners and other Chinese who had died over a period of two decades finally to be transported on that train which arrived in Sacramento on June 29, 1870? Is the Elko Independent article of January 5, 1870 instead correct that "every defunct male is carefully preserved for shipment to the Occident" in which case the estimate of 20,000 pounds of remains, even if correct would equate to perhaps 130-200, not 1,200 fatalities?

    It would be interesting to know the number of documented fatalities from building the UPRR from Omaha to Promontory as a comparison, but former UPRR Historian, Don Snoddy has "never seen anything that even remotely suggests how many fatalities there were. ... " Empire Express author, David H. Bain confirms that, regarding the Union Pacific Railroad construction, "No, there is no toll in any one place. Don is right. One could go through all the daily telegrams and reports and begin to get the numbers killed by Indians or in selectively reported melees in the Hell towns, but I never saw any figures for accidents, disease, etc. ... "

    What is the truth?  Can you provide other information about construction related casualties so that we can better evaluate the accuracy of this newspaper guess of 1,200 killed which appears so doubtful, and which was contradicted by another article published the same day stating that the number was 50? Are deaths from smallpox being confused with construction accidents? It is particularly inappropriate for authors to seize on this solitary and internally inconsistent newspaper article's likely overestimate of casualties (apparently based neither on actually weighing nor counting the bodies), and then attempt to further inflate the casualty figures by double counting fatalities (total casualties does not equal the number who died plus the number reburied!) or by speculating that there are lots of other supposed unreported fatalities and bodies still buried by the tracks while completely ignoring the same newspaper article's concluding statement to the contrary that "the strictness with which ... this ... religious ... custom [of reinterring on Chinese soil] is observed is something remarkable." That CPRR Chinese fatalities are much better documented than UPRR Irish fatalities does not support modern suppositions that information is lacking due to 19th century racially motivated indifference to Chinese casualties. We conclude that any claim of more than 150 Chinese killed is extremely dubious.

    "A government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend upon the support of Paul."George Bernard Shaw

    "If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it's free." P.J. O'Rourke

    What was the weight of a keg of black powder used on the original construction of the Central Pacific Railroad during the years 1864-1869 as produced by the Santa Cruz Powder Company or any other California source?  Were they 25 lb. or 40 lb. wooden kegs?
    The Sacramento Union Newspaper, Sept. 1, 1866, page 3, col. 3, reported that:  "The Santa Cruz powder mills are located in a little valley of the San Lorenzo, perhaps 50 acres in extent. ... The works are owned by a San Francisco company of capitalists. ... The various departments of powder making — and there are many — are carried on ... The capacity of the mills has recently been increased to six hundred kegs of powder per day — a third more than formerly. ... The manufacture of the kegs — really the most interesting part of the business — is performed by Chinamen.  The work of sawing, edging and joining the staves, turning the heads, preparing the hoops, etc. is all done by machinery. ..."  From the above, it can be determined the kegs were made of wood.
    The book History of the Explosives Industry in America, by Arthur Pine Van Gelder, published in 1927 by Columbia University, says, beginning on page 289, "West Coast Powder Mills":  "Up to the time of the Civil War all the powder used on the West Coast had to be imported from the East or from Europe.  In 1849, ... the duPont company established an agency at San Francisco.  Shipments were made around the Horn or the Isthmus of Panama ... Before long the shipments of powder by sea was entirely prohibited ... the price of powder advanced to $12 or $13 a keg ... the Collector of the Port of San Francisco telegraphed in 1863  ... unless powder was sent promptly, the shipments of gold would stop ... but also for construction of the western end of the transcontinental railroad ... would have to build a powder mill of their own.  California Powder Works incorporated in 186l ... the first invoice was dated July 16, 1864 ... before long the output reached 4,000 kegs (100,000 pounds) a month, and by 1865 the business ... had a capital stock of $300,000. ... turning out 20,000 kegs a month ... In May 1874 the use of wooden kegs was was discontinued and machinery installed for the manufacture of metallic kegs..."  This clearly tells of CPRR 25 pound wooden black powder kegs (=100,000 lbs./4,000 kegs).  Representative 1866 invoices from the CPRR Library state:  "July 5, 1866, submitted by C. Crocker in the month of March, paid July 5, 1866" and "Camp 2, March, 1866, ... 9 kegs of powder, $5. each, $45 total ... 6 kegs of powder, $5 each, $30 total ... 8 kegs of powder, $5 each, total $40."  However, Mead Kibbey reportedly has an example of a 40 lb. wooden keg and several railroad historians recall the kegs as being 40 lbs., for example, Norman Wilson, the Archeologist in charge when the Cal. State RR Museum was built, but we are unable to document the source of this figure.  The Ranger at Samuel P. Taylor State Park, Marin Co., Cal., where the 1864 black powder was made, says the barrels/kegs weighed 40 lbs. that he had a keg or records of same.
    A January 3, 1966 memorandum entitled The Chinese Role in Building the Central Pacific from the Southern Pacific Public Relations Department in San Francisco makes clear that empty powder kegs were reused, stating on page 3:  "The Chinese on the Central Pacific were divided into little groups.  Each group had a cook who not only prepared their meals but was required to have a large boiler of hot water each night so that when the Chinese came off the grade they could fill their little tubs made from powder kegs and take a hot sponge bath.  This bath and change of clothes was a regular thing every night before they took their evening meal."
    The powder kegs used in the UPRR construction which all came from sources to the east definitely weighed 25 lbs. each, as can be readily calculated from the definitive engineering article by Gilliss on the Tunnels of the Pacific Railroad, Van Nostrand's Eclectic Engineering Magazine, Vol. II, 1870 pp. 418-423, which states:  "In [UPRR] tunnel No. 4, 1,960 cubic yards were taken out with powder, requiring 289 kegs and 7,000 ft. of fuse, or 3 7/10 lbs. powder and 3 6/10 ft. fuze per cubic yard."  The calculation is as follows:  1,960 cubic yards of rock x 3.7 lbs. powder/cubic yard of rock = 7,252 lbs. powder;  7,252 lbs. powder = 289 kegs, so there were 7,252/289 = 25 lbs. powder/keg.  A paper presented to the ASCE, and published in the same Vol. I of Transactions in 1872 as Gilliss' report, by E. P. North, Civil Engineer on the Union Pacific describes a couple of open cut blasts  with the use of "111 kegs in all, which at 25 lbs. per keg is 2,775 lbs." which verifies 25 pound UPRR powder kegs.
    Twenty-five pound tin cans of powder were used on work in 1909.
    Courtesy Edson T. Strobridge, G. J. "Chris" Graves, and the Utah State Historical Society.

    The USGS topo map (Cisco Grove 7.5 min. quadrangle) identifies an abandoned railroad lookout on Red Mountain which is along I-80 at Cisco Grove, California in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  What is the purpose and history of such lookouts?
    The "lookouts" were to spot fires which had been started by sparks or embers from the engines along the tracks in general — and particularly in the snowsheds.  Fire trains were always kept manned and ready (steam up) along the line (especially at the Summit station) to be dispatched by telegraph to put out these fires as soon as they were spotted.  The large, inverted cone shaped structures installed over the stacks of all wood burning engines were also for this purpose.  These were called spark arrestors.  They consisted of a deflector cone immediately over the smokestack (located inside the arrestor) to force the steam and smoke exhaust against the sides of the spark arrestor which trapped most of the embers which had escaped from the firebox.  Installed over the top of the arrestor was a dome shaped wire screen which also was designed to prevent these embers from escaping from the arrestor.  Fires along the line have always been one of the most serious types of casualty for steam railroads.  This was especially true for the Sierra portion of the CPRR because of remoteness of the line, the surrounding forests, and the many miles of timber snowsheds.  Courtesy Bruce C. Cooper

    "Anything worth doing is worth doing slowly." Mae West

    How can I make the pictures download faster?
    If you have a slow Internet connection, you can CLICK "Faster" on the tan navigation bar on the Welcome or Home pages to see the same page with smaller, more compressed pictures that download more than six times faster.   The smaller pictures won't be as pretty and detailed, but it's a time saver.  You can CLICK "Larger" to return to the page with the best quality large sized images. [In 2004 the number of fast "broadband" connections in the U.S. surpassed the older slow dial-up type of internet connections – so if you still have a slow connection, it's time to upgrade to high-speed cable modem, DSL, or satellite internet now available almost everywhere!]

    Why don't you compress the image files to about 60 kilobytes so they will download much faster?
    We know you hate waiting for web pages to download — we do too.  We have experimented endlessly with varying image size, resolution, sharpness, compression, and formatting, trying both jpeg and gif images using Adobe Photoshop, Canvas, Corel Photo-Paint, Quicknailer, Web Vise, and Graphic Converter trying to speed image downloading.  We know the statistics that say that many people leave after 20 seconds and that 3 minutes to download a page via a dial-up Internet connection is way too long.  We don't know how to create high quality, quick loading more highly compressed files.  [The success in compressing 24 megabytes files down to less than 200 kilobytes is pretty amazing, but Cosine transforms and LZW compression have their limits — wavelet or fractal compression might do better but are not yet widely available.  Fortunately, wavelet compression will be included in JPEG2000.]  We can easily make rapid loading smaller pictures that obscure detail, or rapid loading large pictures that are blurred or look terrible due to image artifacts [especially pixellation, density contouring, and ringing], with unreadable annotation — but fast, sharp, great looking large pictures with legible captions and visible detail (i.e., with image quality as good as your monitor can display) have eluded us.  When forced to choose, we preferred slow over ugly (the internet's speed is growing at 50% a year).  We've provided alternate faster-loading welcome and faster-loading home pages which have smaller pictures, and exhibits with smaller index images that you can click on when you want to see the larger images. If you know how to do better, please tell us!  You've waited 130 years to see these great pictures, and it has taken 50 year for computers to be up to the task  — we hope that you'll give it the extra few moments it takes to do it right. JPEG2000 should help solve this problem by compressing 30-50% more efficiently, with fewer artifacts, and most importantly, by giving you the choice of how much resolution you're willing to wait to see.  Consequently, we plan to adopt JPEG2000 when it becomes widely supported by web browsers.  (JPEG2000 is scheduled to become an international standard.)

    "Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But then I repeat myself." —Mark Twain

    "There is no distinctly native American criminal class ... save Congress." —Mark Twain

    May we link to your website?
    Please feel free to include a link to <> on your website.  If you wish, you may use the image at <> or at <> and the associated text (as shown below), linked to our website.  We would appreciate your letting us know about your link so that we can establish a reciprocal link, if appropriate.  Thanks for your link!
  Central Pacific Railroad Photographic History Museum - stereoviews, engravings, maps, and documents illustrating the history of the first transcontinental railroad.

    Noticed that your site is posted on most major search engines.  I am trying to post [my website] to the search engines with little luck.  Could you tell me your secret?
    See Search Engine Secrets.

    What format should I use to contribute my scans of railroad images to the website?
    Thank you for your efforts, generosity, and permission to use your images and include them in the Central Pacific Railroad Photographic History Museum!  In order to be able to achieve maximum image quality we would need you to e-mail us high resolution color scans of the each image, one image per e-mail, or tell us the URL's if your contributed images are available for us to download from the Internet.  [Other possibilities include mailing us 35 mm color film negatives or slides, color prints, or digital images on CD, DVD, 128 or 230 MB magneto-optical disks, or floppy disks.]  Any manner of creating and sending us high quality images is great.  One method that has worked well is using 600 dpi high resolution jpeg scans with "medium" compression so that they are under 2 megabytes per image, not too large to e-mail, while capturing the full detail and coloration of each photograph.  This also allows us to select a portion of the image which we can enlarge to illustrate an interesting detail.  (A common error is to have the scanner magnification set to something other than 100%;  a "600 dpi" scan at 50% magnification is really a 300 dpi scan, not the 600 dpi scan needed.  The number of dots per inch refers to the original photograph, not the digital image in the computer.   So a 3.5" x 7" stereograph that is scanned at 600 dpi optical resolution results in a digital image with 2,100 x 4,200 pixels each of which is actually measured by the scanner in three colors, resulting in an image file of about 25 megabytes prior to jpeg compression.  Most stereographs really need 600 dpi to avoid significant blurring.)  If you have a related website or auction, please let us know.  Please check back at our website and send us any suggestions. If the picture you want to send is too big to e-mail, just click here to upload it to us.

    "Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work."  —Thomas Alva Edison

    How do I request permission to copy or publish images or other content from the CPRR Museum website? [Sorry, LICENSING FOR PUBLICATION USE HAS BEEN SUSPENDED (October 25, 2014).]
    We encourage efforts to make these treasured historic images more widely available, but permission is required.  So, if you would like to publish or use the photographs or other CPRR Museum content, please see the permissions section of this website's User Agreement. The website has thousands of images, and our ability to give permission varies from image to image, so you'll need to be specific in your request. We need to know which pictures you want and where you found them. Please tell us the internet address (URL) of the webpage where each picture you are requesting is located and if there is more than one picture on that webpage, also tell us the picture caption or description. The price for publication use depends on the number of copies of the book, etc., and what rights are needed. If the licensed images are actually used as requested, unlike most other sources for historic images, there is no additional charge for subsidized image preparation or for internet delivery. Please keep in mind that requests for custom high resolution images for print publication use may require several hours devoted to image preparation for each such image, so to avoid squandering our very limited resources, we only accept firm orders that include a binding commitment to actually publish the licensed images. Images and other content from the Central Pacific Railroad Photographic History Museum are used by PBS's The American Experience, Amtrak, CNN, Yahoo!, The National Geographic Society, Union Pacific, NOVA - PBS - WGBH Boston, The Ellis Island Immigration Museum, Chedd-Angier Productions, The Franklin Institute, The Chicago Museum of Science and Industry (in "The Great Train Story" permanent exhibit), The Henry Morrison Flagler Museum, The United States Senate, Union Pacific Railroad Museum, The California State Railroad Museum, The Utah State Historical Society, The City of Palo Alto, University of Washington, Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, Hollywood Bowl, The Southern California Regional Rail Authority, Metrolink, Congressional Quarterly, Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, Scholastic, US Trust Company, The Sacramento Bee, Wired Magazine, Polyglot Press; Harcourt, W.W. Norton, Marshall Cavendish, Pearson, Houghton Mifflin, Rosen Publishing, Discovery Books, Gareth Stevens, World Almanac, Sopris West Educational Services, Benchmark Education Company, Quarasan, The Wright Group, and McGraw-Hill textbooks, Amtrak National Train Day; China Intercontinental Press; The History Channel, Southern Pacific Historical & Technical Society, Screaming Flea Productions, Bailey Lauerman, HiddenHill Productions, Lionel Trains, Herff Jones, Decision Development Corporation, High Desert Museum, Southwest Center for Educational Excellence, Oregon State University, Indiana University, Purdue University, Fremont Unified School District, Chicago WebDocent collaboration of the Chicago Public Schools, The University of Chicago, The Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum, The Field Museum of Natural History, The Museum of Science and Industry, The Oriental Institute, and the Chicago Historical Society, and others.
    (Sorry about all the rights and permissions legalese — otherwise it wouldn't be feasible for rare and valuable collections to be available for your study on the net.)
    Warning - ORDERS ONLY! – ALL ORDERS FINAL![Paid professional photograph researchers should clearly understand that this educational CPRR Museum is not free of charge for commercial use, research, or publication and is nothing like high volume photography "stock house" websites that are provided only for commercial use, are visited almost exclusively by people buying images, have only images as content, and have a large number of existing pre-prepared high resolution images ready for automated sale on a broad range of topics, not necessarily with much depth in any particular subject. Our specialized Museum's characteristics are quite different in every one of these respects. Sorry, but our need to research and often do custom preparation of each requested high resolution image requires an "ORDERS ONLY! – ALL ORDERS FINAL!" policy to conserve our very limited resources, i.e., that commercial permissions inquiries create an obligation (if the requested images are available) to purchase the resulting offered license, make prompt payment of the use fees, and to actually make the approved use of the licensed images, with penalties for non-compliance. Images are not offered on approval, and licensees may not delay payment, for example, until a book is finalized and ready to go to press. So please: (1) find out the cost, (2) read the details, and do your homework to decide which images you will actually use before (3) e-mailing for permission: We're delighted to be able to help with your your project, but we will become irate if you waste our time and squander our limited resources by not using images prepared and/or researched for you at your request, so "If you don't want to buy a license, don't e-mail us about permissions — it's that simple!" Sorry to be so hard nosed about the payment and usage policies, but the alternative is to disappoint people if we were forced to stop licensing these historic images. It just doesn't work for us to subsidize custom artwork if the efforts and the considerable time involved are wasted.]

    "Contentrated power is not rendered harmless by the good intentions of those who create it." Milton Friedman [Don't miss his TV series, Free to Choose]

    "The most fundamental objection to draft registration is moral. ... The notion of involuntary servitude, in whatever form, is simply incompatible with a free society." —President Ronald Reagan

    Can I use images from the CPRR Museum on another website?
    You are welcome to request permission.   We prefer to be able to grow our museum so that people seeking historically accurate information about the transcontinental railroad come to our website but are happy to consider all requests.  Let us know if perhaps one of the following suggested simpler, quicker, and/or no cost alternatives will meet your needs:

    Our "Great Railroad Race" game for elementary school students and our "Hydraulic Mining" pages are two examples of very successful customized pages and collaborative projects which are now part of the CPRR Museum.  We can sometimes also include pictures from elsewhere with suitable permission, or we may be able to provide substitutes.
    [Rant:  We devised the above suggested alternatives because we're dissatisfied with the ridiculous difficulty and complexity of arranging permissions for use of these images on other websites — but keep in mind that the related intellectual property law is so complex, confusing, and unsettled, that it has lead some of the smartest people around into making billion dollar blunders.  Please ask permission and work with us — we get very cranky when pirating of images forces us to shut down a project that we may think is terrific and would have been pleased to host at our expense. Essentially there are two complexities, first that our getting permission to diplay images on this website does not necessarily authorize us to let you put them on yours, and second that we don't know of a simple way of putting our images on your website while retaining future commerical reproduction rights needed to fund our and other museums' projects — but both issues are avoided if we can meet your needs by hosting a new or customized CPRR Museum webpage for you to link to, instead. This approach of coordinated display of your content exclusively on your website and our content exclusively on our website also avoids any need to modify terms of use that may differ between the respective websites.]

    "Whenever I feel the need to take some exercise I lie down until the feeling goes away." Winston Churchill

    "My heart is warm with the friends I make,
    And better friends I'll not be knowing,
    Yet there isn't a train I wouldn't take
    No matter where it's going."

    Edna St. Vincent Millay

    "We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life, when all that we need to make us really happy is something to be enthusiastic about." —Charles Kingsley

    What do you like best and what do you like least about having this website?
    BEST:  The unexpected and amazing success and impact of the CPRR Museum in educating more than a million visitors about the railroad's contribution to American history – it's truely awesome to be able to positively influence so many lives. The many generous donors who have shared their valuable collections, the wonderful kudos we've received, the new friends we've met on-line, and the opportunity to share these historic treasures and provide help to folks with inquires and requests. That our sense of wonder continues at how incredibly easy, fast, and inexpensive publication on the Internet really is.
    WORST:  Running out of space for more exhibits, which fortunately is no longer an issue. The awful and ridiculously complex legal aspects (and the <0.002% of visitors that upset us by getting irate about legal matters that are largely not within our control).  For example, we have to do what we understand to be "legally correct" to protect our donors; and we still can't believe that new federal laws actually make helping kids with their homework potentially illegal because e-mails are archived, and make it illegal for .kids websites to link to the Library of Congress. Visitors who e-mail us vague requests for pictures but won't tell us which ones they want are quite annoying (the record is seven e-mails without ever getting to the point).  But the things that get us really upset and spoil it for everyone are the few scofflaw webmasters who pirate our pictures, anger our donors, and put our project in jeopardy, especially when they plagiarize and falsely take credit for others' efforts or collections, and those who ignore our "orders only" policy and squander enormous amounts of our time by requesting customized high resolution restored pictures for publication that they then tell us they're not sure they really want. That receiving financial support for our efforts from a website user just visiting to enjoy the CPRR Museum is approximately equally likely as their getting struck by lightning – so to improve the odds, we ask visitors to both be more generous and don't play outdoors during thunderstorms. That almost nobody buys the wonderful railroad books offered – or does that mean than visitors find this website so great that they have decided that they no longer need any books?

    "Life is what happens while we are busy making other plans." John Lennon

    Many of the stereographs printed by Hart on yellow mounts, especially those earlier cards with square rather than rounded corners (but not Watkins, usually on red mounts) show darkening with a pronounced purple-magenta discoloration (see image below).  Do you have any information regarding the cause?  Is this due to lack of adequate fixation of the print?  Do such darkened albumen prints show further darkening (or fading) with light exposure and/or over time?

    Dark image due to inadequate fixation (Hart 213)

    "PRINTING ON ALBUMENIZED PAPER.  ... the fixing-bath is to dissolve the silver chloride not acted upon by light;  without which the picture is subject to further light-action, will consequently not retain its brilliancy and definition, and will, in fact, assume a dark color all over." (Adams, W. I. Lincoln.  The Photographic Instructor ...  New York, Scovill Manufacturing Company, 1888.  p.50)   As discussed on the Technical Notes page, this discoloration can be digitally restored.
    [Please let us know if you have any further information answering this or the other questions.]

    "Progress is precisely that which the rules and regulations did not forsee." Ludwig von Mises

    More wonderful quotations, anecdotes, and aphorisms

    How is the condition of stereographs graded?
    The following numeric or abbreviated grades are commonly used:

    1. [F]  Fair. Serious problems.
    2. [G]  Good. Average collectable condition (large range), which may exhibit minor fading, soil, emulsion rubs, faint wipes, foxing, stains, wear (especially to mount), or creased mount.
    3. [VG]  Very Good. Image shows good, rich tones (close to excellent), clean or very slight soil, may show minor wear (especially to mount), attractive presence without distracting problems.
    4. [EX]  Excellent. Fresh, clean and like new.  Originally produced at an unusually high level of richness and preserved in or near original condition.  This highest grade used sparingly.

    Problems are described.  (Actual damage that does not otherwise change the overall grade may be indicated with "D" as a prefix, or by stating "otherwise" ["o/w"]).  Sometimes for fine tuning "+" and "-" is used to indicate better or worse condition within the range of a grade.  Some give two grades, one for the images, followed by a separate grade for the cardboard mount.  "Fine" is used by some in place of "Very Good" or, confusingly, by others in place of "Excellent."  Variations of the above grading system are also seen.
    After Tim McIntyre and Larry Gottheim.

    "The secret of being a bore is to tell all ..." —Rémy de Gourmont

    How should I protect 19th century materials when shipping them?
    Be aware that the edges of heavy boxes will be thrown at your packaging during shipment, and the package may be left out in the rain. These treasures have survived for more than a century  —  it would be a tragedy to destroy them during shipment due to inadequate packaging.  Make sure that these delicate items are wrapped in plastic (polypropylene or Mylar D polyester is best), protected so that tape cannot come in contact with them, secured so that they can't shift around in the packaging during shipment, and — most importantly — protected against bending and gouging by double corrugated heavy weight cardboard or foam core board on both sides.  (Heavy weight  corrugated cardboard can be readily identified because each piece contains two layers of corrugations, making it very strong and rigid.)  When shipping large items use at least three or four layers of heavy weight cardboard or foam core board.  (If using cardboard, layers should have corrugations oriented at right angles to each other, so that the multilayer cardboard cannot easily  be bent or folded.)

    Four to six layers of cardboard corrugations is the minimum sufficient to prevent shipping damage.  Plain cardboard or single corrugation light weight cardboard in an unpadded envelope is not sufficient to prevent damage when the edge of a heavy box is thrown at the stereoview:

    Postal Damage
    A Muybridge stereoview mailed between two layers of light weight corrugated cardboard
    was bent causing a crease in the card and a break in the photographic emulsion.

    One dealer, Yann Maillet, cleverly uses a single piece of 8" x 11" heavy weight corrugated cardboard folded in three (4", 4", overlapping 3"), taped shut with paper filament package tape to create an extremely strong, small (4" x 8"), and inexpensive stereograph mailer with six layers of corrugations — two double layers of corrugations protecting the front of the stereograph and one double layer protecting the verso:

    Yann Maillet's stereograph mailer

    Bubble wrap and plastic or biodegradable "peanuts" are effective in preventing crushing.  (Bubble wrap is absolutely essential to protect glass in picture frames.  But, shattered glass will likely damage a framed item, so it is safer to remove the glass, or safest to substitute plastic for glass [which is also advisable in earthquake prone regions].)  When wrapping the item in plastic, keep in mind that the package may get left outdoors in the rain and get wet.  Make sure that the package can be easily opened without damaging the items by someone who doesn't know your wrapping secrets.  Package tape should be used on the outside of the package because the glue is quite strong.  Clear package tape is preferred so that the recipient is not left guessing how the packaging is constructed.  (If opaque tape is used, indicate where it should be cut to safely open the package.)  Avoid placing tape that defeats the pull strip designed to allow packaging to be safely opened.  Within the outer packaging use translucent 3M Scotch Magic Tape on plastic bags and to secure bubble wrap because this tape can be readily seen and peeled away without destroying the plastic bags, sleeves, and bubble wrap and without causing excessive force to be applied to delicate items (not clear package tape which is too strong and is very hard to see on bubble wrap).  Within the outer packaging, create easy to grab free tape ends to facilitate peeling off the tape  —  fold the first 1/4" of the end or corner of the tape onto itself.  Use 3M Post-It notes on plastic sleeves to temporarily annotate items, not the chemically reactive white paper sticky gummed labels which are difficult to remove and therefore tend to be left in place during long term storage, and which are also known to damage CD's & DVD's.  Mark flat packages prominently both front and back: "DO NOT BEND." Fully insure valuable items being shipped.  Remember to include both the item number and description in all correspondence, in the subject line of e-mail, and with the shipment. If you must roll a folded map, to prevent damage, roll it up only in the direction so that the fold stays straight, because rolling the fold into a spiral causes the paper at the fold to crinkle.
    DO NOT USE U.S. MAIL FOR HISTORIC OR COLOR PHOTOGRAPHS, BOOKS, OR PAPER ITEMS WHICH MAY BE SEVERELY DAMAGED OR DESTROYED BY THE EXTREMELY HIGH DOSE ELECTRON BEAM RADIATION NECESSARY TO ERADICATE ANTHRAX SPORES.  High level radiation will likely harm not only undeveloped film, but also severely damage paper, developed photographic prints and slides, and computer media. This is a real risk – the U.S. Postal Service destroyed using radiation items that we mailed in December, 2005. The experience reported by the Library of Congress's Copyright Office is that mail irradiation had the following effects: "Among the mail received so far, some pieces are in good shape, and some have problems. The latter includes brittle, discolored applications, damaged deposits, and materials fused together." See the Smithsonian Center for Materials Research and Education for further details: "... it is strongly suggested that mailing through USPS of vulnerable specimens and collection items, as well as important research information on magnetic media or undeveloped film, be avoided ..."  The amount of ionizing radiation energy used is so extremely high ("doses in the order of 50 - 60 kGy") that resulting chemical changes are reported to cause paper to emit poison gas which can be trapped inside plastic packaging until it is opened, and cause certain items to catch on fire.

    "Live long and prosper." Vulcan greeting/farewell created by Leonard Nimoy.

    How should 19th century albumen print stereographs be handled and kept for long term storage?
    Stereograph collections should be jacketed in protective archival 3 mil Mylar D polyester sleeves. These are available from Light Impressions, from Russell Norton, P.O. Box 1070, New Haven, CT 06504-1070 at $16 per hundred (plus $4 shipping) or from other archival suppliers.  [We suggest Mylar because we have seen plastic sleeves using other plastics (possibly acetate; not vinyl which is known to be problematic) turn brown at the edge of the plastic with the contained stereographs' albumen prints faded and showing "glue" streaking.]  There is skin oil on your fingertips  —  handle stereographs only with white cotton or nylon photo gloves.  Take care when inserting stereographs into the Mylar sleeves not to touch the card or print with the sharp plastic edges which can chip colored enamel off the cards.  (The glued Mylar sleeve seam found with widely available stereoview sleeves should be located in the back of the stereograph at the top to prevent one stereograph sleeve from catching in the seam of the next one, or Conservation Resources' seamless sleeves manufactured with ultrasonic Mylar edge welds are excellent for flat stereoviews.)

    Hart 154 (faded image versus rich tones)
    Faded image versus dark rich tones (from two copies of Hart #154)

    To avoid accelerated fading, use dim illumination, and do not leave the images in the bright light for long periods of time  —  especially avoid direct sunlight and fluorescent lights unfiltered for ultraviolet light.  (Ultraviolet filtering plastic such as Acrylite OP-3 is available to reduce fading due to ultraviolet light, but fading is also caused by visible light.)  Store the stereographs in the dark in a metal bank safety deposit box or in a closed metal file box or cabinet (enameled steel) of appropriate size which will help to keep the photographs safe from insect, rodent, and water damage.  This should be located where photographs will not be exposed to excessive or rapid changes in heat or humidity.  To avoid mildew, the closed metal box should not be airtight.  Do not store in commonly available high humidity fire safes which cause mildew and which prevent burning during a fire by filling the safe with steam.  Do not use wood, rubber, paper clips or staples, glassine, "magnetic" album pages, any cardboard [other than unbuffered acid free 100% rag museum board], vinyl plastics or album pages with polyvinyl chloride plasticizers, rubber cement and other chemically reactive glues, or ink.  (Do not place the albumen prints in contact with buffered "archival" papers or cardboard, since unlike paper which is sensitive to acid but is protected by alkaline conditions, this type of 19th century photographic print is sensitive to both alkaline and acid conditions.)  Avoid sticky paper gummed labels which are difficult to remove from plastic sleeves and impossible to remove from the backs of stereographs without damage.  (The glue on white gum labels reacts chemically with Mylar plastic sleeves and can pucker and penetrate through the sleeve and damage enclosed stereographs.)  Also be aware that inkjet printers, like color film and prints, often use dyes that can fade very rapidly and are not suitable for making archival copies; supposedly archivally stable pigment inks are becoming available for some inkjet printerspdf. For example, Paul Roark, a contemporary photographer of the Sierra's has switched from conventional photographic printing with traditional selenium-toned fiber-based silver prints to carbon-based pigmented ink digital prints to achieve what he believes is even better black and white print quality and permanence. Also see: Sources for achival-quality conservation materials. For information about archiving digital copies, see Kodak's opinion about the Permanence and Handling of CDs.

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