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QUESTIONS & COMMENTS

Railroads and Manifest Destiny. [Also see "American Progress," painting by John Gast, 1872.]
It is a cliche that railroads made America, and historians point to the Pacific Railroad of 1869 and its effect of binding the Pacific and Atlantic states. However, it recently occurred to me that the railroad truly made America in a deeper and more profound way. What first came to my attention with the effect of a light bulb switched on were the relative dates for two key events: Asa Whitney [first] submitted his plan for a Pacific railroad to Congress (through his representatives) in January 1845. The term "Manifest Destiny" did not first [appear] in print until six months later (erroneously attributed* to John L. Sullivan) – in an essay about Texas, but with reference to "the railroad".

["... the fulfilment of our manifest destiny to overspread the continent allotted by Providence for the free development of our yearly multiplying millions. ... there can be no doubt that the population now fast streaming down upon California will both assert and maintain that independence. Whether they will then attach themselves to our Union or not, is not to be predicted with any certainty. Unless the projected rail-road across the continent to the Pacific be carried into effect, perhaps they may not; though even in that case, the day is not distant when the Empires of the Atlantic and Pacific would again flow together into one, as soon as their inland border should approach each other. But that great work, colossal as appears the plan on its first suggestion, cannot remain long unbuilt. Its necessity for this very purpose of binding and holding together in its iron clasp our fast settling Pacific region with that of the Mississippi valley—the natural facility of the route—the ease with which any amount of labor for the construction can be drawn in from the over-crowded populations of Europe, to be paid in the lands made valuable by the progress of the work itself—and its immense utility to the commerce of the world with the whole eastern coast of Asia, alone almost sufficient for the support of such a road ... "
"Annexation" The United States Democratic review. Volume 17(85):5-10, J.& H.G. Langley, New York, July, 1845. (unsigned editorial)]

It occurred to me that the very existence of railroad technology – even before actual construction – inspired westward expansion by promising a means of binding new territory to the Union. (The telegraph has to be part of it.) It is very difficult to asign motive to anyone, but I am convinced that there was essentially no interest in western expansion at the time of the Louisiana Purchase. Currier & Ives: American Railroad Scene: Lightning Express Trains Leaving the Junction. Courtesy of Vanessa Rudisill Stern.The negotiations were only for New Orleans and west Florida. The French threw in that country west of the Mississippi at the last hour. But by 1843 when settlers began moving to Oregon by the wagonload, this clearly had changed. (Texas fits in here, too, but there seems to have been a mixed bag of expectations – whether it was really American expansion, or merely emigration). It does make me wonder how much – if any – a role did the desire to secure optional railroad routes for a Pacific railroad play in the Mexican War. Whitney's route was Great Lakes to Columbia River via South Pass – the only pass then believed practical then within the territory of the United States. Anyway, does this notion that the mere potential of the railroad opened [or played a previously unrecognized role in opening] the frontier deserve more research?
... we see a similar pattern in our own day. No sooner is the internet "invented" than people begin to imagine that the internet will do away with libraries, and the telephone, and yield all other kinds of marvelous things. That is the kind of thing I'm wondering about in regard to railroads. We – railroad historians – spend a lot of time recording the development of particular technological features and the construction of miles of track, but what about the expectations that railroads inspired? and how were those expectations manifest in daily living (manifest by people who had never seen a train)? There is a story – perhaps more myth than true – that Leland Stanford told his seasick wife on their way to California that he would build her a railroad for her return journey. I wonder if people really went to California thinking they could ride a train home someday. (Indeed, many did just that, whether they imagined it would happen or not.)
*Linda Hudson, "Mistress of Manifest Destiny: a biography of Jane McManus Storm Cazneau 1807-1878)" Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 2001, makes a strong case [based on statistical analysis of the writing styles of O'Sullivan and McManus using signed articles by each of them for comparison] that Jane McManus [a staff writer for John L. O'Sullivan, editor of the United States Magazine and Democratic Review, aka Cora Montgomery] was the real author of that editorial – as well as others. (McManus was from Troy, NY, likely a Mahican Indian, and likely, too, a one-time mistress of Aaron Burr.)
—Wendell Huffman, 9/24/2004 [in part from the R&LHS Newsgroup]
Currier & Ives: American Railroad Scene: Lightning Express Trains Leaving the Junction. Courtesy of Vanessa Rudisill Stern. Above, right.

It goes much deeper. The first voyages of discovery (on land after the [Louisiana] Purchase & Lewis & Clark) were made for the purpose of locating railroad and other transportation routes. Fremont, is one example, another is the Southern route. A good deal of political wrangling and compromise – and dead ends attended the railroad discussions. It is not coincidence that the railroad was approved after the Civil War started – the South was holding out for the Southern route – and held up all others. I don't think that the Mexican War was not railroad route related – but do think that the Gadsden purchase was, even though it was one of the odder purchases made. Certainly the railroad surveys opened much of the West and much of the subsequent history is based on them. From Hayden and Gunnison, Fremont, and others – the role these surveys played in no small part kept the thought of the West in the mind of the country, especially when partnered with the discovery of mineral wealth. —Bob Webber [from the R&LHS Newsgroup]

... Sometimes possibilies inspire and motivate people much more than realities. And we know that Southern Pacific's southwest route across the continent required the Gadsden Purchase in 1853. ... —Stuart A. Forsyth [from the R&LHS Newsgroup]

... In 1845, the railroad had been around for some 17-18 years, and those in the position to make a term like "manifest destiny" become a common term certainly would have been thinking about the potential the railroad provided. ... —Schuyler G. Larrabee [from the R&LHS Newsgroup]

... a rather intriguing thought. While I'm not sure that desired railroad routes played much of a roll in the US starting the Mexican War (although it is probably worth looking into a little further), we of course know that the Gadsden Purchase (which became the southern parts of Arizona and New Mexico) was specifically railroad inspired. It seems to me I have seen articles on transcontinental railroads as early as 1839, to Oregon, (in the Democratic Review, as I recall ...   Among other things, the Democratic Review published writings by the Existentialists grouped around Emerson. ...). I seem to recall Manifest Destiny showing up there, too, but I'd have to dig to find the date (it's been nearly 20 years since I wandered through those pages). It seems to me that the initial "use" of Manifest Destiny was in a sentence that included both words, but not in a unified phrase.

[" ... In its magnificent domain of space and time, the nation of many nations is destined to manifest to mankind the excellence of divine principles; to establish on earth the noblest temple ever dedicated to the worship of the Most High – the Sacred and the True. Its floor shall be a hemisphere – its roof the firmament of the star-studded heavens, and its congregation an Union of many Republics, comprising hundreds of happy millions, calling, owning no man master, but governed by God's natural and moral law of equality, the law of brotherhood – of "peace and good will amongst men.". . .
Yes, we are the nation of progress, of individual freedom, of universal enfranchisement. Equality of rights is the cynosure of our union of States, the grand exemplar of the correlative equality of individuals; and while truth sheds its effulgence, we cannot retrograde, without dissolving the one and subverting the other. We must onward to the fulfilment of our mission – to the entire development of the principle of our organization – freedom of conscience, freedom of person, freedom of trade and business pursuits, universality of freedom and equality. This is our high destiny, and in nature's eternal, inevitable decree of cause and effect we must accomplish it. ... "
"The Great Nation of Futurity," The United States Democratic Review, 6(23):426-430, 1839.]

Subsequently (but not all that long after) someone welded them into a phrase. As to idea that the mere potential that the railroad opened the frontier, we certainly know that settlement patterns West of, say, the Missouri River were very different from the earlier settlement patterns West of the Alleghenies. And I think the railroads played an important roll in bringing about the new pattern (along with the occasional precious metal mining frenzy). ... —Kyle Williams Wyatt, Curator of History & Technology, California State Railroad Museum [from the R&LHS Newsgroup]

The role was considerable as the U.S. failed to secure the southern route across New Mexico and Arizona by invasion and a treaty fouled by a faulty survey. So, instead of just taking the territory by force of arms, which we thought we already had done, we bought it a few years later through the Gadsden Purchase. I doubt Lewis & Clark suffered from railroad fever, but one of my relatives born at that time (1806) certainly did. He would have been aware of the Granite Railway in Massachusetts (1826) and rode the Allegheny Portage Railroad in 1835 when he emigrated to the Illinois country newly opened (i.e. cleared of Blackhawk et. al.) for settlement. I suspect his primary goal was capital accumulation, and railroads would have been part of his thinking although surviving records are moot on that point in choosing a homestead. Regardless he quickly became a railroad booster agitating for a branch from the Galena & Chicago Union (chartered 1836). When that failed, he and others formed a paper railroad early in the 1850s leading to a real railroad after the Civil War. His story is not unique and in it's broadest terms was quite common. I would think that at some point ... the public consciousness was so infused with railroad fever that separating it from Manifest Destiny would be difficult. The two were well-established and feeding off each other by the time Manifest Destiny got its name and Asa Whitney proposed his transcontinental railroad (1845). And don't forget a couple of important technological precursors: advances in steamboat technology turning the Mississippi, Missouri and Ohio Rivers into a trade and emigration arteries (starting in 1811) and canal fever spurred by the success of the Erie Canal (chartered 1817, opened 1825). ... —Bill Diven [from the R&LHS Newsgroup]


Stereograph Viewing.
When I was a kid, my dad who was a physician showed me one fascinating way to view stereographic images [a pair of pictures that simulate the distance between your two eyes].  The examples we used were three-dimensional depictions of molecules, but it works with any stereo image. You cross your eyes while staring at a spot between the two images, then while still crossing, let your eyes relax a bit until a third image begins to emerge between the two.  Your brain does the rest.  Suddenly, there's a 3-D image which you can actually study while holding your eyes crossed. Uncrossing is a bit uncomfortable, but there's a trick to that too.  You close your eyes for a couple of seconds while letting your eyes uncross (eyes closed), only opening them in the uncrossed state.  That's it. Carlos Fernandez-Gray, Berkeley CA


Wasn't the actual completion of the railroad in September of 1869 with the opening of the San Joaquin River bridge making it possible to stay on the train (westbound) all the way to San Francisco via the ferry terminal at Alameda, California? —C.E. "Bear" Wilcox
You could say that – California State Historical Landmark "No. 780-7 First Transcontinental Railroad – Site of Completion of Pacific Railroad - The construction of the San Joaquin River bridge completed the last link of the transcontinental railroad. Building has proceeded simultaneously from the bay area and Sacramento to meet at the San Joaquin River. The first train crossed the bridge on September 8, 1869." on the original Western Pacific Railroad ... but how about the Missouri River railroad bridge from Council Bluffs to Omaha, not completed until the 25th of March, 1873 (see Omaha maps)? – for ferry crossing the Missouri River prior to that, see the Council Bluffs & Nebraska Ferry Company & Union Pacific Transfer Album 1864-1871; (Ron Goldfeder of the Museum of Transportation, St. Louis notes that "According to The Story of the Western Railroads by Riegel the C&NW [Chicago and North Western Railroad] was the first to Council Bluffs in 1867, and got the contract to carry the supplies for the UP to that point, and later the passenger connection for UP trains. W.B. Ogden was the president of both these lines in 1867."*) John C. Decker notes that "All Roger Grant reports, on page 30 of his history of the Chicago & North Western, is that, having built westward only, the railroad, using its franchise entitled Cedar Rapids and Missouri River Railroad, reached Council Bluffs on January 17, 1867. [Eugene Lewis notes that CNW "Passenger service began February 8, 1867."*] Then on February 8, 1867, there was a big gala with the usual events. That would have made any similar celebration regarding the opening of the bridge somewhat superfluous. In the meantime, the Rock Island arrived [at Council Bluffs] on June 5, 1869, and the [Chicago] Burlington [& Quincy] on January 18, 1870; so if a gala were to have taken place it would have involved four railroad companies plus a growing community."* Adrian Ettlinger notes that "Maury Klein's UP history, Volume 1, published 1987, has a whole chapter devoted to the bridge. Ironically, whoever indexed the book seemed to want to keep this chapter a secret; it is not included among many references to the bridge. Anyway, the idea that the UP was too financially strapped to build the bridge is probably an erroneous conclusion, drawing from the fact the Cities of Omaha and Council Bluffs provided aid to the tune of $250,000 and $200,000 respectively. But the reason they provided the aid was that the location of the crossing had become controversial, and an alternate proposal was to cross at Bellevue to the south, which would have left Omaha at the end of a stub line. As Klein puts it, the question was resolved by putting the location 'up for auction,' and the combined financial assistance of the two cities was the determining factor. But it was the UP who built the bridge. Klein also includes some interesting photos of the bridge under construction, and also one photo of tracks across the river on the ice."* Adrian Ettlinger notes that "Klein does not give anything more specific than 'March, 1872' for the opening of the bridge. Surprisingly, he seems not to have researched any story of whatever ceremonies may have accompanied the opening. But he does tell a somewhat surprising tale of how the bridge was grossly underutilized in its first years. A stalemate occurred as to whether the transfers of passengers and freight would be at Omaha or Council Bluffs. The eastern roads wanted the UP to pick up on their side, the UP wanted the eastern roads to cross the bridge. The UP was under pressure from the City of Omaha, which refused to make good on its pledge of bonds and real estate unless Omaha were made the transfer point. The "compromise" was the "infamous" Omaha Bridge Transfer. To quote Klein: '.....managed to negate most of the advantages offered by the bridge. Westbound freight and passengers were unloaded in Council Bluffs and run over the bridge in dummy trains to the 20th Street Depot in Omaha, where put aboard another train. The Transfer was treated as a branch with its accounts kept separate from the railroad. By this ingenious method the bridge became not a boon to faster schedules but an obstacle requiring the same number of transfers as the old ferry. The river had been conquered but not the old habit of bumbling policy.' ... It sounds as if car interchange may not have been all that common in those days."* Another contender is the completion of an alternate rail route via Colorado that bypassed the unfinished UPRR Missouri River bridge. There is a Transcontinental Railroad Comanche Crossing Museum and the Comanche Crossing Historical Society (56060 East Colfax Avenue, Strasburg, Colorado, 303/622-4322) writes that "If you think the transcontinental railroad was completed at Promontory [Summit], Utah, you've been had! While the Utah site is the place where the rails of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific Railroads met, the actual completion of the transcontinental line didn't occur until August 15, 1870 in Strasburg, Colorado." The Colorado Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation confirms that this was completed at "Comache Crossing, East of Strasburg, near railroad mile post 602 (National Register 08/10/1970, 5AH.163): At this site on August 15, 1870, the last spike was driven into the first continuous transcontinental railroad. The completion of railroad bridges over the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers allowed all rail transport over this route. An unpretentious white monument marks the spot which is named for a nearby creek crossed by the railroad." (Wendell Huffman notes that "15 August 1870 is considered by some to mark the true completion date of the first transcontinental railroad across the United States. I'm not even sure of the railroad completed on that date, but I suspect it was either the Union Pacific Eastern Division or the Kansas Pacific. The location was some 3812 feet east of the station at Comanche, Colorado (now Strasburg). The reason that this 'qualifies' is that those tracks connected eastward across the Chanute bridge at Kansas City (opened July 3 1869), while the Missouri River bridge at Omaha was not opened until March 1873. (I believe that cars were run across the ice before that at Omaha. Was there a car ferry?) I presume the railroad across the Chanute bridge connected to Chicago across the Rock Island bridge across the Mississippi (opened 1856), but I don't know this for a fact. Just for reference, the Eads Bridge at St. Louis opened July 1874."*) Kyle Williams Wyatt, Curator of History & Technology, California State Railroad Museum comments that "On the other hand, I believe the UP had a car ferry between Omaha and Council Bluffs (with tracks directly on ice during winter), and through cars traveled from coast to coast in 1869 using that route, so I think that constitutes a complete connection. Further I argue that most traffic did not travel via the Kansas route but instead traveled via Omaha, so certainly the railroads considered that the through route after 1869. If we are arguing that only solid rail connections count, then I observe that between 1879 and about 1936 the Southern Pacific routed much (most?) of its traffic west of Sacramento via the old California Pacific and a car ferry between Benicia and Port Costa (plus ferry connections between Oakland and San Francisco), so does that mean that the Transcontinental connection was severed for those years?"* Adrian Ettlinger responds that "... I don't think you can say the connection was 'severed' just because the SP's fastest route was via the Benecia-Port Costa Ferry. There were, after all, any number of direct rail routes that were in use at the same time, e.g., Niles Canyon. Furthermore, one might quibble and say that during the time of year when the tracks were across the ice at Omaha, there was a direct track connection. ... "* Kyle Williams Wyatt responds that " ... many through railroad routes included car ferries, and that the railroads considered these to be through routes. Therefore, we should, too. Just because a routing without a car ferry exists doesn't mean that the railroads customarily used it. I believe that most traffic in 1869-70 went via the Council Bluffs-Omaha route, not via the Kansas Pacific route. So I argue that the Bluffs-Omaha route, including the car ferry, constitutes the first through route, as demonstrated by the actual usage by the railroads. ... I'm not entirely sure about whether the May 11, 1869, excursionists changed cars at Promontory (and/or elsewhere on their trip). However the Boston Board of Trade's Boston-San Francisco Trans-Continental Excursion of June-July 1870 definitely used the same set of Pullman cars for the entire trip, so they certainly demonstrated a through route – via the Council Bluffs-Omaha car ferry, and also down Market Street in San Francisco to the front door of their hotel. ... I believe the first US railroad to touch both the Pacific and the Atlantic (at the Gulf of Mexico) was the Southern Pacific. The first North American railroad to truly span the major breadth of the continent would be the Canadian Pacific. Both these events occurred in the 1880s."* Others will contend that the Panama Railroad, completed circa January 28, 1855, was actually the first rail route to span the continent (Wendell Huffman comments that " ... I'd suggest that [the Panama Railroad] was not a North American railroad since at the time it was built it was wholly located in the South American country of Columbia. Now, I don't know where you chose to divide South American from North America, but if in the modern world you chose the canal itself as the line of demarcation, you still end up with the railroad in South America as the railroad is on the east–South American–side of the canal."*). But the national celebration on May 10th, 1869 corresponded to the end of the race between the CPRR and UPRR with the completion of the railroads as defined in the enabling legislation, the Pacific Railroad Act of 1862, so that is taken as the "official" completion date (more than seven years ahead of schedule!): "Section 17: ... {Main line to be finished ...} Provided, That if said roads are not completed, so as to form a continuous line of railroad, ready for use, from the Missouri river to the navigable waters of the Sacramento river in California, by the first day of July, eighteen hundred and seventy-six, the whole of all of said railroads before mentioned, and to be constructed under the provisions of this act, together with all their furniture, fixtures, rolling-stock, machine shops, lands, tenements, hereditaments, and property of every kind and character, shall be forfeited to and taken possession of by the United States." However, Bowman reports that "The question of completion was later raised by the Union Pacific, as it was related to the company's reception of federal subsidies and the payment of 5% interest on its net earnings until the bonds were repaid. In 1879 the U. S. supreme court decided for November 6, 1869, as the date of completion. The completion for legal and financial reasons does not affect the celebration of the completion of the tracks for traffic between the east and the west."
* [from the R&LHS Newsgroup]


In A Great and Shining Road John Hoyt Williams tells us liquid Nitroglycerine "was poured into holes drilled fifteen to eighteen inches into the granite, capped with a plug, and fired by a slow match or a percussion cap."  How exactly did the percussion cap work?  Was there a fuse involved? —Mara Levy
> There is running discussion of the use of nitroglycerin and the use of "electric batteries" for its ignition in the Collis P. Huntington Papers 1856-1901 during the year 1867.  John R. Gillis in his paper given before the ASCE in 1872 on the construction of tunnels on the CPRR describes the use of nitroglycerin but makes no mention of how it was ignited.  I have never found any source that mentions how the ignition was effected other than the use of "electric batteries" but just how it performed the ignition was never explained. —Edson T. Strobridge [great grand nephew of James Harvey Strobridge]
>In 1867 an awful lot of fuse was purchased, but I have not found any record of the purchase of batteries.  Also see the Nobel Museum. —G.J. "Chris" Graves, Newcastle, California



How were rails bent to be used for curved sections of the route?
As explained by Lynn Farrar and G.J. "Chris" Graves, this was done by hand in the 1860's CPPR construction.  The image below (detail of A.A. Hart Stereoview #333, "Curving Iron. Ten Mile Canyon") shows a section of rail placed spanning across two ties which sit above the track (the two extra ties on top of the rails of the partially completed roadbed are being used to support the two ends of the rail being bent).  The rail being bent is held in place by two wooden tools while being beaten into the curved shape by two men with a sledge hammers working near both ends of the rail (foreground, right).  This bending is possible with 1860's iron rail which is malleable (later steel rail was brittle and would break instead of bending).  David Bain indicates that in the 1860s the UP had a steam-powered railbender machine.  CPRR First Assistant Chief Engineer Lewis M. Clement, according to notes made by his daughter, Maude L. Clement, invented a machine to bend rails to the correct radius for curves which saved a great deal of time and money over the old manual method.

Hart #333 detail.

From the Southern Pacific Bulletin, July, 1927, page 13:

"A track gang working a curving rain in Ten-Mile Canyon along the Humbolt River in Nevada during the building of the original Central Pacific Lines ... The picture was probably taken during 1867.  Crude methods were used in curving the 56 pound to the yard  iron rail compared with modern machinery necessary to curve the 90 lb., 110 lb. and the latest 130 pound steel rails.  Two ties were placed on the tracks about twenty-five feet apart.  The thirty-two foot rail was laid on its side across the two ties.  Six or eight men stood on the rail.  Another man, as the one shown in the picture with the hammer, started at one of the rail wielding lusty swings with his hammer, the weight of the men standing on the rail adding the spring necessary to bend the rail.  One man would step off the rail to make room for the man with the hammer, and then would step back on the rail again.  The hammer men acquired great skill in their work.  The rail would be stood on end and by sighting along the rail or measuring with a string, the hammer man would know just where to give the rail a few more blows with the hammer to give the proper balanced curve.  White laborers were engaged in this class of work."  

In all  my wanderings along the grade, I have found but one such sledge, a 15 lb. sledge made by Thomas Nelson and Abner Doble, doing business as "Nelson and Doble," 135-137 Fremont St., San Francisco, in 1868.  This was found just east of Mormon Hill, Cobre, Nevada. —GJ Chris Graves, NewCastle, AltaCal'a.

Roger Brown, San Diego, California, writes: "From the photo it appears that the two stout wooden handles near each end of the rail are levers. The pressure on the rail can be adjusted by how far the men sit from the rail. The man in the foreground is about 2 ft. from the end. Pressure is applied by the lever and the rail bending occurs when the rail is struck by a heavy hammer. It means that the rails were relatively soft and malleable. The curve is more than required because the rail will likely spring back to less curve than with the lever pressure applied. The levers are over a tie and likely were hooked and driven under or into the tie similar to a hay fork or an ice tong." Also see discussion.



What was the standard rail length used by the CPRR? I understand that 30 foot rails were usual for most railroads, but I saw a reference to a 32-foot rail in the answer to the question about on-site curving of rails. What was the standard number of ties per rail? Did they use "joint ties" i.e. closely spaced ties at the joint between two rail section? Did they lay the rails with even joints or broken joints? That is, did they have the joints for the left and right rails at the same point on a section of track or did they stagger them?
(1) Staggered rail joints – yes, abundant photographic evidence on construction era photographs show staggered joints. Standard rail construction practice in that period (my 1877 Roadmaster's Assistant Guide details this at pg. 9-10).
(2) No they didn't double tie in pairs (see #4 below) under the rail joints; just put a tie directly under the rail ends at the center of the fish plate. Again, photographic evidence of the construction era shows this although the double tie support was recommended (1877 Roadmaster's Assistant Guide, pg. 9, see #4 below).
(3) The standard rail joints was 30' BUT due to the joint staggering, one had to insert lengths of 24', 20', 18', and 15' depending on the degree of curvature. In the description of the 10 miles of rail laid the weight carried into 10 miles 56 ft comes out to 560#/rail or 10yds(30)/56# rail/yd (the writer could have assumed all rail was 30' but it would have been impossible to properly stagger the joints with only 30' rails – Ass't Roadmaster's Guide, pg. 25, gives as follows: 704 15' ft rails, 660 16 ft rails, 567 18ft rails, 503 21ft rails, 377 28ft rails, 352 30ft rails for 1 mile of track. (on pg. 9 of the Guide) uniform rails recommended except shorter ones for curves; laid on the INNER rail of the curve (Guide pg. 10) to maintain the joint stagger.
(4) The number of ties/mile varied as to the degree of curvature the spacing varied according to the curvature: 2' center to center is 2,641; 2 1/2' center to center is 2,113; 2 3/4 center to center is 1,931; and, 3' center to center is 1,761. Galloway in his book The First transcontinental Railroad (1950 on pg. 142 states the tie number/mile varied from 2,260/mile to 2,640/ mile implying a 2 1/2' spacing down to a (2,260 divided by 2,640 times 2 1/2) is about 2' spacing. The 1878 Guide recommends 16 ties/30' rail' (pg 9) not less than 2' spacing with 10" spacing tie edge to tie edge at the rail joints. —Charles N. Sweet

Clearly rail lengths were generally limited by the length of cars to haul them, but when the Central Pacific shipped rail to California via Panama starting in 1868, they were limited by the confines of the steamships – 20 feet lengths as I recall. The limitation was a combination of hatch size and space in holds, as rail had to be fed down through the hatch and laid secure in the hold. Locomotives shipped via Panama (as opposed to sail around Cape Horn) had to have their boilers cut in half for the same reason. Wendell Huffman.[from the R&LHS Newsgroup]

Long after the CPRR was constructed, the length of flatcars which had been smaller and varied became standardized at about 40 feet, so subsequently, rail length became uniform at 39 feet ... about [the] 1900-1915 era. ... Previously the standard was 33 foot lengths (to fit in 34 foot cars). ... the earlier length was 29 feet (to fit in 30 foot cars) ... Civil War-era rails were 12' - 25' long. [from the R&LHS Newsgroup]

The rail used for the CPRR construction was shipped by sea, so not all the original rail was actually 30' long (some was as short as 22') due to manufacturing variation and because rail had to be short enough to fit in the hold of the ship.

Is it permitted to printout the CPRR Museum website?
Not unless you obtain permission which requires that you be very specific in your request, but students can click here to obtain instant permission to use printer friendly homework pictures, and we hope that you will enjoy studying the articles, exhibits and other content on-line for free and ask if specific material is needed for other use.  Our museum project was designed for on-line viewing, not for paper which has very different requirements.  Putting the Central Pacific Railroad Photographic History Museum website on paper isn't really feasible because it has thousands of pages, the images are not the correct resolution/size for print use, printing thousands of color pictures would be prohibitively expensive, the search capability and tens of thousands of navigation links that give the site its organization and connect it to information available elsewhere would be lost, some of the source attributions that are indicated by hyperlinks and/or hyperlink titles would be lost, and because we do not have the legal ability to grant very broad permission requests.  Your request seems simple, but you may not realize that our ability to grant permission varies from image to image, and page to page, so you'll need to be very specific in your request.  A request to printout even a single webpage may require the ownership/permission status of a dozen or more different pictures with different donors to be researched, and the necessary permissions may not all be available for the text as well as all the images on that page.  Nevertheless, we would be pleased to try to assist, in keeping with the permissions section of the CPRR Museum website's user agreement.  If you'll tell us the specific text and/or images you would like to use, we'll see if we can help.


I am a docent at CSRM and someone else there told me that the original picture was dropped by the camera man and since it was a glass plate it shattered and a new picture (the one everyone knows so well) was made.  Is that true?  Most of the docents at CSRM tell the story of Stanford and Durant missing the spike and a railroad man hitting it.  How do you know that is not true?  Do you have information about surviving CPRR equipment?  Virginia & Truckee car 17 former car 25 is on display at Nevada State Railroad Museum.  They claim it was at the Golden spike meet used to carry officials and the ceremony spikes.  The car was built in Sacramento by CPRR and sold to V&T later. (Information from the Nevada State Railroad Museum website.) Is there a list of equipment that was at Promontory?  Also another locomotive was supposed to go and the Jupiter was put in at the last minute when the first one broke down. The Gov. Stanford was supposedly built 5 foot gauge and changed to 4ft 8 1/2 inches when the CPRR was forced to use that size rail?  (Information from people at CSRM.) Is any of this true?  Please reply if you can to help me straighten out the myths about the CPRR. —Steamengine4294
> There is a cracked A. J. Russell Promontory imperial view glass negative at the Oakland Museum, but don't know when it was broken. The story about the Antelope being damaged on the way to the golden spike ceremony by a log on the track and the substitution of the Jupiter is briefly retold and is based on the delightful first hand account on page 79 in an article written by one of the passengers on Stanford's train, Stillman, entitled "The Last Tie" in the July, 1869 issue of the magazine "The Overland Monthly."
> Regarding driving the last spike: Be careful not to confuse "Driving the Golden Spike" which, along with the second gold spike and the two silver ones were only ceremonial and were actually dropped into holes in the Laurel Tie previously drilled to accept them. The "Last Spike" was actually an iron spike, set by the Chinese workers in the last rail. This spike was to be driven by Stanford and Durant and was the spike that was missed.  It was finally driven by James Harvey Strobridge, Superintendent  of Construction for the CP and Samuel Reed, Supt. of Construction the UP but the one who gave the last blow for "Done" is unknown.  Suggest you read J. Bowman, "Driving the Last Spike," The Calif. Historical Society Quarterly, Vol. 36, 1957 which provides an analysis of all the sources reporting on that event.  It is by far the most complete and accurate report of the events of the day. —Edson T. Strobridge
> Kyle Wyatt at CSRM did the research on the Commissioners' Car while curator of history at Nevada State Railroad Museum.  The conclusion that the Virginia & Truckee car was indeed the commissioners' car is based on its purchase from CP, newspaper accounts, and photo comparison. It is an odd-duck, not obviously built by a recognized car builder.  It may well have been built for the CP at the Sacramento Valley RR shops at Folsom.  None of the dust inside has been positively identified as originating at Promontory.  I believe there is a passenger car in a shopping mall in Napa Valley (Yontville?) off the California Pacific that may have been among the eastern-built (Wasson?) cars that was attached to the UP train at Promontory and transferred to the CP on their way to California.  Given the chronology of the order and shipment of the Gov. Stanford, the chronology of Lincoln's decision on standard gauge, and the fact that the other railroads in California were five-foot gauge, I believe that the Gov. Stanford was indeed ordered, and probably built to five-foot gauge, and subsequently regauged. —Wendell Huffman [Librarian at Carson City, Nevada]
> (1) the "cracked plate" story is apocryphal. (2) Yes, the Gov. Stanford was originally 5' gauge and converted to standard gauge. (3) Stanford participated but Durant did not in "driving" the golden spike (really the wired iron one). —Charles N. Sweet [fireman on the JUPITER Locomotive, Promontory Summit]
> But see the Stanford/Durant swing and miss first hand account of Alexander Toponce.

Sierra Railroad Survey Map by S.G. Elliot, 1860 showing wagon roads; California 4th State Surveyor General John Alexander Brewster, Aug. 1856 Map; David B. Scott, Aug. 1855 California Map— Can you help?
... I am doing some research on a section of the pioneer trail between Verdi Nevada and Truckee California. While I was doing research I came upon a reference to an 1860 survey map created by S.G. Elliott for the purpose of railroad construction. According to the source (California Historical Society Quarterly, vol #10, 1932, page 347), the map depicted various routes over the central sierra and of SPECIAL INTEREST to me the wagon roads as they existed in 1860. Do you know of the existence of this map or could you direct me to the appropriate sources?  Sincerely Edward Hodges 3/25/2003
P.S. ... My emphasis is on locating two maps of that area dated from the mid 1850's. The most important map was created by then State Surveyor General John Brewster in Aug. 1856. He prepared the map for the citizens of Downeville who were then competing with other Central California towns to have the first wagon road across the Sierra. I located the description of his survey in the Annual Report of the Surveyor General  dated 1856. However, there was no map included and no mention of where to find it in the appendix. The other map covers the same general area and was created by David B. Scott in Aug. 1855. He too prepared his map for potential road building.

I suppose you know that E. Muybridge did shoot the Captain in Napa, and the Capt. was the father of the child that bore the Muybridge name.  F. Muybridge died in Sacramento, California in 1940 or so, run over by a car.  The Capt. was disinterred from the cemetery in Napa, as was Mrs. M. and Mr. M. ... all three are now in Colma, within a stones throw of each other.  Muybridge said as he shot the Capt. "This is for my wife!" —G.J. "Chris" Graves


The University of Nevada, Reno has a priceless collection of maps in the David Rumsey Map Collection that are available online. It's a great site! I can zero in on the detail of maps ... in any scale. Pretty slick. One of my favorites is a Bielewski map of 1865 as printed by Hoffman and Pruett. It shows the CPRR alignment on the south side of the Truckee River through Reno, not the north. It also shows a CPRR spur along Steamboat Creek. Also, the old Nevada topographic maps are available online ... via the Keck Library. Both sites ... show just about every rail alignment, and proposed alignment. —Robert Joe King


What were the standard colors of CPRR passenger cars and depots? 
I just came across an old newspaper article which referred to a depot roof being painted "regulation" red by CPRR painters, and the folks at the California State Railway Museum chose to paint the depot there two-toned green.  I've also seen a color photo of a preserved/restored car (reportedly in a park in Yuma AZ) purported to be an old CPRR passenger car ...and a green similar to one of those in the two toned scheme predominates with red trim, like the depot roof.  Could these have been the colors?  Doesn't anybody know, either from old lithos, work orders, or writings?  This might make a great topic for your website. I've been experimenting with my somewhat older videocam whose viewfinder renders a [black & white] image.  I'm mixing paints and viewing them side by side thru the viewfinder.  Findings so far: Red and Green look dark, yellow looks white.  Orange and light green come out identically medium.  Increasingly lighter shades of green become lighter. In the numerous photos on the CPRR Museum site, there appear to be two distinct shades of passenger cars, particularly evident in those photos when they appear in the same train.  My guess based on my simple experimenting is that the light cars were yellow while the somewhat darker cars were either orange or light green.  This suggests that there was a change at some point.  I'm thinking that maybe the CPRR started out with yellow cars (probably called "orange" by one of the Big Four), but since the Union Pacific colors were yellow and red, decided to go with something more distinctive.  Pure conjecture.  It's a wonder that nobody has analyzed the paint layers or traces of whatever old CPRR cars might remain. ... The article appears in the Berkeley Herald of April 5, 1894.  Review of my own records last evening indicates that the SP took over the operation of the Berkeley Branch Railroad from the Central Pacific in 1885, nine years before.  Thus, a question remains about whose "regulation" dictated the painting of the red roof.  SP's regulation roof color was moss green according to all the sources I've seen.  And there's a possibility that SP retained the "regulation" CPRR colors for the Berkeley branchline until it began constructing its own standard depots.  The old CP-built depot in Berkeley was replaced by an SP standard No.23 by about 1895-96, very close to the date of the article mentioned.  Oddly, no article seems to have appeared announcing the change, but it's obvious when comparing old photos and plats. I'm not sure this leaves us any closer to resolving the CPRR paint color mystery.  I'm astounded and mystified why nobody at the time–it seems–described the colors. ... —Carlos Fernandez-Gray, Berkeley CA
> Make sure that the spectral sensitivity of your videocamera matches that of collodion glass plate negatives before relying upon your color experiments. The 19th century photographs were blue/ultraviolet sensitive. So the green and red component of colors would likely register as grey with your black and white videocamera, but black in prints made from glass plate negatives with the late 1860's to early 1870's collodion emulsion. —CPRR.org
> The Sony Videocam (about 10 years old) shows red as the darkest shade, virtually black in the viewfinder.  Green is comparable, but visibly slightly lighter.  I tested for a darker green using evergreen tree foliage and a mature ivy leaf, and in the viewfinder, they're indistinguishable from red.  In the light, however, ivy leaves can appear whitish AND black, depending on which is in the sunlight.  An 1880s photo of the old Berkeley CP depot includes ivy in the foreground, and the same effect is apparent.   I found no difference between dull and lighted red, so in full sunlight, some difference between red and green would probably be apparent in old BW photos, except in the case of a dull, non-shiny dark green–such as a classic Pullman. Incidentally, in the photo mentioned above, the small depot appears to have a two-tone paint scheme on its walls with a horizontal dividing line exactly halfway up.  The tone above is very light, but not white, suggesting it's light green or yellow.  The color below is only slightly darker, but distinct, suggesting a darker light green or yellow.  I'm inclined to go with the two-toned light green in view of the way the restored Sacramento CP depot was painted although I have yet to discover why the restorers decided on those colors.  I'd like to check the BW appearance of the Sacramento depot with my videocam to compare the tones.  BTW, I understand that there are two other surviving CP depots, one in Auburn and the other in Chico–someone ought to analyze their paint layers, if they haven't already. —Carlos Fernandez-Gray Berkeley CA



Mr. Charles Crocker's grave site is located in Oakland, at the Piedmont Cemetery.  Often, I officiate funerals there and often visit his grave site.  The irony or humor of it all, is that there is a hillside overlooking Crocker's grave site which are filled with Chinese descendants (hundreds if not thousands).  It is prime property overlooking the S.F.-Oakland Bay. —Rev. Alvin Louie (a Minister of the Gospel as well as an enthusiast for knowing the truth about the 10,000 or so Chinese laborers of the CPRR)  


The State Library continues to be a source of enjoyment.... The Sacramento Union, Aug. 27, 1856 says that T.W. (Tullius) Strobridge was appointed to a committee with Cornelius Cole, Leland Stanford, Mark Hopkins and others ... to select voting delegates to the state convention.  On August 28, 1856, the Sacramento Union gives a list of delegates to the convention that includes Thomas O. Larkin, Phil Stanford (Leland's brother), Frank Pixley, Edwin B. Crocker, Cornelius Cole, Mark Hopkins, Leland Stanford, T.W. Strobridge, Charles Crocker, and Collis P. Huntington.  These folks were dealing with each other years before Judah hit 'em up for cash... —G.J. "Chris" Graves


What was the average rate of railroad construction?
The rate of progress varied greatly from about a foot a day when blasting through rock in the summit tunnel to the world's record of ten miles in one day.

An 1883 government reports provides some detail:

UPRR:
The number of miles of road constructed and accepted during each governmental fiscal year is as follows:

Year ending June 30, 1866 105
Year ending June 30, 1867 240
Year ending June 30, 1868 275
Year ending June 30, 1869 380
Year ending June 30, 1870 85.88 ...

CPRR:
The first map of definite location of this road, "from Sacramento, Cal., to a point 50 miles east thereof," was filed in the General Land Office October 20, 1864, and the last one, "from Monument Point to Echo Summit, head of Echo Canon, Utah," was filed October 20, 1868. Maps of construction have been filed, with affidavits of the chief engineer of the company, bearing the dates following:
Sacramento, Cal., to the 31st mile-post, October 19, 1865, and from the-

31st to 74th mile-post, September 28, 1866.
74th to 94th mile-post, October 1, 1867.
94th to 114th mile-post, June 16, 1868.
114th to 138th mile-post, November 14, 1867.
138th to 158th mile-post, May 2, 1868.
158th to 178th mile-post, July 2, 1868.
178th to 215th mile-post, July 28, 1868.
215th to 255th mile-post, August 8, 1868.
255th to 290th mile-post, August 29, 1868.
290th to 310th mile-post, September 7, 1868.
310th to 330th mile-post, September 10, 1868.
330th to 350th mile-post, September 26, 1868.
350th to 370th mile-post, October 16, 1868.
370th to 390th mile-post, October16, 1868.
390th to 410th mile-post, November 12 1868.
410th to 430th mile-pest, November 13, 1868
430th to 450th mile post, December 28, 1868
450th to 470th mile post December 24, 1868
470th to 490th mile post January 8 1869
490th to 510th mile post January 28, 1869
510th to 530th mile-post, February 6, 1869
530th to 550th mile-post, February 16, 1869
550th to 570th mile-post, March 12, 1869
570th to 610th mile post, March 30 1869
610th to 630th mile post April 5 1869
630th to 650th mile post, April 13 1869
650th to 670th mile post, April 28 1869
670th to 690th mile post May 6, 1869
From the 690.3th mile-post to Ogden, Utah, the road was constructed by the Union Pacific Railroad Company.

The number of miles constructed during each fiscal year was as follows:

Year ending June 30, 1866 31
Year ending June 30, 1867 43
Year ending June 30,1868 84
Year ending June 30, 1869 532.3
Total 690.3

You can also calculate averages from the lengths of the two railroads and the construction dates for the CPRR and UPRR.



Who put the last spike in the Transcontinental Railroad?
In part, the answer depends on which "last spike" you mean.  Stanford did "drive" the more famous of the two ceremonial golden spikes -- the one now in a safe under glass at the Stanford University Museum ("drive" is in quotes because gold is too soft to be hit with a hammer -- a hole was predrilled into the ceremonial laurel wood "last tie" so that the golden "last spike" could be dropped in -- the main purpose of the hammer was to complete the telegraph circuit to signal the event).  There were also several silver last spikes.  If by "last spike" you mean the permanent last iron spike driven into the permanent tie that remained in place at the end of the day, then the answer is that one of the CPRR Chinese workers probably drove the last spike.  See the definitive article on this subject, published by the California Historical Society, "Driving the Last Spike at Promontory, 1869." by J. N. Bowman, 1957.



Can anyone help me understand why Judah chose the Donner Pass route instead of modifying the existing, well used wagon road from Placerville to Virginia City?  I understand there are two summits to cross with the southern route, but was that really enough reason to use that horrible northern route?  It's interesting that even though Judah had crossed the summit dozens of times looking for a good route, and undoubtedly knew of the Donner Trail, that Doc Strong was able to convince him that the route from Dutch Flat to Donner Pass was the best route across the Sierras. —Doug Gilbertson
> A single ascent and descent across the Sierra Nevada summit was indeed essential. —CPRR.org
> Judah did not recklessly choose the location he did but with all the considerations he had to make he chose the one he did for good reasons. Actually he performed barometric surveys on at least five routes which he briefly describes in his Chief Engineers Report. Modern day railroad engineers continue to proclaim that if the route was to be selected today it would essentially be in the same location as it is now as it is still the most practical crossing of the Sierras from Sacramento.   Doc Strong did not have to convince Judah of the benefits of the Donner route after he showed him the ridge he could cross from the south side at Emigrants gap to the north side with no deep canyons or major rivers to cross to reach the summit. It was and still is considered by many engineers as a brilliant piece of location engineering especially when one considers it was made over 140 years ago.   I would suggest your correspondent read and study Judah's Chief Engineer's Report as it may help his understanding of the problems and conditions that were considered and the reasons Judah made the decisions he did. —Edson T. Strobridge
> Well, there were two advantages to the Placerville route. It remains at a lower altitude for much of the distance as it crosses the Pacific Crest, so the significant problems resulting from heavy snowfall would have been lessened. They would have had snow, but less of it. And it is likely Judah did not realize the extent of the problems caused by snow, and thus did not make it a consideration in his decision making process. Additionally, the SVRR was already in Folsom, so they would have been off to a good start. However, despite the advantages, the overwhelming obstacle to the Placerville Route was the double summits. I believe this was of paramount importance to Judah, and for good reason. Moving a heavy train up and over the summit of the Sierras is a time consuming and expensive task. Doing it twice, when it is not necessary, would be unthinkable.  I am not sure that Placerville would be a good second choice. Astute railroad historian Wendell Huffman suggests the Henness Pass route may have been more practical than the Donner Route. Certainly the second summit (Dog Valley around Crystal Peak) would have been much less of an obstacle than that the second summit on the Placerville Route. And had one been willing to add more mileage to the Henness Pass route, they could have looped southward and followed the same Truckee River Canyon. More northern routes, like Honey Lake and Madaline Plains offered  much easier crossings, but would have been much longer. So, there were other alignments that may have been better than the Placerville Route.  The natural ramp up the western slope of the Sierra, via Dutch Flat, provides a "practical" route to the Pacific Crest. And once the grade reaches Truckee, the descent down the Truckee River Canyon into Nevada is an easy one. Once there, the alignment is perfect to progress east. The most amazing engineering in my opinion, is the alignment that took place between Summit Valley and Horseshoe Bend. The current alignment is one of the most direct, and passes within the immediate area of the Nevada mines, an important concern at the time. So, do I think the Donner Route is the best? Probably. Was there a better route? Maybe, but I doubt it. Do I think the Placerville Route was a better choice? No, no chance. I think it was Mead Kibbey that relayed a statement made by the Chief Engineer of the Southern Pacific Railroad "with a few minor changes, the current route is the best known." —Dana Scanlon [historian in Sacramento]
> I suspect the primary reason for the selection of Donner (more properly Stephens) Pass is that all the other known practical routes (and all were known well before Judah ever saw California in 1854) were encumbered by state franchises to wagon toll roads, and Judah recognized from the very beginning that a wagon road had to proceed the railroad. It was said that Judah never even examined the Placerville route and traveled it only once on his way back to Sacramento from Virginia City. The Donner route itself had already been surveyed for a wagon road AND RAILROAD before Strong ever showed it to Judah in October 1860. From August 1854 until July 1860, Judah expected (and advocated) the route through either Nobles Pass or the Madeline Plains for the railroad. This was the route surveyed by Edward G. Beckwith for the US Army. The discovery of the Comstock–while Judah was in Washington DC–made the high cost of a route directly through the central Sierra appear financially feasible. Remember–engineers could put a railroad almost anywhere–Mt. Washington, Pikes Peak, etc. Engineers spoke of practicality, but but the ultimate measure of practicality was money. Engineers in general–and Judah in particular–looked upon railroads as tools to move money from other people's pockets into their own. Despite their expectations, the Huntington-Stanford-Hopkins-Crocker brothers-controlled Dutch Flat and Donner Lake Wagon Road attracted very little business and the connecting/parallel Central Pacific carried very little of the San Francisco-Virginia City commerce. The business they did secure was bound for Idaho. It is my contention that the CP would have been more profitable had they followed Judah's original route up the Sacramento Valley and around the north end of the Sierra Nevada. They would have avoided the very expensive construction in the mountains, would have accumulated federal bonds faster, would have carried even more of the Idaho traffic, and would not have generated the opposition of the other parties engaged in the Virginia City trade. And, had they done that, they would probably have been well east of the Watsatch Mountains when they finally met the Union Pacific. Sadly, the principals of the Central Pacific RR knew no more of their future than we know of ours. —Wendell Huffman, Carson City

> In the 1850s the Lassen Trail and the Nobles trail followed the same path into California for a few miles along the east side of Lassen Peak. Lassen's trail (used first by emigrants to California in 1848) connected the Applegate road (which ran from the California trail near modern Lovelock, Nv to southwest Oregon) at Goose Lake in northeastern California and wandered southward until it hit the headwaters of the Feather River and then turned west toward the Sacramento Valley. The Nobles Trail ran westward from the site of modern Lovelock through the site of modern Susanville, to Hat Creek (north of Lassen Peak) and then down to Redding/Reading (depending upon your year of reference and whomever it happened to be named for at the time). So, for about five or ten miles, these two routes into California followed the same trace, with emigrants using the Lassen trail going south and those on the Nobles trail going the opposite direction. Who went which way depended upon point of origin and point of destination- -and what ignorance of topography any particular traveler subscribed to. The point being that California's mix of roads and confusion is nothing new. And, to bring this back to railroads: the first Pacific railroad would most likely have followed a combination of Lassen trail (from the upper Sacramento Valley to the headwaters of the Feather) and the Nobles trail (from the Feather, past site of Susanville and on to the Humboldt River at or near Lovelock) had it not been for the discovery of the Comstock Lode in 1859 and the attraction of that commerce to those who organized and financed the Central Pacific. Their interest in the Comstock cost the company the animosity of those already engaged in the Comstock trade (which translated into lost income and lost local financing) and the high cost of building and operating a railroad across the Sierra at 7000 feet. Had they stuck with Judah's pre-1859 plan, they would have crossed the mountains over a thousand feet lower over less rugged terrain, they would have likely received more local funding, have built track faster (and received federal bonds for track built faster), have carried more of the Idaho commerce (which was essentially all they carried into 1868), and probably would have reached the eastern side of the Sierra a couple years earlier (which would have netted them the Comstock trade sooner). And, they may have met the Union Pacific near Cheyenne rather than Promontory (which, if nothing else) would have gotten them coal (but may actually have kept the UP out of Oregon and Southern California). ... —Wendell Huffman, Carson City [from the R&LHS Newsgroup]


Did the CPRR actually own the land "granted" or did they have to patent it to gain ownership?
There were different Congressional Grants made to allow construction of the transcontinental railroad.  Much of the main line right of way granted under the Congressional Grants [the original land grant is at §3 of the 1862 Act], such as the right of way in Reno for instance, is reversionary and can only be used for railroad/transportation purposes.  The railroad can lease portions of the right of  way under short term leases or longer term leases that have 90 day termination provisions.  The railroad cannot sell any of the main line right of way.  If the railroad (now UPRR) was ever to abandon any right of way, it would revert back to the government.   The "Section Lands" are a different matter.  In order to encourage the building of the transcontinental railroad, Congress granted (in fee) CP alternating Sections of land (20 alternate Sections per mile) out from the main line corridor.  The government kept the other alternating Sections of land, thereby benefiting, as the construction of the railroad increased the value of the railroad's Section Lands and the Government's.  Thus, the main line operating right of way (varies in width) is not patented in the railroad and reverts to the Government on cessation of use.  ...  The Section Lands are patented in the railroad (fee title).  For each 40 miles of railroad built, the Section Lands were patented to the railroad.  The patents to the land were not recorded in the County recorders office, but in the U.S. Land Office.  This created some subsequent confusion for title companies in their issuance of title to purchasers who had no idea that it was grant land.  The 1862 Act of Congress [§4: "... patents shall issue conveying the right and title to said lands to said company, on each side of the road, as far as the same is completed, to the amount aforesaid; and patents shall in like manner issue as each forty miles of said railroad and telegraph line are completed, upon certificate of said commissioners ... "] corresponds to my understanding.  The 1862 Act granted alternating Sections 10 miles out from the main line right of way, and the 1864 Act amended that to 20 miles on each side of the right of way.  I understand that location maps had to be filed before the land was granted, and that the granted properties could not contain minerals except for iron or coal.  ...  I found in my personal experience that many of the deeds conveying land to SPRR for instance, were deeds from private individuals. Many of those properties were not only for the right of way itself, but for other property holdings adjoining the right of way in excess of what was need for railroad operations. In other words, if the railroad needed a 60 foot wide right of way for instance, they would acquire the lands in the path the railroad was to traverse and not just acquire a 60 foot wide strip of property, but all of a land parcel owned by someone if that is what was needed to get the railroad built. The Federal land grants to CPRR/SPRR were generally for properties in the middle of nowhere, which was most of the western United States in those days! The land grants to CPRR/SPRR were 7/1/1862, 7/25/1866, 7/27/1866, 3/3/1871 and 3/3/1875. These land grants covered a portion of the right of way that was owned by SPRR. Much of the property I sold for SPRR (and UPRR after the takeover) came into the railroad's ownership by private individuals.  ...  Looks like Nevada Land and Resource Company, LLC purchased the SP Section lands in Nevada.  As info, during the failed merger of the SP and ATSF in the mid 1980's, all of the non-operating land assets of the SP were absorbed into Santa Fe Southern Pacific Corps'. subsidiary Santa Fe Pacific Realty–I worked for them at the time.  The non-railroad land holding companies were not subject to ICC scrutiny and could be merged into the parent company, whereas the SP (as a railroad operating company) needed the ICC's blessing to be merged with the ATSF.  SP was held in a voting trust during the merger proceedings, its plant slowly decaying as little or no money was put into the SP during this time.  Ultimately, the protective conditions placed on the merger by the ICC made the merger infeasible, thus Santa Fe Southern Pacific Corp. decided to spin off the SP.  The lands absorbed by Santa Fe Southern Pacific included all of the Section lands, industrial parks, forest, desert and agricultural properties held under Southern Pacific Land Company, Southern Pacific Industrial Development Company (SPIDCO) and any other non-railroad holding companies.  Thus, when Santa Fe Southern Pacific Corp sold the SP to Phil Anschutz in 1988, they kept the non-railroad land assets mentioned above, however, the core railroad lands (the rights of way, station grounds, switching yards) went with the SP to Anschutz.  Anyway, a brief synopsis of the huge sucking sound that started the decimation of the SP. ... the railroad's property maps (called property valuation maps or "val maps") generally designated the company's holdings ... via heavy dotted and dashed lines and railroad parcel numbers located within the specific parcel of land that designated the incoming acquisition deed. On the val map itself or on a separate map, there would be a "Schedule of Property" that would show each parcel and provide the specifics of who sold the property to the railroad and the specific date and recording information.  —Robert M. Krantz (formerly of the SPRR Land Department.
[Disclaimer: For informational purposes only. This website does not offer legal advice, and the above information may not apply to your real estate situation. It is imperative that you seek the services of a qualified real estate attorney if the need arises.]

Lest you think that anything legal is ever clear, simple, or final, also see the Railroad Right-of-Way Conveyance Validation Act of 1994 (Private Law 103-2; 108 Stat. 5061) which required amendment in 2003. Links courtesy Bruce C. Cooper.



Who was the winner of the transcontinental railroad race?
Building the transcontinental railroad was certainly, as Congress intended, a race in the sense of a highly successful business competition, and consequently the best answer as to who won is probably everybody.  The railroad was completed years ahead of schedule as a result.  At the completion of the first transcontinental railroad, the CPRR was 742 miles long (including 47 1/2 miles purchased and 5 miles leased from the UPRR); and the UPRR was 1,032 miles long.  (These figures do not include double counting of the miles of parallel grading in Utah which the CPRR and UPRR both hired Mormon contractors to perform.)  The U.S. government financing, while making it possible to build the transcontinental railroad, gave the railroads essentially nothing.  The U.S. Supreme Court ultimately concluded that government loaned money to the railroads that had to be repaid in full with interest, and gave almost worthless land grants to the railroads while retaining an equal amount of land (in a checkerboard pattern) that was then made valuable (where water was available) only as a result of the successful railroad construction. But judging who won just by the number of miles constructed is probably misleading.  The two railroads did not break ground or start laying track at the same time, and miles on the CPRR were not equivalent to miles on the UPRR because building over and through the Sierra Nevada mountains of California was much more difficult (and bonds were issued at a much greater amount/mile) than for the construction across flat Nebraska.  (But the CPRR construction was financed based on the government moving the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains to just outside Sacramento, by sleight of hand, so keeping score by dollars also isn't quite equivalent either.)  Additionally, construction was held up by difficulties with financing (the CPRR wasted 2 years taking the City of San Francisco to the California Supreme Court to get them to pay what they owed), as well as by physical difficulties in accomplishing the construction.  You could say that the CPRR won because it built way beyond the California-Nevada border which was the goal at its inception.  You could say that the UPRR won because in the end it had more track.  You could say that the UPRR won because today it is the surviving company which owns the assets that comprised the CPRR at the completion of the first transcontinental railroad.  You could say that the CPRR won because it beat the UPRR in the contest to see who could lay the most track in one day and succeeded in extending the line by more than 10 miles on April 28, 1869, a record that has never been surpassed.  Actually, everybody won.  The country certainly won by having a transcontinental railroad that dramatically cut the cost and time for travel and opened up the far west, while politically the United States became a single entity from Atlantic to Pacific. Taxpayers won by saving more than a billion dollars with the federal discount on transcontinental freight charges through the end of WW II. The entrepreneurs who built the roads, in the process overcoming almost unimaginable difficulties, certainly won in the sense that they bet their entire fortunes, overcame the doubters, and succeeded in accomplishing what they set out to do, becoming fabulously wealthy as a result. The Chinese railroad workers certainly won because they were able to save about $20 a month in gold (according to the Alta California of November 9, 1868), enabling many of them to return to China as relatively wealth men.  The members of Congress certainly won in the sense that they got not only their bribes, but a huge scandal about the UPRR's financing that they could continue to revisit for decades.  The farmers and other citizens of California and the west certainly won in that the railroads made transcontinental trade dramatically faster and less expensive, while providing them with an "outrage" that could keep them amused for decades that transportation costs had only dropped perhaps 90%, not 95% as they wished.  California certainly won by being transformed from a remote frontier into probably the most successful economy in the history of the world. [Discuss]


Much is often made of the fact that the photographs taken at Promontory on May 10, 1869 showed no Chinese workers.[sic] I had accepted the traditional explanation that this was simple racism, which I believe is the usual explanation given by docents at CSRM, where I am a docent.  I was surprised to read in "High Road To Promontory" (Kraus) pg. 273 a description of the laying of the last two rails. His description is spread over several pages, but is essentially this – A special honor squad of Chinese workers had been selected to carry the rail. As they approached someone yelled for Charles Savage to take a photo.  The honor squad saw they were to be photographed, dropped the rail, and ran for cover. It required some inducement to get them to return and complete the job.  If I were a photographer at this event I would take this as a sign that the Chinese workers didn't want their photo taken, and would respect that. ...  —Anne Ogborn, docent, CSRM
Apparently there were very few Chinese at the ceremony.  "Driving the Last Spike At Promontory, 1869" by J. N. Bowman states that "The bulk of the Chinese and other workers who had completed the line by May 1 had been shunted westward to improve certain points of the line, leaving only a few, perhaps a dozen, to do the grading, lay the ties and drive the few spikes of the west rail, lay the east rail for the ceremony, and replace the laurel tie."
> ... So far as the Chinese at Promontory are involved additional information has been uncovered that was not available to J.N. Bowman who had written the best record of that event from sources that were available to him in 1957.  The story of the "camera shy" Chinese is no more than another myth comparable to the Cape Horn Legend and there are a great many of them that have been imbedded in our collective memory of the history of the Pacific Railroad... This is another case of having to prove a negative which as you know is a difficult, time consuming, if not impossible thing to do. It is a 20th century interpretation of a 19th century event made by writers who never took the time to investigate the facts and who failed to stay within the context of the time of the event itself.  The story that Anne Ogborn relates to about "someone yelling for Charlie to take a shot" is an old fable that seems to change with each telling. The first time this story was told was when an old timer was being interviewed about his reminisces of his days on the Central Pacific by the Southern Pacific Railroad's Public Relations Department, some 50 years after the event occurred. In that original telling when the word "shot" was made the Chinese ran for cover because they assumed it was a powder blast about to be set off. There were no photographs of the event even though there were at least two photographers there, Savage and A.A. Hart. There were no stories in the contemporary newspapers  that related the story of the Chinese dropping the rail and running for cover even though there were at least 12-15 newspaper reporters covering the event.  It simply is not a true story and again in my opinion nothing more than the ramblings of an old man who thought it was funny to make fun of the Chinese and later historians that thought the story would add a little humor (at the expense of the Chinese). It seems to me that these writers who profess to tell the history of the railroad and decry the racism that took place are as guilty as those they condemn, perhaps more so, for reporting these myths and false stories as fact. If they had done their job as historians in ferreting our the truth the story would have been much different.  ...  I know of no reporting of any Chinese ever refusing to have their photograph taken. A.A. Hart as the official company photographer for the Central Pacific took several photographs which included Chinese workers. If any one would just consider that cameras in the mid 19th century were cumbersome instruments and not easy to move around and set up and especially that it took some doing to take a photograph and get set up for the next one. All the photos of the Last Spike ceremony were posed and it is obvious when someone moved he wound up as a blur so everyone being photographed tried not to move.  It is also my opinion that because the Chinese were the laboring class, as were a lot of white men, they simply did not get in many, if any, of the photographs that day due to all the executives, managers, superintendents, foreman, skilled mechanics, military, women and invited and uninvited guests and the like who wanted their picture taken. The Chinese generally were a humble race of men and I doubt that they cared one way or another if they were not included that day and damned sure they were not going to make an issue out of it. ... There is no doubt that there was racial prejudice against the Chinese, they looked different, dressed differently and behaved differently as was their culture. They were easy to spot and every bully and low life took advantage of it. [in New York and Boston there were signs on public places "No Irish allowed"]. So what is new. Don't we still have that kind of a problem in the world today? I believe that if Ms. Ogborn and others would read the 1877 Senate Hearings by the Joint Special Committee to Investigate Chinese Immigration, Report No. 689 and especially the testimony of Charles Crocker and James H. Strobridge they would soon get a different perspective about the racism prevalent at that time and understand just who were the ones that persecuted the Chinese. Their testimony also provides their definition of what they meant by their own "prejudice's against the Chinese." To go even further, it will be found in that Congressional Hearing testimony accusations that the Irish Catholic [not the Irish Protestants] working class were the worst of the worst that were forever persecuting the Chinese laborers.  I am enclosing a summary of the Chinese participation at Promontory as taken as an extract from my manuscript of the biography of James H. Strobridge ... I hope it will help tell the true story of the Chinese and should provide a better understanding just how Strobridge felt about his Chinese crews. ... a description of the events that more closely represents the Chinese participation at Promontory. —Ed Strobridge
> ... I doubt that very many Chinese were at Promontory, since they were primarily graders and the grading was long completed. —Wendell Huffman
> Over 1/2 of the Chinese were pulled back at Mormon Hill, known today as Mile Post 562, Toano, Nev.  Not many were at Promontory... Perhaps this will help: "One pair of rails was still to be placed, and eight Celestials, in new blue jackets and floppy trousers, stood proudly by to lay it.  Unfortunately, for their decorum and pride, the Chinese all bolted ...when they heard the word ...."SHOOT".  (John H. Williams, A great and shining road)  And: "....Now's the time, Charlie! Take a shot! the word "shoot" was all too familiar to the Mongolians...they...stampeded"  (Sabin, note page 18)  This is sort of like the Cape [myth].......One guy writes a fable, and the rest follow suit. Bowman says "At about 10:30 am the Chinese began the final grading for the last two rails, ....it is quite likely the Chinese started a number of spikes......"  Those are the only instances that Bowman used the word "Chinese" that I can find re: the laying of the rails.  He goes on to say "...the Chinese also cut part of a tie into mementos...whoever drove the last spike is unknown--possibly it was one of the Chinese workmen.....Who ever drove the last....spikes is not known but probably it was one of the Chinese workmen." ...  Ah, the Perils of History!   —Chris Graves, NewCastle, Alta Cal.
>The stereo .. Russell #539. "Chinese at Laying Last Rail UPRR", on O.C. Smith's yellow mount. ... may be the only photographic record of the Chinese role in the Last Rail ceremony; The view clearly shows at least one Chinese worker and a partner with rail-laying tools appearing to adjust the last rail laid (from the CPRR side, according to your site), with a wooden track gauge stick still in place while 2 others look on; It could be the only photo to surface showing the moment the last rails were actually laid. A crowd stands behind and fans away on both sides. UPRR Locomotive "119" is prominent in the background. A couple of ladies are on shoulders to get a better look at the scene. ... It is also interesting to note that: It was Russell, not Hart (CPRR's official photographer) who took this photo. That shouldn't detract from the importance of the moment. It is obviously carefully choreographed to feature those Chinese workers and couldn't have occurred without the blessing of all those present, including officials of the CPRR for whom the Chinese worked. Many caucasian observers appear to be more than happy to to be in the background in this picture. One explanation for it not being taken by Hart is that the three photographers present – Hart, Russell and Savage – apparently had worked out very specific assignments of who was to photograph what throughout the morning. Hart took some views from a distant vantage point during this part of the ceremony while Russell and Savage were closer to scene of the actual joining. —Phil Anderson, Hermosa Beach, CA
>The famous A.J. Russell photograph could not include the Chinese workers photographed earlier participating in the joining of the rails ceremony because at the moment the famous photo was being taken it was after the conclusion of the ceremony and the Chinese workers were away from the two locomotives to dine at J.H. Strobridge's boarding car, being honored and cheered by the CPRR management.

Two questions about FALSE RUMORS claiming the slaughter of Chinese Central Pacific Railroad workers, an event which never happened!
> A library patron heard a rumor that Chinese workers had been brought to America to work on building railroads, and that as soon as the work was completed the workers were murdered.
> I am unable to find a particular photo.  It is of an extreme atrocity perpetrated by the railroad.  It was in the late 1800's and shows a very large pile of slaughtered Chinese workers who after completing the task of building the railroad, the railroad, in cold blood, shot them rather than pay them.  This photo shows several men with their rifles posing in front of the dead pile as someone who'd just shot and killed a trophy buck. I know that I saw this photo.  It has been years ago, though.

The rumor that your library patron heard is totally incorrect. The Chinese who built the transcontinental railroad were not murdered. Instead they mostly continued building railroads, for example, the line from northern to southern California via the San Joaquin Valley. Some returned to China. Regrettably, there certainly was virulent anti-Chinese sentiment in 19th century California, and there were some riots in which Chinese were killed, but not related to the railroad or its workers. Nineteen Chinese died in an 1871 riot in Los Angeles' Chinatown at Calle de los Negros, near the Plaza (which is four hundred miles south of the first transcontinental railroad). In the 1885 Rock Springs Massacre, an Anti-Chinese riot in Rock Springs, Wyoming, had 28 Chinese killed, and others run out of town. There is also a commonly repeated myth that large numbers of Chinese died building the Central Pacific Railroad. Claims that thousands were killed appear to be wildly inaccurate – we have not been able to find documentation of more than about 50 casualties resulting from the CPRR construction. It is unfortunate that such rumors abound, but perhaps this results in part from the paucity of information, as no first hand accounts of the Chinese railroad workers' experiences are known to exist.
The reason that you have not been able to find such an image on the CPRR Museum website is that this rumored event never happened on the Central Pacific Railroad! (But see below.) To the contrary, a reporter for the San Francisco Newsletter, May 15th, 1869, described the final moments of the celebration at Promontory:
" 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."
After the completion of the transcontinental railroad, many of the same Chinese workers continued working for the railroad as the Southern Pacific RR built south to Los Angeles.
Perhaps you are mistakenly thinking of the "The Massacre of the Chinese at Rock Springs, Wyoming," an actual massacre of Chinese miners, not railroad workers, which was illustrated in Harper’s Weekly, 26 September 1885, p. 637, by artist T. de Thul from photographs by C.A. Booth. "This coal mining town was the site of the 'Rock Springs Massacre' in 1885, a savage labor riot in which white miners killed at least 25 Chinese immigrants and chased hundreds more into the countryside. Federal troops restored order and remained in Rock Springs until 1898." Or perhaps you are thinking of the southern California Los Angeles Chinese Massacre of 1871 which was the first riot in Los Angeles, but also not related to northern California CPRR railroad workers. One website reports (quoting Colonel George M. Totten) that in 1854 there was a mass suicide of Chinese Coolie laborers on the Panama Railroad following a tropical fever outbreak and an ill advised decision to abruptly cut off the workers' opium supply, but primary sources would need to be verified.



Where there railroad price wars?
"The expansion of railways through Southern California in the 1880s prompted the calculated promotion of the region as a healthy, comfortable place to make a home. In the middle of the decade, there was even a price war for passenger travel, and fare for a ticket from the Mississippi Valley to the Pacific dropped to $25.00." [California: Magnet for Tourists and Home Buyers, Library of Congress]
"During the 1870s the Pennsylvania Railroad and the New York Central Railroad engaged in a bitter price war, each trying to drive the other out of business. To that end, William Vanderbilt, the president of the New York Central, decided to invade the Pennsylvania Railroad's territory by building an alternate route to Pittsburgh." The construction of a second rail line to Pittsburgh was ultimately abandoned and became part of the Pennsylvania Turnpike which uses some of its tunnels. [William Vanderbilt's Folly - Origins of the Pennsylvania Turnpike]
Also see Re-Assessing Tom Scott, the 'Railroad Prince.'
There is also apparently a railroad game which includes price wars
However, anti-competitive behavior was also an issue.



If someone was travelling from New York City to San Francisco in 1871, what station would they leave from? What is known about Emigrant Trains?
Camden & Amboy RR NYC DockThe only depot in Manhattan in 1871 was Grand Central (New York Central) which opened that year. All others were in located in Jersey City, Hobeken, and Weehawken. Passengers took ferries across the Hudson River to to New Jersey to reach them. —Bruce C. Cooper

The New York City Camden and Amboy Railroad Dock and Pennsylvania Railroad Ticket Office at Pier No. 1, is illustrated in the stereoview detail, left.

The 1873 Wood's Illustrated Hand-Book to New York includes ferry information as follows:

For Hoboken, New Jersey, foot of Barclay street, North River. Barclay street runs out of Broadway westerly. Take Broadway and 7th Avenue cars.
Also for Hoboken, foot of Christopher street, from 5 A.M. to 8 P.M. every 15 minutes. From 8 to 12 P.M. every 20 minutes. ...
For Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, Jersey City Ferry foot of Cortlandt street, North River.

Robert Louis Stevenson's description of his 1879 transcontinental railroad trip, Across the Plains, documents his departure from New York via ferry to Jersey City as follows:

"MONDAY. - It was, if I remember rightly, five o'clock when we were all signalled to be present at the Ferry Depot of the railroad. An emigrant ship had arrived at New York on the Saturday night, another on the Sunday morning, our own on Sunday afternoon, a fourth early on Monday; and as there is no emigrant train on Sunday a great part of the passengers from these four ships was concentrated on the train by which I was to travel. There was a babel of bewildered men, women, and children. The wretched little booking-office, and the baggage-room, which was not much larger, were crowded thick with emigrants, and were heavy and rank with the atmosphere of dripping clothes. Open carts full of bedding stood by the half-hour in the rain. The officials loaded each other with recriminations. A bearded, mildewed little man, whom I take to have been an emigrant agent, was all over the place, his mouth full of brimstone, blustering and interfering. It was plain that the whole system, if system there was, had utterly broken down under the strain of so many passengers.

My own ticket was given me at once, and an oldish man, who preserved his head in the midst of this turmoil, got my baggage registered, and counselled me to stay quietly where I was till he should give me the word to move. I had taken along with me a small valise, a knapsack, which I carried on my shoulders, and in the bag of my railway rug the whole of Bancroft's History of the United States, in six fat volumes. It was as much as I could carry with convenience even for short distances, but it insured me plenty of clothing, and the valise was at that moment, and often after, useful for a stool. I am sure I sat for an hour in the baggage- room, and wretched enough it was; yet, when at last the word was passed to me and I picked up my bundles and got under way, it was only to exchange discomfort for downright misery and danger.

I followed the porters into a long shed reaching downhill from West Street to the river. It was dark, the wind blew clean through it from end to end; and here I found a great block of passengers and baggage, hundreds of one and tons of the other. I feel I shall have a difficulty to make myself believed; and certainly the scene must have been exceptional, for it was too dangerous for daily repetition. It was a tight jam; there was no fair way through the mingled mass of brute and living obstruction. Into the upper skirts of the crowd porters, infuriated by hurry and overwork, clove their way with shouts. I may say that we stood like sheep, and that the porters charged among us like so many maddened sheep- dogs; and I believe these men were no longer answerable for their acts. It mattered not what they were carrying, they drove straight into the press, and when they could get no farther, blindly discharged their barrowful. With my own hand, for instance, I saved the life of a child as it sat upon its mother's knee, she sitting on a box; and since I heard of no accident, I must suppose that there were many similar interpositions in the course of the evening. It will give some idea of the state of mind to which we were reduced if I tell you that neither the porter nor the mother of the child paid the least attention to my act. It was not till some time after that I understood what I had done myself, for to ward off heavy boxes seemed at the moment a natural incident of human life. Cold, wet, clamour, dead opposition to progress, such as one encounters in an evil dream, had utterly daunted the spirits. We had accepted this purgatory as a child accepts the conditions of the world. For my part, I shivered a little, and my back ached wearily; but I believe I had neither a hope nor a fear, and all the activities of my nature had become tributary to one massive sensation of discomfort.

At length, and after how long an interval I hesitate to guess, the crowd began to move, heavily straining through itself. About the same time some lamps were lighted, and threw a sudden flare over the shed. We were being filtered out into the river boat for Jersey City. You may imagine how slowly this filtering proceeded, through the dense, choking crush, every one overladen with packages or children, and yet under the necessity of fishing out his ticket by the way; but it ended at length for me, and I found myself on deck under a flimsy awning and with a trifle of elbow-room to stretch and breathe in. This was on the starboard; for the bulk of the emigrants stuck hopelessly on the port side, by which we had entered. In vain the seamen shouted to them to move on, and threatened them with shipwreck. These poor people were under a spell of stupor, and did not stir a foot. It rained as heavily as ever, but the wind now came in sudden claps and capfuls, not without danger to a boat so badly ballasted as ours; and we crept over the river in the darkness, trailing one paddle in the water like a wounded duck, and passed ever and again by huge, illuminated steamers running many knots, and heralding their approach by strains of music. The contrast between these pleasure embarkations and our own grim vessel, with her list to port and her freight of wet and silent emigrants, was of that glaring description which we count too obvious for the purposes of art.

The landing at Jersey City was done in a stampede. I had a fixed sense of calamity, and to judge by conduct, the same persuasion was common to us all. A panic selfishness, like that produced by fear, presided over the disorder of our landing. People pushed, and elbowed, and ran, their families following how they could. Children fell, and were picked up to be rewarded by a blow. One child, who had lost her parents, screamed steadily and with increasing shrillness, as though verging towards a fit; an official kept her by him, but no one else seemed so much as to remark her distress; and I am ashamed to say that I ran among the rest. I was so weary that I had twice to make a halt and set down my bundles in the hundred yards or so between the pier and the railway station, so that I was quite wet by the time that I got under cover. There was no waiting-room, no refreshment room; the cars were locked; and for at least another hour, or so it seemed, we had to camp upon the draughty, gaslit platform. I sat on my valise, too crushed to observe my neighbours; but as they were all cold, and wet, and weary, and driven stupidly crazy by the mismanagement to which we had been subjected, I believe they can have been no happier than myself. I bought half-a-dozen oranges from a boy, for oranges and nuts were the only refection to be had. As only two of them had even a pretence of juice, I threw the other four under the cars, and beheld, as in a dream, grown people and children groping on the track after my leavings.
At last we were admitted into the cars, utterly dejected, and far from dry. For my own part, I got out a clothes-brush, and brushed my trousers as hard as I could till I had dried them and warmed my blood into the bargain; but no one else, except my next neighbour to whom I lent the brush, appeared to take the least precaution. As they were, they composed themselves to sleep. I had seen the lights of Philadelphia, and been twice ordered to change carriages and twice countermanded, before I allowed myself to follow their example."

New York City Railroad Depots, 1899 Map
New York City Railroad Depots, 1899 Map
from Rand McNally City of New York Guide

New York City 1904 Map
New York City 1904 Map showing Railroad Lines

Many travellers continued their trip across the continent via Chicago. "For Chicago, the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869 ushered in an era of unprecedented growth with four major lines to the Union Pacific, three more than any other city. In addition to the Chicago & North Western, these lines were the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific, the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy, and the Illinois Central. As a result, Chicago became the nation's most important 'jumping off' place for millions of people migrating west over the next fifty years."

Underwood & Underwood Stereoview detail.  Pennsylvania Railroad Pier, New York City, 1902.
Underwood & Underwood Stereoview detail. Pennsylvania Railroad Pier, New York City, 1902.
From the Washington Building near Battery Park looking west across North River and Bay to Jersey City.

Memories of the Old West by Thaddeus J. Foley.
Chapter 1. The First Three Years of a Tenderfoot in Nebraska:

... Later, the boy was told that an emigrant train from the West would arrive at two o'clock and there when it stopped to solicit business for the house. This particular train had been put on to give early settlers in California a chance to go East for the first time by rail at reduced rates. It was, therefore, unusually well patronized.      There was a bitter rivalry between the railroad eating-house and the Major's establishment, and bad feeling had existed for a long time. It seems the railroad company owned all the land for two hundred feet on each side of the track, and the Major had been warned to keep off. This he refused to do, and the company had sent out a detective and gunman from Omaha to prevent trespassing. He and the Major met one day, and the latter came away with a bullet in his arm. This explained his keeping the arm in the sling.      The Major, therefore, cautioned the boy to "keep his eyes peeled" and be on the lookout for the runner from the Railroad House. By good luck the train stopped directly in front of the Major's on this day, and as a result the receipts were $147, an unusually good amount.      That night, when the time came for retiring, the boy asked Mrs. L---- where he would find a bed. She turned on him with disgust. "Where are your blankets?" she asked. Since the previous job had made blankets a necessity, he was well equipped, and soon produced them; whereupon the woman opened a door, and said, "Here's your room."     Not a single article of furniture was in the room, not even a chair; but the blankets were rolled out and, thankful for the job, the boy accepted the situation and slept peacefully. The next morning he got an early start in the store with brooms and dusters, and this routine continued for a week or more.      The Railroad House, dissatisfied with their share of patronage, about that time reduced the price of meals from $1.00 to 75 cents. With great disgust the Major met the price, but in a few days he had more cause for complaint, for he was startled to hear: "This way to the Railroad House, best meals for 25 cents." ...

Tommy Meehan comments further about Emigrant Trains: " ... From articles in the Railroad Gazette and from the Erie Railroad Employees Magazine I learned that in the Port of New York most if not all passenger railroads maintained passenger traffic agents at Ellis Island. [The "Ellis Island ... facility was closed for three years following a disasterous fire the night of 15 June 1897. During the interim period all processing was out of the Barge Office at the Battery." notes John Minke, of Carmichael, CA] They weren't there to solicit ridership, however, the Eastern railroads (including PRR, CNJ, Erie, DL&W, LV and, I think the West Shore but not NYC&HR) formally divided the traffic on a percentage basis. The agents were there to assemble passengers into trainload groups, get them loaded onto vessels ( ... ferries ... ), get their baggage checked and shepherd them to the appropriate terminal. In the early years, 1850s to about 1875 or so, I believe the trains were scheduled, though in most cases only persons holding immigrant tickets could board them. On the Erie the 'Immigrant Train' (I've seen it spelled both ways) was the last long-haul passenger train to operate through the Piermont terminal after the changeover to Exchange Place in 1853. After the huge increase in immigration from about 1890 until ... 1915 or so, plus the uncertainties of the immigration process, at least on the Erie I don't think the trains were scheduled. In addition the Erie immigrant trains of the later years operated from a special track at Pavonia Terminal in Jersey City, located north of the regular passenger concourse. ... Erie employees were regularly reminded via the company magazine that the immigrants provided good business to the road and were entitled to be treated with respect and dignity at all times. ... " [from the R&LHS Newsgroup]

Dan Cupper, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania comments that " ... during the immigration wave of the 1890s and afterward, PRR had a very considerable emigrant trade. The company went so far as to employ a full-time staff translator/troubleshooter who sometimes accompanied the travelers. In some cases, PRR ran solid emigrant trains as extras but for the most part, emigrants traveled in separate coaches coupled to No. 3, the Pacific Express, which left Jersey City between 7-9 p.m. (actual departure time varied by that much over a span of years), hit Altoona just after daybreak, Pittsburgh around 1 p.m., and Chicago the next morning at 7 or so. Various timetables show connections for Cleveland and Columbus but not Indianapolis or St. Louis. You can find evidence of the use of this train for emigrant travel in the Altoona newspapers (i.e., reports such as 'Three cars of emigrants were attached to No. 3 this morning. They were mostly Italians.') I don't know how early No. 3 began to carry emigrant cars, but the train existed at least as early as 1879. As for what influenced emigrant's choice of route, the evidence insofar as PRR is concerned points specifically to three influences:
1. The railroad employed a force of sales agents who attempted to direct passengers to the PRR. In a 1924 document, the railroad published photos of five men with the caption 'Pennsylvania Railroad Passenger Representatives who Meet Incoming Steamships at the Docks in New York.' Each wore a bowler hat with the railroad name appearing on the band. The publication listed 29 steamship companies whose vessels these men would meet.
2. The railroad's own internal investigation in the 1920s into the origin of its keystone logo turned up the fact that one of its earliest uses was on a placard advertising the PRR to arriving emigrants. Of course, few could read English, but the idea was to use the keystone shape as a brand identifier.
3. Many emigrants gave verbal testimony to the fact that they were traveling to reach family or friends who had already emigrated to the United States and settled. Thus, the location of these prior emigres dictated the choice of route. Western Pennsylvania, with its heavy concentration of eastern and southern Europeans working in the iron, steel, and coal industries, made PRR a preferred route for many of these travelers. The family members or friends may, in fact, have sent for them – i.e., sent money home to pay their fare for passage to the New World, and, of course, they would have sent instructions on where to join them and what route to take to get there." [from the R&LHS Newsgroup]

Adrian Ettlinger summarizes that " ... some emigrant service was ...chartered trains (which would have run as extras), there was also some emigrant service which consisted of emigrant cars attached to regular trains. ... an emigrant passenger would have either inquired at a ticket office and been advised as to which trains he/she could ride, or solicited at the immigration station (in 1880 ... this would have been Castle Garden rather than Ellis Island). And, obviously, eastern roads, both the PRR and the Erie, did a lot of emigrant business. ... an independent traveler ... would have traveled as an individual on whatever emigrant accommodations she could have found. ... It does seem apparent that, while the great majority of emigrant passengers may have under a 'group arrangement' organized by companies that specialized in the 'emigrant forwarding' business, it does certainly appear that any individual who wanted to save money and 'rough it' could buy an emigrant class ticket and travel in that manner. ... Robert Louis Stevenson, from Kyle's info, obviously traveled on the Burlington ... the Q's first route into Omaha was somewhat circuitous, but ... by 1880 there had been put in a more direct connection into Council Bluffs on the east side of the Missouri. Curious as to how the three routes competed, I checked out an 1880 Official Guide, and it's remarkable how close they were as to their fastest train schedules. All three had 'expresses' which left Chicago at 12:30 PM. The Northwestern and Rock Island both had scheduled arrivals in Council Bluffs at 9:15AM, and the Burlington's was 9:20. The Rock Island shows a 9:50 arrival time in Omaha, the Northwestern 9:55. The Burlington shows an arrival at 'U. P. Transfer' at 9:30. Perhaps a ploy by the Burlington to look faster. I'd assume U. P. Transfer was on the east side of the river. Which leads to a further question. I'd mentioned previously how Maury Klein in his UP history describes the 'Omaha Bridge Transfer' which resulted from an inability of the railroads and the cities of Omaha and Council Bluffs to agree on where the transfer point would be, so that the advantages of the bridge were seriously compromised for a time, in that two transfers were needed, just as had been the situation with the ferry. This situation seems to have prevailed until 1875, when a Federal Court ruling, upheld by the Supreme Court, declared that the bridge was an integral part of the UP, and the UP's eastern terminus was in Council Bluff. The 1880 guide shows two UP trains per day originating in Council Bluffs, and Northwestern and Burlington trains terminating in Omaha. Klein describes how those two roads paid tolls to the UP for use of the bridge, but the Burlington objected, so terminated its trains at 'UP Transfer.' There did not appear to be any close connections in Omaha, (or Council Bluffs for the Q), so passengers had at minimum a few hours layover." [from the R&LHS Newsgroup]

Chris Baer explains that: "The PRR was definitely running emigrant trains as late as the mid-1880s, as Railroad Gazette notes they had cut the emigrant fare to $1 to Chicago during the Trunk Line rate wars of the period. The PRR had emigrant trains from at least the very early 1850s and had an Emigrant Agent who traveled abroad to solicit business. The early emigrant trains are listed in the timetables published in Philadelphia newspapers, indicating that they probably did some business carrying people who had already been in the country at least a while but wanted to go west. They appear to have gone no farther than Pittsburgh, where emigrants would have a choice of steamboats and other connections. Even the transporting companies on the Main Line of Public Works that preceded the PRR advertised emigrant fares. As has been mentioned already, it would appear that these trains ceased to be advertised in domestic newspapers, possibly by the time of the 1873-79 depression which reduced immigration, as well as in public timetables. They may have been listed as second class trains in employee timetables, but I have never seen any from this period. Later, they may have run irregularly as extras. The PRR's emigrant business was always handled at Jersey City, since after the Immigration Station was moved from Castle Garden at the Battery to Ellis Island, people could run directly to the station by boat without going into the city. There was an emigrant waiting room in one of the piers adjacent to the PRR station at least as late as the 1910s. The PRR's book form Lines West employee timetable in the late 1890s and early 1900s advertises occasional trains for homesteaders, presumably from the near Midwest, who wish to relocate to the Plains, Oklahoma, etc. Trains for immigrants from Europe must have been advertised in special flyers and handbills that were distributed in ports. Of course, the PRR had a special relationship with the American Line and the Red Star Line (International Navigation Company)." [from the R&LHS Newsgroup]

Bernie Sennstrom wrote that: "Emigrant train service dates back to the old New York & Erie Railroad. In more recent times (1880s and later) the Erie Railway, New York, Lake Erie & Western and Erie Railroad continued the service. The Chicago & Atlantic owned eleven emigrant cars Nos. 101-111 built by Jackson & Sharp in 1883. When the Chicago & Erie succeeded the C&A, the emigrant cars were renumbered 2051-2061. The NYLE&W numbered its emigrant cars Nos. 600-675 but there were only 24 cars in that series. When the Erie Railroad took over the C&E and NYLE&W it renumbered the cars to 900-949, but there were only 20 cars in the series in 1896. The roster of emigrant cars decreased over time until 1914 when remaining emigrant cars were scrapped. The emigrant cars ran through over the NYLE&W, NYP&O and C&A all the way to Chicago from Jersey City. There were no special emigrant trains I'm aware of. Emigrant cars were attached to regular through passenger trains. Also, I don't believe the NYP&O owned any emigrant cars."

Kyle Williams Wyatt remarks that "I believe it was in the 1890s that Pullman introduced their Tourist Cars to tap into this middle class market. Pullman used both downgraded Pullman cars and purpose built cars. These new cars were very plain with little decoration – but did have somewhat more comfortable amenities than the emigrant cars – for instance the seats were padded. There were even some on the D&RG." [from the R&LHS Newsgroup]

More about Emigrant Trains:



How many miles of track are there in the world?
According to railwaystation.com, "In 1937 there were 788,672 miles of railroad in the world."

What can you tell me about the locomotive that sank? In the PBS documentary, they refer to a locomotive for the CPRR that sank in the Hudson River on it's way to California ...
PBS American Experience - Transcontinental Railroad:
"WENDELL HUFFMAN: Huntington kept saying, build faster. Build with the devil behind you and heaven ahead of you. Build. Build. Build.
NARRATOR: Speed was never easy for the Central Pacific. Everything – from locomotives to rails to spikes – still had to be built at iron works in the east and then sailed around the tip of South America to the San Francisco docks, loaded onto steamboats and shipped up the Sacramento River. Schedules rarely held. Much needed spikes, rails, and rail-chairs sat under becalmed sails; a locomotive sank in the Hudson River, parts of another in San Francisco Bay. Rail fell overboard into the Sacramento River. Shipments that made it to the Sacramento's docks were packed onto trains for a perilous ride forward to the work crew."

Railroads Shipped by Sea by Wendell Huffman states: "While a handful of locomotives was carried inland on river steamboats or barges, the vast majority were carried on schooners. Although sailing across the bay and delta and up the Sacramento River presented far fewer hazards than sailing around Cape Horn, this endeavor was not without its occasional mishap. Due to accidents, at least one load of rail ended up in the bay, and another load was lost into the Sacramento River.[55]  The sloop Willie capsized in the Carquinez Strait in February 1869 with a load of parts for CP Nos. 121, 131, and 135, but all was salvaged.[56]  (Earlier, an unidentified locomotive sank with a lighter in the Hudson River.[57]) The crew of the schooner Columbia, delivering 3,000 ties to Sacramento from the California coast, had to throw a third of their load overboard to save themselves in a strong gale encountered while still at sea.[58]"
[57] Huntington to E. B. Crocker, 21 March 1868, HCSU.

> Wendell Huffman additionally comments that: The information I have regarding the locomotive going into the Hudson River comes from a letter from C.P.Huntington to E.B. Crocker of 21 March 1868. He says merely: "One of our locomotives sank at the dock at Jersey City last night. It was insured. It was on a lighter. Yours truly." I do not know which locomotive it was, but it was undoubtedly one of the locomotives delivered from the factories in 1868 prior to March 21. The possibilities are: 64, 65, 66, 80, 81, and 84. These locomotives (shipped as kits in a multitude of crates) came to New York harbor from builders in East Boston, Patterson NJ, and Schenectady, NY. Most likely all came by "lighter" – either coastal schooners or canal boats. These locomotives were invoiced as followed: 80 on February 13, 64 on February 20, 65 and 84 on February 29, 81 on March 5, and 66 on March 14. Presumably these were the dates they left the factories. Perhaps the 66 should be removed from the list of possibilities – depending upon how long we imagine it took to carry a locomotive from Boston to New York. The 64, 80, 81, and 84 departed New York harbor on the "Prima Donna" on April 4; the 65 sailed on the "Fleetford" on April 7; and the 66 went on the "Favorita" on April 22. It doesn't appear that any of these engines was long delayed between factory and ship. Since the mishap occured on 20 March, the locomotive was possibly one being loaded on the "Prima Donna", and perhaps because of the accident it missed sailing and was the one (the 65) which departed on the "Fleetford" a few days later. But I think that is reading too much into the scant data. In any event, no locomotive invoiced during this period failed to depart New York for California. The locomotive is not still on the bottom of the Hudson River. Certainly salvage operators of that era had the capability to retrieve items from shallow waters, and they clearly did so with whichever locomotive took an unscheduled bath.



Coast-to-coast sleeping cars in the USA. – Transcontinental trains and sleepers in the USA.
The May 1955 issue of the Official Guide lists the following coast-to-coast sleeping cars in the USA.

          New York-Los Angeles

20th Century Limited-Super Chief: two cars daily.
Broadway Limited-Super Chief: one car daily.
City of Los Angeles-Chicagoan westbound, Commodore Vanderbilt eastbound: one car daily.
City of Los Angeles-Pennsylvania Ltd westbound, General eastbound: one car daily.

          New York-San Francisco

Pennsylvania Limited westbound and the General eastbound: one car daily,
operating on alternate days in the California Zephyr and the City of San Francisco.
Chicagoan westbound and Commodore Vanderbilt eastbound and the City of San Francisco: one car on alternate days.
Commodore Vanderbilt-California Zephyr: one car on alternate days.
California Zephyr: one car daily, alternating as above on the NYC and PRR.
City of San Francisco: one car daily, alternating as above on the NYC and PRR.

          Washington-Los Angeles

Super Chief-Shenandoah westbound and Capitol Limited eastbound – one car daily.

All the cars were 10 roomettes, 6 double bedrooms, except one of the cars on the 20th Century Limited-Super Chief and the car on the 20th Century Limited-Broadway Limited, which were 4 compartment, 4 double bedrooms, 2 drawing room. Noteworthy is that the Super Chief carried four coast-to-coast sleeping cars, half of its sleeping car complement. ... there was considerable layover time in Chicago. Passengers could stay in the car, but would probably have to supply their own lunch. Consequently I would suspect that most passengers would take the time to visit Chicago. The major advantage to the through cars was that passengers could leave your baggage in the car, as advertised in the Guide.

There were also through cars between New York, Washington and Texas, using the Penn Texas on the PRR and the National Limited on the B&O, and the Texas Eagle on the MP-T&P and the Texas Special on the SLSF-MKT.

... the ... article: Tower, Richard L. Jr.; "Transcontinental Trains – Close, but No Cigar", in "Trains Classic '99" (Kalmbach 1999), pp. 30-39 &92 ... documents various sleeping car lines which over the years crossed the Chicago-Mississipi barrier, and attempts since 1945 to create a true transcontinental train. ... "Trains Classic," originally intended to be an annual, metamorphosed into "Classic Trains," now published quarterly. —Ken Heard[from the R&LHS Newsgroup]

What was name of the line(s), such as Twentieth Century Limited, etc., that ran from San Francisco to Utah and points east via the Sierras in 1919?
The main long run trains operated by the SP in 1919 from San Francisco via the Sierra route to Utah and points east were:

The 20th Century Ltd, however, did not go to San Francisco.  It was the NY Central's all Pullman train from New York to Chicago. —Bruce C. Cooper

While the Twentieth Century Limited ran New York-Chicago via the New York Central, during the late 40s and the 1950s it carried at least one San Francisco Pullman. This service was also offered by the Century's eastern competitor: the Pennsylvania Railroad's Broadway Limited. By the mid-1950s both the Century and the Broadway carried California Pullmans: San Francisco and Los Angeles destinations alternating. SF via CNW-UP-SP, LA via AT&SF. —John Williamson



If someone were to travel from the Midwest to Los Angeles circa 1931, what train or trains would he be likely to take?
A train traveler from the midwest to Los Angeles in 1930 would be most likely to take the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad's "Chief", its daily extra fare train from Chicago to Los Angeles, which began service on November 14, 1926, replacing the "California Limited" which had provided this service since 1892. (Additional weekly "Super Chief" service was added to this route in May, 1936, and the "El Capitan" made its first run in February, 1938.) A midwest traveler could board the "Chief" at its origin in Chicago or easily connect with it via other roads in Kansas City. If a traveler wished to travel west through St. Louis he could ride on the "Frisco" road (St. Louis & San Francisco Railroad) and connect with the "Chief" in Albuquerque, NM. —Bruce C. Cooper


How did the surveyors and engineers back then know what elevation to set the rail bed at especially when the rails followed parallel to a river? It seems like they knew how high to set it to minimize the tracks being covered by flood waters when a river would flood. Without historical data of river floods (like we have today) how did they know the elevation they chose was high enough to avoid say a 100-year flood if they did not know what a 100-year flood was?
> They didn't know – all they could do is guess, with so little history to base it on, and they had little thought to how agriculture and timbering would affect the streams. Correspondence of the Casement Brothers of the Union Pacific is full of dismay as the Missouri, the Platte, the Green, the Weber, and feeder streams took them by surprise and washed away their work. Even at the end there was a furious debate over how closely they could approach Great Salt Lake to avoid just the sort of rare catastrophe you mention. The Central Pacific, too, had its own problems in the Sierra with unanticipated washouts just as it did with record-breaking snows, spring mudslides, etc. Drier Nevada and Utah posed a few problems as one could look at a dry, dead creekbed not realizing that one weekend out of every five years it would suddenly overflow and wreck a culvert or erase a stretch of grade. ... —David Bain
> The bad news, they didn't know. This can be validated by the loss of rail and roadbed in 1865 on the North side of Smart Ridge, when a snowslide took out three hundred feet of bed and rail. To keep this from happening again, a stone wall was constructed along the rail bed (yes, they just filled it in and reused it); this stone wall is still in place – it measures about 100 feet long, 15 feet high, and four feet thick. —G J Chris Graves, NewCastle, AltaCal'a
> Trial and error. Or, if they were lucky, trial and success. I'm sure it was more art than science, but I would think that the more successful engineer took time to study the landscape. Signs of stream erosion were no doubt telling. However, the less frequent the flooding, the more subtle the signs. I think in many cases, the engineers had no idea. They did the best they could, and they went back and rebuilt the line as needed. Or, as in the case of the original California Pacific line from Knights Landing on the Sacramento River to Marysville, they just decided they really didn't need the railroad across the swamp all that much. —Wendell Huffman
> I'm not certain they really did know.  There were usually contingency plans for re-routing over another carrier, if they didn't happen to be in the same place.  And not just for floods but for blizzards as well.  Trains were often delayed in the wintertime when there were heavy snows.  There are many recorded instances.  Had the term "100 year flood" even been invented in 1865???   David can speak the transcontinental construction, but I remember reading about the tracks being washed out in the Platte Valley several times causing, to them, serious delays.   The SPLASL through Meadow Valley got washed away twice, seriously, before they got the tracks relocated high enough.  So even by the turn of the 20th Century there wasn't much in the way of flood data from which to draw.   Kansas City got flooded a lot, depending on your definition of a lot.  I think you put up with the annoyance of occasional flooding because the flat route was year in and year out the best route.   The 1951 and 1952 Kansas and Missouri River floods rerouted traffic for a long time and not just around Kansas City. —Don Snoddy

"He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends." —Oscar Wilde
"I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure." —Clarence Darrow
"I didn't attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it." —Mark Twain



Where can I find the story of the train stuck in the snow?
The story of the Southern Pacific passenger train stranded in the snow in the Sierra Nevada mountains in 1952 after an avalanche has been told in newspaper articles and in a book entitled Snowbound Streamliner by Robert J. Church.  The train City of San Francisco was stuck in the snow for three days near Yuba Pass while heroic efforts were made to rescue the passengers in which two SPRR employees lost their lives.

Why was the Union Pacific railroad to begin in Omaha? Why was the Central Pacific to begin in Sacramento?
It was partly engineering and partly political.  The struggle between the north and south over where to build the railroad had been going on since the mid 1840's when Asa Whitney began lobbying Congress.  Whitney was unsuccessful, but the Pacific Railroad Surveys of possible routes by the army corps of topographical engineers in the mid 1850's resulted.  (In retrospect a rather pointless fight, as essentially all the proposed transcontinental railroad routes were soon built.)  Judah and Doc Strong had figured out a "practical route" over the Sierra Nevada mountains, and General Dodge had located a feasible route using the Platte River basin.  Congress was able to finally approve the (first) route only after the start of the Civil War and the resignation of the southern Senators from Congress.  Another answer would be that after years of Congressional lobbying by Judah, the Pacific Railroad Act of 1962 signed by Lincoln which provided the bond funding said specified Sacramento and Council Bluffs, Iowa (next to Omaha, Nebraska, across the Missouri River).


First Diesel Locomotive
First Diesel Locomotive 2005 marks the centennial of construction of the first diesel locomotive - built by General Electric (electricals), American Locomotive Company (body), and International Power Company, owners of the Corliss Engine Company (and formerly of the Rhode Island Locomotive Works, both) in Providence, RI (Diesel engine), . In brief, the project came out of a meeting between E. H. Harriman and Dr. Diesel at the 1904 St Louis Exposition. Busch (he of beer) had purchased American rights to diesel engine development in America, and had licensed International Power Company to develop and manufacture diesel engines. Busch was a sponsor of the Exposition, and a large Diesel engine provided the central power for the Exposition (much as a large Corliss steam engine had provided central power at the 1876 Philadelphia Exposition). Harriman was the keynote speaker at the opening of the Exposition, and Diesel was in attendance. Harriman invited Diesel to tour the Pacific Coast, and Diesel offered a design for a Diesel electric locomotive for the route over Donner Pass. The press announced the beginning of construction in Nov 1904, including details and an artist's cutaway view of the locomotive (a boxcab with two diesel engines and generator sets). The trade press announced tests in April 1905 - then nothing more. Most likely it was a failure - neither diesel engine technology nor electrical control design had advanced far enough at that point, although of course we know that both were solved in the coming two decades. None-the-less, it appears a locomotive was constructed and tested (probably at the factory). So even though it was a failure, 2005 does mark a centennial. And it appears to have been the very first Diesel powered locomotive with any type of power transmission constructed in the World!!
—Kyle Williams Wyatt, Curator of History & Technology, California State Railroad Museum [from the R&LHS Newsgroup]


What was the record for laying track? – The "ten mile day" – April 28, 1869. Did Crocker bet Durant $10,000?
See: "A Railroad Record That Defies Defeat: How Central Pacific laid ten miles of track in one day back in 1869." by Erle Heath, Southern Pacific Bulletin, 1928. The all time record for most track laid was on April 28, 1869 when the Central Pacific Railroad laid 10 miles in one day. 

The following are several descriptions of the uncorroborated bet between Crocker and Durant:

In the article, "The Last Tie," Dr. J. D. B. Stillman (Overland Monthly, Volume III San Francisco: A. Roman & Company, July 1869, pp.77-84), describes the event as follows (and names the Irish track layers): "Ten miles of track were laid in one day; and it is worth of note, that all the rails were taken from the trucks and deposited in their places by eight men, four on a side. These rails weigh on an average five hundred and sixty pounds; and allowing fifty feet to each rail, the amount of iron borne by each man during the day of eleven hours was seventy-four tons! This was without relay. The names of the men who performed this feat are justly a part of this record. They were: Michael Shay, Patrick Joyce, Thomas Dailey, Michael Kennedy, Frederick McNamara, Edward Killeen, Michael Sullivan, and George Wyatt." However, the stated "five hundred and sixty pounds; and ... fifty feet to each rail" seems inconsistent, because 560 lb./50 ft. = 11.2 lb./ft. = 33. 6 lb./yd. which is not correct. If this is doubled to 67.2 lb./yd. it would be more plausible. So the weight could be for one rail, but the length for two rails.
Then, (10 mi.*(11.2 lb./ft. x 2 rails x 5,280 ft./mi.)/(2,000 lb./ton))/8 men = 73.9 ton/man.

Perspectives vary, and one website claims: "In 1864, the Central Pacific Railroad Company was pushing construction of the railroad from Sacramento California into the Sierra Mountains. Someone at the Central Pacific noticed the efficient work habits of Chinese. It was obvious that Chinese ingenuity could do the impossible, so the company decided to experiment with a Chinese construction crew. Company managers also did something unheard of by American managers, they adapted the empowerment leadership style of the Chinese, giving full control and responsibility of the project to front line workers. As a result, track laying increased until it reached a record ten miles in one day, a record that still stands." [That is, aside from the instigation, management, and supervision on on April 28, 1869 of the event by Charles Crocker, Superintendent James Harvey Strobridge, Gang Foreman George Corley, and the three Track Bosses, Horace Hamilton Minkler, his two Assistants, Frank Freitis and Mike Stanton.]

Edson T. Strobridge comments: "The story of the ten miles of track laid in one day has a number of assumptions that really make it impossible to know the exact numbers. First of all, Stillman wasn't there at the time and describes the event while on his way to the 'Last Spike' ceremony at Promontory so one can only assume that he has used information taken from the reports of others. He really didn't do too badly except for his reporting of the rails being 50 feet in length and his estimate of 74 tons per man. I would guess that his use of the 50' is the result of a typographical error as he is the only one using that figure. All the other reports report the rail lengths as 30'.   By law, rails on the Pacific Railroad could be no less that 56 lbs/yard hence a 30 foot (10 yard) rail weighed 560 pounds. The problem was that all rails were not the same length, they varied from as long as 30' to as short as 22'  which was acceptable under Huntington's contracts. Rail manufacturing had not developed to the point that iron quality was good enough that every rail could be cut to the same length and any rail the Iron Co. couldn't sell had to be re-rolled or scrapped. Shipping was also a problem as not all available ships could handle 30' rails.  James Harvey Strobridge in an interview stated '1000' tons and '3500' rails were laid on April 28th, 1869 for a distance of ten miles and 200 feet however he stated that the UP Engineers measured the distance so no errors would be made. The actual figure accepted was ten miles and 56 lineal feet of track.   3500 rails weighed on average something less than 560 lbs due the varied lengths however assuming all rails were 30' and the weight was 560 lbs that would provide a total weight of about 980 tons. So each of the Irish rail handlers unloaded a total of about 122.5 tons during the 11 hours they worked.   Another way of looking at it is that the total length of rail (ten miles and 56') equaled 105,656 lineal feet divided by 30' = 3522 rails. So J.H. Strobridge wasn't too far off on his recollection and that depends if no side tracks were laid for passing construction trains(which no one ever addressed) and his 3500 rails wasn't too bad either. Throw in the possibility that all rails were not 30' but something shorter just adds more confusion. It would be my bet that J.H. Strobridge  would probably be rolling with laughter right now if he knew of our effort to tie down the facts to such a great detail as there was never an exact counting of material in those days. They lost entire stacks of rail which were not found until the snow melted. Rails were not ordered by the foot but by the ton, shipped by the ton and counted by the rail/ton. The reporting of the event of ten miles of track in one day was embellished by everyone who reported the story to make it as interesting as they could. One fact that did come out of the days story was just how much weight eight strong men could handle in one day. One fact that was not widely reported was that it took the work of three track bosses, H.H. Minkler, his two assistants, Frank Freitis and Mike Stanton to make it all work. Charles Crocker gave Minkler a $500 bonus for his efforts and I assume that he shared it with his key men.   One fact that cannot be challenged is that the rail was 56#/yd +- depending on when it was rolled in the life of the roll. The more the roll wore, the larger the pattern became and the more the rail weighed. ... Another fact not widely reported was that the railroad fed 5,000 men in the one hour break for rest and lunch."

G.J. "Chris" Graves comments: "It is my understanding that the Irish (and their German foreman, Horace Hamilton Minkler) took the rails from the cart, laid them on the ties, and spiked down the front and back of each rail. Another crew of Irish (the Chinese were graders, not track layers [see earlier photograph]) or Mormons completed the spiking. ... James Harvey Strobridge writes as follows:   'Each rail was handled by eight men, four to a side. They ran it out to the edge of the car (iron trucks), dropping it into place for the spikes too be driven, a man for each spike. When it was down the men walked to the same spike on the next rail, drove it and on to the next, all day.'  Track gangs, from my understanding, did not contain Chinese workers. [Graves explains that the Chinese graders worked miles away from the track gangs who followed; months apart in for a given location in the Sierras.] From the above, and from [Dr. J. D. B. Stillman's description], one can see that four men carried the rail, and four men spiked them down. Due to the challenges faced by mixing the Chinese and Irish/Mormon workers, and knowing that the Chinese folks were graders, I am comfortable saying that in the 10 miles in one day, as well as other days, the track gangs were Anglos, and Anglos only. ... Chinese ... did not spike down the 10 miles in one day"

Chris Graves' conclusion that "Chinese ... did not spike down the 10 miles in one day," is based on his belief that the Chinese workers only did grading work, which does not seem to be supported by the following information which indicates that Chinese in Utah also were track workers who were expert in driving spikes:
           (1) Ed Strobridge wrote: "Since some prominent visitors were to 'drive' a last iron spike and, as amateurs, they would have difficulty in starting the spikes, the Chinese started a number of them. An experienced track worker could drive a spike in three blows, the visitors took upwards of ten. As Amos L. Bowsher is quoted, 'the last [iron] spike was partly driven for Stanford and Durant by the Chinese'."
           (2) The San Francisco Chronicle, September 10, 1868 states: "At the end of track, 307 miles from Sacramento between Mill City and Winnemucca, the train trip ended. Caxton reported 'Here we found a very large number of men at work – principally Chinese – laying the track.... ' "
           (3) Driving the Last Spike At Promontory, 1869 by J. N. Bowman, California Historical Society Quarterly, Vol. XXXVI, No. 2,  June 1957, pp. 96-106,  and Vol. XXXVI, No. 3, September 1957, pp. 263-274, states that: "The bulk of the Chinese and other workers who had completed the line by May 1 had been shunted westward to improve certain points of the line, leaving only a few, perhaps a dozen, to do the grading, lay the ties and drive the few spikes of the west rail, lay the east rail for the ceremony, and replace the laurel tie. ... The junction point was the highest point of the road in the basin and was about 3 1/2 miles eastward of the end of the 10-mile-and-58-feet track laid by the Chinese in 1 day of about 12 hours, ... At about 10:30 the Chinese began the final grading for the last 2 rails, the laying of the ties and rails, the driving of the spikes, and the bolting of the fishplates of the west rail. ... Also, since the visitors were to 'drive' a last iron spike and, as amateurs, they would have had difficulty in starting the spikes, it is quite likely that the Chinese started a number of the iron spikes, as Bowsher stated that the last spike was partly driven for Stanford and Durant. ... Who drove the last spike on the last replacement is unknown – possibly it was one of the Chinese workmen."
           (4) The Last Spike painting appears to show three Chinese workers, only one with a shovel. The tools held by the other two workers perhaps indicate that they are Chinese track workers, not graders.
If it is true, as the above suggests, that Chinese spikers were in Utah, it places in question the logical basis for Chris Graves' conclusion that Chinese could not have spiked the rails put in place by the 8 Irishmen during the ten mile day. —CPRR.org

G.J. "Chris" Graves replied: In a book, reprinted on the CPRR Museum site, author Iris Chang has a great deal to say about Chinese workers, and how they participated on the "10 Miles in One Day" effort. The Southern Pacific Bulletin, August, 1927, page 10, reads in part, quoting from a report from End of Track, November 9, 1868:

"Long lines of horses, mules and wagons were standing in the open desert near the camp train.  The stock was getting its breakfast of hay and barley.  Trains were shunting in from the west with supplies and materials for the day's work.  Foremen were galloping here and there on horseback giving or receiving orders.  Swarms of laborers, Chinese, Europeans and Americans were hurrying to their work.  On one side of the track stood the moveable blacksmith shop where a score of smiths were repairing tools and shoeing horses and mules.  Close by was the fully equipped harness shop where a large force was repairing collars, traces and other leather equipment. To the west were the rails and line of telegraph poles stretching back as far as the eye could reach.  The telegraph wire from the last pole was strung into the car that served as a telegraph office.  To the eastward stretched the grade marked by a line of newly distributed earth.  By the side of the grade smoked the camp fires of the blue clad laborers who could be seen in groups waiting for the signal to start work.  These were the Chinese, and the job of this particular contingent was to clear a level roadbed for the track. They were the vanguard of the construction forces. Miles back was the camp of the rear guard–the Chinese who followed the track gang, ballasting and finishing the road bed. Systematic workers these Chinese–competent and wonderfully effective because tireless and unremitting in their industry ... The rails, ties and other material were thrown off the train as near to end of the track was as feasible, and then the empty train was drawn back out of the way. At this point the rails were loaded on low flat cars, and hauled by horses to end of track.  The ties were handled in the same way. Behind came the rail gang, who took the rails from the flat cars and laid them on the ties.  While they were doing this a man on each side distributed spikes, two to each tie; another distributed splice bars; and a third the bolts and nuts by which the rails were spliced together.  Two more men followed to adjust and sent back for another load ... Back of the track builders followed a gang with the seven more ties necessary to complete the foundation for each rail.  These were put into position and spiked by another gang, which also leveled up the track and left it ready for the ballasters. ..."

It is absolutely clear that the hard working Chinese laborers were graders, not track layers! Continuing in the same publication, on page 11, re: the 10 Miles in One Day effort:

"The rails were carried to the end of the track on little flat cars.  There four men would seize a rail, run forward with it and drop it in place.  Correspondents and officials were standing around, watches in hand, time the various operations.  The average time for handling a rail was 30 seconds.  After the rail, came a gang which tacked it in place with eight spikes and dropped the bolts in place. Then onto the next rail.  Behind came a second gang which drove home the spikes that had been started ... A spiker in those days was expected to sink a spike home with three blows of the sledge ... The Alta Correspondent ... continues"It may seem incredible, but nevertheless a fact, that the whole ten miles of rail was handled and laid down by this day by eight white men.  These men were: Michael Shay, Michael Kennedy, Michael Sullivan, Patrick Joyce, Thomas Dailey, George Wyatt, Edward Kieleen and Fred McNamara.  These eight Irishmen in one day handled more than 3500 rails–1,000 tons of iron."

Note please, ... no mention of Chinese workers in these rail gangs, which makes me wonder where Ms. Chang got her information? Also, William Carton and Peter Egan gauged the rail at 4 feet, 8 and 1/2 inches. Thank you for the opportunity to perhaps shed more light on this most interesting subject. —G J Chris Graves, NewCastle, AltaCal'a

Strobridge at Victory Camp
Strobridge & Minkler at "Victory Camp – 10 miles of track laid in one day."

The above photograph was taken at the time of the event.  The UPRR has photographs taken years later of a commemorative sign erected next to the track at the location where ten miles were built in one day. Ten Miles of Track Laid in One Day, April 28, 1869. "Another thing in which [Strobridge] took satisfaction was the laying of ten miles of rail in one day. The rival railroad gangs had made successively larger records until the Union Pacific made an unusually large one and that record was apparently to be allowed to stand. Mr. Crocker asked Strobridge if he was beaten. The latter answered that while he felt he could exceed what was done he was willing to let the Union Pacific record stand, as he could see no good to be gained and the cost would be heavy. Mr. Crocker expressed the wish to have the attempt made. Accordingly Strobridge made his arrangements and actually laid ten and a quarter miles of rail in one day and ran a locomotive over the track. This was done, however, when the ends of the track were so close together that the other side had no opportunity even to attempt to do better. That record stands, so far as I know, the best that has ever been made. The rail was fifty-four pounds and one set of men handled the entire amount laid that day. Mr. Strobridge told me that he had provided a second gang to relieve the first at noon, but when the relief gang came, the first refused to quit and carried on for the entire day." Galloway

" By late April 1869, the tracks were only fourteen miles from a junction with the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific forces set out to beat the track-laying record just achieved by the Union Pacific workers.  On April 28, 1869, while a number of officers from the U. P. and the C. P., several newspaper correspondents, and workers from the rival camp looked on, the Chinese and Irish work force of the Central Pacific laid 10 miles and 56 feet of track in a little less than 12 hours, beating the old U. P. record by more than 2 miles." Chinese Syllabus

For a more detailed account, see David Bain's wonderful book, "Empire Express" at page 638 or search for further information.



I have always heard that the chinese workers were underpaid, overworked, boarded themselves, fed themselves (as compared to others who were fed and boarded) and suffered taunts, jealousy by other non-asian workers etc. My son says they were paid well and life was not that bad.
What do you think. I read the testimony of many in one of your links but my son won't have the patience to read such a huge document. What do you suggest I do to convince him that the rosy picture taught in his school is a tad too [optimistic].

Unfortunately, the Chinese railroad workers left no written record of their experiences. Keep in mind that the 19th century accounts, all by caucasians, are somewhat sparse, are influenced by the commonplace prejudices against the Chinese, and have been embellished into myths when the stories have been retold in the later literature. After initial skepticism, the value of the Chinese workers was clearly recognized by the Central Pacific. In contrast to the awful treatment that the Chinese often experienced in 19th century California, they appear to have been better treated by the railroad. (Two anecdotes may have some bearing on the attitudes of the CPRR management. Stanford's wife's life was saved by a Chinese herbal doctor in 1862 using ephedrine after her pulmonary disease was unsuccessfully treated by a western doctor. The CPRR had pragmatic approach, for example welcoming the Indians and allowing them to ride the trains for free so that they remained friendly, instead of becoming involved in a military conflict with them as did the UPRR.) Building a railroad through the mountains (and desert) by hand year round through terrible winters augmented only by black powder and dangerous nitroglycerin manufactured on site was extremely arduous labor which is hard to contemplate today – but this applied equally to the workers of all races. Life was both very hard, yet better than in China and elsewhere in California as reflected in the willingness of the Chinese to come to California and voluntarily accept the employment. The Chinese workers seem to have been well paid in gold, and only one brief strike occurred which was over the wage rate, but the two sides were not so very far apart. While it is true that the Chinese fed themselves, that would be of necessity, as Chinese foods and cooking at the time were quite exotic and could not have been provided by the western cooks. [A more subtle analysis of discrimination generally, for example, by economist Dr. Thomas Sowell indicates that irrational discrimination while reprehensible, can be costly to maintain, and may fail to inflict the intended harm when the "victims" of the discrimination culturally adopt coping strategies including education, thrift, and entrepreneurship to overcome employment restrictions that cause them to eventually become more successful than those intent on causing them harm. As a result, it cannot be assumed that the prejudices of the majority population, however inappropriate or pervasive, (unless effectively imposed by force of law) will necessarily determine the ultimate success of the minority.] In the case of the CPRR, the Chinese RR workers appear to have thrived and made an invaluable contribution to the greatest engineering effort of the 19th century despite the prevailing prejudices. The relationship between the Chinese workers and the CPRR, even if lacking in perfection, must have been mutually satisfactory in the judgment of the workers, since many of the same workers continued to work for the same bosses when they later went on to build the rail line down the San Joaquin Valley south to Los Angeles. It would be misleading to impose 21st century standards of "underpaid and overworked" – and rather ironic, as the contribution of the transcontinental railroad to the economy in significant part lead to the huge increase in wealth that results in the stark comparison of conditions then and now. We're glad to hear that your school is presenting a somewhat rosy picture as this is probably closer to the truth than the often repeated exaggerated claims that thousands of Chinese workers were killed or that the Chinese and Irish tried to blow up one another (which never happened).

I am a librarian with a patron who had heard that Chinese workers had been brought to America to work on building railroads, and that as soon as the work was completed the workers were murdered.
The rumor that your library patron heard is totally incorrect. The Chinese who built the transcontinental railroad were not murdered. Instead they mostly continued building railroads, for example, the line from northern to southern California via the San Joaquin Valley, but thousands of Chinese laborers returned to Sacramento to find other work. Some returned to China. Regrettably, there certainly was virulent anti-Chinese sentiment in 19th century California, and there were some riots in which Chinese were killed, but not related to the Central Pacific Railroad or its workers. Nineteen Chinese died in an 1871 riot in Los Angeles' Chinatown at Calle de los Negros, near the Plaza (which is four hundred miles south of the transcontinental railroad). In the 1885 Rock Springs Massacre, an Anti-Chinese riot in Rock Springs, Wyoming, had 28 Chinese killed, and others run out of town. There is also a commonly repeated myth that large numbers of Chinese died building the Central Pacific Railroad. Claims that thousands were killed are exaggerated – we have not been able to find documentation of more than about 50 casualties resulting from the CPRR construction in the reports of the engineers. It is unfortunate that such rumors abound, but perhaps this results in part from the paucity of information, as no first hand accounts of the Chinese railroad workers' experiences are known to exist.


How did the men drill holes into the solid granite in which black powder was placed and how much were they paid?
They used hand drills which are like chisels which were hit with hammers to make the holes in the rock into which the explosive black powder was placed. It took three eight-hour shifts to drill and blast twelve inches of rock and steel drills had to be given new edges by blacksmiths every two hours. The Chinese were paid $30 to $35 a month in gold, while the other railroad laborers were paid about the same but didn't have to pay for their own food.

I am trying to find information regarding the low Tents that the railway companies provided for the workers who built the rails and anything to give me a description of the layout of such camps.

Are the wooden structures along the Truckee River part of the rail line?
[No, these] are the water flumes (walled tunnels, with a floor, walls, and a roof, of wood) that used to take water from the Truckee to the electric plant just West of Verdi. A flood washed out the flume East of Floriston a few years back, now just a trickle of water goes thru them. The wooden strips you saw, consist of 2x6 strips of Douglas fir, placed 3 feet apart. The workers walked on those strips of wood to repair the flumes, following the winter damage. The flume begins just below Floristan, and runs to the Sierra Pacific power generating station just West of Verdi. Overflow continues to water some of the agricultural areas West of Reno. In the winter, icicles hang from the flume, and are quite spectacular. —G.J. "Chris" Graves

Of the Chinese that came to the US to work on the railroad, about what percent stayed long term to become citizens? (versus those that returned to China, died, etc.) When was the law revised to permit U.S. born Chinese to become naturalized citizens? Were the Chinese that came to build the railroads somehow compensated for their treatment since their descendents live in a "better" country than if their ancestors had stayed in China? Is it true that the vast majority of those building the railroads returned to China or died without descendents because even though a large number of Chinese ended up in San Francisco, this is very small compared to the numbers of laborers who came to build the railroads?
"With the discovery of gold in California in 1849, ... Hong Kong became a center for Chinese emigration from Guangdong Province to the United States, helping to build Hong Kong's economy, as many of the Chinese who went to California returned with their new-found riches." The Library of Congress reports that "The majority of Chinese immigrants, for example, were single men who worked for a while and returned home." Also, the bones of many who died in California were returned to China for burial. Have not seen any detailed statistics regarding the CPRR railroad workers, many of whom continued to work for example building the rail line south to Los Angeles, but see 1852 statistics. " ... until 1943, Chinese immigrants (with few exceptions) were prevented by law from be coming naturalized citizens ... Even many of those who in their final years returned to China to die left their children and grandchildren in this country." The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was repealed in 1943. While it is certainly true that the Chinese who stayed in the United States (or their American descendants) benefited from the growing U.S. economy made possible by the transcontinental railroad that they or their ancestors built, the benefits to the individual railroad workers were clear and immediate, in their own judgment. They came to "Old Gold Mountain" (San Francisco) and voluntarily chose employment with the Central Pacific Railroad in response to advertisements, and continued to work for the railroad for years, because they could escape dismal circumstances and poverty in China to earn $30 per month in gold allowing them to accumulate wealth that was totally beyond reach if they remained in Canton. It is disingenuous and arrogant in the extreme for modern writers to attempt to substitute their anachronistic preferences for the choices actually made by the 19th century workers. Building the greatest engineering project of the 19th century with manual labor was certainly incredibly difficult, dangerous, hard work but the Chinese workers were free to choose and preferred this employment to all the other 19th century alternatives. Although there was certainly severe discrimination against the Chinese in 19th century California, the CPRR quickly overcame their prejudices once they hired Chinese workers and found them to be excellent. It is a myth that the Chinese railroad workers were murdered or treated as slaves. Please let us know if you are aware of any 19th century primary sources that support such claims. For example, we have seen claims that "thousands died" constructing the railroad, but with the exception of a single short newspaper article, we find only fairly detailed reports that suggest that perhaps 50 died. We know of no evidence that the CPRR was indifferent to the tragic deaths of workers, much less that they intentionally killed anyone. Claims that the Chinese railroad workers were treated like slaves also do not seem consistent with the historical record. This website reprints a chapter from a recent book that makes many such erroneous claims with detailed annotation pointing out the actual historical record. For example, the testimony of Charles Crocker at a Congressional inquiry regarding Chinese immigration was that he was an abolitionist and the CPRR workers were definitely not treated as slaves:

"Q. Were you or were you not very much opposed to negro slavery?—A. I was, always. I was an abolitionist from a boy. ...
Q. You were so much opposed to slavery that you would have aided a negro to escape ?—A. If a negro slave came to my door and wanted bread he would get it, and if he wanted a little money to help him along to freedom he would get it.
Q. Do you or do you not believe that the Chinese immigration to this country has the same tendency to degrade free white labor as that of negro slavery in the South ?—A. No, sir; because it is not servile labor.
Q. It is not ?—A. It is not; it is free labor; just as free labor as yours and mine. You cannot control a Chinaman except you pay him for it. You cannot make any contract with him, or his friend, or supposed master, and get his labor unless you pay for it, and pay him for it. ...
A. ... They gathered them one at a time, two, three, four of them in a place, and got them together to make what is called a gang, and each gang is numbered.
Q. Just like mules ?—A. Well, sir, we cannot distinguish China-men by names very well.
Q. Like mules ?—A. Not like mules, but like men. We have treated them like men, and they have treated us like men, and they are men, good and true men. As I say, we employed them in that way. They come together in gangs of twenty-five and thirty, as we need them to work on a job of work, and the account is kept with the gang, No, 1, No. 2, 25, 30, 50, 100, just as it is. Each gang has a book-keeper to keep the account among themselves. We have a foreman and he keeps the account with the gang and credits them. Every night the Chinese book-keeper, who is one of the workmen and works in the pit along with the rest, comes up with his book, and he says so many days for that gang, do you see? and they count it up and they agree, and each puts it down. Then the Chinese keep their own accounts among themselves; but we keep an account with the gang. When the pay-day comes the gang is paid for all the labor of the gang, and then they divide it among themselves.
Q. Does the same thing obtain with the white men ?—A. No, sir; we get the individual names of the white men.
Q. You do not pay the individual Chinaman when he works for you?—A. We pay the head-man of the gang.
Q. Some head-man ?—A. He is a laborer among them.
Q. You do not pay them in the same manner that you pay white men ?—A. In the same manner, except that we cannot keep the names of the Chinamen; it is impossible. We would not know Ah Sin, Ali You, Kong Won, and all such names. We cannot keep their names in the usual way, because it is a different language. You understand the difficulty. It is not done in that way because they are slaves.
Q. Is it not a kind of servile labor ?—A. Not a bit. I give you my word of honor under oath here that I do not believe there is a Chinese slave in this State, except it may be a prostitute. I hear of that, but I do not know anything about it. If you do, you know more than I do.
Q. Can a Chinaman immigrate from this State on your steamers or the Pacific Mail Steamship Company's steamers as free as a white man can?—A. Certainly."

The Chinese workers at the Promontory joining of the rails ceremony on May 10, 1869 were celebrated according to the San Francisco Newsletter, May 15th, 1869, that described the final moments of the celebration at Promontory:

Construction Supt. "J.H. Strobridge, when the work was all over, invited the Chinese ... 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."

Although many young Chinese men came to 19th century California to make their fortunes with the intention to then return to their families in China, there were about 10,000 Chinese workers on the CPRR, while the Chinese population just of San Francisco in 1870 was 11,728, so it does not seem that based only on the population statistics that it would be possible to conclude that few of the workers remained in California following the completion of the railroad.

> Yitah R (R.) Wu comments: I'm glad to hear that perhaps the Chinese weren't treated as badly as is very commonly thought, though it would certainly seem that they were not treated or paid as well as their Caucasian counterparts. I wouldn't single out anyone in particular as being at fault in this, as it was in large part due to prevailing social attitudes in the US, and would suspect that the number of Chinese who came for the gold rush exceeded those who came to build the railroads.
I agree that they chose to come regardless of discriminatory laws and prejudices. Opportunities were extremely limited in Imperial China. The dilemma raised is similar to that of Nike, in setting workplace standards in the third world. While we may consider the conditions brutal or substandard, for every worker that decides to leave, a dozen are waiting to take their place. My supposition however, is that the given the demographics (overwhelmingly male) and laws (intermarrying, naturalization, and emigration of spouses/fiance's prohibited) those that stayed behind after construction of the railroads had few opportunities to leave descendents.
From the San Francisco population statistics, we see a large drop in absolute numbers and in percent of population from the 1880/1890 census to the 1920 census. The increase in 1930 and beyond can inferred to be new immigration since anyone of labor age in 1880 (let's say 17 years old) would have been 67 in the 1930 census and not likely to be having many children.
This was not a localized phenomena (i.e. they didn't move to Fremont.) - Chinese population dropped from 105,465 in 1880 to 61,639 in 1920 This echoes the information on San Francisco population.
P.S. The Chinese name for California is not Gold Mountain. The name for San Francisco, however, can be translated as "Old Gold Mountain"

Reply:
Leland H. Stanford, in a report to Andrew Johnson, had this to say about the Chinese on October 10, 1865:

"As a class they are quiet, peaceable, patient, industrious and economical. Ready and apt to learn all the different kinds of work required in railroad building, they soon become as efficient as white laborers. More prudent and economical, they are contented with less wages. We find them organized into societies for mutual aid and assistance. These societies can count their numbers by thousands, are conducted by shrewd, intelligent business men who promptly advise their subordinates where employment can be found on most favorable terms. No system similar to slavery, serfdom or peonage prevails among these laborers. Their wages, which are always paid in coin each month, are divided among them by their agents who attend to their business according to the labor done by each person. These agents are generally American or Chinese merchants who furnish them their supplies of food, the value of which they deduct from their monthly pay.
We have assurance from leading Chinese merchants that, under the just and liberal policy pursued by the company, it will be able to procure during the next year not less than 15,000 laborers. With this large force the company will be able to push on the work so as not only to complete it far within the time required by the Acts of Congress but so as to meet the public impatience."

J. O. Wilder, for many years a Central Pacific-Southern Pacific employee, in an interview with the late Erle Heath, one-time Southern Pacific historian, said:

" ... The Chinese were paid $30 to $35 in gold a month, finding [maintaining] themselves, while the whites were paid about the same with their board thrown in .... "

Chinese immigrant Lee Chew in his autobiography disputes the commonly held view that the Chinese received less pay, as being due to prejudice, not fact:

" Men of other nationalities who are jealous of the Chinese, because he is a more faithful worker than one of their people, have raised such a great outcry about Chinese cheap labor that they have shut him out of working on farms or in factories or building railroads or making streets or digging sewers. ... There is no reason for the prejudice against the Chinese. The cheap labor cry was always a falsehood. Their labor was never cheap, and is not cheap now. It has always commanded the highest market price. But the trouble is that the Chinese are such excellent and faithful workers that bosses will have no others when they can get them."

Consequently, the difference in wages between caucasian and Chinese railroad laborers, if any, seems to have been fairly small. The Chinese CPRR workers were responsible for their own food, but the railroad was not capable of supplying a diet of Chinese food, as this was completely unfamiliar at the time. Small difference in wages that may have existed could have just reflected labor market conditions or differences in occupational categories. It seems that the Chinese were graders, and tunnel blasters, while the caucasians were carpenters and track layers. Even today it is unlikely that there is uniformity in pay between these varying job positions. Of course, since the occupations were different according to race, this from a modern perspective seems unfair, but because the end of track where the grading and blasting took place was in a different location from the bridge and snowshed construction, and the track laying, combined occupation crews would not have been possible, and also likely impractical due to the language difference. Even from a modern perspective, it is not clear that small differences in worker compensation if related to differences in location, work performed, and dietary preferences would necessarily be considered discriminatory.
When someone makes an historical claim, the burden of factual proof is entirely theirs – and when supporting primary source documentation is lacking there is no need for others to attempt to disprove a conjecture. What actual primary source evidence have you found that the Chinese were "not treated ... as well as their Caucasian counterparts" by the railroad?
According to the Library of Congress, there are no known surviving 19th century Chinese accounts of their experience in California. Comparing what little we know about their treatment by the CPRR versus the virulent anti-Chinese prejudice expressed in 19th century newspapers, magazines, and laws, it seems far more likely that the Chinese workers were treated well by the railroad according to 19th century standards, and that their treatment by the railroad was much better and fairer than the treatment that Chinese were likely to have received generally in 19th century California. The Central Pacific Railroad experience consequently is an excellent example, not of discrimination, but of market forces preventing discrimination despite the manager's prejudices (pre-judgments) about the Chinese workers which the managers were forced by a labor shortage to overcome, and which by experience they later concluded (see above) were completely erroneous.

> Yitah R (R.) Wu comments: The Brown v. Board site supports the position that CPRR treated the Chinese better than most Chinese were treated at the time, and that their value to the transcontinental railroad was recognized.

"In return for the dedication and hard work of the diligent Chinese laborers, an eight man Chinese crew was given the honor of bringing up and placing the last section of rail on May 10th, 1869."

However, it also indicates that they were initially paid $25 per month and their wages were not raised to $35 per month until after the strike. (No footnotes are listed.) There seems to be a fair amount of conflicting information on this point. Perhaps you have access to archived payroll records, etc indicate about pay to the different work crews? Perhaps there was a prevailing difference in wage levels between CPRR and UPRR? Perhaps the other misconceptions you fight stem from confusion with the Panama RR or the Canadian Railroads? Seems there's a monument in Toronto to the Chinese railroad workers who died.

Reply:
Not sure if the CPRR Chinese workers' wages were raised after the strike as some claim, and if so by how much. The testimony about the strike does not indicate a pay raise. The American Experience website says that the wages were not raised: "Despite their productivity, Chinese workers were treated poorly and paid less than other workers. They often handled the more dangerous tasks of carving through granite, first with blasting powder and later with nitroglycerin. Their reputation as laborers spread and soon they were being hired away from the railroad. The Central Pacific raised their monthly wage to $35, but thousands of Chinese workers went on strike, demanding $40. The Central Pacific cut off food and supplies, then sent an intimidating posse up to the Chinese camps. The immigrant workers backed down, accepted the $35 wage, and resumed work." The payroll for the New Castle trestle construction, is mostly for skilled labor, but includes one Irish laborer who was paid 95¢/day which doesn't seem much different than Chinese. There might be additional relevant payroll records at the California State Railroad Museum's Library. Regarding UPRR wages, quoting the Promontory website: "April 22, 1868. There will be no difficulty in getting all the hands you want from one dollar to two dollars and fifty cents a day, according to their quality–Brigham Young."
Have you been able to verify the reports about casualties on the other railroads that you mentioned – using primary sources to be sure that these are not myths similar to those made up about the CPRR? (There is a fascinating study showing in exquisite detail how the stories about workers dangling in woven baskets supposedly used in the construction at Cape Horn were made up in a series of small steps by a succession of authors each embellishing upon the fabrications of their predecessor.) For example, the web page about the Canadian monument describes "thousands were seriously injured or died" building that other railroad in Canada but then says "These deaths often went unreported." – Any loss of life is tragic, but how can anyone pretend to know about and especially count "unreported" deaths?


Comments regarding the book, Nameless Builders of the Transcontinental Railroad, by William F. Chew.
... James Harvey Strobridge, the construction foreman working for "C. Crocker, Contractor" hired 18 Chinese workers for his hay ranch in what is now Rio Linda in 1851. Many of these workers, including Ah Toy, apparently became close to Mr. Strobridge, as the name Ah Toy appears on pay roll sheets viewed by Mr. Chew. These payroll sheets, according to Mr. Chew are dated in the period prior to March 20, 1865 when most historians agree that the CPRR began hiring Chinese in large numbers. In his book, Mr. Chew relates that Chinese workers were active in the excavation of Bloomer Cut. We know that Bloomer Cut was cut beginning the week of February 27, 1864, as the Placer Herald mentions the work. The Placer Herald further says, on July 30, 1864 that the number of men employed at Bloomer "does not exceed 40," and the whole number of men at work between NewCastle and Auburn "does not exceed 60."  As to the racial make up of these men, on April 16, 1864 the Placer Herald states that an accident occured, and "two of the hands, a Portugese and Frenchman" were "mutilated horribly" while Mr. (S)Trowbridge (sic) [will] "probably ....(lose) his left eye." No Chinese mentioned. The Placer Herald was sensitive to the racial make up of the work force – this is noted in the following dated March 18, 1865: "The Pacific Railroad Co. are working from six to seven hundred white and Chinese laborers, from NewCastle to a distance of three miles above Auburn. ... The heaviest portion of the work in the immediate vicinity of Auburn is done, and cuts, fills, and trestle work near NewCastle are well advanced."  I suggest that had Chinese workers been actively employed in the construction of the Pacific Rail Road, prior to this date, the paper would have mentioned same.  Mr. Chew does not tell us, in his self published book, what the Chinese were doing while employed by Mr. Strobridge, which is a bit different from all the payroll sheets that I have been priviledged to review: all payroll sheets had a workers title behind their names, along with pay rates, etc., and each payroll sheet specifically stated at what portion of the road the work was being done. ... Chapter 4 [states incorrectly] that the CPRR didn't lay rail after reaching Junction (Roseville) in 1864. ... The rails reached NewCastle June 6, and service started that same day. ... As to [whether] we may finally learn "of workers in baskets," that waterfront has been covered by Edson Strobridge in his book Legends of Cape Horn. It is of historic interest to read "Report of the Chief Engineer upon Recent Surveys, Progress of Construction and Estimated Revenue of the Central Pacific Railroad of California," dated December, 1864, that the author of this report, Sam S. Montague, Acting Chief Engineer C P R R of Cal. says of Cape Horn "The construction of the Road around this point will involve much heavy work, though the material encountered is not of a very formidable character, being a soft friable slate, which yields readily to the pick and bar."  Note, please, no mention of blasting powder in large quantities is mentioned. Following the fire in Burnt Flat in the Summer of 2004, I spent a day walking the 1/4 mile or so of burnt over land immediately below the grade. Walking upright, from East to West, I did not require a rope around my waist, nor a basket to hold me vertical.  Let me be clear: I walked the "precipitous rocky bluff" immediately below the grade without the use of artificial support.  I did find two empty kegs of black powder, manufacted by the Hercules Powder Co.  Only two.  Not 10, not 20, not 50, just two.  Seems Mr. Montague was correct as to the use of "pick and bar." Finally, the concern as to the mortality of workers on the CPRR. Mr. Chew finds in his research, published in his book, that some 130 deaths of rail road workers are mentioned in news accounts of the day.  These deaths occured in accidents, fights, avalanche, disease, etc.  Mr. Chew goes on to say that many workers were killed during construction of Tunnel 6 due to the use of nitroglycerine.  His comments fly directly in the face of the article written by John Robert Gillis (Mr. Gillis was the assistant engineer under L. M. Clement, in charge of construction between Cisco and Truckee) which was read before the American Society of Civil Engineers in New York on January 5, 1870, in which he said in part "... At Donner Pass I only recall two accidents, and those would have happened with powder." I agree that many workers died during the period of construction, but I fear that these folks died quietly, and in the probable company of other employees. I base this on the following:  From the Elko lndependent, January 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." And then in Sacramento, June 30, 1870 the Reporter says: "Bones in Transit—The accumulated bones of perhaps 1200 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 employes of the company, who were engaged in building the road." I would suggest that small pox killed these workers between 1868 and 1869, as evidenced by the "pest cars" maintained by the CPRR.  You may recall that Mrs. Strobridge attended to these sick workers, and was stricken by small pox, herself.  Newspaper articles are rife with articles in that period regarding the small pox epidemic. Rather than suggest that unsafe work practices were common on the Pacific Railroad, it would be a noble effort for Mr. Chew to determine the correct number of workers that died due to smallpox. ... —G J Chris Graves, NewCastle, AltaCal'a


Can I see some statistics on how the railroad effected economic production within, and in exports, in the United States?
See SOME DATA ON RAILROADS, 1860-1920 Adobe Acrobat PDF format (Source)

Also see Historical Census Data. More Economic Statistics.

Not sure how you can separate the effect of the railroad from the rest of the economy, but here are also some statistics for the U.S. Gross Domestic Product:

Year Nominal GDP
(billions of dollars)
Real GDP
(billions of 2000 dollars)
GDP Deflator
(index 2000=100)
Population
(in millions)
Nominal GDP
per Capita
(current dollars)
Real GDP
per Capita
(2000 dollars)
1860 $4.49 $77.72 5.77 31.51 $142.00 $2,460
1861 $4.59 $76.52 6.00 32.35 $141.00 $2,360
1862 $5.24 $77.09 6.80 33.19 $157.00 $2,320
1863 $6.56 $77.53 8.46 34.03 $192.00 $2,270
1864 $9.27 $94.36 9.83 34.86 $266.00 $2,700
1865 $9.14 $86.57 10.50 35.7 $256.00 $2,420
1866 $8.88 $88.02 10.00 36.54 $243.00 $2,400
1867 $8.51 $89.02 9.56 37.38 $227.00 $2,380
1868 $8.49 $92.72 9.15 38.21 $222.00 $2,420
1869 $8.28 $96.93 8.54 39.5 $209.00 $2,450
1870 $8.49 $104.40 8.13 39.91 $212.00 $2,610
1871 $8.77 $109.30 8.02 40.94 $214.00 $2,670
1872 $8.90 $113.80 7.82 41.97 $212.00 $2,710
1873 $9.27 $119.60 7.75 43.01 $215.00 $2,780
1874 $8.95 $118.90 7.52 44.04 $203.00 $2,700
1875 $9.02 $125.10 7.21 45.07 $200.00 $2,770
1876 $8.78 $126.60 6.93 46.11 $190.00 $2,740
1877 $8.91 $130.50 6.82 47.14 $189.00 $2,760
1878 $8.71 $135.90 6.41 48.17 $180.00 $2,820
1879 $9.49 $152.50 6.22 49.21 $192.00 $3,100
1880 $11.14 $170.30 6.54 50.26 $221.00 $3,380
1881 $11.48 $176.50 6.50 51.54 $222.00 $3,420
1882 $12.45 $187.60 6.64 52.82 $235.00 $3,550
1883 $12.33 $192.20 6.41 54.1 $227.00 $3,550
1884 $12.01 $195.70 6.13 55.3 $217.00 $3,540
1885 $11.80 $197.20 5.98 56.6 $208.00 $3,480
1886 $12.15 $203.20 5.98 57.9 $209.00 $3,510
1887 $12.71 $212.40 5.98 59.2 $214.00 $3,580
1888 $12.86 $211.50 6.08 60.5 $212.00 $3,490
1889 $13.69 $224.70 6.09 61.7 $221.00 $3,640
1890 $13.56 $228.10 5.94 63 $215.00 $3,620

Statistics Courtesy, Louis Johnston and Samuel H. Williamson, "The Annual Real and Nominal GDP for the United States, 1789 - Present." Economic History Services, March 2004. Copyright © 2004 by EH.NET.



Where should I look for information about old stagecoach lines?
For information about stagecoach lines, here are some links and books.  Also check the links on our map page, especially the links at the bottom of the page where you can find searchable indexes of available maps.  (The map collections of the Library of Congress [search for "stage," not "stagecoach"] and the University of California, Berkeley's Bancroft Library [search for title keywords "stage map"] both have many historic maps of stage routes.)

Where should I look for information about Central Pacific Railroad surveys?
See the two Reports sections of the readings, and Railroad Maps Exhibit where there are links to three sets of detailed survey maps from California and Nevada. Theodore Judah's description of the route is included in the 1863 first annual report of the CPRR.  Also see the note about the Judah CPRR survey route map at the California State Archives.  For 1850's survey information, see the Explorations and Surveys for the Pacific Railroad (a 12 volume work in 13  books, including a volume of maps), and the Stansbury book which has a rarely seen second volume of maps – both of these books are available online from the University of Michigan – see the links on the CPRR.org Online Books page.  (We haven't found the maps from these books on-line – please tell us  if you find that they are available on the Internet.) David Bain's meticulously research book "Empire Express" is a great source, or  see the several chapters of John Galloway's book reproduced on this website.  Also see the question about primary sources on the FAQ's page.
> As to the identity of some of the surveyors ... such as "Ives," I refer you to my recent book, "Empire Express: Building the First Transcontinental Railroad" (Viking, 1999, Penguin, 2000, also available in most libraries). The end notes should be of help ... I suggest you check out the survey maps held at the California State Library – Judah's and Montague and Clement's work is there. They have an extraordinary collection. The California State Railroad Museum is a good place to visit, by the way, while you're in Sacramento. Bigger than in Carson City [Nevada], though Carson City's museum is excellent. I believe there may be some maps in the Bancroft Library section donated by Theodore Judah's widow, Anna, in the 19th century. And I've seen some at the Interior Department holdings at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., those submitted by the railroads to back their progress claims.  For that matter, there are many surveyors' maps held at the Union Pacific Archives in Omaha, including some of the original work done by the most advance engineers out there in Indian country. Since the Union Pacific railroad and the Southern Pacific railroad are now one corporate entity, I believe there have been efforts to centralize their archival holdings, meaning the transfer of documents from California to Omaha.  —David Bain
> The first railroad survey across what is now Nevada was done by Edward Beckwith as part of the Pacific Railroad Survey in 1854. His published report is available as a government document at University of Nevada, Reno. This was actually more of a preliminary reconnaissance than a survey.  To my knowledge Judah made no explorations in Nevada, though I think he made it as far east as Virginia City.  As far as the other [surveyors] (Clement, Ives, Kidder, Montague), it might me that only final reports exist. Most of these were probably published as government reports of the Department of Interior. It is possible that some preliminary reports are also in the National Archives. You might check with the State Archives here in Carson. They may have something, though I didn't find anything relative to their line in the  Truckee River canyon.  —Wendell Huffman, Carson City Library


The greatest problem in trying to establish what was a reasonably accurate slope for the original rock face at Cape Horn is due to the 1929 widening which moved the face back some 15-20 feet from the original cut made in 1865. The face of original cuts can be seen in the photos I provided in my essay however there is nothing scientific in making the determination I did. Actually I had a Civil Engineer review a 1946 USGS  7 1/2 minute quadrangle Topo map which we blew up to expand the scale to a 1" = 250' scale with 40' contour intervals and then determined the slope from several different locations across the cut. It never exceeded 50 degrees. These calculations compare with the use of a protractor on the early photographs. I can assure you I was very careful not to do the same as others by just making a casual observation and making a guess at the slope. I fully realize that I can be second guessed by others but I have yet to have anyone provide any information that would change my calculations other than guessing.  The newly found statement by Judah quoted as describing the face of Cape Horn as "nearly perpendicular" and "1200' feet high above the North Fork of the American River" is going to be a difficult one to respond to only because Judah was an Engineer who made the original observation and has been made out to be the Icon of the CPRR location. He was wrong on the elevation of the grade above the river but I doubt that he ever meant for anyone to accept his guess of 1200 foot as a measured distance. It just was not important. So far as "nearly perpendicular" it is my take that that statement too was no more than a casual observation as he apparently did not measure it. But what Judah actually meant god only knows. I am coming to the conclusion that the steepest part of Cape Horn was probably more than 50 degrees, perhaps as much 70 degrees or so but at the moment that is only a guess. Just looking at the old Southern Pacific r/w map the steepest part could not have amounted to more than a few hundred feet and then not in a continuous section. No evidence remains at Cape Horn that would lead one to have much of an idea how steep the face was originally was. ...  —Ed Strobridge


Locomotives – Schenectady built Juno, Jupiter, etc.
> The Schenectady built Juno ... is one of four CP engines named for literally fabulous women, and the only engines on the CP roster named for women. All of the group were Schenectady built, in June of 1869. Eureka No. 158 was named for the state "coat of arms" and is represented by a allegorical goddess; Diana No. 159 is a literal goddess, typically carrying a bow and quiver for the hunt; Sultana No. 160 was a popular is generic Oriental queen in the 18th and 19th century, typically depicted lounging in turbans and not much else, while Juno No. 161 is appropriately the wife and consort of Jupiter. The style of paintwork, lettering and finish on Juno is identical to Jupiter, which helps suggest that a standard Schenectady style used on most if not all, CP orders for eight wheel locomotives during the construction era. Specifically between the construction of Jupiter in August 1868 and Juno the following June. I believe she is the namesake for the month, as well. The tender tank of Yellow Fox No. 151, photographed outside of the CP shops in about 1870, matches as well, indicating that the "Fox" series engines, No's. 148-152, were also in this style. Despite the reference to the color of the fox, it was not common to paint engines individually within an order and I seriously doubt any of them were painted to harmonize with their name.

... Thanks for your note, and especially website. In ... the Savage photo - the engine on the turntable is Juno. Because I helped draw up the "new" color schemes for the Jupiter at the Golden Spike National Historic Site, I have an ongoing interest in early locomotive color schemes in general and the Schenectady Locomotive Works, which built Jupiter, specifically. Photos of other Schenectady built machines in factory paint on the CP are rare, and the Savage photo especially valuable for comparisons to the "as built" appearance of Jupiter. I can't tell you how good its been to have seen this for my research work. In a nutshell, I've found evidence that the Jupiter's blue and crimson paint scheme was a standard factory design, and reflected the Scottish ancestry of the locomotive builders. Walter McQueen and John Ellis were both born in Scotland before emigrating to America and operating the Schenectady Locomotive Works. Blue is the national color of Scotland, and in the 1860's Scotland's Caledonian Railway operated engines in blue and crimson. Both colors are very dark and has helped revise the color scheme I did for the replica engines. I'm working with the National Park Service people to provide them with new information to guide future repaintings. The photo of Juno has been immeasurably helpful to establish that the paint scheme on the Jupiter was also used on other Schenectady built engines on the same road - and that Jupiter was not unique, but rather standard; in other words, the Savage photo helps provide a context for the Jupiter. ...

Here is a builders list of Mason ten wheelers from 1859 (the first) to 1866 (the last of the pattern), from Sylvan Wood's notes.   All were 17 x 24 cylinders, 48" drivers.  Twenty were built - sixteen were for the Lehigh Valley, and four for the Central Pacific.  No other railroad purchased ten wheel locomotives from Mason at this time.    After 1866 Mason does not build another ten wheeler until 1869, and then again for the Lehigh Valley.  Presumably this engine is of the more conventional pattern.    There may be among LVRR people some side drawings.  As all the engines had identical measurements, this would be helpful for Conness.  

c/n 86 7-5-59 LVRR No. 21 Bushkill 
c/n 95 4-2-60 LVRR No. 25 Easton
c/n 97 5-25-60 LVRR No. 26 Mauch Chunk
c/n 110 1-13-62 LVRR No. 27 Bethlehem
c/n 111 12-30-61 LVRR No. 28 Allentown
c/n 118 11-5-62 LVRR No. 31 Perryville
c/n 120 11-24-62 LVRR No. 32 Leighton
c/n 129 4-6-63 LVRR No. 37 Penn Haven
c/n 132 5-19-63 LVRR No. 38 White Haven
c/n 144 11-9-63 LVRR No. 39 Nescopec
c/n 146 12-14-63 LVRR No. 40 Nanticoke
c/n 153 2-20-63 CPRR No. 6 Arctic (renamed Conness)
c/n 173 9-26-64 LVRR No. 43 Quakake
c/n 174 10-4-64 LVRR No. 44 Nesquehoning
c/n 176 10-13-64 LVRR No. 49 Centralia
c/n 217 11-27-65 CPRR No. 12 Truckee
c/n 221 12-30-65 LVRR No. 52 Northampton
c/n 222 12-30-65 LVRR No. 53 Carbon
c/n 223 2-6-66 CPRR No. 17 Idaho
c/n 224 2-16-66 CPRR No. 16 Owyhee

—Jim Wilke, 11/20/2003

>The Central Pacific rebuilt two Danforth-Cooke 4-2-4Ts (sisters to the C. P. Huntington) into 4-2-2 tender engines with the original rear loco truck at the rear of the tender, and a single axle in frame-mounted pedestals at the from of the tender.
... the Central Pacific in the 1870s stretched a number of tenders to increase water (and fuel?) space. They used a 6-wheel truck at the rear, and kept a 4-wheel truck at the front. Another group of stretched tenders used two 6-wheel trucks. I believe these stretched tenders were particularly used for passenger engines across the Nevada desert. Drawings of the version with 2 6-wheel trucks appeared in the Railroad Gazette about 1884, and also in the 1886 edition of Recent Locomotives (reprinted by Newton Gregg in the 1970s).
Central Pacific 4-4-0 #149 (Schenectady, 1868) had such a stretched tender (with 2 6-wheel trucks) when it pulled the Jarrett & Palmer special on the record-setting cross country run in 1876. A photo of the engine taken at Wadsworth before the run, and before the tender was repainted, clearly shows in the paint where the section was added to the tender tank. Unlike other railroads on the Jarrett & Palmer run which switched power at division points in the traditional way, CP #149 pulled the train all the way from Ogden, Utah, to Oakland, California. A double engine crew, plus a roadmaster handled the engine the entire distance.
—Kyle Williams Wyatt, Curator of History & Technology, California State Railroad Museum [from the R&LHS Newsgroup]

> Kyle described these tenders as "stretched." Actually the 4 truck / 6 truck tenders were built that way by Cooke and Schenectady in the 1870's for 4-6-0's. The tenders that sported two 6-wheel trucks were built by the Central Pacific in 1874 and applied to engines running across Nevada. For photographs of these cars see p. 136 in my SP tender history chapter in vol. l of [Guy L. Dunscomb, Donald K. Dunscomb and Robert A. Pecotich, Southern Pacific Steam Pictorial, California Edition: Volume 1, 1000 Series - 2800 Series] published in 1991 and now out of print. I discovered after this book was published that the 6-wheel truck tenders were built in 1874 by Central Pacific. I had only noted in vol. 1 that they probably were built about 1876 and probably by CP. This was noted in my concluding tender history chapter in vol. 2, page 166 (1999). Such information can be easily missed by readers.
—Arnold Menke [from the R&LHS Newsgroup]

> On the tenders with two 6-wheel trucks the CP likely built a new underframe, but if the tender behind the CP 4-4-0 #149 is any example, they clearly stretched the tank. On the 4-6 truck tenders, it seems to me I've seen some behind CP 4-4-0s built in the late 1860s, suggesting even back then they were swapping tenders around.

For photos in handy books I note the following:

[Timothy S. Diebert and Joseph A. Strapac - Southern Pacific Company Steam Locomotive Compendium. Huntington Beach, CA. Shade Tree Books. 1987.]
SP 4-6-0 #166 in 1886 - Schenectady 1881, 4-6 truck tender
CP 4-4-0 #149 in 1876 - Schenectady 1868, 6-6 truck tender after repaint
CP 4-6-0 #207 in 1880s - Cooke 1876, 4-6 truck tender
SP 4-6-0 #39 in 1888 - Schenectady 1876 with CP Shops 1887 boiler, 4-6 truck
tender
SP 4-4-0 #270 in 1889 - CP Shops 1888, 6-6 truck tender

[Guy L. Dunscomb - A Century of Southern Pacific Steam Locomotives, 1862-1962. Modesto (CA): published by the author, (1963).]
CP 4-4-0 #13 in 1880s - Danforth 1865 as 2-6-0, rebuilt CP Shops as 4-4-0 in
1871, 6-6 truck tender (looks like very little of the 1865 Danforth is left,
even rear driver spacing, boiler, and domes changed.)
CP 4-4-0 #149 in 1876 - Schenectady 1868, 6-6 truck tender before repaint
(note how number on side of tank is off center).
CP 4-4-0 #122 in 1886 - CP Shops 1886, 4-6 truck tender (builder's photo)
SP 4-4-0 #51 (re#74) in 1883 - Schenectady 1883, 4-6 truck tender (builder's
photo)
SP 4-4-0 #73 (built as #50) in 1885 - Schenectady 1883, 4-6 truck tender
SP 4-4-0 #1431 (ex-#51, #74) in 1901 - Schenectady 1883, 4-6 truck tender
GH&SA 4-6-0 #599 (ex-#99) in 1890s? - Schenectady 1882, 4-6 truck tender
SP 4-6-0 #39 in 1887? - Schenectady 1876 with CP Shops 1887 boiler, 4-6
truck tender
SP 4-6-0 #132 in early 1890s? - Schenectady 1881, 4-6 truck tender
CP 4-6-0 #216 in 1876 - Schenectady 1876, 4-6 truck tender (builder's photo)

CP 4-6-0 #207 in 1880s - Cooke 1876, 4-6 truck tender

CP 4-6-0 #1576 (ex-#211) in 1890s - Cooke 1876, 4-6 truck tender

... what was perhaps the first Norris single (in not-yet perfected form), the Wm Penn built for the Philadelphia & Columbia in 1835 (and apparently later upgraded to standard Norris design in the late 1830s-early 1840s) ended up (after another rebuilt in 1865) in California where it survived until after 1900, still with V-hook valve gear. It operated on the Central Pacific in the 1860s-80s before being sold to an industrial operation in the mid 1880s. ...

On the topic of names for locomotive types, it is fairly common for charts of the Whyte system to show the 4-10-0 as a "Mastodon". Did any one really call 4-10-0s Mastodons? How many were there? I only know of the Central Pacific "El Gobonador", and I've never seen it called a "Mastodon". I've wondered whether the Mastodon name really belonged to the 4-8-0, but on the CP/SP, those were called 12- wheelers. ... In the 19th century, SP (and CP) referred to the 4-8-0s (and the Stevens 2-8-0s) as Mastodons.

In the early 20th century SP revised their names for wheel arrangements, including the following, some of which varied from common names:

0-6-0 Class S - Switcher (and some other wheel arrangements)
0-8-0 Class Se - Switcher - eight wheel
4-4-0 Class E - Eight Wheeler
4-6-0 Class T - Ten Wheeler
4-8-0 Class TW - Twelve Wheeler
4-4-2 Class A - Atlantic
4-6-2 Class P - Pacific
4-8-2 Class Mt - Mountain
4-10-2 Class SP - Southern Pacific
4-8-4 Class Gs - Golden State, later General Service
2-6-0 Class M - Mogul
2-8-0 Class C - Consolidation
2-10-0 Class D - Decapod (inherited 2nd hand in the 1920s)
2-6-2 Class Pr - Prairie (inherited 2nd hand in the 1920s)
2-8-2 Class Mk - Mikado
2-10-2 Class F - ? perhaps Fourteen Wheeler
2-6-6-2, 4-6-6-2 compound - Class MM - Mallet Mogul
2-6-6-2, 4-6-6-2 simple - Class AM - Articulated Mogul
2-8-8-2 compound - Class MC - Mallet Consolidated
2-8-8-2, 4-8-8-2 simple - Class AC - Articulated Consolidated ... Note this class also included the non-cab forward AC-9 2-8-8-4. ...

Checking the 1901 SP Revised classification and Assignment of Locomotives, I find the following: ... The heavy 4-8-0s built in 1899-1900 were classed as Consolidation Mastodon locomotives. A 1902 revision adds some pre-Harriman Standard heavy 2-8-0s to this class. All in this class are compounds. The medium weight 4-8-0s (built 1895-96) were classed as 12-Wheel Mastodon locomotives. There are both compounds and simple locomotives in this class. The lighter, earlier 4-8-0s (built 1882-1893) were classed as 12-Wheel locomotives. There are both compounds and simple locomotives in this class. ... All the 4-8-0s were later placed in the 12-Wheel class, while the Consolidation Mastodon heavy 2-8-0s later simply became Consolidations.

—Kyle Williams Wyatt, Curator of History & Technology, California State Railroad Museum [from the R&LHS Newsgroup]



CPRR Turntables.
> I'm interested in locating any information (or ideally drawings) of the standard Central Pacific "A" Frame turntable of the 1860s, typically about 50 to 51 feet long. In addition to my own interests, I'm trying to help Golden Spike National Historic Site (Promontory) document the style turntable that the Central Pacific installed at Promontory shortly after the ceremony. ... The Central Pacific (and Southern Pacific) standard "A" frame turntable design evolved over the years. The style that survives at Laws on the SP narrow gauge, and that has been replicated at the Nevada State Railroad Museum, Orange Empire Railway Museum, and the City of Folsom, was adopted in the late 1880s and was still current as late as the early 1900s (a drawing dated 1906 survives in the CSRM collection). What we are trying to do is take the technology backwards to the earlier CP style. Any help would be appreciated. —Kyle Williams Wyatt, Curator of History & Technology, California State Railroad Museum

> The Hart [#139] photo of the Newcastle turntable is also shown in Gerry Best's "Iron Horses to Promontory" on page 22. Best describes the turntable as "Strobridge's portable turntable at the end of track near Auburn." which obviously is at Newcastle. The engine is the Conness as identified by Hart however since it was not built until Feb.1864 and did not arrive in Sacramento until late December 1864 after a 190 day voyage around the Horn. The photo more than likely dates to March 26, 1865, ten days after it was first put in service when the Conness hauled six cars and a load of excursionists to Newcastle and back.   The turntable is probably one of the earliest used on the CP but whether a "portable" turntable is of the same dimension or configuration as a permanent turntable installed [after the ceremony] at Promontory is another question to be answered. —Ed Strobridge

> ... the railroad trestle at NewCastle was still under construction in February, 1865; CPRR Payroll #94, labeled N.Castle Trestle, Division #4 is dated February, 1865, with one foreman, 24 carpenters and one laborer at work.  —G J Chris Graves, NewCastle, Cal.

> Studying the clear view of the Newcastle Hart turntable view and the Savage Rocklin view on the CPRR website, I note some interesting differences. The Newcastle turntable is clearly smaller.  The Conness just barely fits.  The table only has two set of trussrods.  The Rocklin table is longer and has three sets of trussrods.  It also has a doubled timber under the "A" frame. ... [Re-engineer backwards from photos] ... and also from drawings of later turntables, SP and otherwise (Carter Bros.) ... Many thanks. —Kyle Williams Wyatt, Curator of History & Technology, California State Railroad Museum

> After looking more closely at the Colfax turntable which appears to be a permanent one, and heavier than the portable one at Newcastle, with three truss rods on either side and heavier timbering, the engine parked on it is the Juno. The Juno #161 wasn't built until June 1869 so the photo at Colfax could not have been taken until late 1869 or early 1870 which means that the "A" Frame turntable was likely a standard design at that time. If the turntable was installed at Promontory in  "late 1869" then it appears that the Colfax design may have been the same as installed at Promontory.   We're getting closer!  Just another observation. If you look closely at Hart's "Newcastle" photo # 139 and look at the trestle, it sure doesn't look like any photos of the Newcastle trestle I have ever seen. It is built on a short curve and I do not think the Newcastle trestle had any curves.  Look at how short the trestle is as compared with Hart's other Newcastle trestle photo (#145).  It is obvious in photo #139 that the fill is nearly up to the trestle, the trestle itself is a short one and the bents half the height of those in photo #145. Another interesting observation is that it appears the engine sitting on the turntable can't go anywhere. Nowhere in the photo is it obvious that there is a track that connects with the turntable. It has to be there or the engine wouldn't have been on the turntable. Makes me wonder, especially after Gerald Best describes the photo "as the end of track near Auburn" if there wasn't a short trestle between Newcastle and Auburn. —Ed Strobridge

> There is a short stub rack at the back side of the turntable extending out over the fill leading to the trestle abutment.  The turntable lead has to be extending to the left in the photo. —Charlie Siebenthal

> Regarding the Hart photo of the turntable at NewCastle – I have a number of photos of the trestle at NewCastle, all taken prior to 1907, all show a bend in the trestle.  That 'slot' in the hill in the background is NewCastle Cut, it is there yet today. And, finally, aside from I-80 that runs through the ravine over which the trestle was built, all the background hills in the photo are absolutely identical to what can be seen there today. I live less than a mile from the site in the photo, I can attest to the accuracy of the label "NewCastle". ... I have located a map, #59-3TC17, made by the Central Pacific Railway Company January 6, 1958 in preparation for construction of I-80. Since I-80 went under both the 1864 and 1909 grades, they are both shown on this wonder. The 'shoofly' that was made to accommodate the building of an underpass for I-80 used the 1864 grade, as shown on this map. It has a nice curve...........for those of you with CPRR/SPRR maps, you would want to see the map entitled S.P.R.R. shoofly alignment and profiles, sheet #67., just West of SPRR Tunnel #18. —G J Chris Graves, NewCastle, Cal.

> Having walked thru that cut many times, agreed. And the spur in the right foreground remains a constant for some years/decades thereafter (until the Harriman era realignment and Newcastle Tunnel construction). I also note something in this shot of "Conness." I had never thought much about before...the tail track on the "east" side is not a set-out as much as it is an emergency stop support to allow the engine(s) to overshoot the turntable while attempting to get centered above the pivot pin. Since engineers by necessity were controlling their machines exclusively by throttle and Johnson-bar in order to stop (with maybe a wee bit of help from the fireboy working the tender brake wheel) without the (trestled) tail-track, a locomotive could overshoot and pile up in the ravine below all too easily. Ow! See why getting air brakes was such a good thing? The shot of the "Juno." on the turntable at Rocklin is a peach – one I'd somehow missed seeing before. Is this turntable as strongly similar to the replicas built at Carson City, Folsom and so on as close in form/style as I think it is? —Kevin Bunker

> Thanks to all for the ideas and suggestions. At this point we have drafted a sketch of a representative turntable, which may have been used at Promontory, Utah. The photographs and details you all have provided has been great. What we do know is that the turntable arrived at Promontory May 10, 1869 and was put together the next few days (based on newspaper accounts). The top of the turntable is visible in the A. J. Russell photograph published in Best's "Iron Horses to Promontory," p. 62, especially in the photo's detail blow-up. This was most likely a portable "A" frame turntable used to turn locomotives when the CP terminus was at Promontory (moved to Ogden November-March, 1870). Sometime in the 1870s the turntable was relocated to nearly opposite the "last spike" marker. A three stall roundhouse was also built at that time. Both have been detailed in archeological excavations. The hope is that evidence of the 1869 turntable exists, possibly remnants of a stone ring foundation at the center pivot or at the ends. What else might be at the sight of the short-lived structure? ... [Known] photos of Promontory ... two Silvis and one A. C. Hull we have a pretty good idea of the streetscape (when matched with Russell images and the Frank Leslie's illustrations) —Bob Spude, National Park Service

> Please double-check for the turntable used at Terrace. Are the "pit" or pivot ring dimensions of either the TT at promontory or Terrace shown in the CPRR 1888 [sic] resurveying maps? —Kevin Bunker

> There may not be anything left. It depends upon whether they used a wood or stone foundation for the center bearing. There is nothing but a shallow depression at Spooner summit from the old Glenbrook-to-Spooner railroad's turntable. It is quite likely that the Spooner table used a wood foundation--it was a lumber railroad. With the second turntable location at Promontory being associated with an engine house, I'd expect them to have used stone–and that may still be there. As you seem to know, there was also generally some kind of support at the ends of the table when lined up with the various tracks--to prevent the table from tipping as a loco rolled on or off the table. —Wendell Huffman

> Wow. Thanks for the great amount of info. Wendell, you're probably right about minimal evidence on site. In 1869, with several trains per day being transferred between the UP and CP and the CP needing to turn at least four locomotives per day, probably more, then just maybe they used stone foundations for a more substantial base to the 1869 turntable (like the granite in the image of the Folsom reconstruction accompanying your report). Of course, the CP could have been moved those stones to the relocated turntable. Since the turntable site and the station site are probably the only positive 1869 features left at Promontory (the grade and "last rail" were removed and upgraded several times) these are important to define and, hopefully, find. For a broad, see: general overview of some of the activity at the park. —Bob Spude, National Park Service

> The Central Pacific built a completely round and fully enclosed roundhouse at Truckee, California, in the 1880s. By the 1930s it had lost its roof, and was completely torn down by the late 1940s or 1950s. —Kyle Williams Wyatt, Historian/Curator, California State Railroad Museum [from the R&LHS Newsgroup]


"Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys." —P.J. O'Rourke


Whistle signals.
... the Massachusetts law requiring bells and whistles on locomotives dates to an Act of the Great and General Court ... enacted in 1835. —Charlie Smith*

... An early Central Pacific sheet of "Instructions to employees" (undated, but while Charles Crocker was still superintendent – so ca.1864) gives but four whistles: "one short sound of the whistle as a signal to apply brakes; two short sounds of the whistle as a signal to loose them; three a signal to back; several short sounds of the whistle is an alarm signal and brakemen will use every effort to stop the train." And elsewhere states the engineman must sound the whistle when within one-half mile of a station." All that is said regarding grade crossings is that "the bell must be run eighty rods before crossing a highway and until it is passed." An 1865 book of "Rules and regulations to be observed by officers and men in the employ of rail road companies in California" by A.N. Rood (superintendent of the California Central Railroad) is likewise remarkably sketchy when it comes to whistles: one whistle for brakes; two to take them off; a repetition of short sharp whistles is danger; three to back; four to open a switch; one long whistle to call passengers fifteen minutes before starting a train; and ring the bell five minutes before departing. Elsewhere in the book enginemen are instructed to give a whistle signal six hundred yards before arriving at a station; in foggy weather to sound the whistle at least every mile; and to give three long sharp whistles for withdrawing signalmen. It says nothing about grade crossings at all! —Wendell Huffman*

Abridged Notes on the Genesis of the Locomotive Whistle/Horn and Bell as Audible Signaling Devices (2001) by Frederick C. Gamst
Locomotives have long had two kinds of audible signaling devices, the steam whistle, later replaced by the air horn, and the bell. Locomotive whistle/horn and bell regulations are usually considered as a unit. What is the technological developmental history of these two kinds of audible devices? Railroading on cross-country rights-of-way, that is, outside of mines, began in England about 1600. Pioneering British railway technology and operating practice diffused to the rest of the world, including the culturally contiguous daughter countries of the US and Canada.

3. Locomotives without whistles: In the late 1830s, as railroad traffic began to explode and became mechanized by the locomotive, guards were hired from the coaching industry, then being destroyed by rail competition, to supervise the engine drivers and insure rules compliance. In America, copying British practice, the two employees were usually called, respectively, conductors and locomotive engineers. But sometimes the two British terms were used. At first, on steam trains, the engine driver/engineer or the guard/conductor used a mouth-blown horn as a warning and signaling device. But the speed of a steam train, running at up to 35 mph, made the ever-closing range of effectiveness of sound quite limited. The earliest experimental locomotive steam engines had no whistle..

4. The advent of the locomotive whistle: During 1832, Stephenson erected two engines for the Leicester & Swannington (L&S), the Samson and the Goliath. They entered service in 1833. The Samson immediately ran into a horse and wagonload of eggs crossing the line of track at Thornton. The engine driver had mouth-blown his horn, but it was either not heard or not heeded. Accordingly, in May 1833, the L&S mounted the first whistle on a locomotive. The appliance was, then, called a steam trumpet, after the mouth-blown device it replaced. A local maker of musical instruments produced the whistle. Stephenson mounted it top of the boiler's steam dome, which furnishes dry steam to the cylinders. The device was 1 ft. 6 in. high and had an ever-widening trumpet shape with a 6-in. diameter at its top or mouth. The L&S soon mounted the successful appliance on its other locomotives (see C. E. Stretton, The Development of the Locomotive , 5th ed., London,1896, pp. 50-52). The whistle innovation spread rapidly to railroads on both sides of the Atlantic. The Baldwin works of Philadelphia produced the locomotive Old Ironsides in 1832, on the English model. Woodcuts of the engine show a whistle mounted on the steam dome, but this might be a later addition.

5. Development of the whistle: Over the years, the audible quality of the locomotive whistle improved from the early harsh roar to various kinds of chime sounds. Locomotive engineers/drivers learned to trill their whistles in idiosyncratically distinctive styles, no matter what the code they sounded. The evolved steam whistle has one or more cylinders of thin metal, closed at one end with an orifice near the other end. Via a manual pull on a whistle cord attached to a whistle valve, steam enters the cylinder and exhausts with its characteristic whistling sound. Escaping steam causes the cylinder to vibrate thus creating its musical tone. The pitch depends on the diameter of the cylinder and position of the orifice. Chime whistles have several compartments of different lengths in the cylinder: the shorter ones giving higher tones..

6. The locomotive bell: The bell was first used in the US after a train of the Boston & Worcester (B&W) hit a carriage and horse at a grade crossing, during the first such US accident, in 1834. Consequently, in 1835, the Massachusetts legislature enacted a pioneering law that all locomotives would have a bell of "at least 35 lbs." rung "at least 80 rods from the place of crossing." The B&W management anticipated the law and, prior to it, mounted a prescribed bell to be manually tolled by the fireman. At this time, the B&W also erected the first US grade crossing signs, in white with black lettering: "LOOK OUT FOR THE ENGINE AND CARS" (F. C. Gamst, 1983, "The Development of Operating Rules." Proceedings of the Railway Fuel and Operating Officers Association, 1982 46:166). By the end of the 1800s, an automatic bell ringer, powered by steam or compressed air, began to replace ringing of the bell by hand from the locomotive cab via a rope.

7. The air horn: With the advent of locomotives other than steam, an air horn or air whistle replaced the steam whistle..

8. Signaling by whistle code: The tolling engine bell simply warns of a pending or an actual movement of rolling equipment. The whistle/horn could be used as a simple audible warning. (In modern railroad operating rules the word whistle is used to include air horns, hence, whistle signals.) .For example, a Form C Track Bulletin could direct: "SOUND WHISTLE FREQUENTLY APPROACHING AND PASSSING MEN AND MACHINES" at specified times and locations. Most locomotive whistle signals are coded, however. The Standard Code of Operating Rules of the Association of American railroads (1993) lists coded whistle rules 14a through 14w. For example, signal 14l is the ubiquitous grade crossing signal - - o - (two long blasts, a short, and a long). Two shorts (o o), 14g, answers any signal not otherwise provided for, and four shorts (o o o o), 14j, calls for signals to be given. .

9. Audibility and use of of bell and whistle: Although tolling of the engine bell is required by various operating rules, when a heavy train roars past at full throttle, the approaching bell's toll seldom can be heard..

10. Notes on the development of whistle codes: The earliest (1830s through the 1840s) broadside sheets and books of operating rules make no mention of codes for locomotive whistle signals. For example, the Regulations for the Transportation Department of the Western Rail Road, (Springfield, Mass., 1842) contain no mention of even having to sound a whistle. The WRR was the first truly cross-country carrier in the US, and was built and superintended by Major George Washington Whistler. (Now the reader knows who Whistler's [the artist] father was.) The Boston and Maine Railroad. Rules for Running Trains &c. (no. 30, 1850) had no mention of sounding of a whistle. By 1857, the first truly long-distance railroad and the one introducing telegraphic train orders to supplement timetable schedules, the New York and Erie, had five coded whistle rules, all for operating a train. No code was for grade crossings or for warning persons and livestock (Instructions for the Running of Trains, Etc. on the New York and Erie Railroad, New York, 1857). The same whistle codes and their meanings were also found in some other books of rules of that time. Thus, some agreement must have been made regarding the standardization of the whistle code across a number of carriers. The Rutland and Burlington Railroad. Instructions for the Running of Trains, Etc. (Rutland, Vt. 1854) in Rule 49 directed that the bell must be rung by the fireman "80 rods before crossing a road." Also, "The Whistle must be sounded at all obscure [road] crossings." Thus, we see mandatory bell ringing but not required whistling at all grade crossings. The whistle was not used as much as in later years. Indeed, Rule 87 instructed that: "too much sounding of the whistle impairs its use as a signal of danger," and the brakemen were to tie down hand brakes when the engineer shut off steam, without his having to whistle down brakes. The Rules and Regulations . . . of the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore . . . (Philadelphia, 1854) has in its Rule XLI the entire whistle code used by the "Engine Driver": o, release hand brakes; o o stop the train; o o o , back the train; o o o o call for signals from a switchman; o o o o o , "wood up." The first four codes remain in the standard code to this day, and must derive from early agreement on practice. Incidentally, Rule XXXVIII of the PW&B allowed either the engine bell to be rung or the whistle sounded at least 80 rods from a crossing, "unless there be a municipal regulation to the contrary." Here we see sounding the whistle for crossings on this line (later to be that of the Pennsylvania and now Amtrak's NEC) was optional. Also, we find early whistle restrictions, perhaps even bans, in some locations. The earliest uniform code of operating rules was done by the Board of Rail-Road Commissioners of New York State. The Codification of the Rules and Regulations for Running Trains on the Rail-Roads of New-York (Albany, 1856) contained three "Signals" rules, 29-31, for what are today standard codes for applying and releasing brakes and backing. Under Rule 239 for "Enginemen," he must cause the bell or whistle to be used "when directed." Rule 240, in its entirety, adds: "And at least 80 rods before arriving at any road-crossing; and to be continued until he passes it." Massachusetts passed a similar codification, by the Railroad Commissioners of Massachusetts and the Committee of Railroad Officers, as Rules and Regulations for Operating Railroads (Boston, 1872). All the rules were continuously numbered. Under "General Signals," Rule 1 contained three subrules, for what are today standard codes for applying and releasing brakes, and backing, plus one for recalling a flagman (o o o o). Rule 2 instructed: "The whistle must always be sounded or the bell rung eighty rods before reaching a public highway crossing." Rule 3 added: The Bell must be kept ringing until the highway is passed; and whenever a person on the track is thought to be in danger the whistle must be sounded." Because of the great amount of railroad lines and traffic of the two northeastern states and their early actions for rail safety, the two codificati ons had to influential across the country. No specific codes for whistling for grade crossings is given, however. Because no specific whistle code is given for the R&B, PW&B, New York State and Massachusetts rules, or on many other railroads, the engineer could have whistled any crossing warning. But what actually was the whistle signal used to warn at grade crossings and for persons and animals on and near the track? A succession of (short) blasts on the whistle (o o o o o o o o) would have been a natural reaction. Indeed, undoubtedly reflecting rule-of-thumb practice, the first Standard Code, drafted in 1886, by the General Time Convention had Rule 52: "A succession of short blasts on the whistle is an alarm for persons or cattle on the track. . . ." Additionally, Rule 51 said: "Two long followed by two short blasts of the whistle is the signal for approaching road crossings at grade (thus, - - o o)" (Proceedings of the General Time Convention and Its Successor the American Railway Association, from . . . 1886 to . . . 1893 Inclusive, New York, 1893). Here we have a differentiation between warnings for grade crossings, perhaps unoccupied, and warnings to persons or animals, actually on the track. (The railroads' GTC created the standard time zones and the ARA; the ARA is the predecessor of today's AAR.) By the time of H. W. Forman's 477-page, classic The Rights of Trains on Single Track (N.Y., 1904), based on the Standard Code amended as of 1902, the whistle signals were all grouped under Rule 14, with 14l being the grade crossing code (- - o o ) "approaching public crossings at grade." The numbered rules no longer formally mentioned an alarm for persons or animals on the track, but an unnumbered paragraph after the whistle code gave the words of original Code Rule 52. Where did the old Standard Code - - o o originate? The book of rules of the Pennsylvania Railroad served as the basis for drafting the original Standard Code. The Rules and Regulations for the Government of Transportation of the Pennsylvania Rail Road (Altoona, 1864) were the most comprehensive then produced in North America, undoubtedly from the material pressures of burgeoning Civil War traffic. Pages 10-11 had a discrete code of "Engineers' Signals by Whistle," numbered from 1 through 7. No specific grade-crossing code existed. Rule 1 read: "The whistle shall be sounded as an Alarm Signal when approaching a Station or Road Crossing." And Rule 2 read: "A succession of short blasts of the Whistle is an alarm for Cattle. . . ." The PRR rules of 1875 had a Rule 45 duplicating the above Rule 2. Rule 1 was replaced by a Rule 43: "Two long followed by two short blasts of the whistle is a signal for approaching a road crossing at grade. (Thus - - o o)" (W. B. Sipes, The Pennsylvania Railroad, 1875, p. 257). The still more-developed Rules for the Government of Transportation of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company (Philadelphia, 1882) had a Rule 44 : "Two long followed by two short blasts of the whistle is a signal for approaching Road Crossings at grade. (Thus - - o o)." Rule 46, a succession of short blasts, was the alarm for persons or cattle on the track. In the Rules of the Pennsylvania Lines West of Pittsburgh. . . . (Pittsburgh, 1901), the two signal codes remained the same, but they was now labeled as "Audible Signals" and included numbered Rule "14l - - o o Approaching public crossings at grade." The numbered rules no longer formally mentioned an alarm for persons or animals on the track, but an unnumbered paragraph after the whistle code gave the now customary words about successive blasts . Both Rule 14l and the unnumbered paragraph were part of the Standard Code, not unfamiliar on the Pennsy. In sum, the coded - - o o originated in the PRR rules, whatever its very first use might have been. The revised Code of 1938 contained the present grade crossing whistle code, 14l: - - o -. The final long blast must "be prolonged until the crossing is reached.". The earliest adoption of the present rule, - - o - , predates the 1938 Code, however. For some examples, the rules of the Southern Pacific (1930) has Rule 14I coded as currently, - - o -, as do the rules of the Chesapeake & Ohio (1931), the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western (1935), and the New York Central (1937). As locomotive engineers told me when I first "hired out" on a railroad, in 1955, the newer - - o - has a practical advantage over the former - - o o in that the former could have the last long blast prolonged until the crossing had been entirely passed. This was impossible with the latter signal.—Frederick C. Gamst* [Reproduced by permission of the author.]

... Fred Gamst's information indicated that SP adopted the - - o - whistle code for grade crossings in 1930, ... a fellow ... happens to own two January 1, 1923 rule books. One of the books had been updated with a printed page of new rules pased over the old ones. The uncorrected 1923 book shows Rule 14l as - - o o. Exactly what we'd expect, now that we've been educated a bit. But, what is really interesting is that the correction sheet – dated April 1, 1928 – shows Rule 14l ad - o o - ! (This particular fellow's next rule book is not until 1943, which shows the expected - - o - . So we've not actually seen the 1930 rule book that first shows the "modern" - - o -.) But what strikes me as interesting is that the SP apparently did not go directly from - - o o to - - o -, but in 1928 tried out a - o o - code. Clearly this had the desired effect of putting out that expandable long note at the end, but for some reason it lasted but a short time. ... it seems to me all of this transition rather suggests that any Morse code significance of the whistle codes was an accident. It may well be that some locomotive engineers used the Morse code meanings of the whistle codes as memnonic devices to teach or remember the codes, but the whistle codes seem to have been modified (at least) for practical purposes – the need to make that last note last until reaching the crossing. Perhaps the change in the late 20s-early 30s had more to do with increasing train speed (and the difficulty in judging just when to start the whistle) than any thing else. —Wendell Huffman*
* [from the R&LHS Newsgroup]



Great website. In looking at some of the pictures, I think a couple are from the Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad (NCNGRR). This short line ran from Nevada City to Colfax from about 1867 to 1942. The pictures you show of the trestle over the Bear River are now under Rollins lake. Rollins lake was built in the early 1960's.  J.J. Reilly stereoviews #201 and #207 are examples.  Great Site!!!  —Keith Pattison


When the railroads introduced standard time, how did they divide up the country? i.e., did they draw boundaries to define zones, or was the division specified in terms of what time was used on each railroad route?
Tom De-Fazio answers that they drew boundaries, explaining that " ... The USA time zone system, while agreed upon by its constituencies, and since 1918 enforced as a standard, has accommodations to allow change. So, the boundaries today are different from what they were back in 1883 when the system was initiated, and even different from what they were in 1918 when they became officially sanctioned. e.g: [About Geography Time Zones] says that: " ... The time zones of the United States are standardized by Congress and although the lines were drawn to avoid populated areas, sometimes they've been moved to avoid complication ... " Below are more references: [Infoplease World Time Zones] says: " ... Until 1883 most railway companies relied on some 100 different, but consistent, time zones. That year, the United States was divided into four time zones roughly centered on the 75th, 90th, 105th, and 120th meridians. At noon, on November 18, 1883, telegraph lines transmitted GMT time to major cities where authorities adjusted their clocks to their zone's proper time ... " [the U.S. Naval Observatory website] says: " ... For very readable accounts of the history of standard time in the U.S., see: Michael O'Malley: Keeping Watch, A History of American Time (Viking, 1990). William H. Earle: "November 18, 1883: The Day That Noon Showed Up on Time," Smithsonian magazine, November 1983, pp. 193-208. Ian R. Bartky and Elizabeth Harrison: "Standard and Daylight-saving Time," Scientific American, May 1979 (Vol. 240, No. 5), pp. 46-53. Carlene E. Stephens: Inventing Standard Time (National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., 1983) ... " If you have any interest in the issues involved in the synchronization of clocks over distances and applications to railroading and mapmaking (geodesy), I recommend reading a new Book: Peter Galison's Einstein's Clocks, Poincare's Maps: Empires of Time (Norton, 2004). Lastly, it's my impression that Ian R. Bartky [Selling the True Time] made something of an industry of addressing the history of time and time zone standards in the USA." [Also see, Ian Bartky. "The Invention of Standard Time" in Railroad History No.148.] Adrian Ettlinger summarizes that " ... the railroads did define time zones geographically, initially along lines of longitude, but their observance in practice was only to serve as general guidelines. The de facto boundaries were evidently set by the RR companies themselves, and varied. For instance it appears that in Pennsylvania west of Pittsburgh, if one was on a PRR route, one was in the Central time zone, but if on a B&O route, in the Eastern time zone. At least it appears that way from the way train times were shown in timetables. ... [but] time zones have been gradually shifting to the west almost continually since they were introduced." Thornton Waite notes regarding time zones pre-1918 that "the copy of the January, 1910 Railway Guide shows how the railroads ran their lines for the various time zones. The break point differed according to the railroad. The map in the guide shows this ... " according to Adrian Ettlinger "showing times observed on all major RR lines. ... The 1910 Official Guide also has a couple of pages entitled 'Dividing Points – Standard Time Sections,' which lists many cities, and what railroads observe what time in each, and also, for most, what time is observed locally. ... The map shows times associated with the meridians of 75 degrees for Eastern time, and then each 15 degrees up to Pacific Time. But these are not boundaries, but center axes around which those times seem to be 'recommended.' Evidently the nature of the system was that these were the four standard times to be used (actually five, because the 'Atlantic/Intercolonial' zone was also in the system), and it was left to the railroads to decide which time to adopt for which of their routes. One consequence was that the Central zone, on the average, extended usually more than half way to the Eastern's meridian, and generally almost all the way west to the Mountain Zone's meridian. ... " [from the R&LHS Newsgroup]


Seeking a photograph of CPRR Surveyor, Butler Ives
I am working on a manuscript concerning, in part, [Butler Ives'] work as a surveyor in Oregon prior to his work with the CPRR. ... He was born January 31, 1830 in Sheffield Mass to Butler and Olive Morse Ives – the youngest of their ten children. Orphaned upon his parents' deaths in 1846, he moved west to Detroit to join several of his older brothers. He served on his older brother William Ives' survey crew and was made a U.S. Deputy Surveyor by the Michigan Surveyor General in 1850. In 1851 he and his brother William came west to Oregon to assist with the public land survey. He remained in Oregon until late 1854 when he returned to Michigan and again took up the work of surveying there. In 1861 he came west again to assist with the Nevada-California state boundary surveys and other work in the Carson City area. Then in 1866/1867 he went to work for the CPRR surveying out the line. He was still in the CPRR's employ (headquartered in Sacramento) when he went out in late December (1871) on a CPRR train to inspect the line north of Vallejo after heavy rains. He fell from one of the cars, apparently hitting his head, and drowned in a boggy area. He was not married, and his constant "on the move" life of the surveyor means that he didn't stay put long in any community. ... I am hoping that there might be some photographs of surveyors at work in the field ... that might include him in a group, although it appears that there aren't a lot of photographs of the surveyors ... Kay Atwood


Surely what's depicted in Houseworth stereo #1351 is a locomotive-fuel (cordwood) supply train, with the laborers aboard ready to toss-off the loads and stack same at trackside. I wonder how many times per week such trains ran, considering the voracious wood appetite of the typical woodburning locomotive of that era.  Add to that information that Bloomer Cut was on the ascending grade (before the line was double-tracked in 1901), the conclusion to be drawn is that cordwood fuel tiers were plentiful and frequently placed -- perhaps every 20 - 25 miles  (commensurate with water stations locations?). —Kevin V. Bunker, Student Assistant, California State Archives


What were the names of the two trains that met face to face for the first time at Promontory Summit Utah?
Don't know of any names having been given to the trains, but the CPRR engine was the Jupiter and the UPRR Engine was #119. There is an eyewitness account of the CPRR train trip from Sacramento to Promontory Summit by Dr. Stillman, and David Bain's Book Empire Express includes a description of the trip on the UPRR train. Another FAQ also relates to the first trains.


... I want to share an idea I have ... hoping that someone will take up the idea and many of you will support it.
    I am currently reading the book Nothing Like It In The World by Stephen E. Ambrose on the building of the Transcontinental Railroad.  My husband has finished it and is halfway through Empire Express:  Building the First Transcontinental Railroad by David Haward Bain.  I failed to take advantage of many opportunities I have had over my life to learn more about the railroad, having lived 9 years in Omaha, currently living in Reno with easy access to Sacramento, and being married to a man whose father worked for the Southern Pacific, Western Pacific, and Amtrak for a total of 46 years, but is no longer living.  As teachers, my husband Michael and I know the value of learning by experiencing things first hand.  In fact, we teach at a school in Wadsworth, Nevada at the Big Bend of the Truckee River.  While we could not go back and be a part of the experience of those first trains and talk with the men who helped build the railroad – my idea starts here.
    Would it be possible for a trip to be organized that would provide the opportunity for people to ride a special train from Omaha to Sacramento or the other way around?  This could be an educational trip in addition to just being a lot of fun.  There could be people on the train who talk about the many aspects of the construction as we travel the route.  Being a Chautauqua fan, why not have people “be” some of the famous men associated with the construction of the railroad, sharing the history, their thoughts, feelings, and experiences in the first person, allowing the passengers to interact with the character?  This would be a great way for the passengers to learn more and gain a lot of insight into these unique men (and one woman).  Some possible characters would be Grenville Dodge, Theodore and Anna Judah, Thomas “Doc” Durant, Charles Crocker, Collis Huntington, Leland Stanford, Mark Hopkins, the Casement brothers, James Harvey Strobridge, Brigham Young, a “typical” Chinese and Irish track worker, etc. – the list could go on and on.
    For some of you who may not be familiar with Chautauqua, it is a monologue presented by a person who is portraying a famous character.  They extensively study the person and then prepare and present a talk as though they are the character come to speak to us today.  After the monologue, the audience is allowed to ask them questions and they respond still in character.  After this, the person steps out of character and answers questions based upon their knowledge of the character from their study.  For a person like me who has not been strong in the history area, it is a wonderful and exciting way to learn a lot of history and gain insight into personalities and historical times/events.
    I am sure a trip like this would not be cheap.  My idea would include the train being pulled by a steam locomotive, if possible, having fine dining and accommodations on board, in addition to the educational presentations, and side trips as appropriate to see important places associated with the transcontinental railroad that would not normally be available from the train such as Promontory Point, Bloomer Cut, Dale Creek Bridge, Cape Horn, the Donner Summit tunnel, etc.
    I am curious to hear if any of you think this could be a possibility.  Thanks for considering my idea!  Ruth Keesling [7/5/2002]


About the discrepancy regarding the cause of death of CPRR Chief Engineer, Theodore D. Judah, the CPRR.org website states typhoid fever as the cause of death, whereas elsewhere it states:  "November 2, 1863: Theodore Judah died of Yellow Fever contracted in Panama while returning to California."  Yellow fever appears the stated cause of death in many secondary sources, however, we concluded that typhoid fever was the actual cause documented at the time based on the following primary source document:  Memoriam on the death of Chief Engineer Theodore D. Judah, 1863 which states "Died, in New York, on Monday, November 2, 1863, of typhoid fever, Theodore D. Judah, late of Sacramento, California, age 37 years."  These were common infectious diseases in 1863 which would have been well known and a severe case causing death should have been easily diagnosable by Judah's physicians in New York, with jaundice being typical with severe yellow fever, but not with typhoid fever (both diseases can present with fever and headaches, so it is possible that the initial diagnosis by the ship's physician could have been uncertain).  We are not aware of any other copies of this Memoriam document which was passed down in the family from Judah's assistant engineer Lewis Metzler Clement, so it is quite possible that this primary source documentation was lost until published on the CPRR.org website last year.  The Memoriam is a single sheet of paper folded in half to make an 8-1/2" x 11" flyer with 4 pages, each of which is displayed as a separate image.  The first image/page is blank except for the cropped words of the document title.  Don't know how the information contained in the Memoriam was compiled, but it looks like a printed item possibly for a memorial service – not a newspaper clipping.  We're also not sure if an 1863 shipboard diagnosis of "Panama Fever" was intended to refer specifically to yellow fever.  We would be interested if there is other primary source documentation from 1863 that contradicts typhoid fever as the cause of death.
>It's hard to say with any certainty whether it was typhoid or yellow fever (diagnoses as well as anecdotal reports often mixed them up, and the Memoriam is not a presiding physician's report but something written 3,000 miles away from the place of death); I've always thought typhoid, given how rapidly his headache came on while barely shipped off from the isthmus, but I see with no end of irritation that a sentence in my book intended to leave the question open seems to lean toward "essence of anopheles" [which unfortunately was changed when the book was edited].  My advice is to leave it to one or another of the two until something medical or even a ship's log from New York turns up, if ever. It's dicey; even Anna [Judah]'s recollection of the timing of Ted's symptoms was written long after the fact, though of course very compellingly. —David Bain


Note: the University of California's Melvyl Library Catalog lists the following:

Judah, Anna Ferona Pierce.
Title: Anna Ferona Pierce Judah correspondence concerning her husband, Theodore D. Judah, [1889]
Description: 1 portfolio.
partial microfilm reel (25 exposures) : negative (Rich. 98:5) and positive.
Format: Archive/Manuscript
Library: UCB

Crocker, Charles, 1822-1888.
Title: Facts obtained from the lips of Charles Crocker, regarding his identification with the Central Pacific Railroad, and other roads growing of it : dictation and related material assembled in preparing his biography for H.H. Bancroft's Chronicles of the Builders of the Commonwealth ..., 1865-1890.
Description: 19 folders in box.
partial microfilm reel (404 exposures) : negative (Rich. 98:3) and positive.
Contents: copies of Crocker's statement; Mrs. Crocker's letter of thanks for the original; recollections of G.B.V. DeLamater concerning overland journey (1850) with Crocker; Rev. J.A. Benton's draft of his eulogy of Crocker (portion on verso of a letter from Ira P. Rankin); copies of letters (1865) from L.L. Robinson and A.A. Sargent concerning T.D. Judah and the railroad; dictation from L.M. Clement; notes by Frances F. Victor; drafts of biography by Alfred Bates and others; notes from Bancroft, G.H. Morrison and other History Company staff; copy of tribute by "A Sacramento Pioneer" and newspaper articles concerning Mr. and Mrs. Crocker.
Note: Also available on microfilm.
Format: Archive/Manuscript
Library: UC Berkeley



What kinds of gifts were exchanged at the meeting of the two tracks?
It's hard to know exactly what to believe about the details of the joining of the rails ceremony as much of the information comes from newspaper articles that were written and filed just before May 8th when the ceremony was originally scheduled (the ceremony actually took place on May 10th).  See what is generally regarded as the definitive article on the subject by Bowman to which the CPRR Museum has added an illustration pertinent to your question.  The golden "last spike" had a gold nugget at its tip that was broken off and made into a very limited number of gifts.  This included 7 miniature golden spikes which were watch fobs (charms for a pocket watches), and possibly also several finger rings.  We don't know exactly when these few souvenir gifts were presented.


What happened to the Chinese after they helped build the First Transcontinental Railroad? Where did they go?
Not aware of any detailed records about the Chinese after the completion of the first transcontinental railroad. Many of the Chinese continued to work for the railroad – the Southern Pacific RR was building south to Los Angles. Others having earned the money that they needed to be relatively wealthy by the local standards in Canton (their original hope) returned to their families in China – and many stayed in San Francisco or elsewhere in California as miners or in various service occupations.


What became of Fred Lightfoot's stereoview collection?
According to Rusty Norton here is the scoop... The Fred Lightfoot Collection. Fred took photos of stereos that he bought and sold. He sold two physical collections to the George Eastman house. He left behind only a small fistful of stereos. The negatives were eventually sold to a photo archive. ...
—Mary Ann Mary Ann Sell, Vice-President, International Stereoscopic Union; Past President, National Stereoscopic Association


How do you restore rusted pieces of rail?
> You need to find a person with a stationary wire wheel grinder, you will turn that grinder on, the wire wheel will whirl, and you will hold that rail to the wheel until the rust is gone.  This will take upwards of 15 minutes to do a good job.  When the rust is gone, the rail will be dark grey, nearly black.  This can be done with a wire wheel attached to a drill motor, too, but the results are not as good, and it would take an hour to do it right. Should you have a machine shop in your town, it will have a wire wheel.  Spray with clear varathane or some other clear-in-a-can material; this is found in the hardware store for a couple of bucks. G.J. "Chris" Graves


When did the Central Pacific quit using wood for locomotive fuel over the Sierra?
I don't have a date for the last use of wood over the Sierra.  I do know that SP was still using wood fuel on the Siskiyou route into the 20th century.  On 4-8-0s, no less.  There are several well-known photos of a head-on wreck involving two 4-8-0s and a 4-6-0.  The photos were taken by a Carmel photographer who happened to be on the passenger train.  Often misdated, the photos were taken in 1901.   So it's possible that SP went directly from wood to oil on the Sierra route, and fairly likely that they did so on the Siskiyou route.  However, I'm pretty sure the SP did use coal over the Sierra (at least on some locomotives) – seems to me I've seen a photo of some early Harriman 2-8-0s on the Hill burning coal.   —Kyle K. Wyatt, Curator of History & Technology, California State Railroad Museum

I never came across any weekly, monthly, or annual tallies of injuries or deaths during 14 years of work.  That doesn't mean they don't exist.  E.B. Crocker and Mark Hopkins, the most dependable and regular letter-writers, would occasionally write Huntington of a mishap, but never with identities.  Usually they got the numbers right when talking about Caucasians but seldom troubled with the Chinese–usual reports were "3 white men and 15 or 20 Chinese."  Most newspaper accident accounts I saw in the Sacramento Union files at the California State Library did not list casualty names either. —David Bain


Civil War General Gouverneur Kemble Warren served with Lewis Clement on the Pacific Railroad Commission.  I would like to locate any personal letters or diaries where Clement comments on his opinion of Warren while working with him.  Do you know of any such material, and how I might access it?
I do not have any letters or diaries in my possession relating L.M. Clement's views on G.K. Warren.  I would, however, suggest that you look at the Report from the Commissioners of the Pacific Railroad Commission,  January 14, 1869, (05/14/1869 - 05/17/1869). National Archives and Records Administration:  NWCTC-48-RRPACKAGES-181-1; Creating Org: Office of the Secretary of Interior. Lands and Railroads Division} on which Warren and Clement served as two of its five members.  The other place I would suggest you look is our list on Manuscript collections.  In particular I would look at the collection of Leland Stanford's papers, et al, and the Hopkins collections located at the Green Library at Stanford University in which there are many original letters and telegrams to, from, and about L.M. Clement relating to these engineering matters and his service with Gen. Warren on the Special Commission.  (In addition you may want to look at the Reports of the U.S. Pacific Railway Commission established by the Congress in 1887. —Bruce C. Cooper


Unfortunately, the original Jupiter and 119 no longer exist, but they were recreated as life-size working replicas from photographs for the National Park Service's Golden Spike National Historic Site at Promontory Summit, Utah.  For drawings of the reconstructed Jupiter and 119, see the reference in our locomotive FAQ.  Another source is the article "At Promontory, Utah, the message is repeated: 'It Is Done!'" in Live Steam Magazine, Vol. 14, No. 3, March 1980, pp. 6-16.  Information about the Golden Spike National Historic site for which the Jupiter was reconstructed can be found in the publication cited in our Centennial Commission FAQ.  One of the articles includes some information about the demise and recreation of the Jupiter.  There are some terrific May, 1869 views of the Jupiter at the Great Salt Lake in our website's Heselton Exhibit (the story behind how the Jupiter accidentally became famous and why the Jupiter went back there on the [incorrect] date engraved on the golden spike as the date the rails were joined is in David Bain's wonderful book, "Empire Express").


The Bailey article is indeed very interesting. In some cases he seems very insightful, and I wonder his sources. For instance, his explanation for Judah's departure from the SVRR in 1855 – disagreement with the SVRR management – is what I've long suspected but for which I've seen no evidence nor even suggested elsewhere in print. But then on the other hand, he seems to miss the mark entirely – as in his account of the Sacramento Placer & Nevada rail removal. His dating of the mysterious meeting between Judah and Huntington is also quite interesting – he places it five months after Judah's November 1860 report. There are several apparently-close-to-the-source accounts of this, mostly dating it in December 1860 or January 1861. —Wendell Huffman
Thank you for including the Bailey article ... I had never before run across either this article or William F. Bailey's book you refer to at the end of the story and found Bailey's writings in many areas to be more accurate than many of the histories written years later, some as late as the year 2000. I was fascinated that he apparently had access to so much source information not apparently available to historians then or much later and especially so before the electronic age we all have become so used to. It is too bad he did not make known his sources.  I suspect after careful review of Bailey's work a number of previously unknown or undiscovered bits of the Central Pacific's history will be welcomed by those interested in this momentous period in our history. William Francis Bailey's name and contribution certainly needs to be added to the list of "must read" documents for any serious student of the building of the first transcontinental railroad and I, for one, enjoyed his 1908 "Story of the Central Pacific." —Ed Strobridge

Thanks so much for your comments on this interesting article.  ... I found this article completely by accident on eBay. Like you I had never heard of it before.  I am so pleased to find something so enlightening which had apparently been all but lost for so many years and, through the internet, have been able to make it available almost instantly to anybody  in the world who is interested.  I hope the information it contains makes its way back into general knowledge base of the history of the Transcontinental railroad. I have been transcribing and adding a number of other documents, letters, and reports in recent weeks and will keep you up to date as they are posted for your additional comments. Thanks again! —Bruce C. Cooper

I first saw the [William F. Bailey] Trans-Continental RR book about 15 years ago. It was of special interest to me as it was printed in Fair Oaks, very near my home. I suspect it is the same book mentioned in the article, the one by William F. Bailey. The book I saw is housed in the collection of one of the great Western American collectors, now a centenarian. I write as I distinctly remember the author was in the employ of the railroad, and was the Station Master (or some such title) of Fair Oaks Station. It may be that his occupation provided sources not available to other writers? If I were a detective, I would wonder if there was a connection between William F. Bailey, and the Mr. Bailey of the Bailey House in Pilot Hill, maybe a son? It is a long shot; however, the locations are in close proximity. What makes it interesting is the fact that Bailey would have had a special interest in the CPRR. The Bailey House is known as Bailey’s Folly, built to catch the business of a railroad that never arrived. Had the SVRR been extended to Auburn, it is likely his gamble would have paid off. The elder Mr. Bailey was eventually bankrupted due to this error, among others.
Just a though…… —Dana Scanlon

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on Wm. F. Bailey. I have a hunch that the story of Wm. Bailey might just turn out to be an interesting one. Here are a  couple more thoughts that might be a part of the story.   In Stanford's June 1, 1863 1st Annual Report to the Secretary of the Treasury lists James Bailey, living in Sacramento City, as a stockholder in the Central Pacific Railroad Company of California as well as one of the nine members of the Board of Directors.   William F. Bailey mentions James Bailey (pg. 7) as "a Sacramento jeweler" having been brought in by Judah, his personal friend, and originally acted as secretary of the company, but he, too, dropped out, either seared or "frozen."   George Kraus mentions Bailey (pg. 27) as being the person who introduced Leland Stanford, for the first time, to Theodore Judah. Stanford goes on to say "The first time my attention was called to the question of construction was by a gentleman by the name of James Bailey who was afterwards the secretary of the Central Pacific."   I realize that Bailey is a common name but I doubt that many Baileys were connected to or interested in some way in the Central Pacific. I also wonder if these two men were related in some way. Bruce Cooper lists Wm. F. Bailey's birth year as 1861 and I suppose that it is possible he was James son or a nephew or ???. There could have been some kind of relationship as I imagine that some of the source documents could have come from Bailey the jeweler. All speculation of course but it can be a small world and there may be a story to tell. The California Death Record Index may list Wm. F. Bailey if he died in California after 1905 and perhaps his obituary would tell the story of this nearly unknown early CP historian.   James Bailey, Wm. Francis Bailey, the Bailey House, all connected in some way to the Central Pacific.  Sacramento, Fair Oaks and Pilot Hill all in close proximity. One can only wonder but I'd bet there is a story to tell and William F. Bailey needs to be added to the list of Central Pacific historians.   My Great Great Grandfather is also listed in the 1863 report as one of the stockholders of the CP but have no idea what became his stock. —Ed Strobridge



"Militaristic UP: There has been some mention ... about the militaristic organization of the UP in its early stages. The point that is forgotten that almost all the early major construction projects in this country were under the supervision of men who had military tanning. The oldest engineering school in the country Norwich University graduated Civil Engineers with a commission in the Army's Corp of Engineers. West Point a military academy was an engineering school. Almost every College and University trained its graduates in the basics of being a military officer (this was required of gentlemen at the time). Almost all the generals of the Civil War were civil engineers (the other disciplines had not yet been invented) with the remainder predominantly from the clergy. Prior to the conflict between the states many West Point trained engineers worked at building railroads. Among the best known are George Washington Whistler (Western Railroad of Massachusetts) and George B. McClellan (Illinois Central). Other West Point graduates involved in railroad construction include William T. Sherman and Braxton Bragg. In fact the logistics of a major construction project and a military campaign are very similar. Logistics is the art of supplying the troops (work force) with their needs, when they need it, where they need it, and in the quantity needed. Jack Casement and Greenville Dodge of the Union Pacific had perfected logistics during their campaigns during the war. The Central Pacific's Big Four quickly learned and perfected this science and perfected it in the push across Nevada and Utah. Without logistical abilities no major project can be accomplished." —Henry H. Deutch, Osceola County, FL[from the R&LHS Newsgroup]

A recent issue of American Heritage [has] a great article "Terror of Trains – It helped show the way to modern psychotherapy." by Michelle Stacey ... August/September 2003. It's about train phobia in the 19th century as one of the most influential reasons why psychiatry/psychology became accepted. —Carlos Fernandez-Gray Berkeley CA


"The [Jupiter's] 4-4-0 wheel arrangement was originated by Henery Campbell, chief engineer of the Philadelphia, Germantown, and Norristown Railway, in 1836.  Like it's predecessors, it was a little more than a boiler on wheels. Over the next 15 years, many modifications were tried with few being successful.  In 1852 Rogers, Ketchum, and Grosvenor of Patterson, NJ combined the best of these ideas and produced the design which would define locomotive construction for almost a century. All the major builders of the time quickly adopted the Rogers 4-4-0 design. Dubbed the 'American Standard' locomotive and later referred to simply as 'American,' it dominated US rails for more than 30 years."


In the Placer Herald newspaper, printed in Auburn, JULY 29, 1865, there is a legal notice re: the sale of land and lots, in COLFAX, CAL. Our wonderment surfaces as to when Camp 20/Alder Grove/Illinois Town became COLFAX?
In a book of press releases, "ACROSS THE CONTINENT" by Samuel Bowles, printed in 1865, the following dates and places are furnished as to
the whereabouts of the "Colfax Party."
Mr. Colfax gives a speech at Central City, Colo. May 27, 1865.
Mr. Colfax gives a speech at Great Salt Lake City, U. T. June 12, 1863
Mr. Colfax gives a speech in Virginia City, Nevada, June 26, 1863
Virginia City, Nev., June 28, 1865, coming West via the Placerville Route, is a byline.
The Party arrives in San Francisco July 4, 1865.
Mr. Colfax gives a speech in San Francisco, July 8
By line Portland, Ore. July 20
By line, Portland Ore. July 23
By line, Olympia, Wash. Terr. July 26
By line, Victoria, Vancouver Island, July 28
By line, San Francisco, Aug 2
By line, :Yosemite Valley, Aug 11
By line, San Francisco, August 18
By line, San Francisco, August 20 In this story, under that byline,
Mr. Bowles writes: "Our party made a very profitable and interesting excursion over the route of the Central Pacific Railroad from Sacramento to Donner Lake, on the eastern slope of the mountains, by special train and coaches, ........the track is graded and laid, and trains are running to the new town of Colfax (named for the Speaker)......"
The very next byline August 28, with the party in San Francisco; On Sept 1, 1865, Speaker Colfax gives a farewell speech.
With all the above firmly in place, the Placer Herald, a newspaper in Auburn, Cal. reports that RAILS REACHED COLFAX on Sept. 1, and trains
began running Sept. 4, 1865, 10 days AFTER Bowles said he rode the rails to Colfax.

All of that being said, we know from the July 29, 1865 notice that Colfax was called Colfax by July 29, this some 30 days BEFORE Mr. Colfax could have been there.
Does anyone know the answer to this riddle?
I have read the Placer Co. newspapers from June 1, 1865 to November 15, 1865, the only mention of the "Colfax Party" is a negative comment
in the Placer Herald in November, saying the trip was a waste of time and money.
The Colfax Historical Society does not have a date for the naming of the town, nor a date of the visit of the "Colfax Party."
The History of Placer Co., Thompson and West, 1885, is silent on this issue.
RUMOR in Colfax is that Leland Stanford was with the Party when they arrived in Colfax, no one claims to have proof of such a visit, as to date.
—G J Chris Graves, NewCastle, AltaCal'a

EUREKA!  The July 11, 1865 Sacramento Union says that the Colfax party arrived via boat at Sacramento from San Francisco at 8 am on July 11, and will leave by special train at 4 pm, July 11, 1865 for the end of the rail. On July 12, 1865, the Dutch Flat Messenger says that the Colfax Party arrived here by stage coach. (No mention of Crocker nor Stanford, who rode the cars with the Speaker) So, Speaker Colfax was in Camp 20, to be renamed COLFAX on the afternoon of the 11th, or the morning of the 12th, or, he could have stayed overnight ... anywhere in the vicinity. As to Illinoistown being renamed COLFAX, Illinoistown is 3 miles or so WEST of Colfax, and that area, behind Sierra Chevrolet, is STILL called Illinoistown.  Ah, the perils of history.  —G J Chris Graves, NewCastle, AltaCal'a



Reilly #240 is a most curious image  view of flooded Sacramento.  I wonder whether the scene was taken following the 1862-63 floods and CP groundbreaking.  Obviously the scene was shot just north of the Sac City Water Works/City Hall, at a point (almost precisely) where today's CSRM turntable lead is located. The amount of standing water, mud and wintery "air" suggests little else.  What I can't see, because of the 2 freight cars in the left background, is whether the CPRR passenger depot is there or under construction.  The signature telegraph pole which anchored the depot's freight platform/scales on the northeast corner is clearly there. The pole's height, designed to elevate telegraph wires to the depots roof and smoke clerestories (for conveyance into the depot proper further south within the building) suggests that the depot is there, just invisible to the camera/viewer. —Kevin V. Bunker, Student Assistant, California State Archives

At California State Archives I get to pull and refile some pretty wonderful stuff on a regular basis. Among some catalogued but rarely seen "discoveries" is a glorious ink-on-linen CPRR surveyed route map which covers the proposed line between Dutch Flat and Donner Summit, with the line terminating in the vicinity of Cold Stream Canyon and Coburns/Truckee. Its dimensions are equally awesome, measuring roughly 30 feet long by about 3 feet high. This particular map is in very good condition, contains specific property or parcels adjacent to or to be condemned by the CPRR for right of way, and is signed as drawn by T.D. Judah at Sacramento in 1863. The section alone showing Donner Lake is quite fascinating. Other linen maps by other cartographers/engineers (for what became CPRR subsidiaries) exist at CSA – such as the first Western Pacific, the San Francisco & San Jose, and the California Pacific. The bulk of railroad maps at CA State Archives are part of the Public Utilities Commission/CA Railroad Commission records group. The Archives reference desk maintains an index for public use. These maps, however are NOT digitized or available on-line. Anyone truly interested in serious, in-depth study of early California railroad history owes themselves a visit to the State Archives to request a viewing of this rare and special documents. These and other records are easily requested and pulled for patrons after a simple registration process. The California State Archives, 1020 O Street (at Archives Plaza on Regional Transit's light rail line) is open to the public Mondays thru Fridays, between the hours of 9:30 to 4:00 p.m.  Telephone 916-653-2246 directly, during the hours shown above, for reference assistance or contact CSA via e-mail: ArchivesWeb@www.ss.ca.gov.  Keep up the great job! —Kevin V. Bunker, Student Assistant, California State Archives

(Now Online!) See: Theodore Judah's Map - portion from Donner Summit to Truckee. Courtesy California State Archives.



Do you have any signed Judah material in the CPRR Museum?
This website includes two items which belonged to T.D. Judah.   These are Part II of the “Message from the President of the United States to the Two Houses of Congress” for 1854-55 which includes the Annual Report of the Secretary of War for 1854, and Part III of the “Message from the President of the United States to the Two Houses of Congress” for 1857-58.  Both books are marked with Judah's tiny (1 cm. by 2 cm.) Sacramento bookplate, and the 1854-55 volume also includes Theodore Judah's signature in pencil on the title page.  These volumes were a part of Judah’s personal library which was left to his widow, Anna Pierce Judah, upon his death in November, 1863, and remained in the Pierce family home in Greenfield, MA, until what was left of his library was broken up about 1980.  We also have an original C.E. Watkins marked and mounted print of the famous portrait that Watkins made of Judah as well as the four page "Memoriam" issued by the CPRR upon his death in November, 1863.  Both the Watkins portrait of Judah and the Judah "Memoriam" belonged to Lewis M. Clement who was hired by Judah in the Spring of 1863 and served as the First Assistant Chief Engineer of the CPRR from 1863 to 1881.  Between 1863 and 1869 L.M. Clement had, among his many other duties, primary charge of the design, location and construction of the CPRR sections which were built over the Sierra Nevada mountains from Colfax to Truckee, and also the last 200 miles across eastern Nevada and into Utah to Promontory Summit.  Clement also served the CPRR for many years as its Superintendent of Track.  —Bruce C. Cooper


I have a friend who purchased a metal buffalo head that supposedly came off the front of a locomotive.  It apparently had two spears arranged in an X pattern thru the head.  It came from the Skelly's ranch in Tulsa and according to the caretaker had hung in the lodge for many years. Do you have any idea what locomotive it could have come from? tquill
Headlight trophies and ornamentation.
Headlamps occasionally received additional decorations at the hands of a locomotive crew.  This was most common on lines where engines were assigned to regular crews and received personal attention.  After the middle 1880s, pooling locomotives on larger routes discouraged personal details, but smaller lines and branch lines allowed regular crews - and occasional ornamentation - to continue to the end of steam. The most common headlamp decorations were literally trophies - racks of antlers that offered testimony to the hunting prowess of the engineer or fireman.  Handsome, masculine and symbolic of virility, antlers were also used as symbols of achievement; on steamboats, antlers - sometimes gilded - were awarded like the Blue Ribbon of Atlantic liners to vessels that made fast runs.  A exceptionally large rack, like that mounted on Union Pacific No. 23 in 1867, is also tribute to the transitory nature of frontier - animals capable of such triumphs would be seen less and less as railroads and Sharps' rifles moved into their land.  More modest but equally handsome antlers adorned the lamp of Virginia & Truckee's express locomotive No. 11 when it pulled the best trains on the line.  Antlers were typically mounted above the lens, but sometimes below, framing the lamp like a wreath.  Skulls were usually discarded but occasionally used as well. Other ornaments included stars, brass eagles (Best noted a UP engine with two, mounted on each side of a lampshelf, with what he felt were red silk tassels in their beaks), or enamel portraits framed in polished brass scrollwork and hung from the shelf (a Delaware, Lackawanna & Western engine had this detail in the 1890s).  By the 1890s, Indians cut out of sheet metal and mounted aiming forward with their arrows became popular and were used well into the automobile age; their use echoed the radiator mascot. Masonic stars and fraternal badges were as much badges of association as occasionally obligatory tributes to the prevalent social hierarchy in the region.  Their use extended to the 1950s.   No doubt, other materials found their way onto the lampshelves, much of it homemade. In regards to buffalo heads, it may well be so that this particular piece was mounted on an engine, but without seeing the example its hard to say. Cowskulls sometimes made it up there (not a good idea in the 19th century when the association with rustling would have been considered bad taste) but by the 1890s and 1920s they were as harmless as a Tom Mix Cadillac.  The buffalo head may also have been part of a special occasion decoration, used for the fourth of July or similar events.  The crossed arrows motif, alongside the western style, make this a tasty piece of work, and appropriate to the post 1890 era, which is also fitting for the era of railroads in Oklahoma. woodburner


Erroneous information about the construction of the first rail line south to Los Angeles, its Golden Spike Ceremony at Lang, California, and the mythical twin of James H. Strobridge.
I have encountered [the website with the "Story of the Golden Spike at Lang Station." by Gerald M. Best. From the Golden Spike Centennial Souvenir Program Sept. 5, 1976.] before and was appalled at the errors and just plain sloppiness in the writing of this article. First, Gerald Best meant James H. Strobridge but wrote "Charles Strobridge" a man who never existed. Then he had him placed in the Tehachapi Mountains when in fact James H. Strobridge had no part of building south of Goshen on the Southern Pacific. He had earlier built a 20 mile section of the SP south to Goshen in 1872 and from there returned to the northern part of the State while others, Engineer William Hood for one, continued to build the SP south over the mountains. James H. Strobridge retired to his newly acquired ranch in Castro Valley in 1874 but was called back in late 1875 by Charles Crocker to take over the construction of Southern Pacific south from San Fernando to Spadra (Pomona) replacing the Superintendent who had gotten in trouble and who Crocker relieved. He completed that work in 1876. He had no part in the construction of the 7,000 San Fernando tunnel reported as solid rock when in fact the tunnel was well known as a "mud tunnel" and extremely unstable as a result. The difficulties encountered in boring this "mud" tunnel delayed the Southern Pacific for quite awhile and finally on Sept. 6, 1876 the line from Goshen over the Tehachapi's through the tunnel to Lang which connected with the piece James H. Strobridge had just completed to Spadra was opened to traffic. I have talked to others about all the errors in Gerald Best's rendition of the Golden Spike Ceremony at Lang, California and no one seems to have an answer as it was not like Best to be so careless. He was a meticulous researcher and I have always found his writings to be quite accurate. Perhaps he got in a hurry when asked to write the story for the program and relied too much on his memory and the use of newspaper stories rather than check his facts. —Edson T. Strobridge


I have a model Central Pacific 34' Overton coach made by Roundhouse Products (their number 8503). It is marked Central Pacific on the roof and Truckee along the body side. Is this is a good copy? Was there a Truckee shop that supplied the CPRR?
First, the MDC Overton coach is roughly based on the Sierra Railway coach #6 built in 1902 by Holman of San Francisco specifically for use on the Sierra's Angels Branch. The car and sister combine #5 are preserved at Railtown 1897 State Historic Park in Jamestown, near Sonora in the Mother Lode country. Neither the Central Pacific nor the Virginia & Truckee had anything like the coach. I have seen occasional cars on other railroads (mostly short lines) that are of approximately similar size. Model Die Casting (aka Roundhouse) often painted their cars in fictitious paint schemes that they thought were attractive – even when lettering the Overton cars for the Sierra Railway. At a guess, the Truckee lettering on the side of the car is intended to be a name for the car, rather than a shop where it was built. The Central Pacific had some car repair shops in Truckee for minor repairs, but the major shops of the company were in Sacramento, and major ones also in Los Angeles, and during the early years (1860s - early 1870s) in San Francisco for the Southern Pacific (before those SP functions were centralized in Sacramento). —Kyle K. Wyatt, Curator of History & Technology, California State Railroad Museum


Do you have any recommended books about the many irish laborers who built the railroad? Ed J. Langley, Phoenix
Most of the Irish workers on the first transcontinental railroad worked for the Union Pacific.  Bruce Cooper recommends 'UNION PACIFIC: The Birth of a Railroad 1862-1893" by Maury Klein (Doubleday, 1987) especially pp. 66-67, 217-219, 224, 238.  David Bain's book "Empire Express" is excellent.  Another possible source is Grenville M. Dodge's "How We Build the Union Pacific Railroad."  These and other books on the transcontinental railroad or specifically the Union Pacific Railroad listed on our books page would also include information about the Irish railroad workers.


Summit Tunnel rail.
The hole in the top of Summit Tunnel is about twenty feet square–I say about because I cannot measure it.  The hole is easily 60 feet from the tunnel floor, and the top of the hole is covered with a steel sheet that exceeds the inside dimensions of the hole.  The original rail that covered the hole, put in place in 1867 or so, was pear shaped rail, original construction.  That original covering rail was torn off in the early 1990's, and was replaced with the steel sheet that covers the hole today.  The original rail was tossed off to the side. Some 5 or 6 rails are still there today.  The original rail was puffed on by every steam train from 1867 on, then by every diesel until the 1990's, it is in pretty rough shape.  Barely 40% of it remains, the rest rusted off.  Don't forget, every snow storm or rain storm hit that rail for over 130 years.  That moisture, plus the eroding of the rail from the smoke and diesel really hit it hard. —G.J. "Chris" Graves, Newcastle, California


Sept 9, 1869, via the Central Pacific Telegraph Co.
To Leland Stanford—
Our Special train time table on WPRR requires trains to make twenty miles per hour over unfinished track with no allowance for stoppages.  This will require a rate of twenty five (25) to thirty (30) miles per hour running time this is positively unsafe.
S.S. Montague  Chief Engineer


Several of us have been interested in the Danforth (and Danforth & Cooke) singles (4-2-4T and a few 2-2-4T) that were built in the late 1850s and 1860s. It appears there were three on the Central Pacific - CP 3, 4, 93 (including one second hand from the San Francisco & Oakland), and two more on the Oregon Steam Navigation, later Oregon Railway & Navigation. Any idea what the construction numbers were? (While we are at it, any construction numbers for the six 2-6-0s built for the Central Pacific in 1865? Also several 4-4-0s for the San Francisco & San Jose.) Of these five 4-2-4Ts, the C. P. Huntington (Central Pacific #3, later Southern Pacific #1) is preserved at the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento, but the fate of the others is less clear. CP #4 and #93 were converted to 4-2-2 tender engines, and one of them went to Vancouver Island. Tradition says this was CP #4, but some evidence suggests it might have been CP #93. Whichever it is, what became of the other? Some sources say sold to Union Coal, but whether this is a California operation by that name, or if it is another name for the Vancouver Island operation is not clear. One older source says one was sold to the Hawaiian Sugar Company (or perhaps not capitalized as a formal name). Of the two Oregon engines, one was sold to Mexico, but I don't know what became of the other. ... Central Pacific 2nd 93 was a Danforth 4-2-4T originally built for the San Francisco & Oakland, later rebuilt by CP as a 4-2-2. Kyle Williams Wyatt [Historian / Curator, California State Railroad Museum] [from the R&LHS Newsgroup]


Rose Bud April 6th  69  Mark Hopkins
From my observation at the Promontory I believe the Central Pacific and Union Pacific tracks will meet at the rock cuts on the Eastern slope of the Promontory.  The U.P. cannot get their cut out before we get there with the track, I think Huntington ought to know this.  I am on my way home.
C. Crocker


Comments regarding experimentally testing the possibility of using baskets at Cape Horn.
The discussion on this matter continues, as it is difficult to prove a negative. ... this particular question could likely be solved with a scientific approach. The hypothesis would not address the necessity of the baskets, or practical use of the baskets; rather, it would test the very possibility of using a basket on a 75-degree shale slope. For a casual observer, especially someone from the flatlands that has not spent many years in the High Sierra, it may seem possible. To me, it does not. If [someone] is confident that it is in fact possible, maybe he will be willing to volunteer for such an experiment? I will volunteer to go over-the-side on a rope as far as he descends in a basket; though I suspect his descent could be much, much more rapid than mine. You may have to dispatch a party to recover him from the river. Another consideration: Had baskets been used, it is likely Alfred Hart would have made a photographic record of such an event, as it would have made for a very interesting photograph. Remember, he was not only documenting the construction of the railroad, but was also selling pictures of interest to the general public. Had the claim been made that such baskets were used on the nearly vertical slopes of Donner Summit, it may give one cause to consider the possibility. But no such claim has been made, most probably due to the fact that it did not occur. ... Did Hart witness the construction of the road bed around Cape Horn? It is likely we will never know, just as it is likely you will never be able to prove the use of baskets. But with consideration of the fact that he began documenting the construction during the early stages, including parts of the first 21 miles, and with consideration of the fact that he documented the road bed construction along the way, including sites not too distant from Cape Horn, and with consideration of the fact that he had special dispensation with the railroad, I would say yes he probably had the opportunity. Remember, the blasting on Cape Horn didn't last a day, it took a bit of time. I just don't know that Hart perceived it as a monumental event; it was better fodder for the dime novelists. And could he have positioned himself to take photos on the construction on Cape Horn? Actually, I think he could have walked right out on Cape Horn and taken the shot. The shot he took of Summit Camp was from a perspective every bit as harrowing. As for alternative sites, the location of the Cape Horn Bar comes to mind. Keep in mind, his equipment included a long lens. He used it at Summit Valley (compare Hart 109Hart #109 and #109A) and many other locations. With the long lens used in #109, I can make out a road station at least twice the distance of the Cape Horn Bar shot. Also, he could have approached from the bottom. There was a well used road (Stevens Trail) to that location. An approach from the bottom would not be nearly so rough as the approach to Hart 179Hart #179. At the base of Cape Horn, it would be quite easy to document the construction just a quarter of a mile away. A lot of hoopla was made about the construction of the road bed through Bloomer Cut as it was the first major obstacle. With today's equipment, it would not be a relatively easy job. The second major obstacle was Cape Horn, so news hungry eastern writers tried to make that a big deal. Of course, the real obstacle lay ahead. Even with today's equipment, the road bed over the Donner Summit would be a big deal. Have you ever been to these places? If you [are] confident the Chinese used baskets on Cape Horn, are you will to participate in an experiment? I would be more than happy to document an attempted descent over the side of Cape Horn in a basket. I may or may not use a rope for my descent, as a younger man I am quite sure I could have made the trip without it. I am confident that such an experiment would debunk this story forever. ... I suggest an experiment as I am confident it would go a long way in debunking this story. I would assert that it is  impossible to use a basket on Cape Horn. If a rope is tethered to one's waist, or if a boson's chair or harness is used, the person descending has full use of  the legs and can control the attitude of the body. By contrast, if one were to attempt a descent in a basket, be it sitting or standing, they would have no such control. The occupant of the basket would not be able to control the attitude of the body and thus would be forced forward into the slope. If the occupant leaned backward in an attempt to control the attitude of the body, as one would do on a rope,  it is likely the basket would not move, or would tumble end for end. It would not progress in a smooth descending manner. If the intended descent was on a slope of 85 degrees or greater, the use of a basket might be feasible. Did you ever notice the artist's depiction's of the supposed event?  They usually depict slopes of 90 degrees or so. There is good reason for that, they can't make it believable if the slope is 75 degrees. ... Secondly, why would they use baskets? It would be a simple, non-time consuming task to step over the side,  use a pick create a small working platform, and then place explosives so to create a larger working area. I think this can be easily demonstrated. If I were to tackle the blasting of Cape Horn, with the use of materials available at the time, I would start at the highest point in the cut and work downward and to the sides. It would not take many charges to create sizable work area on that shale hillside. As the progress moved to the sides it would facilitate the movement of crews so that they would be out of harm's way as charges were set on the opposite side. So, why would someone go to the trouble of trying to use a basket? They did not blast cuts from bottom to top, rather it was top to bottom. These people were not stupid, they did great things with relatively primitive tools. I suspect the basket stories would have provided a good source of humor for those hearty fellows. Dana Scanlon

Since the SP removed some of the double track over Donner Summit before its acquisition by the UP, why does the UP still run "left-handed" through Truckee and all the way to Sparks, NV? The transitions from single to double track provide many opportunities to get back on the right side. ... —Vern Waight
> On the SP between Sparks and Truckee, the Left side is the "right" side. Block signals are all laid out that way. Why spend the money to move the whole block system for little reason other than aesthetics. —Tom Irion Walnut Creek, Calif.
> ... the track used westbound may be the one with easier grades. If the SP had it signaled for that direction of traffic, that would keep it that way. On the west slope, the eastbound (upgrade) track is to the left from Rocklin (next town above Roseville) where it bridges the eastbound track, to Tunnel 27 near Applegate, where it crosses back. Although separated by considerable distances elsewhere, the two tracks come together at the viaduct and Tunnel 18 at Newcastle. The line is mostly just block signaled for the normal current of traffic, with only limited exceptions. To permit the "Capitol" service to use the same station in both directions at Auburn (where the eastbound and westbound tracks are on opposite sides of town), a bit of CTC [Centralized Train Control System] was installed from Rocklin to a set of crossovers just above Auburn (probably at Caltran expense). The line is single track for 8 miles from Emigrant Gap to Shed 10, and again from the west portal of summit Tunnel 42 about 4 miles to Lakeview. These sections are CTC controlled, and the double track between them must also be as it is signaled for reverse traffic. I'm not sure whether there is signaling for reversed traffic from Lakeview to Truckee, but this section is operated left handed ... —Hank Raudenbush
> ... it is probably because the ABS system [Automatic Block Signals] is set up that way. Reverse-signalled CTC has not been installed there - yet (if ever). —Tom Matoff
[More about Railroad Signaling and Railroad Traffic Control Systems.]
> ... the original historical reason for the track usage was for the most favorable grades in both directions. —Adrian Ettlinger[Inquiry and responses all from the R&LHS Newsgroup]


Elevation Drop from Cape Horn to the valley below.
There is a concrete railing that surrounds Cape Horn.  Mounted on that concrete railing is a United States Bureau of Land Management survey marker, showing an elevation of exactly 2,487 feet above sea level.  On the banks of the American River below Cape Horn, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management team measured the mean elevation to be 1,155 feet above sea level and placed a brass marker to that effect.  Thus the difference between the railroad tracks and the River is exactly 1,332 feet.  The valley below Cape Horn is called Green Valley by the people that live there.  (The U.S.G.S. topographic map calls it Burnt Flat.)  You have to walk up hill from the River to Burnt Flat/Green Valley.  The elevation difference, from the River to the edge of Burnt Flat/Green Valley is 1,600 feet, as marked on the Colfax Quadrangle, California, 7.5 minute Series Topographic Map.  That means that the perpendicular drop off Cape Horn to Burnt Flat/Green Valley is just 887 feet. —G.J. "Chris" Graves, Newcastle, California


From: California History Section <cslcal@library.ca.gov>

>Here's a display of the four records in full format:
>
>          CALL NUMBER: 385 N49
>
>               AUTHOR: Central Pacific Railroad Company.
>
>                TITLE: Statement of the Central Pacific railroad company of
>                          California.
>
>                NOTES: In Nevada. Legislature. Senate. Committee on
>                          railroads. Evidence concerning projected railways
>                           across the Sierra Nevada Mountains. 1865. p.
>                           [7]-51
>
>             SUBJECTS: Railroads--California
>    ORIGINAL RECORD #: RLINCCSG11000993-B
>
>  Calif. History Room (CS)
>      CALL NUMBER: 385 N49 -- Book NC -- Available
>-------------------------------------------------------------------
>
>                TITLE: Lands of the Central Pacific railroad company in
>                           California, Nevada & Utah.
>            PUBLISHED: n.p. 1877
>          DESCRIPTION: 31 p. O.
>
>                NOTES: No.15 in volume lettered: Railroad pamphlets, v.4
>
>             SUBJECTS: Central Pacific Railroad Company.
>                       Railroads--California.
>    ORIGINAL RECORD #: RLINCCSG05002242-B
>
>  Calif. History Room (CS)
>      CALL NUMBER: 385 R15 -- 4 -- Rare Book -- Available
>--------------------------------------------------------------------
>          CALL NUMBER: \MICRO-\FILM\549\Reel 100\No. 1076\
>
>               AUTHOR: Judah, Theodore D. (Theodore Dehone), 1828-1863.
>
>                TITLE: Report of the chief engineer [microform] : upon recent
>                           surveys, progress of construction, and an
>                           approximate estimate of cost of first division of
>                           fifty miles of the Central Pacific Railroad of
>                           Cal., July 1st 1863.
>            PUBLISHED: Sacramento : James Anthony & Co., 1863.
>          DESCRIPTION: 26 p. ; 23 cm.
>
>                NOTES: "Theodore D. Judah, Chief Engineer Central Pacific
>                           Railroad"--p. 26.
>                       Microfilm. New Haven, Conn. : Research Publications,
>                           1975. 1 reel ; 35 mm. (Western Americana :
>                           frontier history of the Trans-Mississippi West,
>                           1550-1900 ; reel 100, no. 1076)
>
>             SUBJECTS: Central Pacific Railroad Company.
>                       Railroads--California--Design and construction.
>                       Pacific railroads.
>          OTHER ENTRY: Central Pacific Railroad Company.
>       SERIES ENTRIES: Western Americana : frontier history of the
>                           Trans-Mississippi West, 1550-1900 ; reel 100, no.
>                           1076
>    ORIGINAL RECORD #: RLINCCSG93-B4744
>------------------------------------------------------------------------
>
>          CALL NUMBER: 385 R15
>
>                TITLE: Lands of the Central Pacific railroad co. of
>                           California.
>            PUBLISHED: Sacramento, H.S. Crocker & co. 1870
>          DESCRIPTION: 16 p. O.
>
>                NOTES: No.11 in volume lettered: Railroad pamphlets, v.4
>
>             SUBJECTS: Central Pacific Railroad Company.
>                       Railroads--California.
>    ORIGINAL RECORD #: RLINCCSG05002241-B
>
>  Calif. History Room (CS)
>      CALL NUMBER: 385 R15 -- 4 -- Rare Book -- Available

Anything listed as Rare Book, NC or CS does not circulate and there is no
photocopying from Rare Book items.  However, the microfilm #549, Reel 100,
will circulate on inter-library loan through your local library or
institution's library.

I enjoyed your website and it added to my bookmarks.

John Gonzales
Senior Librarian

Mailing address:

California History Room
California State Library
P.O. Box 942837
Sacramento, CA 94237-0001

Street address:
California History Room
California State Library
900 N Street, Room 200
Sacramento, CA 95814

Hours: M-F, 9:30 - 4:00
Phone: (916)-654-0176
Fax: (916) 654-8777

Internet: www.library.ca.gov
E-mail: cslcal@library.ca.gov



What is the length on the transcontinental railroad?
The first transcontinental railroad was 1776 miles long from Omaha, Nebraska to Sacramento, California (an easy American number to remember).  The exact mileage varies over time as the railroad line was later realigned to slightly improve the route.  You can get a different answer if you instead measure the length from Council Bluffs, Iowa or to Oakland or San Francisco, California, but the above answer is as originally built.  A more precise number (to the foot) is on our homepage.  They actually measured every foot of the entire route with a surveyor's chain (see the construction reports). Another source records the distance as follows:  Central Pacific comprised 742 miles of line from Sacramento, California to Ogden, Utah. Union Pacific comprised 1,032 miles of line from Omaha, Nebraska to Ogden, Utah. Total length of the first transcontinental railroad from Sacramento, California to Omaha, Nebraska was 1,774 miles.


Weitfle stereoview #251. Original Hanging bridge.  General Grant's train.
DeGolyer Library at Southern Methodist University in Dallas has this view in their collection.  Here's what they have in their files concerning this stereoview, and bridge:  "Past the minuscule station at Hanging Bridge, the Royal Gorge narrows down to such an extent that nothing short of an atomic blast could provide a ledge upon which to build a railroad.  As early as 1878, the Rio Grande and Santa Fe were in the midst of armed as well as legal conflict to determine which one would occupy the floor of the cañon, and be the first to enjoy the rich traffic flow to and from Leadville.  The Rio Grande succeeded in winning this conflict, and thus became the first company to bring its steel into the Carbonate Camp.  Simultaneously, its original ambitions to build into Santa Fe and then far south to Mexico City were put permanently to rest.  The Santa Fe seized Raton Pass, thereby assuring its triumphal march west to the coast, but never became a factor in the service of the mountain mining camps, save during its short-lived and abortive ownership of the Colorado Midland. ... The train is the special train returning from Leadville, run for General and ex-President U.S. Grant."


What is glue streaking?

Glue Streaking

This composite image shows glue streaking on two stereographs. This is most prominent on the wall of the vertical structure next to the ferry Solano (left) and on the roof of the San Francisco residence (right). A series of black parallel lines drawn on the images point to the streaking and show the orientation of the alternating increased and decreased density which is thought to be damage to the albumen emulsion due to chemical interaction with the glue used to attach the image to the cardboard mount. The streaking likely results from the pattern of the glue application to the back of the print from a glue brush, possibly due to sulfur compounds in the glue. Glue streaking is one of the most troublesome types of damage because it extremely difficult or impossible to remove when doing digital restoration. Having such artifacts which differ between the left and right image can also be disconcerting when seen in the stereo viewer where each eye sees one of the two images of the stereo pair. (Just how bothersome varies widely from person to person and depends in part both on the exact configuration of the image defects as well as which of the observer's two eyes is more dominant.)


What is the most recent train acquisition in the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento?
The most recent full-size railroad acquisition by CSRM is probably Central Pacific 2-6-2T #233, acquired from Pacific Locomotive Association.  Several other acquisitions are in process.  Other recent acquisitions include SP SD45T-2 #6819 and Amtrak F40PH #281. —Kyle K. Wyatt, Curator of History & Technology, California State Railroad Museum [11-22-2004]


Pourriez-vous me dire quel est le nom de la première compagnie de Chemin de fer en CALIFORNIE ??? [What is the name of the first California RR?]
SACRAMENTO VALLEY RAILROAD – 1856
Theodore Dehone Judah was the chief engineer, lobbyist, railroader, and surveyor for the Central Pacific Railroad.  He was born in 1826 in Bridgeport, Connecticut and lived until 1863, when he died in New York without seeing the completion of his dream, the first transcontinental railroad.  In 1854, he was asked by Charles Wilson, President of the Sacramento Valley Railroad, to survey.  He finished the SACRAMENTO VALLEY RAILROAD, California’s first railroad, in 1856.


America's First, First Railroad, in 1795, by Frederick C. Gamst
While crossing my fingers, I began an article with: "On Boston's Beacon Hill, around 1805, the first railroad in the United States was constructed and operated." My qualms concerned a number of undocumented statements that, in 1795, an inclined-plane railroad operated on Beacon Hill to transport bricks from a kiln at the summit down to the level of the city.[1] The statements, however, did not make business sense. Brick makers would not find atop the hill the clay for making and fuel for firing their product. Why drag these heavy materials uphill and transport loads of bricks downhill, when conducting the entire production below in the city would make greater business profit? Brickyards are not built on hilltops.

For several years before writing the "First Railroad" article, I searched to no avail all manner of Boston sources for evidence of the uneconomic railroad of 1795. Recently while doing research [at the Library of Congress] on labor relations in the Locomotive Engineers' Monthly Journal, serendipity, not scholarship, rewarded my quest. This journal of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers reprinted, without any date, a letter to the Boston Advertiser.[2] A "W. G." from Windham, Maine wrote the following. His letter explained both the location of the brickyard and the true nature of the railroad.

Referring to the line of 1805, discussed in his "First Railroad" article, W. G. related: "It may perhaps be interesting to your readers to know that this same railway and cars, or others of similar construction, were used on Beacon Hill several years previous." W. G. received his information from Edward Howe of Portland Maine, who was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts in 1783. Edward's father, Abraham Howe, was a brick maker with a brickyard and house at the base of Beacon Hill at Adams Street. (No such street now exists in central Boston, but until recently an Adams Place was just north of the hill, at Anderson Street, immediately north of Cambridge Street.) By team and wagon, in 1795, the Howes hauled uphill from their kilns "one-hundred thousand" bricks. Their destination was the construction site of the new, golden-domed Statehouse of architect Charles Bulfinch.

Edward Howe said that before the laying of the cornerstone for the Statehouse, on July 4, 1795 by former governor Samuel Adams, the precipitous apex of Beacon Hill was cut down about 20 feet to provide a level construction site. The excavated earth went down to Beacon Street's "foot," or lower part, then on the east bank of the Charles River. "[I]n this work a railway of wood, of about two feet gauge, conveyed loaded cars to the foot of Beacon Street, drawing up at the same time a train of empty cars by a rope over a pulley." Thus an inclined plane of a British model operated on the hill. It consisted of a wooden, double track on a self-acting plane powered by gravity, undoubtedly using a braking devise on the drum of the upper pulley.[3] Howe had "the impression that there was a thin plate of iron on the track [rails] of the Beacon Hill Railway, although he is not certain." To reduce wear to the head of the wooden rails, typical strap-iron plates could have been nailed on them. This, however, would not be cost effective for a temporary contractor's line, disassembled after a few months of removing the hill's apex.

W. G. thinks, in 1805, the Proprietors of Mount Vernon employed the contractor, track, and cars used to remove the apex for their second railroad used to remove most of the other two summits of Beacon Hill. The hill was sometimes called either Tremont or Trimountain. This view could have been true regarding the contractor. During 1795 in timber-rich New England, when no longer used, the relatively expensive timber rails would have been expended in some immediate construction project of then booming Boston. During a time before railroads in America, entrepreneurs would not have stored timber rails out in the weather for ten years, awaiting the beginnings of an unforeseen Railway Age. The lines of 1795 and of 1805, descended from it, provided British models for the transfer of railroad engineering, to influential Boston, "the hub" of America. —Frederick C. Gamst [from the R&LHS Newsgroup, reproduced by permission of the author, numbered citations not provided.]

Also see: "The Transfer of Pioneering British Railroad Technology to North America." by Frederick C. Gamst.



Tracking early travelers.  Does the CPRR Museum have historical  records from which it would be possible to track journeys by particular individuals, say in the fall of 1869 from Ogden west to Sacramento? I'm doing a chronology of the American landscape painter Gilbert Munger and I know he made this journey. Knowing exactly which dates and with which stops would be very useful. Mike Schroeder
The CPRR.org FAQ's page links to newspaper and manuscript collections where such information, if it survived, could possibly be located. For the period of July 26, 1870 - April 23, 1873, check the two volume book,  Railway Passenger Lists of overland trains to San Francisco and the West by Louis J. Rasmussen. There also were a few organized excursions such as the excursion of travel agents made just after the line was completed with souvenir books that list the participants, the Boston Board of Trade's Boston-San Francisco Trans-Continental Excursion of June-July 1870 (complete with on-board newspaper!), the Frank Leslie excursion in 1877-78 that he wrote about in his newspaper, or other individual accounts.  If you are really lucky, you might discover letters written by Gilbert Munger describing his trip that were saved by his descendents or deposited in a library.  Using the resources linked on our FAQ's page, you might want to do a search to see if there is any listed manuscript collection relating to him. To get an idea of what the transcontinental train travel was really like, the best printed source is the recent book:
"RIDING THE TRANSCONTINENTAL RAILS: OVERLAND TRAVEL ON THE PACIFIC RAILROAD, 1865 - 1881."


Who was the first president to ride a train?
John Quincy Adams.   On November 8, 1833, former President J.Q. Adams was a passenger on a Camden & Amboy RR train which suffered the world's first recorded railway accident and first fatalities.  It happened at Heightstown, New Jersey, when the 24-passenger train derailed owing to a broken axle. — Bruce Cooper


Where can I find a map showing the location of the transcontinental rail line in relation to today's roads. Such a map would be useful when trying to spot remnants of the line while driving along the route?
For modern highly detailed maps covering the entire route, the best choice would be the United States Geological Survey's topographic maps (contour maps) which are widely available on paper, but now are also available on the Internet for free from two companies which are both linked at the bottom of the map list on the CPRR.org website's Transcontinental Railroad Map page.  These can be used with a Global Positioning Satellite receiver (which are now available quite inexpensively) to locate yourself readily and with great accuracy even in the absence of clear landmarks.  Also see the recent government report that includes contour maps of the entire route from Sacramento to the California-Nevada border.

A number of ferry and steamer related images, including the CPRR ferry Solano (world's largest ferry able to carry two trains) can be found at:
Watkins Stereoview #3797. Central Pacific Ferry Solano, detail.
Postcards of San Francisco Bay Ferries (click to enlarge)
CPRR Ferry Solano
CPRR Ferry Solano
Wm. B. Insersoll Stereoview #120. "C. P. R. R. Co.'s Steamer El Capitan, Oakland."
San Francisco Bay–From the end of Oakland Wharf. (Houseworth Stereoview)
Western Pacific Railroad Ferry Steamer, in the slip. (Houseworth Stereoview)
Railroad Ferry Boat El Capitan. (Houseworth Stereoview)
Western Pacific Railroad looking toward Goat Island and San Francisco. (Houseworth Stereoview)
New Wharf of the Western Pacific Railroad from the old ferry landing to Goat Island. (Houseworth Stereoview)
CPRR San Francisco Dock, Oakland Ferry. (Reilly Stereoview, detail.)
Grain Ships and Ferry at San Francisco Docks. (Savage Stereoview, detail.)
CPRR San Francisco Dock, Oakland Ferry. (Watkins Stereoview #3713, detail.)
See Watkins Stereoview #1531.
CPRR Depot, Sacramento, California (detail of A. A. Hart Stereograph) with Steamer Chrysopolis.
CPRR Depot, Sacramento and Steamer Yosemite. (Hazeltine Stereoview, detail.)

CPRR Transfer Boat Solano (Encyclopedia of Western Railroad History)

Transfer Boat Solano (Views of California, 1886)
Transfer newsletter for participants in the Rail-Marine Information Group.
Ferry changed bay transportation
Benicia-Martinez Bridge makes history
San Francisco Bay Ferryboats - Yesterday

Muybridge: Central Pacific R R Ferry, Davis St [San Francisco]
Muybridge: Moonlight effect, Steamer El Capitan

> Thomas Rubarth remarks that from his reading that the CPRR first started building boats with the El Capitan at constructed as specified by the CPRR at Oakland Point in 1868. This passenger ferry was followed by three train ferries [see timetable], the Thoroughfare (1871), Transit (1876) and the Solano (1879). Then came the passenger ferry Piedmont (1883). These were also specified by the CPRR. The CPRR also modified and rebuilt some existing ferries, such as the Chrysopolis, which was converted to the double-ended Oakland in 1875.

> Keith Ricks writes regarding the EL CAPITAN FERRY STEAMER that he found a silver presentation speaking trumpet, marked "From A.A. Cohen President of the S.F. & Oakland RR to W.E Bushnell Master of the Co's Steamer El Capitan" (their largest ship, built in1868).



... in the late 1940's - ... Sparks was the division point between the Sacramento and Salt Lake Divisions and there was always lots of activity. SP's cab-ahead Articulated Consolidations operated west from Sparks over Donner Pass to Roseville, California ... Trains over Donner were handled by SP's 4200 series AC's with an occasional 4100. ... East from Sparks the passenger trains were handled by 4400 GS locos (4-8-4) or 4300 series 4-8-2's. Freights were generally handled by 2-10-2's, 2-8-2 or 2-8-0's although 4300's frequently handled refer blocks during the perishable rush. There were a couple of neat looking 4-6-0's, one of which was assigned to the local freight/mixed to Fallon. ... —Jim Harker, Renton, Washington


What books about the history of U.S. railroads are available in the German language?
1. An old, but valuable source, and one that is probably impossible to find, is by Wilhelm Hoff and Felix Schwabach, Official German Report on American Railroads, Their Administrative and Economic Policy (New York: Germania Press, 1906). This 447-page book is more an administrative reference work than something one would sit down and read. Still, it’s worth looking at if your correspondent has access to a good university library. The Stanford call number is 385.0973 H 697a, and the book is available through interlibrary loan. 2. One of the most interesting German works on American railroads is Peter Friedrich Kupka’s Die Verkehrsmittel in den Vereinigten Staaten von Nordamerika (Leipzig: Verlag von Duncker & Humblot, 1883). I don’t think this has been translated into English. Also, see Kupka’s Amerikanische Eisenbahnen (Wien: Lehmann & Wentzel, 1877). 3. Probably the best title I can refer you to in terms of interest, readability, and availability is Nicolaus Mohr’s Ein Striefzug durch den Nordwesten Amerikas. This work was translated into English as Excursion through America (Chicago: Lakeside Press, 1973). It was edited by Ray Allen Billington and is readily available; AbeBooks has several copies listed for sale. —Norman E. Tutorow


I have bought items on eBay where the packing was so bad I couldn't believe it.  The worst was the package made from a pizza box with sauce on it, padded with bread wrappers (I'm not kidding).  It made it, but I didn't want lunch.  Again thanks. — Bruce


My wife and I are buying the 125 year old home that was attached to the historical and famous "Golconda Hot Springs Hotel and Baths" in Golconda, Nevada.  This was a stopping point for the railroad in the 1864 and later.  We are in the process of researching info and also are searching grants based on historical conservation.    The water tower that fed the steam engines still stands across the street from our project. Any Suggestions. Bo & Lisa Bennett, Golconda Hot Springs Guest House, Golconda, Nevada


Were the "Big Four" San Francisco Hotels built by the CPRR founders?
[The Fairmont at 950 Mason St.; The Huntington Hotel & Nob Hill Spa, 1075 California St.; The InterContinental Mark Hopkins, 999 California St.; and, The Stanford Court Renaissance Hotel, 905 California St., San Francisco.]
While three of the four "Big Four" hotels on Nob Hill in San Francisco carry the names of members of the CPRR's "Big Four" (The Stanford, The Mark Hopkins, and The Huntington), none of these gentlemen ever built a hotel on Nob Hill.  Leland Stanford, Mark Hopkins, and Charles Crocker instead each built great private mansions there in the 1870's while in 1892 Collis P. Huntington acquired the existing (but long closed) mansion originally built by General David D. Colton, a railroad lawyer, who had died in 1878.  (Ironically after his death, Colton's widow filed a suit against Stanford, Crocker, and Huntington who claimed that Colton had defrauded the railroad. This bitter litigation was finally settled in 1886.) When Huntington died in1900 his wife, Arabella, continued to occupy the mansion until it was destroyed with the other three in the earthquake and fire of 1906. In 1915, Mrs. Huntington donated the still vacant land to the City of San Francisco to remain in perpetuity as a park which it still is today. The Huntington Hotel is actually across California Street from the park on a site once occupied by the Tobin family mansion, the founders of the Hibernia Bank. The Crocker mansion was located across Taylor Street to the West of the Colton/Huntington mansion on what is now the site of Grace Cathedral. (See the Muybridge San Francisco Panorama.) The Stanford Hotel is indeed located on the site once occupied by the Stanford Mansion and next to the Mark Hopkins which stands on the site of the Hopkins mansion, but like the others neither of these original buildings was ever a hotel. (Hopkins never lived in the mansion, however, as he died in 1878 shortly before it was completed and the building became the Hopkins Art Institute.)  The Fairmont, which began construction in 1902, was built by members of the family of James Fair whose mansion was located a couple of blocks west on Pine Street, and was purchased by the Law brothers shortly before it was scheduled to open in 1906. Neither the site or the hotel has any particular relation to the "Big Four." If you have an interest in other San Francisco hotels, see the CPRR Museum webpage on the Palace Hotel. —Bruce C. Cooper


The "Antelope," designated the engine for pulling Leland Stanford's car to Promontory reportedly struck a log while exiting tunnel 15 and was ultimately replaced by the 'Jupiter' for that historic occasion.  Any idea where that accident occurred, what county it was in, and how one can find that spot?  What an awesome website. — Lee Adams, III, Downieville, California
The first person description of the accident involving Stanford's train is in the Overland Monthly Magazine article "The Last Tie."


Railtown 1897 is in James Town, California, near Sonora.  It is the roundhouse and shops of the Sierra Railroad. It is now a state park as of about 1980 and operated by the California State Railroad Museum as of 1995.


Are there any sources of information (including photos) of the 1969 "Golden Spike Centennial Limited" excursion that celebrated the 100th anniversary of the driving of the golden spike?
The CPRR Museum does not have any photographs of the Golden Spike Centennial Limited, but several can be found on the web.


Does "C. & P. R. R." refer to the Central Pacific Railroad?
No.  The following railroads may have been abbreviated C&PRR: Also the Central Pennsylvania Railroad and Chelatch Prairie Railroad may have been abbreviated CPRR.


Why does your website have so many links? Don't links to other websites cause people to leave your website?
The essence of the World Wide Web which has made it such a spectacularly successful innovation is the inclusion of hyperlinks from page to page to make information instantly accessible, regardless of the source. Limiting external hyperlinks to a separate reference section or links page seems to defeat much of the advantage of Tim Berners-Lee's invention. The Central Pacific Railroad Photographic History Museum website has tens of thousands of links, with a substantial fraction going to other websites. We have linked to every other source of related information that we have found on the Internet based on our understanding of Metcalfe's Law which implies that the usefulness and success of a website goes up approximately as the square of the number of hyperlinked connections with other related websites, and we believe that this accounts for the CPRR Museum website consistently being ranked first among transcontinental railroad websites by Google, and other search engines. We are convinced that the more a website helps people find other valuable resources on the Internet, the more likely they are to consider the site valuable and to return to it.


I'm doing a research paper on the transcontinental railroad and I found that when I was looking for information about this topic I found good sites but when I sat down to write my paper I wasn't sure how to write it in my own words because I didn't totally understand and comprehend the information.  Is there any web site or anything that would help me to go about writing my paper?
Learning to write well requires both lots of practice and the help of a skilled writer willing to be a mentor.  Jot down your ideas – make some notes.  What are you trying to say?  Narrow it down since you can't write about everything, and organize your ideas so you have a rough idea how to structure your paper.  Then write a rough draft, correct it as best you can, and read it – sentence by sentence – to your mentor who will dictate corrections to you.  Over time, you will internalize how your mentor corrects and helps you to rewrite your sentences, substitute words, and rephrase your ideas, making this rewrite less and less painful until after a few years you will be able to correct and rewrite your prose all by yourself.  One last tip:  When you have finished writing a draft, print it out on paper, wait a day and then proofread it to find errors and awkward sentences that you would miss on the computer screen.


This old 5 1/2" spike is claimed to have come from the "U.S. Transcontinental Railroad." Do you have a guess as to the age.  Is this a hand forged iron spike?  Do you know what the markings on the head mean?
 
Dog head spike Dog head spike

This is known as a "Dog Head" spike. If you look at the head of the spike, the tapered front looks like a dogs nose and the two rounded side lugs appear like a dogs ears - hence the name. I have several of these spikes that were found on the Pacific Coast Narrow Gauge RR here in San Luis Obispo County that are identical in appearance except  they are different lengths. One is 4 1/2 " long but has the largest head. One is 5" long and the head is somewhat smaller. I am sure the reason for the shorter spikes was that they were used on 40 & 45 lb rail which was substantially smaller than the 56 to 66 lb rail laid on the Pacific Railroad. There are no markings on the head of any of the four I have. My spikes are known to have been made in Wales and are known to be supplied with English rail, some rolled in Wales and some in England. They date from about the early 1880's.  As no English rail was used on the Pacific Railroad, by either the CP or the UP it is extremely doubtful that English spikes were used. These spikes are not hand forged. I suspect that the markings on the head may have been the identifying mark for the Mill where they were forged. Because this spike is 5 1/2" long it compares with the heavier spikes that were laid on the Central Pacific and more than likely were used on heavy rail. It may well have been laid on one of the two transcontinental railroads built across the northern routes, the Great Northern or the Canadian Pacific. The age of the spike and the time of construction of the northern routes coincide and the fact that neither of the northern routes were required by law to only use American rail I am sure they probably used a lot of English rail and spikes.  One way or another it is my gut feeling that your spike is quite scarce as a variety used in the US.  James M. Joyce in his monograph "Railroad Spikes, A Collectors Guide" pub. by the author in 1985 states that "The origin of the dog spike lies rich in the history of European railroading at least back to the 1870's. In contrast, dogs have been used only occasionally on American railroads." Joyce shows a drawing of a Dog Spike closely resembling the above spike and identifies it as having been used on the Maryland and Pennsylvania Railroad, no date given.  James Joyce's study was quite extensive and was a scholarly one that would be an asset to any railroad fans library.  —Ed Strobridge



Saw the Longines Wittnauer Sterling silver coin "Driving the Golden Spike."  Are these coins collectible and do you know their approximate value?
While we are unable to appraise "collectibles,"  we can tell you that a number of the various "joining of the rails" commemorative coins/medallions are auctioned weekly on eBay where they often can be found by searching for "transcontinental railroad."  These are not antiques, but can be attractive novelty items that have been manufactured as souvenirs and often sell in approximately the $10 range.


Gasconade River Bridge Wreck.  Looking for information concerning the train wreck that occurred at the Gasconade River Bridge in the 1800s.  A train load of dignitaries from St. Louis was traveling to Jefferson City to have dinner with the Governor.  Supposedly there had been a hurried up competition of the bridge.  There were a number of people killed.  The engine still is under water in the river.  The existing bridge (which is over a hundred years old) is scheduled for replacement.  Would like to request one of the old stone piers be left as a monument to those who died, but need more information ... Bob AuBuchon

> Ray State describes the Gasconade River Bridge Wreck as follows: Nov 1st 1855 on the Missouri Pacific 22 killed and 50 injured. Bridge unfinished and RR decided to take risk with train. A number of politicians killed. ... Both Robert C Reed in Train Wrecks, Bonanza Books 1960 and Robert Shaw in Down Brakes McMillan 1961 make reference.

> Bob AuBuchon has written an article "Remembering the Gasconade Disaster" which describes this train wreck.



What can membership societies do to remain viable in the face of declining aging membership?
Existing societies with aging membership seem to be having a difficult time adapting to the content and economic realities of the internet because they need a significant number of members to support publication budgets of many thousands of dollars a year. Older members are used to paper journals and newsletters which are expensive to print and inaccessible to most of their potential audience, while younger people (and the increasingly large numbers of technically savy seniors) now access information quite differently. Since you can answer most questions on any topic no matter how esoteric for free in a matter of seconds using Google, journal content that is kept offline might as well not exist for an increasing proportion of the population. However lamentable this may be, it is a reality that must be recognized. There is, of course, a huge amount of valuable historical information that is not yet on-line. But it is sufficiently inaccessible and poorly indexed, and the content that is already available provides most of what most people want, that they don't really have the patience to care about journals and libraries. If a society wants to remain viable with younger individuals and the technically adept, they need to dramatically decrease their costs while putting all of their content on a website where it can be indexed by search engines and instantly accessed for free. This is quite feasible if labor is provided by volunteers who own computers and scanners because the cost of internet publication is negligible and rapidly dropping. We hope that existing societies can make this transition to the internet and not simply fade away with all their accumulated knowledge and content being lost to posterity and that they won't make the common mistake of trying to support their older publication methods by keeping their content inaccessible or for members only, thereby making themselves invisible to their potential future membership.


What are some negative effects of the Transcontinental Railroad?
Overall the transcontinental railroad was a hugely positive success for the reasons explained in the FAQ about the railroad's significance. There were, however, some negative aspects that were unfortunate, and others that may be positive or negative, depending on your value judgments:


"To know that we know what we know, and that to know we do not know what we do not know, that is true knowledge" —Confucius

"The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance – it is the illusion of knowledge" —Daniel J. Boorstin

How reliable is this site? [actual question received]
"Reliable?" – The "truth" isn't easy to come by! You asked, so we will tell you that we certainly think that the CPRR Museum website has reliable information – but you shouldn't believe anything that you read without obtaining verification from other trusted sources. The writings on the CPRR Museum website do not have a single author, and reliability is variable both among and within sources. Consequently, you need to make the evaluation of reliability for yourself, rather than by asking us. You could also look at what other people say about our website, including expert historians (but, of course, then you might have to trust that we quote the comments that we receive accurately).
In an effort to get the history correct, this website has large quantities of primary source information, in the form of pictures, documents, articles, and maps. Bringing together a wide variety of sources from many contributors, the reliability will naturally differ from source to source and so you really need to evaluate each item on its own merits. For example, a photograph captures the moment, but is selective as to when, where, and what was chosen to be photographed – so what does it mean to say that it is reliable or unreliable? If the ravages of age which have degraded a picture are repaired, does that make the result more or less reliable?
When you ask for reliability, do you mean that the information can be verified, and if so how? We do our best to accurately reproduce the part of the historical record to which we have access, but we know that it is incomplete, and we do not necessarily always believe that events occurred exactly as portrayed in the available historical records.
See, for example: Fiction or Fact, and the Legend of Cape Horn.
We can only know what someone wrote or photographed at the time, or remembered later, or spoke about, leaving a record. Perhaps comparing what one person wrote to what another person wrote will let you have more confidence, at least if both were first hand observers and their accounts agree. But, for example, the reports of the driving of the last spike were probably written and possibly filed with the newspapers before the events took place. The date shown on the golden last spike is wrong – there was a two day delay:

"Misconceptions surrounding the Ceremony started in the newspapers of the time. Due to the press of the crowd May 10, not one member of the press saw the Ceremony, and many reporters had actually written their special 'eyewitness' accounts days before the Golden Spike Ceremony was even planned. The only information the reporters had was that some sort of celebration was to take place May 8, near Promontory Point (the only place marked on their maps), and that Central Pacific President Leland Stanford was bringing a gold spike."

The history, no doubt, would be remembered differently if the experiences of the illiterate had been recorded. As you know, two people in the same room who interact can often come away with very different ideas of what happened. So asking whether a person's account that survives over more than a century is what actually happened (or accurately describes even the small part of the overall event that the person observed) is often impossible to answer, because there is nobody else to ask, and no ability to cross examine the witness from the distant past.
People who believe what they read in the newspaper or see on the 11 o'clock news, or view in documentaries, likely have an incorrect or greatly distorted idea of what is happening even today.
See, two current examples: a "documentary," and It's Getting Better All the Time.
Then, as now, people have agendas that cause them to be less than truthful, and to be selective in a way that leaves a false impression, or perhaps they misunderstood events themselves. For example, we can show what was written in the newspaper or stated in Senate testimony, but how can anyone know if the people were knowledgeable and truthful at the time? For example, there is a solitary, widely quoted newspaper story about 1,200 Chinese CPRR construction workers who died that makes no sense to us in the context of all the other available very specific reports of few casualties. Is this single report mistaken, or perhaps could this represent a misinterpretation of the result of a smallpox outbreak being later falsely attributed to construction accidents?
What you can be sure of is that if a more recent author makes up a story that is not based on any historical record, the resulting information ("history") is fiction – which unfortunately often happens. While it not our primary purpose, the CPRR.org website attempts to point out various myths, legends, and errors.
(Additionally, when you ask us if we are reliable, instead of deciding for yourself, you are setting up some rather formidable logical difficulties. If we answer, yes, we are reliable, you still don't know whether the answer you received is reliable. If we answer no, we are not reliable, you can be certain that you know nothing additional about our reliability because logically you must ignore our unreliable answer.)


HOMEWORK AND HISTORY DAY QUESTIONS:

To Whom it May Concern:
Hi,  I am in the fourth grade in Bakersfield, California.  I am working on a history day project. The theme this year is Turning Points in history.  I have chosen the topic of the Transcontinental Railroad and how it effected the United States.  History day focuses on primary sources and the importance of the topic.  Would you please answer a few questions for me?  Thank you very much for your time.

  1. What changes were caused by the building of the Transcontinental Railroad?
  2. What changes made the building of the Transcontinental Railroad possible?
  3. What happened to the workers, especially the Chinese workers after the Railroad was finished?
  4. How did the Transcontinental Railroad influence the events and atmosphere of the time period?
  5. How did the events and atmosphere of the time period influence the railroad?
  6. How did the railroad help territories become states?
  7. How were the Native Americans effected by the railroad?
  8. Do you know of any sites where I could find primary documents relating to the railroad?
  9. Do you know anyone that I can interview about the railroad and how it still is important?
Thanks for your questions.  You have certainly chosen a fascinating topic for your history day project.
See:

The National History Day contest uses the following definitions:

What are some significant places along the Central Pacific Rail Road?
     See Nelson's Guidebook and engravings.
Can I have a list of the landscapes, animals, towns/cities, and human endeavors that travelers on CPRR in the 1870's would be excited to see?
     See Williams' Pacific Tourist and articles about travel on the transcontinental railroad
How much would've a journey from Omaha to California cost including ticket price?
How would passengers Eat and sleep on long trips?
     See Nordhoff, Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, Bits of Travel, and the New York Times articles.
How long would the journey taken before the CPRR and How long after the Rail was built?
What land was for sale along the way and what would have been the advantages of settling on it?

Why was the transcontinental railroad built?
Who financed the Transcontinental Railroad?
What were the obstacles in building the Transcontinental Railroad?
How long did it take to build it?
What are the benefits of the Railroad?

What was the incentive to build the railroad fast?
About how many people worked for the railroad?
How did the railroad obtain land?
What gave the railroad the right to sell off the extra land that it did not use?

1)  map the significant places along the route beginning  in Omaha to Nebraska and ending in California.
2) make a list of the landscape, animals, towns or cities, and human endeavors that travelers in 1870 would have be excited to see.
[See Nelson's Guidebook, and Williams Pacific Tourist.]
3) Find out what the journey would cost and what it included for the cost of the ticket?
4) Find out how passengers would eat their meals and sleep on the journey?
5) Find out how long the journey would have taken before the advent of the transcontinental railroad and how long it would have taken in the 1870's by  train?
6) Find out what land is  for  sale along the way? and What would be the advantages of settling on it?

1) What are some important elements to consider in the construction of the CPRR?
See:
"Eastward to Promontory:  A Brief History of the CPRR Construction."
PACIFIC RAILROAD CONSTRUCTION – INCLUDING 19th CENTURY ACCOUNTS
"Constructing the Central Pacific Railroad."
2)  How many different ethnic groups built the CPRR?
The management, early workers, tracklayers, and skilled occupations, such as carpenters were caucasian, while the vast majority of the workers starting in 1865 were Chinese (about 10,000).
For an example of some (famous) Irish tracklayers, see: Southern Pacific Bulletin– Ten Mile Day
3)  How were the Chinese treated?  Were they treated different from the other workers?
After overcoming initial prejudices, the Chinese workers were hired and treated very similarly to other workers. But due to language and dietary differences, they were hired as groups of workers and made their own meals according to their preferences. Stories that they were treated as slaves and died in very large numbers appear to be quite wrong. At the completion of the railroad, the Chinese workers were included in the last rail ceremony and were honored at the dinner held by the CPRR management on May 10, 1869.
4)  What were the wages?
" The Chinese were paid $30 to $35 in gold a month, finding [maintaining] themselves, while the whites were paid about the same with their board thrown in ... "; $28/month
5)  What was the impact of the railroad to the people of California?
See: historical significance of the first transcontinental railroad

1) My history teacher wants my class to do a Utah related topic, and the only info I can find is about the Chinese in California.
The reason that you are finding limited information about Chinese railroad workers in Utah is that most of the railroad construction in Utah was done by Mormon contractors instead of Chinese. But Chinese workers definitely were present in Utah, for example during the record ten mile day and at the ceremony at Promontory (and are pictured in the famous "Last Spike" painting).
2) How do I know my information is historically accurate? A lot of people question some of the info that I got and say     that that never happened or it isn't true. I don't know which side to believe.
You tell by knowing where the information came from. If it came from someone that saw it themselves and wrote about it at the time, and it agrees with other such accounts, and your read their original account, it's probably accurate (these are called "primary sources"). But if someone who was not there to see it themselves first wrote about it much later and they can't prove how they know what they are saying (by quoting primary sources), maybe they just made it up (or are just repeating what someone else who doesn't know made up and wrote in a book).
3) How can I place my topic in historical context?
4) Do you have any ideas  on how I can make a posterboard for my project, I don't have enough money to get a big one.
Perhaps you could find a large cardboard box (for free at a local store or market) that you could flatten and use the clean inside part for your poster.


These are the notes that never end.
Yes, they go on and on, my friends.
I started studying them, not knowing what they were,
and I'll continue studying them forever just because ...

[repeat]

Alternate lyrics (parody) by Becky_Winter.

" 'The Song That Doesn't End' was the coda to the PBS series
'Lamb Chop's Play-Along,' starring Shari Lewis."


Click here for more railroad questions and answers. >>
 

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