REMINISCENCES OF A. P. PARTRIDGE
On February 19, 1866, I entered the service of the Company. The Central Pacific was then at Colfax, the end of the road at that time. That summer and fall it was built to Cisco, 14 miles from the Summit. The big tunnel was started that spring.
Two miles west of Cisco we put up a high trestle bridge [Butte Canon], 100 feet in height. With a heavy snow and a big fall of rain there was a lake on the hill above the bridge and when it filled it broke loose. Down everything came and swept away four bents from the center of our bridge, all this with snow 15 feet deep covering the whole country. That bridge had to be replaced, with the road blocked to Blue Canyon. Well, we went to the woods and hewed the timber, hauled it to the track by main force, then got some ox teams and hauled it to the bridge and repaired the break. That was about Christmas time. The road was not opened until about April. 
In the mean time we were sent back 8 miles to Emigrant Gap and framed the two Cascade bridges. The lumber was 16 x 18 and 20, and from 40 to 60 feet long, and it all had to be split by whip-sawing. After the bridges were framed and the road opened, they were shipped by cars to Cisco, then hauled by teams on sleighs seven miles to the bridges and were left there until the following October . Then I was transferred to that outfit of framers. The bridge was framed and piled up and covered until time to raise it. We also framed the other two bridges and finished them about the last of June. In the latter part of July there was a gang started out as a raising gang under a foreman by the name of John Haten. We first raised the Little Truckee and Prosser Creek bridges then went to the First Crossing of the Truckee River. Then we backed up towards the Sierra Nevadas and about five miles west of Truckee we framed and raised a four span bridge across Cold Stream. That brought us to the last of September. We then went for the Cascade bridges and raised them. That about finished October and November. Then attention was turned more eastward. That about finished 1867, but the track was laid to the Summit and they kept it open most of the winter. You remember Comrade Carroll's telling of bucking snow with nine locomotives. I saw them make about the last charge. I had made a trip to Gold Run and was on my way back. It was, I think, in the early part of March, 1868.
Pardon me, but I have gotten ahead of the road. In November 1867, the Company hauled an engine from the Summit or near the Summit to Truckee, with seven or eight flat cars and set them up there. They also hauled over 20 miles of iron. The ties were handy. In the winter, early in 1868, they also hauled over two more engines and about ten flat cars and set them up at Truckee. A man by the name of Campbell set up the first engine, but who set the others up I could not say, although I was in Truckee at the time. In the meantime they had started the bridge on the Second Crossing of the Truckee, and the gang that I was with was putting up some buildings in Truckee and shipping the lumber from there as fast as it was sawed. That bridge was a two span bridge of 150 feet each span. The first crossing was 204 ft. span, with arches. The third crossing was also 204 ft. span, the same as the Cascade bridges, and was put up in February and March.
Some time in March, we (the gang that I was with at the time, under M. J. Healey) were sent to frame the bridge at the Fourth Crossing. That bridge was also 204 ft. span. After we had framed the bridge we were sent back to put the arches on the Third Crossing. That was seven miles from the Fourth Crossing and one night about 9 P.M. there came word for us to come to the Fourth Crossing and help to raise the bridge the next day. We got up at 3 A. M. , went out on our bridge, got our tackle and some bars and carried them seven miles, the occasion being a heavy rise in the river, and arrived there before 7 A. M. To make a long story short, we raised that bridge and had it swinging by 5 o'clock that evening, then walked back home; a good day's work for a man.
I will turn back a little to the grading outfit. They had hoped that the storm would hold off until late, to enable them to get through with the tunnels and grading, but the heavy fall of snow came on and drove them out of the mountains. There were about 4,000 men working there in the mountains, 3,000 of them Chinamen, and they all had to get out. Most of the Chinamen came to Truckee and they filled up all the old buildings and sheds that were in Truckee. With the heavy fall of snow one old barn collapsed and killed four Chinamen. A good many were frozen to death. There was a dance at Donner Lake at a hotel, and a sleigh load of us went up from Truckee and on our return, about 9 a. M. next morning, we saw something under a tree by the side of the road, its shape resembling the shape of a man. We stopped and found a frozen Chinaman. As a consequence, we threw him in the sleigh with the rest of us, and took him into town and laid him out by the side of a shed and covered him with a rice mat, the most appropriate thing for the laying out of a Celestial.
I would like to drop back to the winter of 1866 and '67. That winter in Cisco at the end of the track there was a man or two killed, and besides by the record 49 feet and 8 inches of snow fell at that place and we worked all the time at carpenter work. At the summit there was a fall of 51 feet, so you see that the Central Pacific had some snow to buck. You also see that nine engines were not so many to buck that amount of snow.
It was nearly June of 1868 before the graders got back to work on the mountains, but they kept hauling rails and iron and shoving the track ahead when they got out. In Nevada the smallpox got into the camp and there were some deaths. The Company must have hauled more than 50 miles of rails. I cannot say how far they were before the road was connected on the mountains. I know they hauled rails and laid west from Truckee to the gap in the mountains.
In the latter part of August, 1868, we started the roundhouse and engine stalls in Truckee. I took the typhoid fever and was very sick and went to Sacramento for the winter.