Construction in the Sierra 1866-67

J.O. Wilder

Sacramento, Cal. April 11, 1922.

My Dear Mr. Hess:

Yours of April 3rd received and contents noted, and I most cheerfully comply with your request by sending you the 'photo which was taken on my retirement, after fifty-four years and two months continuous service. There are many remembrances of my pioneer days while with the Central Pacific, when I played so small a part under the greatest Iron Trail Builders of their day. Any undertaking was never too large for the "Big Four". And now, having been retired from the Motive Power Department, perhaps it would be in order for me to speak of a problem which confronted that Department, which was met and overcome with the foresight of Mr. Montague, Chief Civil Engineer, L. M. Clement his assistant, and Strobridge, Superintendent of Construction. That the summit tunnel must be worked from four headings, as the work of grading was rapidly being pushed forward (especially on the division of a bright young engineer known to us as "Silent Henry." I now refer to Henry Root, who, since that time, has proven himself one of the greatest railway engineers of to-day, he having planned and constructed the first cable railway in San Francisco.) It was plain to be seen by those men that the Iron Horse would be there several months before the tunnel was completed, as the rock was exceedingly hard, and powder was out of the question, so they changed to nitro-glycerine, with holes drilled 15" by 18" deep, by 1 1/4 in diameter; 12 holes in the heading was the limit, as it was dangerous to attempt to fire more at one time, except in the footing, and yours truly will say to you, Mr. Hess, that many an honest John went to China, feet first, for to drop or strike one meant sure death; but they soon became experts in handling the same but I find myself in the Civil Engineering Dept. and would like to say more on this subject which might interest you, but must get back to the Iron Trail and the Motive Power Dept.


Courtesy of the Lynn D. Farrar Collection.

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