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Artist John McQuarrie's Palette for the SP Sacramento Depot Mural, 1929,


Artist's Palette for the SP Sacramento Depot Mural, 1929

Artist's study for the Southern Pacific Railroad Sacramento Depot mural courtesy of the G.J. "Chris" Graves Collection.


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Yesterday morning the contractor to build a section of eighteen miles laid the first rail on the western end of the Pacific Railroad, as described in the bill passed by Congress.  Quite a number of persons were present to witness the work, though no notice that it was to be done had been published.  Those engaged in the enterprise did not choose to have any ceremony over the affair; they made a regular business matter of an event which in the eye of the public is the first certain step taken in building the great Pacific Railroad.  Grading has been done, bridges built: but nothing looks to the public so much like making a railroad as the work of laying down the iron on the roadbed.  On the Atlantic side the contract for building the section through Kansas has been let two or three times, but up to this date we have seen no report of rails laid, though not long since we saw it stated that a shipment of iron had been made from New York for the Kansas section.  But no iron has yet been laid.  The credit, therefore, of having put down the first rail on the line must be awarded to the California Central Pacific Railroad Company.  A few weeks since it was reported that all the stock of the Union Central Pacific Railroad had been subscribed, the ten per cent. paid in, and the company organized.  This company is to build the road from the western line of Kansas to the eastern boundary of California.  The law, however, provides that the Central California Pacific Railroad Company may continue to build east through Nevada and Utah Territories, in the event of their building their road to the east line of California before the Union Pacific Company reach that Point from the East with a railroad.  The prospects now are that the California company will complete their road to the east line of the State before the Union Company finish theirs through Nebraska.  In fact, the road must be built from the two ends: upon the center section little can be done until it can be reached by rail each way.  Hence the vast importance of pushing the work at the east and west ends of the road as rapidly as possible.  On this point we maintain that the Central California Pacific Railroad Company has accomplished more than could have been expected under the circumstances.  It is but little over a year since the Pacific Railroad Bill was received in California.  It was signed by the President on the 1st of July, 1862, and reached California in August following.  Within the intervening time the company has obtained subscriptions to the stock for near nearly a million of dollars; sent an agent to the East who purchased the iron and rolling stock for seventy miles of the road, six hundred tons of which have arrived, while four thousand tons are known to be afloat; seventy-five miles of the road have been carefully surveyed and located, and thirty miles put under contract, eighteen of which is now ready for the iron; and, as before stated, a commencement to lay it down was made yesterday.  Unless delayed by the failure of the iron to arrive, the eighteen miles will be in running condition before the first of December.  The twelve more to make the thirty are under contract, to be completed on the 1st of January, 1864.  During the winter, the locomotives and trains of the company will be running to the Thirty Mile Station.  The means, so far, have mostly been obtained from stockholders, who hare paid the assessments levied by the Board with remarkable promptness.  In addition to the private subscriptions obtained, the officers of the company, in conjunction with the friends of the enterprise, succeeded in getting bills passed authorizing the county of Sacramento to subscribe for stock to the amount of $300,000, Placer $150,000, and San Francisco $600,000—provided the people of said counties voted in favor of the proposition.  At the special elections called for the purpose, the majority of the people of each county voted to subcribe for the stoc.  A factious opposition was made by a rival railroad interest, to prevent the bonds of each county from being issued to the company, but the Supreme Court has decided the Acts authorizing the counties to subscribe to be constitutional, and the bonds have been issued in all except San Francisco.  In the latter city a malignant opposition has manifested itself, and every technical legal obstacle has been thrown in the way of issuing the bonds.  The first step was to obtain an injunction which after hearing testimony and argument, the Court dissolved, and now the parties resisting are causing further delay by appealing to the Supreme Court in the face of the fact that the Court has decided every point which can be raised in favor of the right of the counties to subscribe for the stock and issue bonds for that purpose.  The Board of Supervisors, though, might, if so disposed issue the bonds as all legal obstacles to their doing so have been removed.  But that body does not seem disposed to aid the Pacific Company so far as to issue them.  Their plea in justification is, that the case has yet to be heard in the Supreme Court, though it is known that in other cases that Court has decided every point in favor of the company which can pos[si]bly be raised in the San Francisco case.  The twenty miles required to make up the first fifty are surveyed and prepared to let, and as soon as the bonds of San Francisco are issued, bids will be asked for by advertisement.  The Board of Directors make no contracts until they know definitely where the funds to meet the payments are to be obtained.  The first fifty miles of the road are to be built by the means furnished by stockholders—the counties named being classed as stockholders.  The bonus to be obtained from Government cannot be realized until after the fifty miles are completed.  The amount to be received from the State is in nearly the same condition.  Hence the company is called upon to build the first fifty miles from its own resources and the subscriptions of the counties, and some of the heaviest work on the line is met in the twenty miles above Auburn.  When the cars are running fifty miles the company will, besides the earnings of the road, receive the $46,000 per mile and the loan donated by Congress, as well as the $10,000 per mile granted by the State to aid the enterprise.  Therefore, the completion of the first fifty miles solves the financial problem connected with building a railroad over the Sierra Nevadas.  That fifty miles the company will have in running condition before the first of December, 1864, which is the date named in the bill for the completion of that section.  Factious opposition to the issuing of bond in San Francisco may cause delay, but it will only be temporary.  The road will continue to advance.  The work of laying the rails has begun, and it will continue until California and Washoe are united by iron bands, and until the iron rails are stretched across the continent.  It is hardly twelve months since work was actually commenced, and yet within that short space of time the greatest obstacles in the way of building a Pacific Railroad have been met and surmounted.  With fifty miles of road in operation, the company will have become an institution which will be recognized in the financial markets of the world.  It will possess character and credit equal to millions, and will be enabled to proceed with full confidence in its resources and in the future.

Courtesy Donald B. Robertson.

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