Central Pacific Railroad Photographic History Museum
Artist John McQuarrie's Palette for the SP Sacramento Depot Mural, 1929,
"BREAKING GROUND AT SACRAMENTO JAN. 8, 1863 FOR FIRST TRANSCONTINENTAL RAILROAD"
Artist's study for the Southern Pacific Railroad Sacramento Depot mural courtesy of the G.J. "Chris" Graves Collection.
THE FIRST RAIL LAID:
SACRAMENTO DAILY UNION,
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 27, 1863.
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.