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Historic Landmarks relating to
the First Transcontinental Railroad
Landmarks: CPRR, UPRR, Sacramento, Big
Four House, Stanford
Norris Cabin, Dodge
State Registered Historical Landmarks in Placer
and in Nevada
All Landmarks in Placer
Historical Markers in Washoe,
text of California Historic Marker Plaques
Landmark information from the National
Park Service [Search].
California plaques transcribed by Donald
Laird, and the Calfornia
Nevada landmark information from the Nevada
Divison of Water Planning.
Spike National Historic Site:
Courtesy National Park Service.
Plaque — Joining of the Rails, Transcontinental Railroad, May 10, 1869
"The preserved portions of the transcontinental railroad bed
throughout the Promontory area have been designated as a National Historic
Civil Engineering Landmark. Many have argued that the transcontinental
railroad was the greatest engineering feat of the nineteenth century.
This plaque was placed by the American Society of Civil Engineers in 1969
as part of the commemorative celebration of the 100th anniversary of the
completion of the world's first transcontinental railroad."
Transcontinental Railroad — Roseville, California
similar information for other States' transcontinental railroad landmarks.
"Central Pacific graders reached Junction, now Roseville, November
29, 1863, crossing the line of the California Central, which began building
northward from Folsom in May, 1858. That line was abandoned in 1868, when
trains began making daily runs 18 miles to and from Sacramento. Now Roseville
is a major railroad distribution center."
Transcontinental Railroad — Rocklin, California
"Central Pacific reached Rocklin, 22 miles from its Sacramento
terminus, in May, 1864 when the railroad established a major locomotive
terminal here. Trains moving over the Sierra were generally cut in
two sections at this point, in order to ascend the grade. The first CP
freight movement was three carloads of Rocklin granite, pulled by the engine
"Governor Stanford." The terminal was moved to Roseville April 18,
Transcontinental Railroad — Newcastle, California
"Regular freight and passenger trains began operating over
the first 31 miles of Central Pacific's line to Newcastle June 10, 1864,
when political opposition and lack of money stopped further construction
during that mild winter. Construction was resumed in April, 1865."
Transcontinental Railroad — Auburn, California
"After an eleven-month delay due to political opposition and
lack of money, Central Pacific tracks reached Auburn May 13, 1865, and
regular service began. Government loans became available when the railroad
completed its first 40 miles, four miles east of here. With new funds,
Central Pacific augmented its forces with the first Chinese laborers and
work began again in earnest."
Transcontinental Railroad — Colfax, California
"Central Pacific rails reached Colfax, formerly Illinoistown,
September 1, 1865, and train service began four days later. Colfax was
a vital construction supply depot and junction point for stage lines for
ten months. It was renamed by Governor Stanford in honor of Schuyler Colfax,
Speaker of the House of Representatives and later Ulysses S. Grant's vice
president. The real assault on the Sierra began here."
Transcontinental Railroad — Truckee, California
"While construction on Sierra tunnels delayed Central Pacific,
advance forces at Truckee began building forty miles of track east and
west of Truckee moving all supplies by wagon and sled. Summit Tunnel was
opened in December, 1867. The line reached Truckee April 3, 1868, and the
Sierra was conquered. Rails reached Reno June 19, and construction
advanced eastward one mile daily toward the meeting with Union Pacific
at Promontory May 10, 1869, to complete the first transcontinental railroad."
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 had simultaneously
proceeded from the Bay Area and Sacramento and met at the San Joaquin River.
The first train crossed the bridge on September 8, 1869."
Transcontinental Railroad — Western Base of the Sierra Nevada
"On January 12, 1864, President Abraham Lincoln decreed that
where the Central Pacific Railroad crossed Arcade Creek the western base
of the Sierra Nevada began. The hardships of railroad construction through
mountains resulted in increased government subsidies; these funds gave
the company impetus to finish the transcontinental railroad."
"Founded in the spring of 1851 by Joseph and Charles Dornbach.
From 1854 to 1882 it was noted for its rich hydraulic mines. In 1860
had the largest voting population in Placer County. Chinese inhabitants
numbered about 2,000. Here Theodore Judah and Dr. D. W. Strong made the
original subscriptions to build the first transcontinental railroad."
"Gold was discovered near here by Claude Chana on May 16, 1848.
First known as 'North Fork' or 'Woods Dry Diggins,' the settlement was
given the name Auburn in the fall of 1849. It soon became an important
mining town, trading post, and stage terminal, and also became the county
seat of Sutter County in 1850 and of Placer County in 1851. It was
destroyed by fires in 1855, 1859, and 1863."
"The spring of 1845 saw the first covered wagons to surmount
the Sierra Nevada mountains. They left this valley, ascended to the ridge
and turned westward to Old Emigrant Gap. The wagons were lowered by ropes
to the floor of Bear Valley. Hundreds followed, before, during, and after
the gold rush. This was a hazardous portion of the overland emigrant trail."
"Founded in 1854 by O. W. Hollenbeck and originally called
Mountain Springs. Famed for its hydraulic mines which from 1865 to 1878
shipped $6,125,000.00 in gold. Five large water ditches passed through
the town serving the mining companies which had to cease operations in
1882 when state law was passed prohibiting hydraulic mining."
Terminal of the First Transcontinental Railroad, Alameda, California —
First Transcontinental Railroad
"On September 6, 1869 first transcontinental railroad train
linking two great oceans, and consisting of twelve cars and three locomotives
passed here on way to a wharf terminal west of here, a location now covered
by lagoon for take-off trans-pacific planes, and within confines, present
U.S. Naval Air Station. Original celebration held near this spot."
"Founded in December 1846 by John A. Sutter, Jr., Sacramento
was an outgrowth of Sutter's Fort established by his father, Captain John
A. Sutter, in 1839. State Capital since 1854, it was a major distribution
point during the gold rush, a commercial and agricultural center, and terminus
for wagon train, stagecoach, riverboat, telegraph, Pony Express, and the
first transcontinental railroad."
Four House, Sacramento, California
"Built in 1852, the Big Four House was named after the 'big
four' — Collis Huntington, Mark Hopkins, Leland Stanford, and Charles Crocker
— who planned, financed, and built the Western end of America's first transcontinental
railway. It was in this structure that the four made their offices
while organizing the Central Pacific (California to Utah) section of the
railway, and where subsequently they founded the Southern Pacific Railroad
(to Southern California) in 1873."
Sacramento Historic District
"Situated on the lower Sacramento River, the Sacramento's river
port emerged in 1849-50 as the great interior distributing and transportation
center for the Northern Mines in the Mother Lode country of the Sierra
Nevada. A large number of buildings dating from the 1840s through
1870s remain in the original business district.
"In prehistoric and early historic times, the Truckee River
Valley in vicinity of Verdi was occupied by the Washo Indians. Their camps
were on these flats near the river. Many fish blinds were located nearby
for their use in this important subsistence activity. Even an earlier
population left its mark in the form of petroglyphs on boulders in the
area. The Truckee River runs from Lake Tahoe to Pyramid Lake and
was first discovered by Captain John C. Frémont in January, 1844.
The Stephens-Murphy-Townsend Party in 1844 also followed the Truckee River
into the Sierra and crossed the mountains via Donner Pass. The ill-fated
Donner Party rested on the Truckee Meadows, at present Reno, but they tarried
too long and were
caught by the Sierra snows. Despite the Donner tragedy, many emigrant
trains to California, particularly from 1849 until 1852, traversed the
Truckee route. In 1868, the Central Pacific Railroad followed the
Truckee's course. From the 1920's to the 1950's, the surrounding meadows
echoed to the heavy exhausts of the giant Southern Pacific, cab-ahead,
articulated steam locomotives. During the same period, the primitive emigrant
trail and the early toll roads were developed into the Lincoln and Victory
Highways, and then into U.S. 40 and I-80, today's freeway."
"The first Europeans in the Reno area—the Stevens-Murphy party—passed
through the Truckee Meadows near Washo and Paiute Indian camping sites
and winter villages and over Donner Pass in 1844. With increased
travel by 1859, C.W. Fuller established "Fullers's Ferry," a small lodging
house, ferry and bridge at the site which would become the center of Reno.
M. C. Lake bought the property in 1863, and it became known as "Lake's
Crossing." When officials of the newly built Central Pacific Railroad
platted the town around the central plaza where the station stood, it was
called "End of the Track." Chosen by railroad officials, the town's
permanent name honors a slain Civil War officer, General Jesse Reno.
Growth was rapid due to railroad activity and continued development of
the nearby Comstock mines. Reno became the county seat in 1871, incorporated
in 1876, but did not draw up a charter or hold elections until 1903.
In 1906 the wife of a prominent U.S. industrialist came to Reno for a divorce.
The resulting publicity started the city's divorce reputation. Tourism
increased, and a new industry was established when gambling was legalized
& Truckee Railroad Right of Way, Reno, Nevada
"Soon after Chinese laborers graded this section during the
summer of 1871, track gangs commenced laying rail south, reaching Steamboat
Springs by late October. To celebrate the occasion, numerous residents
rode an excursion train to Steamboat on Nov. 7. Nine months later
Superintendent Henry M. Yerington drove the last spike a mile west of Carson
City on Aug. 24, 1872, connecting Virginia City with Reno by rail. Although
regularly scheduled passenger service didn't begin until Oct. 1, the first
through train traversed the 52-mile route on Sept. 1, 1872 — the last steamed
by here on May 31, 1950."
"The Truckee River, seen below, runs from Lake Tahoe to Pyramid
Lake. The river's first recorded discovery was by Captain John C. Frémont
in January, 1844. He camped by its terminus at Pyramid, then followed
it to the big bend at Wadsworth. Captain Frémont named the stream
the Salmon-Trout River. At the end of his 1845 sojourn in Nevada,
he followed it into the Sierra and crossed Donner Pass. Beginning
with the Stephens-Murphy-Townsend Party in 1844, the Truckee River became
a route for California emigrants until the advent of the Central Pacific
Railroad in 1868-1869 brought the wagon train period to a close. After
the Southern Pacific took over the railway in 1899 and relocated much of
its Nevada alignment, the old Central Pacific roadbed between Sparks and
Wadsworth was deeded to Washoe County in 1904 for road purposes.
In 1917, this road became a portion of State Road 1, which in 1920 became
the Nevada section of the Victory Highway. In 1925, when Federal
Highway names were replaced by a numerical system, the Victory Highway became U.S.
Highway 40. In 1958, after reconstruction, this route became the
initial section of Interstate 80 across Nevada. The river provides
water for Reno, Sparks, the Fallon agricultural area and Pyramid Lake."
"From 1868 until 1884 the Central Pacific's Truckee Wadsworth
division was located on this site. In 1882, work was started on a new site
across the river, and by 1883 a new round house, shop, etc. were completed
there. A fire on April 15, 1884, fanned by heavy wind, destroyed the remaining
railroad buildings at this location, as well as the town; damage exceeded
$100,000. Lack of an adequate water supply contributed to the extensive
damage. Another fire in 1902 stimulated the plan to move to a new site.
In 1904, division facilities in the town were moved to an entirely new
location, which became Sparks, Nevada."
"Sparks sprang into existence in 1903 as a new division point
on the Southern Pacific Railroad. Engaged in straightening and realigning
the old Central Pacific trackage across Nevada, the Southern Pacific Company
moved its shops and headquarters bodily from Wadsworth to this location.
Employees were assigned lots, and their houses were freighted to the new
town. Sparks, originally known as Harriman, came into official existence
in April, 1904. Later, in 1905, the city was incorporated by the State
Legislature and named in honor of John Sparks, rancher and Governor of
the State of Nevada. Sparks boasted one of the largest roundhouses
in the world during the steam era. It was the western Nevada base
for a vast stable of steam locomotives, particularly the famous cab-in-front
articulated type (Mallets). These huge steamers hauled both freight and
passengers over the steep grades of the Sierra between Roseville, California,
Pacific Railroad Yards, Sparks Nevada
"Soon after 1900, some 373 miles of the original Central Pacific
(now Southern Pacific) line between Reno and Ogden, Utah, was rebuilt.
The work involved shortening of the line in some places. One such change
took Wadsworth (Nevada), a division terminal, off the main line. During
the summer of 1904 the terminal was moved to this location, which became
the town of Sparks. A huge 40-stall locomotive roundhouse was dismantled
in 1959. Still standing are the machine and erecting shops.
Had it not been for the railroad yards being moved here, the City of Sparks
would not exist."
Great Train Robbery, Verdi, Nevada
"The West's first train robbery
occurred near this site on the night of November 4, 1870. Five men, led
by a stage robber, Sunday School superintendent John Chapman, boarded the
Central Pacific Overland Express at Verdi, Nevada. Two took over the engine,
one the express car, and two the rear platform. One-half mile east, the
engine and express car were halted and cut free, then proceeded about five
miles, where they were stopped by a barricade. Here the robbers forced
the messenger to open up. Seizing $41,600 in gold coin, they rode
off. The uncoupled cars coasted downgrade and met the engine. The train
proceeded to Reno. After a two-state chase, all were caught, tried
and convicted. About 90 per cent of the gold was recovered."
"Modern Verdi came into being with the construction of the
Central Pacific Railroad through Nevada in 1867-69. It became a major
mill town and terminal for the shipment of ties and construction timbers,
with a network of logging railways reaching into the timber north and west
of here. In 1860, a log bridge was built across the Truckee River
near where Verdi is now located. Known as O'Neil's Crossing, the site served
as a stage stop during the 1860's on the heavily traveled Henness Pass
turnpike and Toll Road and the Dutch flat and Donner Lake Road. In
1864, the Crystal Peak Company laid out a town on the site some two milesfrom
Verdi's present location. The company owned mining and lumbering interests
near the settlement which was then called Crystal Peak. Verdi remained
an active lumbering center into the twentieth century due to the exertions
of men like Oliver Lonkey of the Verdi Lumber Company. A disastrous
fire in 1926, plus depletion of timber reserves, resulted in Verdi's decline."
"This honors the heroism and hardihood of the thousands of
Chinese who played a major role in the history of Nevada. From across the
Pacific the Chinese came to California during the Gold Rush of 1849 and
on to the mountains and deserts of this state where they built railroads,
cut timber and performed countless humble tasks. Sizeable Chinese
communities grew up here, in Virginia City and other towns. Their contribution
to the progress of the state in its first century will be forever remembered
by all Nevadans."
House, Pershing County, Nevada
"Humboldt House (or Humboldt Station) was originally the point
of departure for Humboldt City, Prince Royal and the mines in that vicinity.
In September, 1866, it became a stage stop for historic William (Hill)
Beachey Railroad Stage Lines. As the Central Pacific Railroad advanced
from eastern California it reached Humboldt House about September 15, 1868.
From 1869 to 1900 Humboldt House was well known as one of the best eating
houses on the Central Pacific Railroad. It was truly an oasis in
the great Nevada desert, with good water, fruit, vegetables, etc.
The large grove of trees to the west marks the site of this
famous hostelry. Between 1841 and 1867, 165,000 Americans traveled
the California Emigrant Trail past here. In 1850 on the dreaded 40-Mile
Desert southwest of present Lovelock, over 9,700 dead animals and 3,000
abandoned vehicles were counted."
"The Federal Government historically has supported numerous
surveys for the purpose of measuring the domain which extended, after 1848,
to the Pacific. These surveys sought railway routes, military relationships,
water transport and wagon roads. The survey activity was extended
to all territories, but not to states. Nevada, in part, was the site
of two notable surveys: Honey Lake to Fort Kearny wagon road, completed
in 1860 by Captain Lander; and the route surveyed by Lieutenant Simpson,
Camp Floyd to Genoa, in 1859. Military engineers engaged in this
activity included Stansbury, Marcy, Whipple, Beale, Simpson and Lander.
The name of Captain F. W. Lander stands out as a contributor to Nevada's
history. He has been memorialized in the name of a prominent county.
Nearby Simpson Park Mountains are named for Lieutenant Simpson."
Humboldt River Basin, Eureka County, Nevada
"Located in the tank-like depths of Palisade (12-Mile) Canyon,
Palisade--first named Palisades--was surveyed and laid out by the Central
Pacific Railroad in February, 1870. During the 1870's, it rivaled
Elko and Carlin
as a departure point on the Central Pacific for wagon, freight and stage
lines to Mineral Hill, Eureka and Hamilton. In October, 1875, with
completion of Eureka and Palisade Railroad, Palisade became the northern
terminus and operating headquarters for this little 90-mile narrow gauge
line stretching southward to Eureka. Between 1875 and 1930, the town
was the principal transfer and shipping point on the Central Pacific (Southern
Pacific) and on the Western Pacific Railroad after its 1910 completion.
At its peak, the town boasted a population of 300. It was a self-contained
community, and railroading was its business. There were passenger
and freight stations, and sidings on both the Southern Pacific and Western
Pacific Railroads, and a large ore transfer dock between the narrow gauge
and standard gauge lines. All Eureka and Palisade (Eureka-Nevada
after 1912) headquarter facilities were situated here. After the
little narrow gauge line ran its last train in September, 1938, Palisade
went into a long decline. The post office was finally closed in 1962."
Wells, Humboldt River Basin, Elko County, Nevada
"These springs, seen as marsh spots and small ponds of water
in the meadows here, are the Humboldt Wells, a historic oasis on the California
Emigrant Trail. Here, during the period 1845-1870, hundreds of covered
wagons each year rested and refitted from their arduous journeys up Raft
River, past the City of Rocks, across the Goose Creek Range and down Thousand
Springs Valley, and prepared for the grueling 300-mile trek along the Humboldt
Valley. Ruts of the old emigrant trail winding down to the springs
Canyon, Humboldt River Basin, Elko County, Nevada
may yet be seen on the slopes above them and to the northwest.
The City of Wells, first established as the water stop of Humboldt Wells
on the Central Pacific Railroad in September, 1869, is named for these
springs. Its name was shortened to Wells in 1873."
"In December, 1828, Peter Skene Ogden and his trapping brigade
(Hudson's Bay Company's Fifth Snake Country Expedition) were the first
whites to enter here. Joseph Paul, one of Ogden's trappers, died
nearby — the first white man to die and be buried in the Humboldt county.
The Bidwell-Bartleson Party was the forerunner of the 1841-1870 California
Emigrant Trail tide through the canyon — then known as Wall Defile or Frémont
Canyon. Late in 1845, John Frémont dispatched his Kern-Talbot-Walker
subsection down the Humboldt; they traversed this canyon with difficulty
on November 10. In September, 1846, the Reed-Donner Party, enroute
to cannibalism and death in the deep snows of the Sierra Nevada, viewed
the canyon. The Central Pacific's Chinese track gangs constructed
the railroad (now Southern Pacific) through here in December, 1868.
Subsequently, the canyon became known as Carlin or Moleen Canyon. The Western
Pacific, second transcontinental rail link across Nevada, was constructed
in 1907. In 1913, Nevada Route 1, the first auto road, took over
the abandoned (1903) C.P. grade through the canyon. In 1920, Route
1 became the Victory Highway, and in 1926, U.S. Highway 40. In its
freeway phase, it is now designated Interstate 80."
Humboldt River Basin, Elko County, Nevada
"On December 29, 1868, representatives of the Central Pacific
Railroad started laying out lots for the future town of Elko. By
1870, the thriving town had 5,000 people. There was an immense volume
of freight and passenger traffic over the stageline roads north and south
from the railhead at Elko to the mining area. The University of Nevada
was originally built in Elko in 1874 and remained here until 1885, at which
time it was moved to Reno to its present location. By the early 1870's,
Elko became the marketing and economic center for northeastern Nevada's
vast range livestock empire. In the 1870's and 1880's, great ranching
principalities were built on Elko County's vast rangelands. These
ranches were ruled over, absolutely, by such powerful and colorful cattle
kings as L. R. "Broadhorns" Bradley, Nevada's second Governor and its first
'cowboy' Governor; the French Garat family, Spanish Altubes, and John Sparks,
Governor of Nevada in the early years of this century. Elko remains
the economic hub of Nevada's greatest range area. At the same time,
it has also become a recreation-tourism center in northeast Nevada."
Humboldt River Basin, Elko County, Nevada
"Carlin, the oldest town in present Elko County, was established
as a railroad division point in December, 1868, by the Central Pacific
Railroad. It was named by Central Pacific officials after William
Passmore Carlin, a Union officer who served his country with distinction
during and after the Civil War. When the railroad construction crews
reached the Carlin Meadows, always a favorite stopping place for wagon
trains along the California Emigrant Trail, a townsite was laid out, and
a large roundhouse and shops were erected. During the 1870's and
early 1880's, Carlin competed actively with Elko, Palisade and Winnemucca
for the staging and freighting business of the many mining camps north
and south of the railroad. In 1965, it became the principal shipping
point for the nearby Carlin gold mine, the second largest gold producer
in the U.S. Carlin is still a principal division point on the Southern
Pacific. During the period from 1906 until the early 1950's, Carlin
was the principal icing station in Nevada for refrigerator cars on both
the Southern and Western Pacific Railroads. (Western Pacific reached
Carlin from the easterly in 1908, but through freight and passenger service
was not inaugurated over this transcontinental line until 1910.)"
M. Dodge House, Council Bluffs, Iowa
"From 1869 until his death, this was the residence of Grenville
M. Dodge (1831-1916), who as Chief Engineer supervised the completion
in 1869 of the Union Pacific Railroad, part of the Nation's first continental
railroad. His three story, 14 room Victorian mansion was considered
one of the finest residences in Iowa at the time."
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