Central Pacific Railroad Photographic History Museum


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"I never think of the future - it comes soon enough." —Albert Einstein

How you can help / future plans:

If you are a scholar, author, or film maker wanting to include these great pictures in your work, please feel free to contact us. We'll do the best we can to help.

If you are a collector who would be willing to contribute additional high resolution scanned images to augment our digital library, permitting unrestricted royalty free use and republication, we would be most grateful to receive the images you can give us.  We prefer 600 dpi medium jpeg scans.  Let us know if you wish a credit line to be included.  We have included the images now shown without accompanying explanation to get started.  If you have an urge to write about any of the images to help a viewer understand what is portrayed and its significance, we would likewise be most appreciative of your contribution.  If you have any articles that you've written or historic articles that you would like to see on our website, please e-mail them to us.  You could even create a contributed web page "exhibition" on our site drawing upon your knowledge of the subject matter and the images you select from our archive of image scans.  With your help, maybe we could build this website to the incredibly high construction standards of the CPRR in less time that it took to build the railroad.  We need your help to expand and add depth to the CPRR Photographic History Museum website.  Consider this an open invitation to contribute!

With your help, we want to create a resource where people can view the numerous historic images of the first transcontinental railroad and western Americana.  Although our family connection is with the Central Pacific Railroad (CPRR) and only a few of the Alfred A. Hart stereographs (also published by Carleton Watkins, Whitney and Paradise, and Durgan) are being shown in high resolution initially, we plan to include other photographers/publishers (such as Houseworth, Anthony, Savage, Muybridge, J. J. Reilly, Pond, Carbutt, Carter, and A. J. Russell), and we are also fascinated by the Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) stereographs as well (as time and space permits).  We also plan to eventually include some 19th century City Views of New York City, Philadelphia, Chicago, Salt Lake City, and San Francico, in addition to stereoviews illustrating the towns along the route of the first transcontinental railroad.  See the Archive for a preview of coming attractions.

Can you help us with our want list of speeches, pamphlets, and books that may contain important historical information about the transcontinental railroad (we have not yet been able to locate copies of these on the internet, or to acquire photocopies or affordable originals).

We have received the generous permission of the Robert Dennis Collection of Stereoscopic Views, Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations to include in the Central Pacific Railroad Photographic History Museum website, reproductions of the transcontinental railroad stereographs of Alfred A. Hart, C. E. Watkins, J.J. Reilly, Lawrence & Houseworth, T. Houseworth, E. & H.T.  Anthony, E. Muybridge, A. J. Russell, C. Savage/Ottinger, Carter, Carbutt, Pond, and W.H. Jackson from their extensive collection.  We have similarly requested the permission of the University of California, Bancroft Library to include the A.A. Hart and E. Muybridge transcontinental railroad stereographs from the California Digital Library, and await their consideration of our request, which they have advised is expected to take a total of three years to complete.  Steve Heselton and Barry A. Swackhamer have made enormously generous contributions of scans of their stereoview collections.

The amount of web space available to us to store stereographs is currently extremely limited.  (We currently have about 90 times as much storage on our computer as we do on the web.)  Let us know if you have a fast web server with the disk capacity to store lots of large image files and would be willing to donate the use of this webspace.  The 144 dpi medium jpeg images shown conserve space but don't do full justice to the fascinating details that can be seen on these wonderful views when magnified.  We would like to archive scans at 600 dpi or better (suitable for magnified viewing).  Since downloading high quality pictures from the Internet will be a slow process for some years, once the CPRR.org website and the digital image archive is fully constructed, it would be great to be able to offer the images shown on the website in disk form (CD-ROM, DVD, or other digital format) so that they can be viewed and enlarged more quickly, and so that image degradation caused by inadequate sampling and excessive image compression can be avoided.

We would like to be able to restore the images to eliminate stains, foxing, wear, modern annotations, and similar imperfections.  Do you know of any Photoshop, CorelDraw, or Canvas features or plug-ins that automate the removal of foxing, for example?  Do you know of any Mac software that will correct the local brightness/contrast of a pair of stereo images to eliminate differences in variable fading between the two views?

We haven't been able to figure out a way of copying or scanning the pages of rare 19th century books that cannot be opened flat without damaging their bindings.  We tried using a flatbed scanner (chosen because it scans closer to the edge of the scanner's case than any other currently manufactured model) with the book bent at a right angle over the edge of the scanner, but found that the margin was too narrow for this to work.   We don't yet have one of the still too expensive high resolution digital cameras that we hope could use a copy lenses to image the pages of a partially opened book with sufficient resolution to allow optical character recognition.  Please let us know if you have had any success in digitizing books that can't be opened flat.

Do you like the experimental 3D animated stereo effect shown on the homepage?  Would it be valuable to add this effect to other displayed stereoviews?

We've found fairly complete lists of the Hart/Watkins, Houseworth, Muybridge, Reilly, Carbutt, and A. J. Russell stereographs of the pacific railroad (Central Pacific Railroad and Union Pacific Railroad), and a partial list for William H. Jackson, but haven't yet found lists for any of the other photographers.   A few Savage views have numbers suggesting that there was a catalog, but most of the Savage railroad stereographs do not show the catalog numbers. The Anthony 19th century catalogs we've seen are quite incomplete in their listing of pacific railroad stereographs.  Similarly, we have never seen a catalog for Pond or Carter.  We would be most grateful to receive a copy of any of these additional photographers'/publishers' stereograph catalogs listing their transcontinental railroad views, if such catalogs exist.

We would like to add additional geographic information to the stereograph catalogs (distance from Sacramento or Omaha) to allow images to be easily arranged for study by location rather than just by photographer and catalog number.  Becky Winter has helped update the Hart catalog, so that it now can be sorted in order by Hart View Number, by Stanford Album Geographic Sequence Number, or by Distance in Miles from Sacramento.  If you make use of the catalog and notice any mileages that are incorrect, or where you have more precise information, or missing information, or similar data for the other catalogs, please let us know.

Is a list or index available that would identify all railroad related stories and engravings published in Harper's Weekly and Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper in the 1860's and 1870's?

Do you have any idea what "Burnetizing" means?  [John Carbutt's stereoview: Union Pacific Railroad, Excursion to the 100th Meridian, October, 1866. #222. - Burnetizing Works of the U.P.R.R. at Omaha.]  Can't find the word "Burnetizing" in 19th or 20th century dictionaries or on the web.  From the image, it looks like it might be a process for treating wood.  {Found the answer:  Burnetizing is a zinc chloride pressure treatment for cottonwood ties, invented in England by Burnet, that prevents them from rotting.  See John D. Galloway. The First Transcontinental Railroad. p. 272.}
Can you assist with inquiries about ancestors?  See our Great-Grandfathers page.

Can you volunteer to proofread one or more OCR converted documents by comparing them to the original documents and let us know about errors that need to be corrected?

Including 19th century descriptions of the construction of the railroad written by the people involved gives additional depth to this website.  If you have found any such writings, please send them to us for inclusion in the CPRR.org website.  [As an example, we found one excellent article, "Tunnels of the Pacific Railroad" in Van Nostrand's Eclectic Engineering Magazine, Vol. II, 1870 pp. 418-423, which gives a vivid account of the tunnel construction by an engineer working under Lewis Metzler Clement, the Central Pacific Railroad's Assistant Chief Engineer who was in charge of the construction across the Sierra Nevada mountains.  This article has been scanned using OCR software and is now included in the website.]

The 19th century Pacific Tourist guidebooks give a fabulous station-by-station description of the transcontinental railroad trip along the Union Pacific and Central Pacific Railroads (they also include wonderful engravings and maps).  The 1876 edition of Williams' Pacific Tourist has been scanned in its entirety by the University of Michigan in image form.  (See the last entry on the CPRR.org books on-line page.)  This book has also been converted to text by OCR at the University of Michigan but (due to the state of the art in optical character recognition) will require error correction, which they have not yet scheduled.  The University of Michigan Digital Library, Making of America project has generously granted us permission to include this book in digital form on our website.  We plan to use this book to annotate the stereographs shown at the Central Pacific Railroad Photographic History Museum.  Our plans are to add html targets in the text of the 1876 Williams' Pacific Tourist and possibly frame the book's text in a small window below each stereograph so that the related text from the guidebook will appear automatically and in context below each stereoview.

The CPRR Museum website was put together on a Macintosh with rather basic tools Netscape Communicator, Microsoft Word, Photoshop LE, Graphic Converter, and Quicknailer.  We don't currently have mapping or database software, nor much of a budget.  One major limitation is that we currently have no way to easily connect maps with each other and with photographs, nor with place names and image titles.  Do you have any suggestions for software that would allow easy association of historic maps and photographs with the detailed USGS contour maps which are now available on the web while also determining map coordinates to associate with photographs?  Our goal is to have client side "image maps" so that clicking on an historic map could link, for example, to the corresponding place on a detailed USGS map, or to an historic photograph of that place.  Creating such an "image map" and determining photograph location coordinates manually would be a nightmarishly huge undertaking.  Conceptually, is seems fairly straightforward to associate the coordinates of Sacramento and Omaha on an historic map of the transcontinental railroad with the same places on existing digitized USGS topographic maps with perhaps a few more anchor points so that the geographic interpolation correctly accounts for the differences in geometry of the map projections used for the two maps.  Wondering if such software is readily available, and hoped that someone might know or perhaps be interested in creating such software.  The desired result is ubiquitous graphic linking from all the historic maps to the USGS topographic maps and other higher resolution historic maps and the related historic photographs.  Put another way, it should be made easy to associate latitude and longitude with cursor pointing to the image of a map on a web page and to use the resulting real world coordinates to link corresponding places on various resolution maps to one another and to photographs of the places, and to names and descriptions of the places.

If you are an intellectual property attorney who can contribute an explanation of possible ownership and publication rights relating to copies of non-unique images that were published during the 19th century (either without or with now long expired copyright) we would like your help.  (We are also unsure of the legal basis for ownership claims and restrictions that some public institutions attempt to put on the use of such collections of "public domain" materials, and haven't been able to get a clear explanation.  Other public institutions take an opposing point of view, for example, stating that they "[do] not own rights to material in [their] collections".)  More specifically, can the owner of a non-unique physical original published public domain image or document who allows the public to make a photocopy (whether on film, paper, digitization, or Internet download) of that work subsequently restrict the republication of the copy?

The CPRR Museum depend entirely upon private support. We decided to add "Make a Donation" buttons to the website on 11/7/2002 after 45 months of operation and 468,000 visitors to the website when the website useage first exceeded 30 gigabytes per month. We're thrilled by the success of the CPRR Museum and hope that visitors will choose to lend a hand.

You can also support this website at no additional cost to you by using the book and videotape links on this website when you choose to make purchases from Amazon.com or the History Channel:

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Finally, please bring any errors, problems, and suggestions to our attention.  If you find a link that isn't working, please let us know.  Thanks for your help!

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