The 19th Century first Transcontinental Railroad was described by Central Pacific Railroad Chief Engineer, Theodore D. Judah, as "the most magnificent project ever conceived." Devoted to telling the story of this "great and shining road" which so profoundly changed the course of the history of United States is the Central Pacific Railroad Photographic History Museum, a gigantic online "virtual museum" established by the family of railroad pioneer Lewis Metzler Clement. Launched in February, 1999, this award winning railroad history website has become a leading internet resource, and welcomed its 1,000,000th online visitor less than six years later.
In the years the Museum has been online, it has grown from a few small galleries of pictures to include a library of thousands of digitally restored period stereoviews and photographs, engravings, illustrations, maps, original photographs, ephemera, exhibits, and annotated complete transcriptions of primary source materials such as period and modern articles, first person accounts, and a wide selection of CPRR, UPRR, and government documents, reports, and railroad related federal and state statutes. Much of the site's content is made up of artistically restored digital reproductions of very rare or unique materials generously donated from hundreds of private collections which are not otherwise available to the public.
Our family run website developed from a deep interest in the contributions to the building of the Transcontinental Railroad of great great grandfather, Lewis M. Clement, who joined the nascent CPRR in 1862 as an assistant engineer and surveyor. By the time the first rail was laid in Sacramento in October, 1863, he was already the CPRR's chief assistant engineer with primary responsibility for the location, design, and supervision of the construction of the sections of the line to be built over the Sierra Nevadas, by far the most challenging and difficult portion of the entire great national work. As PBS notes in recommending this website, the biography of Clement also discusses his supervision of blasting and tunneling through the mountains, his invention for bending rails, his design for emigrant sleeping cars, and the first electric control system for railroads. With the driving of the Golden Spike in Utah in 1869 he also became the CPRR's Superintendent of Track and held both positions until he left the railroad in 1881 to work on the design and construction of several new cable car lines in San Francisco and Oakland.
The CPRR Museum website receives and answers many e-mails from
all over the world sent by visitors and students – ranging from elementary
school to PhD candidates – with questions and/or
for permission to use the CPRR.org
site's materials and digital images in personal or school projects. (Many of
the detailed answers to these questions are also posted on the Museum's
FAQ's pages.) The site now also includes an extensive
CPRR Discussion Group. In addition
the CPRR Museum
has supplied images and research
materials for use at other museums and publication in books,
textbooks, TV programs,
movies, etc., including the "American Experience" on PBS, Donner Rails Films,
and the History Channel. Many original materials about
L.M. Clement were also also provided to the late Stephen Ambrose who used them
N.Y. Times best selling book, "Nothing
Like It in the World: The Men Who
Built the Transcontinental Railroad 1863-1869."
"About the CPRR Museum" courtesy of National Geographic Photographer Bruce C. Cooper, the great great grandson and biographer of CPRR First Assistant Chief Engineer, Lewis M. Clement – a veteran professional writer, digital image restorer, avid railroad collector, and frequent contributor to the Central Pacific Railroad Photographic History Museum website. The author of this web page about this site, as well as of four books and hundreds of feature articles, Bruce Cooper's writings and photographs appear extensively throughout the website. He also digitally restored numerous 19th Century photographic images on the website and created the composite graphics which appear in the exhibits, both services which he also provides professionally to the public through his independent online business, DigitalImageServices.com.
Also see: How to cite the Central Pacific Railroad Photographic History Museum as a research source.