Central Pacific Railroad Photographic History Museum

Selected Highlights of Rails in the West

August, 1852: The Sacramento Valley Rail Road incorporated. This, the first passenger railroad in the West, would run up "R" Street in Sacramento, to end in the City of Folsom, closely following what is now known as Folsom Blvd. This route was engineered by Theodore D. Judah, who held the title of "Chief Engineer" for the S.V.R.R.

August 17, 1855: First excursion train ran over the English rails of the S.V.R.R., regular service began between Folsom and Sacramento on February 22, 1856.

April, 1858: Theodore D. Judah, working for Charles Lincoln Wilson, begins to survey a railroad to run between Folsom and Marysville, to be called the California Central Railroad. While perhaps working for Wilson, Judah began looking for a railroad route to run between Lincoln and Auburn, a distance of some 15 miles. Judah found a route that satisfied him, and called his new road the California Extension Railroad. He then bought 480 acres for a townsite, thought to be located between the town of Lincoln and the town of Gold Hill, this town to be called Centralia.

October, 1859: Judah buys 550 tons of 52 pounds-to-the-yard rail for his proposed California Extension Railroad, from the Rensselaer Iron Co., of Troy, New York. Unfortunately, Mr. Judah could not raise the funds to pay for this rail, so it remained on the wharf in Oakland, while Rensselaer Iron tried to find a buyer for it.

June, 1861: A route was established for the Sacramento, Placer and Nevada Rail Road, this generally now follows Folsom-Auburn and Auburn-Folsom Road, running from Ashland Station, near the McDonalds Restaurant at Greenback and Folsom-Auburn Road, to Auburn Station, located at what is now known as Brennans Corners, near the current intersection of Auburn Folsom Road and King Road, in Loomis.

April, 1862: Rail laying commenced for the Sacramento, Placer and Nevada Rail Road, using the iron purchased (but not paid for) by Theodore Judah back in October, 1859.

July, 1862: Sacramento, Placer and Nevada Rail Road opens for business to Wildwood Station, 8 miles from Folsom.

January 8, 1863: Ground breaking in Sacramento for the Central Pacific Rail Road of California, the beginning of construction of the first transcontinental railroad.

April, 1864: CPRR opens operations to Junction (now the City of Roseville).

May, 1864: CPRR in operation to NewCastle.

June, 1864: The CPRR attempts to pull up the rail from the now bankrupt Sacramento, Placer and Nevada Rail Road. This dismantling was the beginning of the Placer County Railroad War, which erupted into open hostilities on July 9, 1864 with a shooting near the intersection of the present King Road and Auburn Folsom Road, in Loomis.

July 30, 1864: The Placer Herald reports that 40 men were working for the Central Pacific in Bloomer Cut, located between NewCastle and Auburn. Despite the claim that is noted on a brass plaque that marks the location of Bloomer Cut, there were no Chinese workers involved in that construction.

March, 1865: While grading between Auburn and Clipper Gap, Charles Crocker tells his Construction Foreman, James Harvey Strobridge, to "go over to Auburn and hire some Chinese workers." This is supported by United States Pacific Railway Commission hearings in San Francisco in 1887, where both Crocker and Strobridge testified as to the construction of the CPRR.

May, 1865: Tracks reach Auburn.

September, 1865: Tracks reach Colfax.

October, 1865: The Placer Herald reports 3,000 to 4,000 laborers are working between Colfax and Dutch Flat.

April; 1866: Rails laid around Cape Horn. This area is considered by some to be the hardest section of railbed to be constructed in Placer County, however, Chief Engineer Samuel Montague commented that the work was "less difficult and expensive than was first anticipated."

May 10, 1869: Union Pacific and Central Pacific rails united at Promontory Summit, Utah.

It is interesting to note that fewer than 100 deaths, both Chinese and Anglo, were attributed to the construction of the Central Pacific Rail Road by news organizations during the era of construction, in the States of California, Nevada and Utah. This small number, when compared to the 12,000 people employed by the railroad and the challenges they faced, and with the reality of the ease of construction at Cape Horn, puts to rest the stories of mayhem that surface from time to time in our modern press.

Compiled by G.J. Chris Graves, as a handout to accompany the display of his rail collection at the Placer County Sesquicentennial celebration, April 27, 2002.

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