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Lewis Metzler Clement composite photograph with cover of Appleton's Railroad and Steam Navigation Guide, May 1868

Colorized composite photograph.
Courtesy Bruce C. Cooper.


A Pioneer of the Central Pacific Railroad

First Assistant Chief Engineer, Central Pacific Railroad

Acting Chief Engineer, Central Pacific Railroad

Consulting Engineer, Southern Pacific Railroad

Chief Engineer, Atlantic & Pacific Railroad, Western Division

Chief Engineer, Pacific Improvement Company

Consultant to Gov. Leland Stanford


Leland Stanford Jr. University



Lewis Metzler Clement – civil engineer, inventor, adventurer, and one of the fathers of the first transcontinental railroad built across the United States – was born in the town of Niagara-on-Lake, Ontario, Canada, on August 12, 1837, the eldest of seven children of Ralph Morden Clement and his wife, Charlotte Amanda (Metzler) Clement. After a long and fruitful life which was highlighted by his exceptionally distinguished professional engineering career, L.M. Clement passed away at his home in Hayward, California, on October 29, 1914, at the age of 77 years, two months and 17 days.

During his long lifetime, Lewis Metzler Clement made great contributions to the expansion, prosperity, and development of his adopted country, the United States, of which he had become a naturalized citizen at San Francisco in 1879. Of his many accomplishments, perhaps the greatest was his work as one of the central figures in the planning and construction of the Central Pacific Railroad across California's treacherously unforgiving Sierra Nevada mountains and the desolate but beautiful deserts of the Nevada and Utah Territories between 1862 and 1869 to complete the first transcontinental railroad.

The final route that he helped lay out and build over 135 years ago was so good, in fact, that today much of it – especially over the Sierras – remains almost unchanged and is still in daily use as one of the busiest and most important overland arteries of commerce and communication in North America.

Portrait of Lewis Metzler Clement

Lewis M. Clement, Chief Assistant Engineer
of the Central Pacific Railroad of California,
at the time of the building of the
first transcontinental railroad (1862-69).
(CDV by Bradley Rulofson Galleries, San Francisco)
Courtesy Bruce Clement Cooper Collection.
Bradley Rulofson Photographic Galleries - Advertisement
Lewis Metzler Clement, Tintype

Large (9"x7" oval) full plate hand tinted tintype portrait of Lewis M. Clement believed to be c. 1870.  Because tintype is a direct (one step) process with no negative you will note that, when compared to the portrait to the left, the image produced is reversed left for right.
Courtesy Bruce Clement Cooper Collection



The Clement family originally emigrated to the North America from England about 1650 and settled in Massachusetts and New York. At the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, L.M. Clement's great, great grandfather, Lewis Cobes Clement, a staunch United Empire Loyalist, left his home in Tyron County, NY, for Canada settling in Niagara, Ontario. There he soon volunteered to join with the British forces serving as a Lieutenant in the Indian Department and acting as an interpreter.

All three of his sons also served as officers with the British during the Revolution including Capt. John Putman Clement, L.M. Clement's great grandfather, who was a leader of the Northern Confederate Indians. A farmer and slave owner in Mohawk Valley, NY, John Clement scouted down and captured rebel bands and "Sons of Liberty" operating in New York and Canada. Known as "Ranger John", one of his major victories was the capture and destruction of a large body of partisans under the noted rebel leader, Capt. Bull. When the British were eventually defeated, however, John Clement followed in his father's footsteps and left New York to live in Niagara, Ontario.

On September 24, 1786, L.M. Clement's grandfather, Col. Lewis Clement, was born in Niagara to John and Mary (Ball) Clement. Like his father, he was also a devoted loyalist to the Crown. In 1806, Lewis Clement, then nineteen, married sixteen-year old Margaret Crysler and six years later their son, Ralph Morden Clement, was born on January 9, 1812. With the outbreak of the War of 1812 a few months later, Lewis Clement, then a Lieutenant of Artillery, was soon sent off to command a battery of guns at Queenstown. Two years later young Ralph Clement was almost orphaned when his father was wounded seriously three times on July 5, 1814, during the Battle of Chippawa at which he commanded a company.

In 1837, the year his grandson, L.M. Clement was born, Col. Clement commanded a company during the Rebellion, and twenty-nine years later while his grandson was building the railroad in California in 1866, the elder Clement walked seventeen miles – at age 79 – from his home to Ft. Erie to again volunteer his services to the Crown at the time of the Fenian Raid.


In 1836, Ralph Morden Clement married Charlotte Amanda Metzler and the next year the first of their seven children, Lewis Metzler Clement, was born in Niagara-on-Lake. In 1840 the family moved to nearby St. Catherines, Ontario, where Ralph Clement had established a successful business as a merchant and an expert tea taster whose judgment was sought after and highly valued by many large Canadian and American tea importing houses. During his lifetime, Ralph M. Clement acquired many valuable real estate holdings on the Canadian side of the Niagara River between St. Catherines and Niagara Falls, and when he died in 1854 at the age of 42 he left a considerable fortune. Unfortunately, however, the mismanagement and interference of unscrupulous "friends" soon dwindled the estate leaving his widow and her seven children with almost nothing.

Between the ages of five and fourteen, L.M. Clement lived with his maternal grandparents, Francis and Mary Goodhue Metzler, on their well equipped farm on the St. Lawrence River not far from Montréal, Québec. While Lewis made frequent visits back to his family home in St. Catherines, he always returned to the Metzler farm. His grandfather, Francis Metzler, was a fierce, high-tempered old man who believed implicitly that children should "be seen but not heard, obey promptly, and never sneeze at the table." As an old man, L.M. Clement still had vivid recollections of hiding in the folds of his grandmother's hoop skirts to escape the wrath of his grandfather.

Mary Goodhue Metzler, who had emigrated from her native England to Canada in 1800, was a full cousin of Lord Lyndehurst, Lord Chancellor of England. A devout Catholic, she wanted her grandson to enter the priesthood and offered him many inducements such as the leaving to him of her property. Although he did not follow that path, Clement attended the Jesuit School in Montréal where he was an excellent student. He would later put part of this early Jesuit education to good use in helping to pay for his studies at the small College of St. Catherines, and later at McGill University, by the teaching of Greek.

As a young man, Lewis M. Clement had a great interest in music as well as his more serious studies and sang in the choir of the Montréal's famous Cathedral of Nôtre Dame. Clement was also a talented athlete who was proficient at swimming, wrestling and weight lifting, and he would frequently use his very considerable strength to pick up the bullies of the school yard and throw them over his shoulder.

In 1854, Lewis' 18-year old second cousin, Charlotte Eliza Crysler, moved to St. Catherines from her birthplace of St. Thomas, Ontario, after the death of her father, James Clement Crysler, that January. For the previous twelve years, Charlotte Crysler had been raised in the home of her mother's sister, Francis Bostwick Warren, where she had lived since her mother, Charlotte Augusta Bostwick, died in 1842 at the age of 23 just shortly after her only daughter had turned six years old. In St. Catherines, Charlotte Eliza moved in with Lewis and his mother, Charlotte Amanda Metzler Clement, who was her aunt on her father's side. Lewis' paternal grandmother, Margaret Crysler Clement, was the older sister of Charlotte Crysler's late father.

A few months after young Charlotte Crysler arrived in St. Catherines, her Aunt Charlotte Clement was widowed when her husband, Ralph, died in October, 1854. Young Charlotte's moving in with her Aunt caused great annoyance to the young woman's older step brother, Emanuel Crysler, who had wanted her to keep house for him in Port Stanley where he practiced law. But she chose to remain with her aunt and that forever changed the course of Lewis Clement's life.

Four years later on February 1st, 1858, twenty-two year old Charlotte Eliza Crysler married her cousin, Lewis M. Clement, at St. George's Church in St. Catherines. Their first child, Ralph James Porter Clement, was born at De Caw Falls just eleven months later on January 8, 1859, but died on January 11, 1862, just after turning three.

Albert Wray Clement (called "Wray"), their second son, was born on September 4, 1861, and the following year Charlotte took the infant with her to St. Louis following her husband who had gone there to work for the railroad at just about the outbreak of the Civil War. Clement's first railroad job was as a shipping clerk with the Central Ohio Railroad in Lebanon and later Vincennes, Ohio, and then he worked for the Ohio & Mississippi Railroad as a clerk in E. St. Louis and later as Station Agent and telegrapher in Lebanon, Ill.


As the Civil War raged, Lewis Clement decided to leave St. Louis in the Spring of 1862 to seek his fortune in California. He sent Charlotte and Wray back to Canada as he felt the overland trip by wagon train – an arduous journey which was to take some 149 days – would be too difficult and dangerous for his young wife and child.

A guide was chosen for his knowledge of the country but it soon became clear that he had never before made the trip and the man proved to be of very little help. While their wagon train was not attacked by Indians during the trip, there were many hardships caused by sickness and the shortage of food and water. Many days were lost when scouts had to be sent out to search for pasture and water for the animals. Many stampedes occurred when the animals would be frightened by even the slightest noise on a quiet night such as the snapping of a dry twig which would send them fleeing out of control.

Lewis M. Clement's autographed book
Among the prized possessions that L.M. Clement carried with him overland
from St. Louis to Sacremento in 1862 was the two volume "Impartial History
of the Late Revolution in France" which he had acquired as a student in his
native St. Catherines, Ontario, in 1853.

Shortly after reaching Sacramento in the late summer of 1862, Clement was hired by Theodore Dehone Judah, Chief Engineer of the fledgling C.P.R.R., who was then surveying the route for the first railroad eastward across the Sierra Mountains. The new line would eventually reach 828 miles in length from San Francisco through to Sacramento (via the Western Pacific Railroad which had been taken over by the C.P.R.R. in 1866 and completed by that company in September, 1869), and on to Promontory Summit in the Utah Territory where on May 10, 1869, it would join up with the Union Pacific line had been built westward from Omaha, Nebraska, thereby completing the first transcontinental railroad to span the United States. This cut the time it took to travel from coast to coast from as much as six months to no more than a week!

Clement had taken his first engineering job in 1855 while still just a seventeen-year old student to work on the construction of the Montréal Water Works under T.C. Keefer, the project's Chief Engineer and later Engineer in Charge at the Welland Canal (on which Clement also worked), and Frank Shanley who was later in charge of the Port Dover and Hamilton Railway. Although Clement, who studied engineering in Montréal at both McGill University and Jesuit College, was trained as and had previously worked as a canal engineer, Judah was nonetheless greatly impressed with the abilities of this quiet young Canadian who was still just in his twenties.

Surviving CPRR Engineering Department payroll vouchers indicate that Clement was first employed as an office assistant in the engineering department in Sacramento working on reports which came in from the field. By February, 1863, however, he was promoted to the key job of transitman in the Sierra survey party of Samuel S. Montague, Judah's then chief assistant, before eventually being given a survey party of his own. (A 1860's CPRR survey party in the Sierras consisted of an engineer/surveyor, transitman, leveler, rodman, chainman, flagman, axeman, teamster, and a cook.)

One day he sent young Clement off by himself to do some surveying to see how he would do. When he returned much earlier than anticipated, Judah said to him sternly: "I did not expect to see you back until you had finished, young man."

"I have finished," Lewis replied confidently and turned over a complete and excellent report to the Chief Engineer. Through the summer of 1863 they spent many days and nights working together on planning the route across the mountains. The two engineers quickly built a firm – but unfortunately all too brief – friendship.

Lewis M. Clement CSRM Exhibit
This life size mannequin of Lewis M. Clement surveying the CPRR grade across the Sierras in 1863 is a part of a permanent new exhibit called “We’ve Been Working on the Railroad” which opened at the California State Railroad Museum in September, 2005. The Clement exhibit is located in the front of the CSRM’s entrance hall and is thus the first thing which visitors see when they enter the Museum. Right behind it is the “Gov. Stanford” (CPRR #1) which was the Central Pacific’s first locomotive. Funded by an almost $500,000 grant from the North American Railway Foundation, this massive Museum wide exhibit took almost three years to mount.

By that summer of 1863 Judah had become concerned that the "Big Four" (Leland Stanford, Charles Crocker, Mark Hopkins and C.P. Huntington) were not fully committed to building the railroad beyond Dutch Flat (where it would meet the western end of the Dutch Flat and Donner Lake Wagon Road that they also owned) and on to join the transcontinental line to be built from the Missouri River. So in October, 1863, Judah left for New York by the Panama route to raise money to buy them out, but tragically he came down with the "Panama Fever" during the trip which took his life on November 2nd, less than a week after he arrived in New York.

Theodore Judah + San Francisco Railroad Bond, colorized composite image
Colorized composite image of T.D. Judah from an original C.E. Watkins
portrait set against a background of one of the extremely rare and
highly controversial  San Francisco Pacific Railroad Bonds.
Authorized in 1863 – but because of prolonged litigation
not issued until 1865 – these bonds were the
subject of the "Dutch Flat Swindle"  which impeded
the crucial early financing of the CPRR for almost two years.
Courtesy Bruce C. Cooper.

Judah was the man who had originally laid out the first practical route for a railroad over the Sierra Nevada via the "central" route, and who then – while serving as Clerk of both the U.S. House and Senate Pacific Railroad Committees – shepherded the first Pacific Railroad Act through Congress which was then signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln on July 1, 1862. As such, Judah was more responsible than anyone else for making possible the physical realization of the dream of a Transcontinental Railroad.

During the year or so that Clement was able to work directly with Judah, the older man taught his young Canadian assistant much about railroad engineering. He learned these lessons so well that he was eventually given primary charge of surveying, locating, and building the most difficult and expensive part of the new road up and over the summit of the Sierra Nevada mountains between Colfax to Truckee. This section included all the tunnels, many trestles, the treacherous Cape Horn, and the snowsheds. After Judah's untimely death he was succeeded as Chief Engineer by Montague who in turn appointed the up and coming Clement as his Chief Assistant Engineer. (Clement later added the portfolio of Superintendent of Track to his duties and also served for a time as the CPRR's Acting Chief Engineer.)

Shortly after he had arrived in California, Clement sent for his young wife and child to join him. Charlotte Eliza and her then year-and-a-half year old son, Wray, left New York by steamer for San Francisco by way of the Panama Railroad across the Isthmus, the new route which had opened just eight years earlier in 1855. While the journey was faster and shorter than the 17,000 mile sea route around Cape Horn which often took four to six months, it was by no means easy or safe. In fact many thousands of emigrants to California lost their lives to on the Panama route to sickness – including, of course, Theodore Judah while making the same trip East that year – or to disaster at sea as many ships sank in storms or were lost when their boilers exploded, a not uncommon occurrence. The only real difficulty Charlotte and her infant son encountered on their voyage, however, came off the southern coast of the United States when their ship was stopped by an English Man-of-War and searched for contraband.

Upon arrival in San Francisco, Charlotte and Wray Clement journeyed on to Sacramento by river steamer. With Lewis being away on a surveying trip, however, they were met in California's young capital city by his friend, a Mr. Egbert, who drove them on to Colfax where the family was finally reunited.

California Steam Navigation Co., Advertisement in Crofutt's

California Steam Navigation Co., Advertisement
in Crofutt's "Transcontinental Railroad Guide," 1870.

As the railroad progressed, Lewis and Charlotte followed it eastward living successively in Colfax (then called Illinoistown), Crystal Lake, Emigrant Gap, Cisco, and Summit – as well as other short lived construction camps along the grade. These camps in the wilderness consisted of tents and hastily constructed "houses" with wide cracks in the walls which grew larger as the green timbers dried. In some instances, these buildings were fastened precariously to the sides of mountains with cables and iron rods.

The young Clements, whose first son, Ralph, had died in 1862 just three days after his third birthday, felt the sting of losing another child when Wray died on September 5, 1864 – just one day after he too had turned three. Their third child, Russell Montague Clement, was born the following Spring on March 30, 1865, in Illinoistown.

Russell, who would go on to study civil engineering at MIT, play professional baseball, work for both the Southern Pacific RR and the Pacific Improvement Co., and later serve as City Engineer for Oakland, CA, would be followed by three sisters, Grace Warren Clement who was born August 20, 1867, Maude Lyndehurst Clement, born July 4, 1870, and Alice Gladys Lewis Clement, who was born on August 7, 1879. Unlike Ralph and Wray, all four survived well into adulthood with Maude living the longest, passing away in Oakland, CA, in 1963 at the age of ninety-three. Russell Clement died in Oakland in 1948 at age 83.
[Both Lewis Metzler Clement's son, Russell Montague Clement, and his grandson, Lewis Mason Clement, (the great grandfather and grandfather of the author of this article) followed in his footsteps and were also both distinguished engineers.   Grandson, Lewis Mason Clement, graduated from Berkeley in 1914 had a long career as a pioneer in the development of radio and television (he built his first spark gap radio station in 1905).  During WWI grandson, Lewis Mason Clement, helped develop the first radiotelephone for use in an aircraft while he was with Western Electric and was the first to speak by voice via radio from an the air in a test at Langley, VA, in August, 1917.  During WWII Lewis Mason Clement was VP of Engineering at Crosley which was one of the early, key contractors in the development and manufacture of the anti-aircraft VT (variable time) proximity fuze that played a major role in determining the outcome of the second world war.]

While Charlotte Eliza Clement raised their young family in the towns along the side of the expanding railroad, Lewis would be away for weeks at a time riding horseback over the rugged mountains and deep cañons, resting where night overtook him using his saddle as a pillow. His favorite horse was a magnificent Roan, a powerful animal with a mind of its own and difficult to ride. A strong, high swimmer and apparently afraid of nothing, the horse would bite, strike and kick if ridden near a group of people, and always insisted on being mounted from the right side. J.O. Wilder also recalled Lewis Metzler Clement's white mule.

This young couple from Canada grew to love California and the West which they saw in its virgin beauty when the forest stood unmolested before indiscriminate tree cutting was practiced – much of it ironically to provide the vast amounts of timber needed to build the railroad, its bridges and the many miles of snowsheds which protected it during the harsh winters in the mountains during which as much as sixty or more feet of snow would fall in a winter.

The two great valleys of California still had few settlers to mar the broad sweep of the landscape, and the hillsides and meadows were covered by countless wild flowers which made for an endless, sweet smelling scene of charm and loveliness. Acres of native oats grew five and six feet high and everywhere the persistent mustard, with its lively yellow blossoms, flourished.

Among the incredibly difficult sections of the line that L.M. Clement designed and then supervised the construction were the hand "carving" of Cape Horn out of the side of a mountain just east of Colfax where the road hangs precipitously some 1,200 feet above the American River, and the 6,213 feet of tunnels along the route including the Summit Tunnel which alone took almost two years to complete working from both ends as well as from the middle by way of a shaft dropped from above. Much of the physical work of carving, blasting and laying the road at Cape Horn and on the tunnels was done by thousands of Chinese laborers who were known among the railroad men as "celestials" without whom the road could not have been completed.

Many of the tunnels – which were worked on in both summer and winter when the workers lived in the snowdrifts of twenty feet or more – were on curves and/or grades, but when the faces met they were never more than an inch off line showing the remarkable accuracy of Lewis Clement's calculations and instrument work under the most difficult of conditions.

Summit Tunnel, 1999
Summit Tunnel, 1999
The Summit Tunnel (#6) remains virtually the same today as it did when Lewis Clement saw the first CP train roll through it on November 30, 1867, after two years of continuous labor. It is seen here in 1999 shortly after it was taken out of service and the tracks were removed after 130 years of continuous use. View “A” is looking west from the east portal. (The light in the tunnel is from the headlights of the photographer’s truck.) View “B” is taken from the same location looking east out of the snowshed toward tunnels #7 and #8.
[Summit Tunnel Photographs Exhibit]
Photographs by and Courtesy of Peter Epstein.

In 1870, Van Nostrand's Engineering Magazine said of the recently completed project and Lewis Clement's work:

"Leaving Sacramento, the ascent begins and the problem was to ascend the Sierra Nevada range to a height of 7,000 feet within a distance of 80 miles. Good engineers considered the undertaking preposterous. But California energy and engineering skill, using 10,000 Chinamen, solved the problem and took the track up and over, along the mountain side, through deep tunnels, across rifted chasms in the rocks, over headlong torrents and by dizzy edges of abysses thousands of feet down and around Cape Horn a few miles east of Colfax. But even when the work was done, the snow avalanche or earth slides from the mountain sides might sweep the work away or overwhelm the track and make it useless for weeks.

"There was a remedy also for this in the engineering skill and determination of the men who did this work. They just roofed in their road for fifty miles. They took the giant branches of the pines and braced them against the mountain side, framing them and interlacing them beam with beam. They sloped the roof sustained by massive timbers and stayed by braces laid into the rock, covered by heavy planks up against the precipice so that descending earth or snow would be shot clean over the safely housed track into the pine tops below. So they ran their trains in security under cover and have conquered the snow."

The work of Lewis Clement was specifically recognized in the Annual Report made to the Secretary of the Interior on June 30, 1879, by the Auditor of Railroad Accounts: "One of the most marked and important works on the line is the great snow gallery on the Sierra Nevada Mountains extending for about 28-miles without a break.

"The equipment on the road is in good condition and ample. The sleeping cars are fully equal to any to be found elsewhere. The company has built a large number of second-class sleeping cars suitable for emigrants and no additional charge is made for passage in these cars and second-class fare being paid.

"The organization of the track department under the supervision of Mr. L.M. Clement, the chief assistant engineer, is well adapted to its work getting good service under quite economical expenditures and merits special commendation. The main element in the low cost of transportation is a good, smooth track as it is also the only the only substantial basis of prosperity of a railroad company many expenses being reduced thereby. With a system operating over 2,600 miles of track, it is not seen how the services of such an important department can be dispensed with."

The famous "Emigrant Sleeping Car" was invented and designed by Lewis Clement and many were built by the C.P.R.R. at their Sacramento shops. They were later improved by the Pullman Company which built many of them under the name of the "Colonist Car".  Clement also designed and built the first Electric Control System for railroads which was installed over a distance of fifty miles through the snowshed and tunnels from Blue Cañon to Truckee.  He also invented a machine to bend rails to the correct radius saving a great deal of time and money over the old method.

Emigrant Sleeping Car Berths

Emigrant Sleeping Car Berths (click to enlarge)
"Designed & first built at the Sacramento Shops of the C.P.R.R."
(manuscript annotation by Lewis Metzler Clement who designed the Emigrant Sleeping Cars)

Brigham Young. Courtesy National Park Service.Lewis Clement often visited Salt Lake City and Ogden during the construction of the road and employed Mormons to do much of the grading work across Utah. He enjoyed a close friendship with Brigham Young [see photo, right, courtesy National Park Service], Bishop Sharp and many other prominent Mormons leaders and often dined with Young, his wives and numerous children. On June 29, 1869, just seven weeks after the “Last Spike” was driven at Promontory Summit, Bishop Chauncey W. West, a close aide to Young and a principal of Benson, Farr, & West, the subcontractor hired by the Central Pacific to do grading in Utah, presented Clement with a beautiful set of eight Mormon religious books bound in leather and embossed with Clement's name in gold leaf at the request of President of the Mormon Church with the hopes that he would convert and join their fold. (These books, illustrated below, are now in the possession of the author.)

Mormon Books presented to Lewis Metzler Clement by Bishop Chauncey W. West

Although L.M. Clement appears prominently in Thomas Hill's famous 1881 painting, "The Last Spike", which is now on permanent display in the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento and depicts the ceremony on May 10, 1869, when Leland Stanford, President of the Central Pacific and former Governor of California, drove the "Golden Spike" with a silver hammer to join the two lines, he was actually in Washington, D.C., at the time completing his report to the Secretary of the Interior as a member of the Special Pacific Railroad Commission appointed a few months earlier by President Andrew Johnson.

Lewis Metzler Clement portrait detail in Thomas Hill Painting, "The Last Spike."
[Click to see the entire painting (on display at the California State Railroad museum).]

L.M. Clement appears in the painting standing in the right foreground just behind T.D. Judah (who, of course, was also not there as he had died in New York almost six years earlier), and Charles Crocker, the C.P.'s Supervisor of Construction and one of the "Big Four" along with Gov. Stanford, Mark Hopkins and Collis P. Huntington. (Crocker ironically also did not attend the ceremony as he had been detained in Sacramento.)

Falcon Engine at Argenta, Nevada 3-1-1869
L.M. Clement (right) and Jacob Blickensderfer (left) on the
pilot of the C.P.R.R. locomotive, "Falcon", at Argenta,
Nevada, March 1, 1869, inspecting the line as members
of the U.S. Special Pacific Railroad Commission.
Click here for enlargements of the above photograph.
Courtesy Bruce Clement Cooper Collection.
After completing the transcontinental line, Lewis Clement helped design and build the railroad line from Sacramento south to Los Angeles by way of the San Joaquin Valley for the Southern Pacific Railroad which eventually absorbed the Central Pacific. He later was appointed Chief Engineer of the Western Division of the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad which became part of the Santa Fe Railroad.

Atlantic and Pacific Railroad Bond
Atlantic & Pacific Railroad Bond, 1880
Lewis Metzler Clement was the Chief Engineer of the Western Division.

In 1881 Clement was named Chief Engineer of the Pacific Improvement Company, a subsidiary of the Southern Pacific Railroad, in which capacity he designed and built urban cable and electric railways, power plants, and car houses.

Among the cable lines he was responsible for building were the Hays Street, Castro Street, and McAllister Street Cable lines and the Mission Street Electric Railway in San Francisco, and the San Pablo Avenue Cable extension and Telegraph Avenue Electric Railway in Oakland. The cablecar turntable at the foot of Market Street in San Francisco was also his design.

CaneClement also traveled to Durango, México, to report on the advisability of building a railroad to that city from the distant coal mines. While in México he was entertained at the Presidential Palace by President Porfírio Díaz who gave him a beautifully carved cane (currently in the possession of the author; click on photograph at left for an enlarged view of the cane) with Clement's initials and the seal of México. Díaz provided Clement's party of four with soldiers as guards as they did their survey, but the Mexican Army at that time was largely recruited from among the outlaw class and Clement and his party were more than a little uncomfortable as they slept in old crumbling adobe buildings in remote and lonely spots realizing they could be killed at any moment for but a small bribe.

Gov. Leland Stanford admired Lewis Clement greatly and sought his advice when he established Leland Stanford Jr. University in 1891 to honor the memory of his late son. Clement visited universities and colleges in the East as well as many companies manufacturing mechanical and electrical machinery to select the equipment for these departments at Stanford.

Lewis Clement was an avid reader who was equally at home with the classics as he was with engineering journals. He was a prolific inventor and a member of many international and professional societies including the Imperial Institute of the United Kingdom and the Colonies of India, The Institute of Civil Engineers (London), A Fellow of the Royal Institute, The Franklin Institute of Philadelphia, The American Society of Mechanical Engineers, The American Institute of Electrical Engineers, The Technical Society of the Pacific Coast, and the Geographical Society of California.

BRUCE CLEMENT COOPER, is a professional writer and communications consultant living in Ardmore, PA. The great, great grandson of Lewis Metzler Clement, his published works include four books and over 1,500 articles on various subjects. Cooper's most recent book, "Riding the Transcontinental Rails: Overland Travel on the Pacific Railroad 1865-1881" (Polyglot Press, 2005), is a profusely illustrated 445-page anthology which includes over a dozen extensive first person accounts of travel over the CPRR and UPRR during the Pacific Railroad's first years of operation  written by some of the best writers,  journalists, and adventurers of the day. Much of the material for this article has come both from Lewis Clement's own papers and the extensive written notes by his longest surviving child, Maude L. Clement, of her own personal recollections about her father and mother, and what they told her about their lives.

© 1991-2005 by Bruce C. Cooper

Researchers or others interested in further information on Lewis M. Clement and his work (especially on the Central Pacific Railroad) may contact the author at:

Bruce C. Cooper
Cooper-Clement Associates
P.O. Box 468
Ardmore, PA 19003-0468
(610) 896-7747

Images courtesy of:

See also "The First Transcontinental Railroad" by civil engineer, John Debo Galloway.

Letter of Recommendation for L. M. Clement, 1863

Courtesy Bruce C. Cooper Collection.





Ohio & Mississippi Railroad

St. Louis Jany 24th, 1863

To whom it may Concern

The bearer of this Mr. L.M. Clement was for more than a year engaged with this Company at E. St. Louis as a clerk and afterward for some time as Station Agent and telegrapher at Lebanon, Ill.

In both positions he acquitted himself in such a manner as to win for himself the highest confidence and regard from the officers of the Company, and I most cheerfully offer this my willing testimony of his integrity, capacity, and energy in any position he may assume.

He left us voluntarily and to our regret.

I commend him to any individual, firm or corporation needing the services of a capable and faithful man.


W. Abraham, Auditor

E.R. Blanchard

General Frt. Agent

F.M. Ham






Salt Lake March 14th 1869

Friend Mark

I have arrived at Brigham City a week ago tonight. I have telegraphed to let you know the Situation.

Our work is going on well and is so far advanced that there need be no delay in track laying from the end of the present track to Ogden in consequence of grading. The UP have changed their line so as to cross us five times with unequal grades between Bear River and the Promontory.

They have done this purposely as their was no necessity for so doing.

I think they have calculated on the report of the Special Commission favorable to this line and but for the addition of Clement to the Commission would have got it. That the thing was set up with Warren and every thing understood as to what the UP needed I have no doubt. His behavior has indicated that he has had a part to fill. B. [Blickensderfer] was safe to adopt his own line besides his friendship with Dodge was another strong reliance.

Warren and B did not wish to go to Echo Summit to examine uncompleted line claiming uncompleted line to be only between the ends of the track. I made a strong representation to Williamson and he and Clem determined on going and B concluded to go with them but Warren came down here in charge of U.P. People.

I don't think any report will be ready to mail for a week or more, then there will be disagreement and two reports probably. If the U.P. could have got report favorable to their line I conclude their intention to have been to deny that we have the right of way and claim it for themselves and that we should not get it. Hence their crossing us at unequal grades. They have laid track about three miles west of Ogden. I do not intend to finish up our line but keep our men scattered along it until our track is close upon them. I don't think there will be any attempt to [xx] our line while it is unfinished and we are working on it.

I am strongly of the opinion that if it were known that we had the bonds for the unfinished work that the UP would call off the grading. They commenced to break ground last Monday on the heavy work at Promontory. We shall serve notice for them not to interfere with out line and rest there for the present.

Just now as we have those bonds it seems to me we had better keep quiet if they do not crowd too hard and get our track forward as fast as possible. I shall keep Judge Robinson here probably until everything is safe. When that will be I don't know.

Yours truly

Leland Stanford


NOTE: Grammar, spelling, capitalization and punctuation have not been changed from the original.


to Mark Hopkins RELATING TO(1/29/1869)

Salt Lake, January 29th 1869

Friend Mark

I have been in hopes for some time that I should be able to answer all your letters in person, but this Commission has detained me and now I shall be in Cal before the middle of Feb with good luck. On Monday, Feb 1st, we start to examine the line from end of UP track in Weber Can[ñ]on through to our track. It is not expected that we will make more than twenty (20) miles a day. The Comrs [Commissioners] propose to make critical examination. From the instructions and Straws I fear the thing is set up against us. The far off distance of our track and Slow progress makes against us with great force – It is trying to our nerves to think of. The UP are detained for probably (10) ten days more at a cut in Weber Can[ñ]on after that they say there is nothing to stop them in track laying. They are making extensive preparations to finish through this Valley and have been surveying for light work upon 116 foot grades at Promontory. I will send you a copy of the instructions of the Sec on Interior to the Comrs [Commissioners]. Huntington sent them to me under date of the 18th. Of course he had them just arrived. He enclosed them without remark and I have had nothing further from him.

I fear he is having a hard time in trying to save what a want of foresight has jeopardized if not lost. I tell you Hopkins the thought makes me feel like a dog. I have no pleasure in the thought of Railroad. It is mortification.

It is not safe to take money from here to pay off Carter and [Shurtiff]. The green backs will have to come from California. I have written to Montague to have the work estimated up to Feb first – the amt [amount] advanced from here is (10,500) ten thousand five hundred dollars.

I have told Montague what to do. I think he had better telegraph you after the estimate is made and the account for Supplies all in for the amount of [currency] money required to pay off and then for you to send it as you think best. If any difficulty of consequence arises from any cause about settling the work then let it remain until I arrive. But I think Montague understands the contracts and sub contractors and classification so that he being present there will be no difficulty. The sub contractors must be present at the payment and receive [item] their money.

Yours Truly

Leland Stanford


NOTE: Grammar, spelling, capitalization and punctuation have not been changed from the original.

Letter from Leland Stanford to Mark Hopkins (4/1/1867)

San Francisco, April 1st, 1867

Friend Hopkins

Your letter of the 29th [Uls?] covering one from Huntington rcd [received].

Also rcd [received] today from Crocker [as] letter from the man who went out to attend the drilling machines. He says Strobridge says that the present engine cannot be stopped to make the necessary connections for steam. Mr. More [?] says it will not take over two hours at the most. Now if they get out rock so fast that to pile up at the shaft what they would raise in two hours could not could not be got out of the way, why then it would seem that the drilling machines would be of little benefit because it would seem that already our progress had reached the point as which it was equal to the capacity of the raiser. But I have bought an Engine and will have it sent up. What is necessary is to connect it to present boiler–

Yours truly

Leland Stanford


NOTE: Grammar, spelling, capitalization and punctuation have not been changed from the original.

Bart Nadeau wrote:
> One of the collections at the Western Railway Museum is the L. M. Clement
> Collection - a small holding of glass plates and plans purchased from a book
> dealer in Oakland about 10-15 years ago. The glass plates were supposed to
> have been taken by him and are mostly of powerhouse interiors and other
> technical subjects of the Oakland Railway and the Market St. Cable [Railway] - both
> [Southern Pacific Railroad] properties at the time.
> Bart Nadeau Secretary and Chair - Archives Committee BAERA/WRM

Montague's letter to Engineers about L. M. Clement, August 18, 1869.

Montague's letter to Engineers about L. M. Clement, August 18, 1869.

      Engineer's Office,
               Sacramento, Augst 18th 1869
   Engineers in charge and
      Assistant Engineers
         CPRR, WPRR and C&ORR
                              Hereafter and until further
instructions, communications to the Chief Engineer's
office will be addressed to Mr L M Clement
who is authorized to issue instructions andSamuel Skerry Montague, CVD. Courtesy of the Mike Bentley Collection.
transact other business of the Engineer's
Department in my absence.
                                          Sam S Montague
                                          Chf Engr

(The railroads are Central Pacific, Western Pacific and California & Oregon.)

The slanted words by someone else reads "S S. Montague was son of Susan Hibbard No. 1399/born in Holyoke Mass." [a genealogical comment]

Promontory map showing line change laid-out by Clement.  Courtesy Lynn Farrar.

The portion of the railroad right of way map showing mile posts 767 and 768 are the original Promontory line on which track was constructed in 1869. The sharp curve at the bottom is the line change laid-out by Clement that obviated a tunnel through a high hill. His compound curve necessitated a 28 foot high cut but saved several hundred feet, of expensive tunneling that Leland Stanford told Collis Huntington would have cost $75,000 more. The hill is the only significant grading that the CP did as they neared Promontory. On a USGS map of northwestern Utah with T(ownship) 10 N(orth), R(ange) 7 W(est), S(alt) L(ake) M(eridian) you can pinpoint the exact location. The track alignment is shown as a dashed line because the track was removed in 1942 to use the rails for military use in army depots and other places. Mile post 767 is some 6 miles west of Promontory station (site) where the US Park Service has a super visitor's area.

Courtesy Lynn D. Farrar, Valuation Engineer, retired, Southern Pacific Transportation Company.

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