Rapid development of Southern Pacific marked by loyalty of pioneer employees who made good in early days.
By J. O. Wilder

With the road open again, we were assured of something to eat. The work in the tunnel was progressing rapidly, for we could hear the gangs in either heading 200 feet apart. Engineer Phelps, Fred King and myself were giving grades and centers. As spring approached we got our stakes ready to cross-section from the tunnel up to the head of Cold Stream and down the other side (this is known as the horseshoe) to the Truckee River.

One morning at 1 o'clock in early May the two headings were broken through. The honor of this event fell to Helmer in the east end and Dow in the west end. These two men were shift bosses, as were Deardoff and Dave Dramer. They worked twelve hours straight, with no Saturdays afternoons off and ten days' vacation was unknown. It was just plain work and push ahead and make every move count. I was sent to the summit with a message to Mr. Clement telling him we had broken through. He read the message and started for our camp. He got there before I did, although I took a fast freight team.

I did not see him on the road, but we will leave that to the white mule, for he could go almost anywhere and had a way all his own in getting there, as he could pick his way up a mountain or go down one as well as a man, and when it became too difficult to walk he would slide. Anyway, Clement and the mule were there when I arrived, which was late in the day, and Mr. Clement spent the night at our camp. I tied his muleship in the stable. Next morning Mr. Clement, Mr. Phelps and the party went up to the tunnel, tried the centers from both ends and found that it was just two inches out. It was a wonderful piece of engineering at that time. So far as I know I am the only one left of the civil engineer corps at Camp 5. Mr. Phelps and Mr. King have long since passed from the iron trail.

Back to Sacramento

In June we laid out the bents for the bridge across Donner Creek, also the big culvert at the head of Cold Stream. Toward the latter part of the month Mr. Montague requested that I be sent to Sacramento for transfer to the locomotive department. So on the 30th day of June I rolled up my blankets, put my belongings in my carpet bag and bidding them all goodbye I made ready to start. The last one I called on was a man I had learned to love. He was a man well up in years, and like myself alone. He had always been kind to me. Putting his arms around me he kissed me goodbye with the tears rolling down his cheeks. He said "Johnny, be a good boy, for we will never meet again," and his words have come true; and it is a pleasure for me to write the name of C. H. Davis, chief cook at Camp 5, and I still have my boyhood regard for this noble hearted man.

Seated on a fast freight wagon and all wishing me good luck I bid Camp 5 my last goodbye. At the summit we stopped to change horses. I stepped in the civil engineer's office to say goodbye to those who were in at the time. On my way down to Cisco (which at this time was the terminal), where passengers took the Pioneer Stage line for Virginia City and Gold Hill and other points in Nevada, I noted the rapid progress the construction gangs were making, one being within a half mile of the west end of Summit Valley, and it was plain to be seen that the iron horse would be there before the tunnel was completed.

I arrived in Sacramento on July 3, 1867. I reported to Mr. Montague upstairs over 54 K Street, where I had reported to him one year before. He looked me over, told me to go get a hair cut, clean myself up, get a new suit of clothes, then come back. I bought my outfit from John Silvercrup's store on the northwest corner of Third and K Streets. John Trauback waited on me and my complete outfit cost me $25. I went back and could see by the expression on Mr. Montague's face that I looked more presentable. He took me in his buggy to the shops and introduced me to the Master Mechanic I. H. Graves, who told me to report for work on the 5th as the shops were closed on the 4th. I was there on time with my overalls, and was told to report to J. I. Gerrish, foreman of the machine shop. He started me on a tap machine, tapping nuts for bridge bolts. The shops at this time were located at Sixth and E Streets, and seemed to me to be built on a levee. There were four pits for the engines, and G. D.Welsh was the foreman. The machine shop and pits were under one roof.

Days in the Old Shops.

The blacksmith shop, boiler shop, paint and car shops were in separate sheds. The foremen at this time were J. L Gerrish, machine shop; Frank LaShell, blacksmith shop; Jim Hall, boiler shop; I. G. Shaw, patternmaker; Ben Welsh, master car builder; with H. W. Seaman foreman. The paint shop foreman's name I have forgotten. The work turned out in this small machine shop was enormous, for the truss rods for bridges were threaded and there were hundreds of them, 2 by 30 inches long; bridge plates, bridge bolts and freight car bolts. Each bolt had a nut put on, and there were thousands of them. We never had to wait for the supply department those days; also the car wheels were bored, the axles turned by Bill Hammond, who ran two lathes.

It was about this time the Western Division as being built. This meant more work for the shops, for frogs, switch targets and everything that goes with construction, so an annex was built over the slough, more machines put in and started up. The engine which we called the 'donkey' bucked at its load and Billy Moran, the engineer, would pat it on the back with a hundred and enough, but it was not equal to the load, so Foreman Gerrish cut out some of the machines until such time as a larger one could be installed. Inside of ten days we had one with more power. Jim Hall, the foreman of the boiler shop, got the dimensions of the smokestack, had it made and ready to be put up. One Saturday they tore out the side of the shop, installed the new engine and every machine was moving Monday morning. The last time I saw the old 'donkey' it was standing on the edge of the slough, a monument to those it had so cheerfully worked for. They, too, have passed out from the shop and were forgotten. So far as I know all the men and apprentice boys who worked in the old shop only two remain in the company's employ, my time-honored friend H. G. Thiel and myself, and while I am speaking about the old apprentice boys I would like to say a word to the boys of today.

In our time at 4 o'clock Saturday afternoon we were told to 'wipe the machines.' After this was done we were handed a broom and each one


Courtesy of the Lynn D. Farrar Collection.

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