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The Rose Bud Letter
"The Union Pacific is nearly out of powder" wrote Sam Montague, Chief Engineer of the Central Pacific, on March 20, 1869, to Butler Ives, Division Engineer of the C.P.R.R. east of Promontory. Ives had been chief location engineer for the road in Nevada and Utah and in a prophetic vein had written his brother in February that the two roads were expected to meet in May. Another letter of April 24 from Ives to a friend, George Clark of San Francisco, said that he was told to stop all work on grading and structures east of Blue Creek by Leland Stanford per his secretary, E. B. Ryan. Ives was also ordered by Montague to "keep Governor Stanford informed of Union Pacific demonstrations at the point where they cross us east (sic) of Blue Creek. They have not cut our line yet."
During March several hundred of Crocker's Chinese were attacking the rock work at Red Dome (Ombey), 50 miles west of Promontory. Both sides were straining to complete the maximum track mileage, and it requires little imagination to picture the short tempers that must have been common among the inhabitants of both camps. That more violence did not occur between the rivals is miraculous.
Promontory, the ultimate site for posterity, was originally called North Pass or Ives Pass, in deference to the man whose location work was followed by both railroads. It was on either side of here that the last construction problems were met and conquered. The Central Pacific's Mormon Contractors had made a giant fill just yards from the Union Pacific's big trestle (above Surbon) while at Blue Creek (Lampo) both roads chose trestling to achieve the final drop to the valley floor.
Congress decided the historic meeting place for the rails and selected the Union Pacific road bed to be used Ogden to Promontory. The operating demands of the Central Pacific, however, dictated exchanging the UP grade for the CP grade for four miles (1) from the rock cuts eastward circa 1871. What had been so strenuously fought for with muscle in the spring of 1869 was not to prevail entirely for either company. With a requisite amount of time for study engineering judgment supplanted legislative decision. In effect the tracks met "at the Rock Cuts on the eastern slope of the Promontory" but it was not to be for about two years after Crocker's Rose Bud message to Mark Hopkins. LYNN D. FARRAR
Note: Rose Bud Springs fed the tanks at Terrace, an important division point for fueling andwatering locomotives.
(1) A report in 1874 shows cost of change $114,360.45.
This is Number Five of twelve Keepsakes issued during 1969 to its members by The Book Club of California in commemoration of the centennial of the transcontinental railroad. The series has been edited by David F. Myrick and designed and printed by Lawton and Alfred Kennedy. The letter is reproduced through the courtesy of the California State Library. The map was prepared by the Southern Pacific Company. Lynn D. Farrar is Valuation Engineer for the Southern Pacific Company.
Courtesy The Book Club of California.