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A Souvenir of the Transcontinental Excursion of Railroad Agents, 1870.
By one of the party.

Albany: Weed, Parson & Co., 1871.  pp. 42-52

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Gold on Maroon Book Cover (detail)

Excursion of Travel Agents - frontis dedication


415 California St., San Francisco. 56 and 58 K St., Sacramento.
54 William St., New York City.  303 Broadway, New York City.

LELAND STANFORD          President.
C. P. HUNTINGTON         First Vice President.
CHARLES CROCKER          Second Vice President.
MARK HOPKINS             Treasurer.
E .B. CROCKER            Attorney and General Agent.
E. H. MILLER, JR         Secretary.
W. H. PORTER             Auditor.
S. S. MONTAGUE           Chief Engineer.
B. B. REDDING            Land Commissioner.
J. R. WATSON             General Supply Agent.
F. L. VANDENBURGH        Superintendent Telegraph.
A. N. TOWNE              General Superintendent.
JOHN CORNING             Ass't General Superintendent.
E. C. FELLOWS            Sup't Western & Visalia Divisions
F. W. BOWEN              Sup't Sacramento & Oregon Div's.
C. D. MONTAYNE           Sup't Truckee Division.
C. E. GILLETT            Sup't Humboldt Division.
JAS. CAMPBELL            Sup't Salt Lake Division.
F. KNOWLAND              General Eastern Agent.
HENRY STARRING           General Baggage Agent.
CHAS. W. SMITH           General Freight Agent.
T. H. GOODMAN            General Passenger Agent.

The SALT LAKE DIVISION, Ogden to Toano                     182
HUMBOLDT DIVISION, Toano to Winnemucca                     237
TRUCKEE DIVISION, Winnemucca to Truckee                    204
SACRAMENTO DIVISION, Truckee to Sacramento                 120
WESTERN DIVISION, Sacramento to San Francisco              138
OREGON DIVISION, junction to Soto                           92
 (Now building to the Oregon State Line.)
VISALIA DIVISION, Lathrop to Stanislaus River               12
 (Now building to Visalia and south.)
SAN JOSE BRANCH, Niles to San Jose                          18
S. F. AND OAKLAND RAILROAD, San Francisco to Brooklyn        8
S. F. AND ALAMEDA RAILROAD, San Francisco to Hayward's      21
Total now being operated                                 11032

Excursion of Travel Agents - ticket

And now the train moves on, around the head of Salt Lake, passing, during the night, many places of interest, among them Brigham city, Corrine, Bear river, noted in the reports of early discoverers, and the scenes occurring to the early emigrants.  During this night's ride, we passed over much territory worth seeing, which was viewed with deep interest on our return by the light of day.

The morning broke upon us coursing over the great American desert," an area of about sixty miles square. It was desolate and lonely the bare beds of alkali or wastes of gray sand alone meet the eye.  It is plausibly conjectured that this desert was once the bed of a saline lake, perhaps a portion of the Great Salt Lake itself.

As we looked out upon these shoreless wastes, there came to us forcibly the words of scripture:  " The whole land thereof is brimstone and salt and burning, that it is not sown, nor beareth, nor any grass groweth therein."

On this desert, as all along the road from Omaha, we see the low mud huts of the Chinese laborers — the division hands of the railroad.  They would step aside from the track and give us a mere passing look, returning to the track instantly, shovel in hand, giving the retreating train not a glance.  So far as our observation went, they were models of industry and faithfulness.  By their appearance and a peep into their abodes, we judged scarcity of water in that desert was not a serious drawback to these celestials.  If cleanliness is a part of godliness, then " John Chinaman " is certainly a godless fellow.

Late in the morning we arrived at Elko, the most important town in Nevada, and the most prominent station on the Central Pacific, cast of Sacramento.

Its importance arises from the fact of its being the center of the White Pine trade and travel.

Here we had an excellent breakfast at the Cosmopolitan Hotel, well kept by Mr. Treat.  Many of us met old friends at this station, and spent a most agreeable hour in chatting with them and walking about the town.


Moving on we soon reach Carlin, a place of importance to the road.  Here we first met with Indians in any considerable number. They sat upon the ground near the station.  In one circle eight or ten of the males were gambling for money.  Near by sat an equal number of squaws, gambling for beads and bears' bones, their children playing about them.  We were told that they belonged to the tribe of Shoshones.  A more stolid, degraded, filthy, thievish looking set of vagabonds in human form we had never seen.  From others which we saw at different places along the line of the railroads, we had fears that we should never have our eyes gladdened with any specimen of the it noble " red man " pictured to us by Fenimore Cooper and hundreds of his imitators since.  From all that we saw and heard, the noble red man is "played out," and a mere remnant is left, half brute, half savage, lingering in a greatly modified human form.


Soon after leaving Carlin, we enter Humboldt cañon, twelve miles in length.  The Humboldt river cuts its way through this defile of rocks, running rapidly and angrily along its pent up sides.  This cañon, though not so grand as some we had passed, still was a scene long to be remembered.  In the fantastically piled up rocks, without much imagination, we saw castles, bowers, vast fortifications, immense breastworks of contending armies, fallen temples, and abandoned, crumbling cities.  The party, in that half hour "run" through " twelve mile cañon," lived months in feast of eyes and emotion of heart.

Here many thrilling incidents have occurred during the "emigrant times."  Near this cañon a party from Arkansas were surprised by hostile Indians, while resting at noon, and instantly killed, with the exception of one of their number, who snatched up his rifle and retreated to the nearest cover, and there battled with all the energy of despair, killing several of the savages before being dispatched by the arrows of his assailants.

At Battle Mountain station we dined with the oldest hotel keeper of Nevada, Mr. N. H. Gardner.  Before approaching the station, bills of fare were scattered through the cars.  As we read over this metropolitan bill of varied luscious dishes, we thought, what would the emigrants, toiling and starving over this region, only a few years ago, have said, if assured that immediately on their heels the iron horse would draw up a train of passengers to a first class eating station, within sight of the very spot of their deadly encounter with the savages ?  But so it is with this Yankee nation " you can't most always tell, sometimes, when you least expect it the most."

From here on to Humboldt station, we pass over a country of not much interest except in its past history of Indians and emigrants, mines and hot springs.  No vegetation meets the eye but the sage brush — alkali beds are frequent and the impalpable dust stirred up by the rushing train penetrates through the double windows of our cars, and produces some sore throats and lips.


At a late hour in the evening we supped at Humboldt, and push on in high spirits, knowing that in the morning our eyes are to be gladdened with the sight of the Sierra Nevadas.  We gather in our usual groups, and talk over the days incidents, the coming scenes of mountain and plains, and our advent into the metropolis of the Pacific on the morrow.  We can never be grateful enough to that party of ladies, who made even the alkaline plains a sort of oasis, by their smiles, good cheer and uniform vivacity of spirits.  Those evenings across the continent can never be forgotten.  We watched this forced female society upon two veteran old bachelors gradually we noticed their hardness begin to soften, the rigidity of face give away, and reticence breaking into a kind of chattiness.  From the influence of that trip we are looking confidently in the list of marriages for the announcement that Mr. E. S. T. or Mr. A. J. M. were, etc., etc.

That night we retired to our beds oppressed with summer heat, somewhat restless and dusty.  In the morning we awoke at Truckee with frosty windows, a crisp and bracing air about us. We had commenced the ascent of the Sierra range.

The ascent from Truckee mingles the grand with the beautiful. The first rays of the sun added brilliancy to the landscape and tinged the mountain peaks with gold. All were pointing out objects of beauty and grandeur. As we rounded a mountain peak, or pursued our course through a gorge, or darted through a tunnel, on every side, and ever, scenes awing, grand and beautiful, passed before us. The weight of the rails, and the solidity of the track, and the ease with which the locomotive moved our heavy train in this wild region of mountain cañons and peaks, drew forth unstinted praise from our practical party of railroad judges.

We mounted the engine and rode along this track among the clouds now moving along on sideling rocks — now upon the edge of dizzy precipices, looking down a thousand feet upon patches of grass and silver streams. " Ah, but," said the engineer, "you ought to see it snow here coming down in flakes as big as a pancake to a depth of feet in an hour."  We suggested that it was not really natural snowing, but that the clouds drifting along these mountains were punctured by their peaks, and their contents abnormally emptied.  He expressed himself gratified with this new explanation of the heavy snowing of these mountain regions, only, he said, the less abnormal snowing the better for him and all concerned in railroading on the Sierras.


The summit was reached at an early hour, where we were met by Mr. S. P. Holden, Mr. Roe, Mr. Patten of the Cosmopolitan, and Mr. Ridgeway of the Grand Hotel, San Francisco.  At the " Summit House," a most excellent breakfast was provided; All were in capital eating order, and did the good things provided ample justice.

After breakfast the party, guided by Mr. Goodman, who, since his meeting the party at Ogden, had been most indefatigable in his efforts to make us all perfectly comfortable, proceeded through the long tunnel on the summit (1,659 feet) to the mountain tops overlooking Donner lake.  Here the party were for a moment lost in silent admiration of the beautiful landscape reposing in serene beauty far beneath them.  However aweinspiring the scene and sublime the spectacle of so large a number of persons thus quietly doing homage to the great Creator, it could not long continue. The pent up feelings of the party must have vent, and so with one accord they sang " I Praise God from whom all blessings flow."

The party then scattered among the rocks in search of lichens, mosses and ferns, of which each lady brought away large selections.

A stay of two hours was allowed us at the summit, during which time we enjoyed ourselves as children, rambling over the mountains.

As we were on the point of departure, an agreeable surprise was given to us by our hostess, who presented four of the party, viz., C. W. Smith and lady, A. Hull and wife, Mrs. Evarts and Mr. G. L. Grant, with handsome cakes, neatly ornamented with sugar ornaments, and having the name of each fortunate recipient put on with the same sweet material.  Much satisfaction was shown by the entire party for this marked kindness, and no jealousy was shown by those who were not recipients from the hostess.  All understood the names were selected at random.

Refreshed and delighted by their stay at the summit, the party again set out on their journey westward.

After getting clear of the almost interminable snowsheds, the grand scenery around us was greatly enjoyed.

A little above the forks of the American river, the observation car was attached to the train.  In this the ladies, and as many gentlemen as could get comfortably inside of it, took up their places of observation.  On went the train, at first at good speed, but latterly slower and slower, until it stopped on the brink of a precipice; and, as the magnificent view of the forks of the American river burst upon our delighted gaze, expressions of admiration broke forth from all.

After halting sufficiently long to give every person present an opportunity of feasting their eyes upon the grand mountain scenery, the train again moved rapidly on.  Fifteen miles more of the same enchanting scenery, in which the long ridges of the Sierras, bristling with pine trees like huge cheveaux-de-frise filled up the back ground, we arrived, after several false alarms, at the real Cape Horn—a scene of sublime grandeur, unequaled on the whole transcontinental railroad.


It is difficult to describe in words the sublimity of this scene. Our first sensation upon its bursting into full view was that of faintness, not from fear, but from intense awe.  Here our train rested upon the side of a mountain away up near its summit, like a statue in a niche high up on some old tower.  Down, down the precipitous sides of our mountain, 2,500 feet below us, we saw a silver stream—plats of grass—great trees that looked like garden shrubbery.  Across a brief valley and mountain sides intervened, and on and beyond them peaks on peaks piled themselves to the skies.

Lengthen out that valley, raise those mountains but a little, and you look down on Yosemite from the track of the Central Pacific.  We gazed long and enchanted on that scene of sublimity and beauty, and entered our train, saying, audibly, " Oh ! Lord, how manifold are thy works, in wisdom hast thou made them all."

We move on, surrounded on every side by scenes of grandeur; descending rapidly the Sierra range, we pass through mining towns, looking upon hundreds of acres of " surface diggings " where man has toiled and sweat for the shining ore; we see miles and miles of " sluice ways " running parallel with us, over us and under us, across gorges and through mountains sides and all for gold.  Now we begin to catch glimpses of the plains of the Pacific.  We are rapidly descending into the valley of the Sacramento.

With what interest did we look out upon this land of the extreme west.  We should soon gaze upon the waters of the Pacific and walk the streets of its metropolis.


Sacramento is reached at 5 P. M. Here we stop an hour and look about the capital of the Golden State.  Mr. Towne, General Superintendent, and Mr. Corning, Assistant General Superintendent, of the Central Pacific had joined us in the morning, and added much to our enjoyments by their attentions and care for us.  And here we would remember with gratitude, Messrs. Kohler and Floring, and Messrs. Eberhart and Lachman, for sending refreshments for the use of the party.

On leaving Sacramento we were happy to find on board E. C. Fellows, Superintendent of the Western division of the C. P. R. R.  We had rode many hundred miles in former years under his conductorship on the New York Central Railroad.  The passage from this city to San Francisco Bay was through a beautiful and fertile plain, dotted here and there with an oak, which in the distance greatly resembled vigorous orchards.  This ride of one hundred and thirty six miles, under the guidance of Mr. Fellows, showed conclusively that " tall running " could be made on the Pacific roads as well as those of the Atlantic.

At Oakland many of the party were met by old friends, residents of California.  Passing on to the ferry boat, the lights of San Francisco, five miles across the bay, presented a beautiful sight; the city being built on a side hill, giving at one view the gas lights of numerous streets.


On the wharf at San Francisco we were met by carriages which conveyed us to the various hotels where we had been previously assigned.  At these abodes of comfort and luxury we were at once at home; though our trip had been so comfortable, so well arranged, so leisurely made, that no one felt the sense of weariness.  The writer, with some forty or fifty of the party, were located at the " Grand Hotel."  We can say, heartily, this hotel well deserves its title.  In its appointments we believe it is not excelled by any in our country.  The especial attentions shown us by Mr. Ridgeway, one of the proprietors, was appreciated.  Those of our party located at the " Cosmopolitan " and " Occidental " report genial hosts and luxurious accommodations.


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