John O. Wilder, Engineering Corps, Sacramento Shops.

The above named officials wanted a locomotive to work the drum and rock cage in the shaft at the summit tunnel, and it was up to the Motive Power to get it there, as soon as possible. The Dept at this time ­ 1866 ­ was in charge of I. H. Graves, its first Master Mechanic. He found that the Sacramento and Placerville Company had an engine that would answer the purpose. It was a small Hinckley Four Driver and Pony Truck. He gave them in exchange an engine from a railroad that our Company had taken over, with terminals at Folsom and Lincoln, that part of the roadbed between Roseville and Lincoln, and is at present a part of the Oregon line. I again find myself back again with my first love, the Civil Engineering Corps. The engine of which I speak was dismantled at Sacramento, everything taken from her to lighten her weight. The cab and tank and stack were left at Sacramento, and then was pulled up the line to Gold Run, which was the terminal. Here she was jacked up, wheels taken out, and by the use of traveling jacks was moved 14" at a time to a logging truck, with wheels 24" wide. This truck later did service at tunnel 13, as did Missouri Bill and his ox team from whom I learned the story of its transportation and to whom I am indebted, of the first locomotive to reach the summit of the Sierras, though not under her own power. With the engine on the truck, securely bolted and braced to the same, he made ready to start with what he pleased to term "the black picked goose," with ten yoke of oxen, with wagon master Pratt in charge, with several teamsters to assist, they got under way. All went well until a half mile east of Dutch Flat. It was here the engine received its first cussing, for she had been the cause of stampeding a ten-mule freight team. Any one familiar with them knows that when they start something usually finishes it to the queen's taste, with broken harness, tug chains, and broken bells knocked from the hands of those who tried to get behind the back action, with this mixup, and a hundred or so more, staring the owners of prairie schooners in the face, for repairs, they certainly had a just cause to wish she was in Hell, instead of on the road. This happened every day while on her way up the mountain; even the stage coach horses would balk at the sight of her, and it finally became necessary to blindfold the teams of mules and horses to get them to pass, for they would leave the road and take to the hills or the ravines, whichever looked the best to them, not being particular either about what they took along (with them). They would endeavor to kick themselves loose, leaving everything in the road before heading for the bushes. These mixups became so numerous that teamsters made complaints to the company, which were referred to the company's Chief Wagon Master, D. P. Pratt, the latter suggesting that they keep her location on the road in mind, and when nearing blind-fold every mule or horse in the team, leading the leaders by the bit, also giving the services of his teamsters with the engine outfit to help them. This method worked wonders and was strictly adhered to, with the exception of the traveling man, who knew not of her presence on the road. It mattered little if it was a young team, or an old pair of skates trotting along with their head down (where trotting was good) just one look, that was enough to brighten their eyes, forgetting they were old, having taken on new life,-now ready for the hills. Should a driver get by with only the loss of a dash-board, luck was sure with him. This proved quite a problem to say the least, for the further up the mountain, the steeper the grades, there also being many soft places in the road, caused by the springs above the road; but Wagon Master Pratt would not take any chances. He had small trees cut and laid crosswise, others laid lengthwise, with heavy brush matting. Some of these places were from 10' to 25' or more (one of which I will speak later). This all consumed much time. Where the grade was too heavy for the oxen, Mr. Pratt would stop one of the company's fast freight teams to give him a lift up the grade. Mr. Pratt, with the first locomotive, has now reached the divide above Emigrant Gap. From here to Crystal Lake, is down grade.   This was the largest problem of all, for he must make assurance doubly sure, taking into consideration the heavy weight.   This part of her journey was fraught with fear, for one mishap meant loss of time and perhaps engine, so with heavy logging chains, and chain tackle made fast to big pine trees, they would let down as far as the tackle would permit, then blocked, and tackle changes each time, till bottom of grade reached.   The heaviest grade encountered was leaving Crystal Lake, going down to the Yuba River.   Heretofore on some grades Mr. Pratt had used three heavy chains and tackle.   This time it was four of them, and several times had to plant Dutchman, as big pine trees were not handy to the road.   When nearing the town of Heatonville, (now known as Lower Cisco) came to a soft place in the road where the ground was as black as ink, caused by an iron spring somewhere up the mountain side.   Here Mr. Pratt laid the longest log road that was laid on the trip.   It was after sundown when Mr. Pratt pulled the "black goose" into town.   He had now reached the bottom of all grades without a mishap.   From here to the summit it was up hill. Her presence in town made some little commotion among the teams put up there for the night.  (The teamsters tried to make this town each going and coming.   It was wide open, with any game you wished, ­ from poker to an old hat)  So Mr. Pratt had her hauled up the road for the night, and was again on the way at day-light, on the last leg of the journey, which was practically clear sailing with the excepting of crossing the upper and lower outlets of Kidd's Lake, now known as the Cascade.   The bridge across the Yuba River at the lower end of the Summit Valley had been rebuilt, as also had been the one at Drivers' Creek, by order of Mr. Montague and Strobridge.   The locomotive had been six weeks in making the trip without a mishap.  Every detail had been worked out for her coming.  She was jacked up and placed on the huge timbers and soon ready to pay interest the cost of her coming. Too much praise cannot be given these strong-willed employes of the Central Pacific, from Mr. Pratt, down to Missouri Bill, the bullwhacker, (I never knew his name, but to whom I am indebted for the above remembrances)   Should this story meet the eyes of some pioneer Railroad Veteran of the Central Pacific Company, who took part in this undertaking, I know he will bear with me if I have taken from or added to the same, as fifty-six years have elapsed since it was related to me as a small boy.   This much I do know of my own knowledge, that when the Civil Engineering Party, of which I was a member, reached the Summit, with the location line in August, 1866, the engine was running the hoisting works, in the shaft which, at this time, was down nearly 90 feet. The engineers I remember were Con Collins and George Gifford, and they worked 12 hour shifts,- no firemen and no Saturday afternoons or Sundays off duty. 

    But I had forgotten that I am taking much of your valuable time. 

        Could I at any time be of service to you, I would gladly do so. 

I am,  

                                            Yours Most Respectfully,      

                                     (signed)   J O Wilder, Sr
                                                  1708  O  St Sacto



Courtesy of the Lynn D. Farrar Collection.

Central Pacific Railroad Photographic History Museum
Copyright ©2005,  All Rights Reserved.  [Last Updated 7/5/2005]

Use of this Web site constitutes acceptance of the User Agreement;
Click any image or link to accept.