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|"A light car,
drawn by a single horse, gallops up to the front with its load of
men seize the end of a rail and start forward, the rest of the gang
taking hold by twos, until it is clear of the car. They come
forward at a run. At the word of command the rail is dropped
in its place, right side up with care, while the same process goes
on at the other
side of the car. Less than thirty seconds to a rail for each
gang, and so four rails go down to the minute ... close behind the
come the gaugers, spikers, and bolters, and a lively time they make
of it. It is a grand 'anvil
chorus' ... It is played in triple
time, 3 strokes to the spike. There are 10 spikes to a rail,
400 rails to a mile, 1,800 miles to San Francisco — 21,000,000
times those sledges to be swung: 21,000,000 times are they to come
their sharp punctuation before the great work of modern America is
complete." –Dr. William Abraham Bell, Newspaper, 1866
Completion of the Pacific Railroad, May 10, 1869
Harper's Weekly engraving
based on the
Charles R. Savage photograph.
Joining of the Rails, May 10, 1869, Promontory, Utah
(Detail of Savage and Ottinger Stereoview, "Engineers shaking hands.")
Chief Engineers for CPRR (Samuel Skerry Montague) and UPRR (Grenville M. Dodge).
Courtesy David Wood. Also see the A.J. Russell image.
The first transcontinental railroad was completed when the rails of the Union Pacific, reaching westward from Omaha, Nebraska, and those of the Central Pacific Railroad, reaching eastward from Sacramento, California were joined, completing the coast-to-coast connection. The telegraph signaled a waiting nation: "DONE!"
(Purchase a poster showing the famous A.J. Russell photograph.)
back and forth across the picture's edge:
(Logo from CPRR Ticket)
Did you know that supermarket bar code labels were originally "just extended ... dots and dashes" of printed Morse code and the first practical use was to identify railroad boxcars?
"At Sacramento ... The Central Pacific company had thirty locomotives gayly decked ranged on the city front, and at the signal of a gun announcing the driving of the last spike on the road the locomotives opened a chorus of whistles, and all the bells and steam whistles in the city joined."
Railroad Construction 1863-1869
"The Last Spike" by Thomas Hill (detail in gold, rear cover).
Timelines: [CPRR/UPRR]—[Transcontinental RR]—[Completions]—[CPRR]—[Photography]—[RR's]—[RR Events]—[US RR's]—[West]—[SF]—[Chinese]
The Central Pacific began
laying track eastward from Sacramento, California in 1863,
and the Union Pacific started laying track westward from Omaha, Nebraska,
two years later in July, 1865. To meet its manpower needs, the Central
Pacific hired thousands of Chinese laborers,
including many recruited from farms in Canton. The crew had the formidable
task of laying the track crossing California's rugged
Sierra Nevada mountain range and had to blast fifteen tunnels
to accomplish this. The crew of the Union Pacific, which was composed
largely of Irish immigrants and Civil War veterans, had to contend with
Indian attacks and the Rocky Mountains. On May 10, 1869, after completing
miles, 4,814 feet (2,859.66 km) of new track, the two rail lines
at Promontory Summit, Utah.
Courtesy Martin Gregor and Bruce C. Cooper.
Tunnel No. 15
Lewis Metzler Clement was the engineer in direct charge of the final location, design and construction of the CPRR Division between Colfax and Truckee (miles 75 to 120), by far the most difficult section of the entire Pacific Railroad which included Cape Horn, the Sierra tunnels, and the snowsheds.
" ... The ... crews worked round the clock ... Then, at one in the morning on May 3, 1867, a great, noisy crumbling took place at the east facing, and light from torches in the west could be seen flickering through the dust. ... The Summit had been pierced. The Sierras had been bested. ... young Lewis Clement, the engineer in charge of Summit Tunnel, strode into the now widened bore a week after the breakthrough, surveyor's instruments in hand. With torchbearers stationed every few yards in the 1,659-foot bore, Clement began his first series of observations in the damp and eerie tunnel. During the preceding two years' work he and his assistants had been measuring under conditions never taught about in engineering schools. They had made their calculations under poor visibility on a wildly uneven tunnel floor, plotting a bore not only divided into four distinct parts, but one that had to gradually rise, descend, and curve as it penetrated from west to east. ... the expected margin of error was large, and if the various bores were seriously misaligned, many months of expensive remedial work would have to be done, delaying the Central Pacific Railroad's progress east. ... As Clement finished his meafsurements and worked out the geometric statistics at a rude desk near the tunnel mouth, he found his most fervent prayers answered. Summit Tunnel's four bores fitted together almost perfectly, with a total error in true line of less than two inches. The seemingly impossible had been achieved. The longest tunnel anyone had cut through natural granite, cut at a daunting altitude in an abominable climate, had been bored by a small army of Chinese thousands of miles from their ancestral home. The Sierras were truly breached and ... the great race across the continent was on. ... " —A Great And Shining Road. By Professor John Hoyt Williams
In addition he had similar charge of the final 200 miles of the line across Nevada and Utah ending at Promontory Summit. In February, 1869, Clement was appointed as one of four members of the Special U.S. Pacific Railroad Commission to inspect and approve the railroad’s location and construction and help to determine the very sticky issue of where the CPRR and UPRR would finally meet. Once the line opened in 1869 Clement added the duties of CPRR Superintendent of Track, a position he held until 1881.
L. M. Clement went on to design and build
(also using Chinese
laborers) the Southern
Railroad line from Sacramento to Los Angeles via the
San Joaquin Valley, and also worked on many urban and cable
car lines. Among his works in the area was the design of the
cable car turntable at the foot of Market Street in San Francisco.
Leland Stanford also sought Clement's help to set up the Mechanical and
Electrical Engineering Departments at Stanford
Theodore D. Judah
(Logo from CPRR Bank Check)
Lewis M. Clement
In an 1887 statement submitted to the U.S. Pacific Railway Commission, Lewis M. Clement summarized the challenges and great obstacles — both physical and financial — which had to be overcome to build the CPRR:
"At the beginning of the construction, the company, knowing the political and commercial necessities demanding the rapid completion of the railroad, determined that nothing which was in their power to prevent should for a single day arrest its progress.
"With this determination in view all energies were bent, fully realizing the physical obstacles and financial difficulties to be overcome.
"The financial difficulties were not lessened by the opinions circulated to the effect that the obstacles were insurmountable; that the railroads then constructed in Europe were as bagatelles compared with the difficulties to be met in constructing the Central Pacific Railroad, and failure was clearly written on the rocky sides of the cañons and the bold granite walls of the Sierra Nevada mountains.
"Not only was it impossible to construct a railroad across the Sierras via Donner Pass, but owing to the great depth of snow, some years reaching an aggregate fall of nearly 50 feet, would be impracticable to operate, and if built must be closed to traffic in the winter months, which would have been the case had not the road been protected at great cost by snow sheds.
"Against these utterances from men of railroad experience the company had to battle in financial circles, forcing them to show that they were not attempting an impossibility, though always realizing the great difficulties."
Courtesy  Making of America, University of Michigan & Cornell University Digital Library, Historical Magazines Online;  National Archives and Records Administration;  Library of Congress;  Eyewitness;  Suite101 - The Old West;  Edson T. Strobridge  Liberty Haven.;  Railroad Extra;  Bushong.net;  University of Virginia;  Berkeley Digital Library SunSITE;  Montague Millennium;  California Historicial Society;  State of California;  Carolwood Pacific Historical Society;  America Hurrah;  Smithsonian;  National Park Service;  Railroadiana Collectors Association Incorporated;  Wyoming Tales and Trails;  Pearson Education;  American Experience;  Find a Grave;  California Digital Library;  Railway & Locomotive Historical Society;  Utah State Historical Society;  Classic Reader;  Mic Mac Publishing;  Stereoscopy.com;  Sacramento History Online;  Utah Rails;  American History & Genealogy Project;  University of Nebraska, Lincoln;  Museum of the City of San Francisco;  New York Public Library;  California State Railroad Museum;  Google Library Project & News Archive.
Photographic History Museum
Historic Contour Map of the Sierra Nevada Summit and CPRR
[Modern USGS Topo Map; Aerial Photo]
First Construction Train Passing Palisades, Nevada
(Detail from Hart Stereograph #338.)
Courtesy Robert Dennis Collection, New York Public Library.
more to see!
to visit the
other websites for viewing and collecting
| Visit the CPRR Discussion Group
"All of us live better than John D. Rockefeller" —Warren Buffett
Historical perspective – that you won't get on the nightly news:
IT'S GETTING BETTER ALL THE TIME
is accelerating worldwide. Real
incomes have tripled since 1950, globally. The
filth from horses polluting 19th century cities is
mining is obsolete; there
is more old-growth forest in California today than there was
in 1850; forest
lands are increasing (New Hampshire: 50% → 86% in a century)
because efficient farming needs less land (and factories
etc. no longer burn wood as fuel; with net
carbon now by America) while
global food prices declined 75% in 50 years, the
cost of meals fell from 19% → 8% of income from 1959
to 2000 ("a
century ago, Americans spent 43%
of their incomes on food and 14% on clothing; by 2002,
those shares were 13% and 4%"),
are 3 inches taller than in 1900; the
belching smoke stacks have all but disappeared and the air is
dramatically and increasingly cleaner (over
the last half century, air pollution emissions have declined
by 3% annually relative to output; since the 1970's:
ozone & particulates ↓31%, sulfur dioxides ↓71%,
carbon monoxide ↓75%,
nitrogen dioxide ↓41%, lead ↓98%,
& dioxin ↓90%; in
the past decade secondhand smoke exposure ↓75%); productivity
is soaring (↑25x since 1776)
because of innovations such
as the transcontinental railroad and the internet (since
WW II U.S. railroad freight hauling has doubled with productivity
up 1,200%; a
innovations doubled retail productivity compared to competitors,
saves customers 15-25% on food purchases,
accounted for over half of increased U.S. productivity,
1995-99, and is doing
more to alleviate third world poverty than any other organization);
due to growing
Economic Freedom, the World
Bank reports (2004) that this is "the most prosperous year
in human history" with 4% global growth; world
poverty (<$1.08/day) is rapidly decreasing (65% → 20%
in a century), and the
U.S. poverty rate halved since 1960 and the
poor are able to vastly outspend their supposed income,
the U.S. with the fastest-growing growth rate of major developed
countries, household net wealth increased to now reach a record
a supply side march toward freedom, on average halved tax rates
in the United States, a policy copied by almost every other nation,
resulting in 43 million additional U.S. jobs and $30 trillion
wealth creation; more wealth has been created in the United States
the last quarter-century than in the previous 200 years; energy
is not in short supply because new
knowledge and methods make energy and "limited" natural
resources ever cheaper and ever more plentiful (i.e.,
in the past 30 years US personal income has risen 8x, twice as
fast as gasoline
oil actually saved
the whales by making
it uneconomic by
1860 to continue slaughtering them
for the whale
oil used for illumination and to lubricate locomotives;
reserves are nearly at a record high); nuclear
energy can supply
needed electricity, as it does for 20%
in U.S., 76% in France;
global literacy ↑52%→81% from 1950-1999; Americans
over 25 with college degrees up 7.7% → 25% from
1960 to 2000, employment
in U.S. managerial and specialized professional jobs nearly doubled
1983 to 2002, with total
U.S. employment 1970 → 2002, ↑75%; violent
crime declined dramatically with the murder rate halved
since 1980 (↓96%-98%
since the middle ages!); cures
for most of the diseases of poverty have long been available,
and longevity is rapidly
increasing with our dramatically improved environment (US: 49 → 77
years in a century, requiring
10% the income in 1999 to achieve the same life expectancy
as it took in 1870.) Welfare
reform has almost doubled the earnings of poor families. Even the eighth of Americans below the "poverty" line
now live as the "well off" did in earlier generations:
46% of "poor" Americans (2003) own their own homes,
76% have air conditioning,
own a car (with 30% owning two or more), 97% have color TV, 78%
a VCR or DVD, and 62% receive cable or satellite TV.
MODERN BOOKS ABOUT THE TRANSCONTINENTAL RAILROAD
the Transcontinental Rails: Overland Travel on the Pacific Railroad 1865-1881
An anthology of Nineteenth century first person accounts of overland travel on the Pacific railroad between 1865 and 1881 with fourteen sections in the book each of which can easily be read in one sitting. Also includes 93 period engravings and other illustrations, eleven maps, and another sixty pages of appendicies.
The Classic Western American Railroad Routes
A Study of Cape Horn Construction on the Central Pacific Railroad, 1865-1866
The Governor: The Life and Legacy of Leland Stanford by Norman E. Tutorow.
the Central Pacific Rail Road of California–1863-1869"
2-Volume Biography on one of the 19th Century's most Important Figures.
Book about Building the First Transcontinental Railroad:
Bain reports that "Empire Express was the main selection of the Book of the Month Club."
||CENTRAL PACIFIC RAILROAD ACROSS
1868 & 1997: Photographic Comparatives
||#1 - New York Times
Best Sellers List
Author Stephen Ambrose's book [EXCERPT]
Read the corrected paperback edition, not the hardcover first edition.
to CPRR.org Website
|Other New Books & Transcontinental Railroad Video|
THE CENTRAL PACIFIC RAILROAD'S LESSON FOR TODAY'S HEALTH CARE CRISIS
health insurance premiums rising so much faster than workers'
Central Pacific Railroad Hospital (photo, left) directly provided health care
to its workers for 50¢/month starting in 1868, and
the monthly cost was still exactly the same in 1948! In
contrast, health care costs are spiraling out of control (↑1,000x!) today
because – ignoring the "first do no harm" principle – the federal government made a mess out of financial incentives when it eliminated market-based health care
and made American healthcare consist of playing
with other people’s
controls during World War II that were promptly circumvented with
benefits" paid for by reduced salaries, causing take-home pay to be stagnant. This has resulted
in the current unworkable system – driven
by politics –
of bureaucratic "third
of health care costs
by balkanized insurance companies or the government, with endless regulations
and paperwork causing a huge
and that hides the true costs from patients
and prevents them from expressing
and so defeats the market
forces needed for health care providers to be able to provide health care according to patients' actual
choices & needs, i.e., Wanna
Fix Health Care? Stop Hiding the Cost! The out
of control cost increases also result in large numbers of people
uninsured (which is worsened because insurance is further overpriced, by as much as 600%,
due to costly government-mandated coverages, and out-of-control
malpractice litigation), and leads to a quarter of all bankruptcies.
This also produces "job
lock" (preventing people from changing jobs
to avoid losing their health plan). Patients paying directly for
their health care ("first
see the expense directly and won't allow costs to rise out of control
has NOT happened with un-reimbursed cosmetic and LASIK vision correction surgery prices).
experience (the world's first multi-location HMO) shows that with direct employer provided ("second
health care, costs can also be stable over long time periods (for eighty years at $6/year!), because
the costs are not hidden. However when insurance
meddling makes medical care not provided directly by the employer
appear almost free to patients (low co-payments and deductibles
"consumers pay just 14 cents on every health dollar spent"),
escalates rapidly and the
bill for such a plan with hidden indirect costs, as
expected, rises uncontrollably,
health care is denied by rationing
under inferior socialized
socialized medicine in England, only about 50% of women with breast
cancer and men with prostate cancer survive, but in
or HMO type plans with either draconian rules or unconscionable
delays (in 2004, Canadians waited 11.3 million weeks for delayed treatment; with half waiting more than 17.7 weeks for treatment),
which result in life-threatening shortages and are
so complex and dysfunctional that, for example, the
U.S. Government's Medicare Hotline could only answer a billing or policy
of the time. (By analogy, buying your own meals, or – like
the CPRR medical plan – buying
a pre-paid monthly meal plan at the company
cafeteria is workable, but meal cards entitling
you to unlimited "free" – or
"almost free" – meals
at any restaurants of your choice will be completely unaffordable
– i.e., "there's
no such thing as a free lunch.") Recognizing this,
patient empowering portable Health
Savings Accounts have
recently been enacted into U.S. law in an attempt to reintroduce
care, as affordable consumer
driven health care (even for "high-cost" patients),
where patients get to keep
the health care dollars that they decide not to waste, while retaining
low cost major medical insurance
"Consumers then can make the treatment choices that are right for them without the third party disconnect that divorces the consumer from costs."
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