The Central Pacific Railroad (CPRR) was a rail route between California and Utah built eastwards from the West Coast in the 1860s, to complete the western part of the "First Transcontinental Railroad" in North America. It later became part of the Southern Pacific Railroad.
Many 19th century national proposals to build a transcontinental railroad failed because of the energy consumed by political disputes over slavery. With the secession of the South, the modernizers in the Republican Party controlled the US Congress. They passed legislation authorizing the railroad, with financing in the form of government railroad bonds. These were all eventually repaid with interest. The government and the railroads both shared in the increased value of the land grants, which the railroads developed. The construction of the railroad also secured for the government the economical "safe and speedy transportation of the mails, troops, munitions of war, and public stores."
|Central Pacific Railroad|
|Locale||Sacramento, CA-Ogden, Utah|
|Dates of operation||June 28, 1861–April 1, 1885, but continued as an SP leased line until 30 June 1959|
|Track gauge||1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) → 1|
|Headquarters||Sacramento, CA; San Francisco, CA|
Planned by Theodore Judah, the Central Pacific Railroad was authorized by Congress in 1862. It was financed and built through "The Big Four" (who called themselves "The Associates"): Sacramento, California businessmen Leland Stanford, Collis Huntington, Charles Crocker, and Mark Hopkins. Crocker was in charge of construction. Construction crews comprised 12,000 Chinese emigrant workers by 1868, when they constituted eighty percent of the entire work force. They laid the first rails in 1863. The "Golden spike", connecting the western railroad to the Union Pacific Railroad at Promontory, Utah, was hammered on May 10, 1869. Coast-to-coast train travel in eight days became possible, replacing months-long sea voyages and lengthy, hazardous travel by wagon trains.
In 1885 the Central Pacific Railroad was leased by the Southern Pacific Company. Technically the CPRR remained a corporate entity until 1959, when it was formally merged into Southern Pacific. (It was reorganized in 1899 as the Central Pacific "Railway".) The original right-of-way is now controlled by the Union Pacific, which bought Southern Pacific in 1996.
Chinese labor was the most vital source for constructing the railroad. Fifty Chinese laborers were hired by the Central Pacific Railroad in February 1865, and soon more and more Chinese men were hired. Working conditions were harsh, and Chinese men were compensated less than their white counterparts. Chinese men were paid thirty-one dollars each month, and while white workers were paid the same, they were also given room and board.
Construction of the road was financed primarily by 30-year, 6% U.S. government bonds authorized by Sec. 5 of the Pacific Railroad Act of 1862. They were issued at the rate of $16,000 ($265,000 in 2017 dollars) per mile of tracked grade completed west of the designated base of the Sierra Nevada range near Roseville, CA where California state geologist Josiah Whitney had determined were the geologic start of the Sierras' foothills. Sec. 11 of the Act also provided that the issuance of bonds "shall be treble the number per mile" (to $48,000) for tracked grade completed over and within the two mountain ranges (but limited to a total of 300 miles (480 km) at this rate), and "doubled" (to $32,000) per mile of completed grade laid between the two mountain ranges. The U.S. Government Bonds, which constituted a lien upon the railroads and all their fixtures, were repaid in full (and with interest) by the company as and when they became due.
Sec. 10 of the 1864 amending Pacific Railroad Act (13 Statutes at Large, 356) additionally authorized the company to issue its own "First Mortgage Bonds" in total amounts up to (but not exceeding) that of the bonds issued by the United States. Such company-issued securities had priority over the original Government Bonds. (Local and state governments also aided the financing, although the City and County of San Francisco did not do so willingly. This materially slowed early construction efforts.) Sec. 3 of the 1862 Act granted the railroads 10 square miles (26 km2) of public land for every mile laid, except where railroads ran through cities and crossed rivers. This grant was apportioned in 5 sections on alternating sides of the railroad, with each section measuring 0.2 miles (320 m) by 10 miles (16 km). These grants were later doubled to 20 square miles (52 km2) per mile of grade by the 1864 Act.
Although the Pacific Railroad eventually benefited the Bay Area, the City and County of San Francisco obstructed financing it during the early years of 1863-1865. When Stanford was Governor of California, the Legislature passed on April 22, 1863, "An Act to Authorize the Board of Supervisors of the City and County of San Francisco to take and subscribe One Million Dollars to the Capital Stock of the Western Pacific Rail Road Company and the Central Pacific Rail Road Company of California and to provide for the payment of the same and other matters relating thereto" (which was later amended by Section Five of the "Compromise Act" of April 4, 1864). On May 19, 1863, the electors of the City and County of San Francisco passed this bond by a vote of 6,329 to 3,116, in a highly controversial Special Election.
The City and County's financing of the investment through the issuance and delivery of Bonds was delayed for two years, when Mayor Henry P. Coon, and the County Clerk, Wilhelm Loewy, each refused to countersign the Bonds. It took legal actions to force them to do so: in 1864 the Supreme Court of the State of California ordered them under Writs of Mandamus (The People of the State of California ex rel the Central Pacific Railroad Company vs. Henry P. Coon, Mayor; Henry M. Hale, Auditor; and Joseph S. Paxson, Treasurer, of the City and County of San Francisco. 25 Cal. 635) and in 1865, a legal judgment against Loewy (The People ex rel The Central Pacific Railroad Company of California vs. The Board of Supervisors of the City and County of San Francisco, and Wilhelm Lowey, Clerk 27 Cal. 655) directing that the Bonds be countersigned and delivered. In 1863 the legislature's forcing of City and County action became known as the "Dutch Flat Swindle". Critics claimed the CPRR intended to build a railroad only as far as Dutch Flat, to connect to the Dutch Flat Wagon Road which they already controlled.
Nearly all the company's early correspondence is preserved at Syracuse University, as part of the Collis Huntington Papers collection. It has been released on microfilm (133 reels). The following libraries have the microfilm: University of Arizona at Tucson; and Virginia Commonwealth University at Richmond. Additional collections of manuscript letters are held at Stanford University and the Mariners' Museum at Newport News, Virginia. Alfred A. Hart was the official photographer of the CPRR construction.
The Central Pacific's first three locomotives were of the then common 4-4-0 type, although with the American Civil War raging in the east, they had difficulty acquiring engines from eastern builders, who at times only had smaller 4-2-4 or 4-2-2 types available. Until the completion of the Transcontinental rail link and the railroad's opening of its own shops, all locomotives had to be purchased by builders in the northeastern U.S. The engines had to be dismantled, loaded on a ship, which would embark on a four-month journey that went around South America's Cape Horn until arriving in Sacramento where the locomotives would be unloaded, re-assembled, and placed in service.
Locomotives at the time came from many manufacturers, such as Cooke, Schenectady, Mason, Rogers, Danforth, Norris, Booth, and McKay & Aldus, among others. The railroad had been on rather unfriendly terms with the Baldwin Locomotive Works, one of the more well-known firms. It is not clear as to the cause of this dispute, though some attribute it to the builder insisting on cash payment (though this has yet to be verified). Consequently, the railroad refused to buy engines from Baldwin, and three former Western Pacific Railroad (which the CP had absorbed in 1870) engines were the only Baldwin engines owned by the Central Pacific. The Central Pacific's dispute with Baldwin remained unresolved until well after the road had been acquired by the Southern Pacific.
In the 1870s, the road opened up its own locomotive construction facilities in Sacramento. Central Pacific's 173 was rebuilt by these shops and served as the basis for CP's engine construction. The locomotives built before the 1870s were given names as well as numbers. By the 1870s, it was decided to eliminate the names and as each engine was sent to the shops for service, their names would be removed. However, one engine that was built in the 1880s did receive a name: the El Gobernador.
Construction of the rails was often dangerous work. Towards the end of construction, almost all workers were Chinese immigrants. The ethnicity of workers depended largely on the "gang" of workers/specific area on the rails they were working.
The following CP engines have been preserved:
Alameda Terminal was a railroad station located in Alameda, California on the eastern shore of San Francisco Bay.
It was built in 1869 by the Central Pacific Railroad as part of the First Transcontinental Railroad project and was designated the western terminus of the line.
The Pacific Railroad Act passed by the United States Congress in 1862 authorized construction of a transcontinental railroad and telegraph line which was to connect the Central Pacific in the west with the Union Pacific Railroad in the east. The first construction activity took the line east from Sacramento. Subsequently the line was opened from Sacramento to San Jose. During June 1869, construction was started near Niles (now part of Fremont), and by August a temporary connection had been made at San Leandro with the San Francisco and Alameda Railroad. On September 6, 1869, the first Central Pacific train reached San Francisco Bay at Alameda Terminal.
Following the 1885 leasing of the Central Pacific by the Southern Pacific Railroad, the Alameda Terminal became an important passenger and freight station for the SP system.
The site of the building is now a California Historical Landmark (#440) and is located within Naval Air Station Alameda.Altamont, California
Altamont (formerly The Summit and Alta Monte) is an unincorporated community in Alameda County, California. It is located 7.5 miles (12 km) northeast of Livermore, at an elevation of 741 feet (226 m) in the Altamont Pass. It was in 1969 the site of the Altamont Free Concert at the Altamont Speedway. Originally called The Summit, the name was changed to Altamont when the Central Pacific Railroad arrived in 1869.A post office operated at Altamont from 1872 to 1955.Andover, California
Andover is a former settlement in Placer County, California. Andover is located on the first transcontinental railroad built by the Central Pacific Railroad, later the Southern Pacific Railroad, now the Union Pacific railroad, 11.5 miles (18.5 km) west of Martis Peak. It lay at an elevation of 6302 feet (1921 m).Andover was named by a railroad official for his hometown of Andover, Massachusetts.Big Four (Central Pacific Railroad)
"The Big Four" was the name popularly given to the famous and influential businessmen, philanthropists and railroad tycoons who built the Central Pacific Railroad, (C.P.R.R.), which formed the western portion through the Sierra Nevada and the Rocky Mountains of the First Transcontinental Railroad in the United States, built from the mid-continent at the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean during the middle and late 1860s. Composed of Leland Stanford, (1824–1893), Collis Potter Huntington, (1821–1900), Mark Hopkins (1813–1878), and Charles Crocker, (1822–1888), the four themselves however, personally preferred to be known as "The Associates."Central Pacific Railroad Depot (Lovelock, Nevada)
The Central Pacific Railroad Depot in Lovelock, Nevada was built in 1880 in the Stick style or Eastlake style, functioning as the principal point of access to the town in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The building was originally located on the northeast corner of West Broadway Avenue and Main Street, but was moved by the town in 1999 to its present site across Broadway Avenue.The building consists of two wood frame sections; a 1½ story section to the south comprising the baggage room, and a two-story section to the north containing the passenger waiting room, agent's office and agent's quarters. Both portions are extensively detailed with finials, braces, brackets and flat board trim. The depot was built to the Central Pacific Railroad's "Combination Depot #2" design, the only example of its type in Nevada, but one of six built on the Central Pacific system. None of the other five examples is known to have survived.The station was a regular stop for transcontinental train traffic, and was expanded in 1917. The station operated until the early 1990s, when it was closed. When what was now the Union Pacific Railroad announced plans to tear the depot down in 1998 the City of Lovelock expressed interest in the building. The same year the railroad signed over the building and a $42,500 donation, the projected cost of demolition. The town moved it from railroad property, completing a restoration in 2000, with help from prison labor. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2004. The depot is leased to private retail businesses.Cisco, California
Cisco (formerly, Heaton Station) is an unincorporated community in Placer County, California. Cisco is located on the Union Pacific Railroad, 0.5 miles (0.8 km) south-southwest of Cisco Grove. It lies at an elevation of 5938 feet (1810 m).The Cisco post office operated from 1866 to 1941. The name Cisco honors John J. Cisco, treasurer of the Central Pacific Railroad.The folk singer and songwriter Cisco Houston, who later befriended and toured extensively with Woody Guthrie, derived his nickname from Cisco, California.
Cisco, California was the fictional location of the opening and end of the movie Vanishing Point (1971). The actual filming location was in Cisco, Utah.
Very little is left of Cisco today, and it has no actual population. Most Cisco residents have moved to the nearby locales of Cisco Grove and Kingvale.Collis Potter Huntington
Collis Potter Huntington (October 22, 1821 – August 13, 1900) was one of the Big Four of western railroading. (along with Leland Stanford, Mark Hopkins, and Charles Crocker) who invested in Theodore Judah's idea to build the Central Pacific Railroad as part of the first U.S. transcontinental railroad. Huntington then helped lead and develop other major interstate lines such as the Southern Pacific Railroad and the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway (C&O), which he was recruited to help complete. The C&O, completed in 1873, fulfilled a long-held dream of Virginians of a rail link from the James River at Richmond to the Ohio River Valley. The new railroad facilities adjacent to the river there resulted in expansion of the former small town of Guyandotte, West Virginia into part of a new city which was named Huntington in his honor.
Next, turning attention to the eastern end of the line at Richmond, he was responsible for the C&O's Peninsula Extension in 1881–82 which opened a pathway for West Virginia bituminous coal to reach new coal piers on the harbor of Hampton Roads for export shipping. He also is credited with the development of Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company, as well as the incorporation of Newport News, Virginia as a new independent city. After his death, both his nephew Henry E. Huntington and his stepson Archer M. Huntington continued his work at Newport News, and all three are considered founding fathers in the community, with local features named in honor of each.
Much of the railroad and industrial development Collis P. Huntington envisioned and led are still important activities in the early 21st century. The Southern Pacific is now part of the Union Pacific Railroad, and the C&O became part of CSX Transportation, each major U.S. railroad systems. West Virginia coal still rides the rails to be loaded aboard colliers at Hampton Roads, where nearby, Huntington Ingalls Industries operates the massive shipyard.
Huntington, from his base in Washington, was a lobbyist for the Central Pacific and the Southern Pacific in the 1870s and 1880s. The Big Four had built a powerful political machine, that he had a large role in running. He was generous in providing bribes to politicians and Congressmen. Revelation of his misdeeds in 1883 made him one of the most hated railroad men in the country.
Huntington defended himself:
The motives back of my actions have been honest ones and results have redounded far more to the benefit of California than they have to my own.Colorado Central Railroad
The Colorado Central Railroad was a U.S. railroad company that operated in Colorado and southeastern Wyoming in the late 19th century. It was founded in the Colorado Territory in the wake of the Colorado Gold Rush to ship gold from the mountains. It expanded from its Golden–Denver line to form a crucial link connecting Colorado with the transcontinental railroad and the national rail network. The history of the railroad throughout the 1870s was driven at times by a fierce struggle between local interests, led by W.A.H. Loveland, and outside investors of the Union Pacific Railroad led at times by Jay Gould. The early struggle of the company to build its lines was a major part of the early competition between Denver and Golden for supremacy as the principal metropolis of Colorado.
The company built the first rail lines up connecting historic Colorado mining communities such as Black Hawk, Central City, and Idaho Springs. Through a series of reorganizations and acquisitions, it eventually became part of the Colorado and Southern Railway. Although its historic 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge mountain lines were dismantled by the mid 20th century, a portion of its connecting lines paralleling the Front Range survive as active lines of BNSF Railway.Donner Pass
Donner Pass (el. 7,056 ft (2,151 m)) is a mountain pass in the northern Sierra Nevada, above Donner Lake about 9 miles (14 km) west of Truckee, California. Like the Sierra Nevada mountains themselves, the pass has a steep approach from the east and a gradual approach from the west.
The pass has been used by the California Trail, First Transcontinental Railroad, Overland Route, Lincoln Highway and Victory Highway (both later U.S. Route 40 and still later Donner Pass Road), as well as indirectly by Interstate 80. The pass gets its name from the ill-fated Donner Party who overwintered there in 1846.
Today the area is home to a thriving recreational community with several alpine lakes and ski resorts (Donner Ski Ranch, Boreal, and Sugar Bowl). The permanent communities in the area include Kingvale and Soda Springs, as well as the larger community below the pass surrounding Donner Lake.First Transcontinental Railroad
The First Transcontinental Railroad (known originally as the "Pacific Railroad" and later as the "Overland Route") was a 1,912-mile (3,077 km) continuous railroad line constructed between 1863 and 1869 that connected the existing eastern U.S. rail network at Omaha, Nebraska/Council Bluffs, Iowa with the Pacific coast at the Oakland Long Wharf on San Francisco Bay. The rail line was built by three private companies over public lands provided by extensive US land grants. Construction was financed by both state and US government subsidy bonds as well as by company issued mortgage bonds. The Western Pacific Railroad Company built 132 mi (212 km) of track from Oakland/Alameda to Sacramento, California. The Central Pacific Railroad Company of California (CPRR) constructed 690 mi (1,110 km) eastward from Sacramento to Promontory Summit, Utah Territory. The Union Pacific built 1,085 mi (1,746 km) from the road's eastern terminus at Council Bluffs near Omaha, Nebraska westward to Promontory Summit.The railroad opened for through traffic on May 10, 1869 when CPRR President Leland Stanford ceremonially drove the gold "Last Spike" (later often referred to as the "Golden Spike") with a silver hammer at Promontory Summit. The coast-to-coast railroad connection revolutionized the settlement and economy of the American West. It brought the western states and territories into alignment with the northern Union states and made transporting passengers and goods coast-to-coast considerably quicker and less expensive.
Paddle steamers linked Sacramento to the cities and their harbor facilities in the San Francisco Bay until 1869, when the CPRR completed and opened the Western Pacific grade (which the CPRR had acquired control of in 1867–68 ) to Alameda and Oakland.
The first transcontinental rail passengers arrived at the Pacific Railroad's original western terminus at the Alameda Mole on September 6, 1869 where they transferred to the steamer Alameda for transport across the Bay to San Francisco. The road's rail terminus was moved two months later to the Oakland Long Wharf about a mile to the north. Service between San Francisco and Oakland Pier continued to be provided by ferry.
The CPRR eventually purchased 53 miles (85 km) of UPRR-built grade from Promontory Summit (MP 828) to Ogden, Utah Territory (MP 881), which became the interchange point between trains of the two roads. The transcontinental line was popularly known as the Overland Route after the principal passenger rail service that operated over the length of the line until 1962.Fresno City, California
Fresno City is a former settlement in Fresno County, California. It was located at the head of navigation on Fresno Slough 2 miles (3.2 km) northwest of Tranquillity, at an elevation of 164 feet (50 m). The city was named after the Spanish word for the Oregon Ash trees that commonly grew along the river banks.
The town was started in 1855, at the head of navigation on Fresno Slough. A pier was built to accommodate flatboats and barges that could make it up the shallow slough. Warehouses, houses, and the Casa Blanca Hotel were built. In 1858, it became a station on the Butterfield Overland Mail. By 1860, the telegraph line from San Francisco arrived. Plans for a much larger town were contemplated but the Butterfield line closed in early 1861, the Great Flood of 1862 did great damage and the City was practically abandoned by 1865. A post office operated at Fresno City from 1860 to 1863. Today there are no traces of it left.California Historical Landmark No. 488 was erected with a bronze plaque by the Fresno County Historical Association in 1952:
FRESNO CITY'Fresno City' gradually arose at the head of navigation of the Fresno Slough, and existed from approximately 1855 to 1875 - today there are no traces of it left. In 1872, the 'City of Fresno,' later the county seat, was established about 30 miles to the southwest, on the newly built Central Pacific Railroad.Location: On Fresno Slough, 0.8 miles north of James Road, from Tranquillity, then 1.3 miles northwest on Levee Road (dirt), Tranquillity.Vandals removed the plaque and destroyed much of the marker which was located on Whites Bridge Road near Tranquility.Millerton, Madera County, California
Millerton was the original county seat of Fresno County, that was formed in 1856 when the county was larger than today. The county comprised its current area and all of what became Madera County and parts of what are today San Benito, Tulare, Kings, Inyo, and Mono counties.
Millerton, was located along the Stockton - Los Angeles Road on the south bank of the free-flowing San Joaquin River and close to Fort Miller. McCray's Ferry on the north bank of the river was the means for crossing the river at that point. Millerton became the county seat of Fresno County after becoming a focal point of commerce and mail delivery for settlers in the lower San Joaquin Valley.
The town began its decline when the San Joaquin River flooded on Christmas Eve, 1867, inundating Millerton. Some residents rebuilt, others moved. In 1872, the Central Pacific Railroad established a station for its new Southern Pacific line near a farm then owned by Anthony Easterby bounded by the present Chestnut, Belmont, Clovis and California avenues. Soon there was a store and around which grew the town of Fresno Station, later called Fresno. Many Millerton residents, drawn by the convenience of the railroad and worried about flooding, moved to the new community.
Two years after the station was established, in 1874, county residents voted to move the county seat from Millerton to Fresno. The vote totals were Fresno 417; Lisbon 124; Centerville 123; Millerton 93. Millerton was eventually abandoned as a result.
When the Friant Dam was completed in 1944, the site of Millerton became inundated by the waters of Millerton Lake. In extreme droughts, when the reservoir shrinks, ruins of the original county seat can still be observed.
The ZIP Code is 93623. The community is inside area code 559.Oakland Long Wharf
The Oakland Long Wharf was an 11,000-foot railroad wharf and ferry pier along the east shore of San Francisco Bay located at the foot of Seventh Street in West Oakland. The Oakland Long Wharf was built by the Central Pacific Railroad on what was previously Oakland Point, beginning in 1868. In the 1880s, Southern Pacific Railroad took over the CPRR and rebuilt the pier as the Oakland Mole and Pier.Pacific Railroad Acts
The Pacific Railroad Acts were a series of acts of Congress that promoted the construction of a "transcontinental railroad" (the Pacific Railroad) in the United States through authorizing the issuance of government bonds and the grants of land to railroad companies. Although the War Department under then Secretary of War Jefferson Davis was authorized by the Congress in 1853 to conduct surveys of five different potential transcontinental routes from the Mississippi ranging from north to south and submitted a massive twelve volume report to Congress with the results in early 1855, no route or bill could be agreed upon and passed authorizing the Government's financial support and land grants until the secession of the southern states removed their opposition to a central route. The Pacific Railroad Act of 1862 (12 Stat. 489) was the original act. Some of its provisions were subsequently modified, expanded, or repealed by four additional amending Acts: The Pacific Railroad Act of 1863 (12 Stat. 807), Pacific Railroad Act of 1864 (13 Stat. 356), Pacific Railroad Act of 1865 (13 Stat. 504), and Pacific Railroad Act of 1866 (14 Stat. 66).
The Pacific Railroad Act of 1862 began federal government grant of lands directly to corporations; before that act, the land grants were made to the states, for the benefit of corporations.Pequop, Nevada
Pequop or Pequop Siding is a ghost town in Elko County, Nevada. It was located west of Toano on the route around the north end of the Pequop Mountains between Cobre and Wells. It was first a stop station of the Central Pacific Railroad and later Southern Pacific Railroad. Several buildings were erected to house section crews. The end of the village was in the 1940s, when the introduction of diesel in locomotives made Pequop obsolete.Plainsburg (former settlement), California
Plainsburg is a former settlement in Merced County, California. It was located 2.5 miles (4 km) northeast of Athlone.Plainsburg's station on the Central Pacific Railroad was at Athlone.Polaris, California
Polaris is an unincorporated community in Nevada County, California. It lies at an elevation of 5695 feet (1736 m). Polaris was established on the Central Pacific Railroad line in 1867, 2.5 miles (4.0 km) east-northeast of Truckee.The Polaris post office operated from 1901 to 1923.Prosser Creek, California
Prosser Creek is a former settlement in Nevada County, California. Prosser Creek is located on the former Central Pacific Railroad, 1 mile (1.6 km) southwest of Boca. The first appearance is on the von Leicht-Hoffmann Tahoe map of 1874. According to Henry T Williams (1876) a man by that name operated a hotel there in the early days.Schenectady Locomotive Works
The Schenectady Locomotive Works built railroad locomotives from its founding in 1848 through its merger into American Locomotive Company (Alco) in 1901.After the 1901 merger, Alco made the Schenectady plant its headquarters in Schenectady, New York.
One of the better-known locomotives to come out of the Schenectady shops was Central Pacific Railroad type 4-4-0 No. 60, the Jupiter (built in September 1868), one of two steam locomotives to take part in the "Golden Spike Ceremony" to celebrate the completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad.
Central Pacific Railroad · The Big Four