Saturday, February 26, 2005

Fwd: How many people did it take to construct the transcontinental railroad?


How many people did it take to construct the transcontinental railroad?

Yiping Zhuang


Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

CPRR Superintendent Strobridge's 19th century testimony was that "our maximum strength ... very nearly approached 10,000 men on the work."

The turnover of caucasian laborers on the CPRR hired early on was too high, so Chinese workers were hired. Ultimately, most of the CPRR workers were Chinese, and the peak Chinese employment listed in the surviving incomplete payroll records at the California State Railroad Museum is 6,190 in April, 1866. Since the names of most of the individual workers were not recorded, the turnover rate cannot be known -- consequently, the total number of people employed over the construction years cannot be accurately determined. The names of the Chinese headmen were recorded, so their turnover can be estimated, but we doubt that it would be accurate to assume that the rate of worker turnover was the same. William Chew attempts a calculation of the total number of CPRR Chinese workers that has resulted in some controversy:

We are not aware of surviving payroll records for the UPRR construction labor.

2/28/2005 4:56 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...


... As far as total numbers [for UPRR peak or total employment during the construction period], no I've not seen anything.  I've always found that strange.  You'd think that would have been something they wanted to know early on.  I suppose when you contract all your work for a set amount, you don't really care how many people the contractor hires as long as you get the job done on time. 

We know for example that Brigham Young had a thousand teams ready to put to work in Weber and Echo canyons.  A thousand teams would require at least 12-1500 men would it not.  One man for each time, plus drovers, cooks, blacksmiths to repair the scrapers, and who knows how many with shovels.  There is that good photo of the Mormon graders clearing rocks off the hillside.  Were these in addition to the guys running the teams and scrapers.

Just a thought.

Don Snoddy

2/28/2005 1:50 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

Also see the following discussion.

9/10/2006 3:01 PM  

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