Thursday, March 10, 2005

Travel time on the Valley road.

The trouble (in this regard) with the old timetables published in the newspaper is that they give only departure times, so we really don't know how long it took to go by train from Sacramento to Folsom. In several years of reading the old newspapers I was never able to answer that question.

However, 0n 13 December 1869, Huntington wrote Hopkins that trains should "never make the time between Sacramento and Folsom in less than two hours." Was he being serious? Well, maybe.

One does need to recognize that this was soon after a terrible accident on the Western Pacific, which Huntington blamed on SVRR superintendent Josiah Johnson (who was also at the time also superintendent of the WP). Huntington, and apparently the other CP directors who owned the SVRR, wanted Johnson fired, but Hopkins stood by him (as a Sacramento alderman, Johnson had played a trump card for the CP in their "war" against the SVRR in 1864). Hopkins won, and Johnson retained his post on the SVRR. It was at this juncture that Huntington wrote Hopkins regarding the speed of trains on the SVRR along with the comment that Johnson should never be allowed to run more than one train a day. One gets the sense that Huntington washed his hands of the SVRR at this point, and the comment may have been a bit factious (if not sarcastic), so it may not have been meant or taken as absolute instruction. Still, with various stops along the way, two hours may not be too far out of line for the 22.5 miles.

In the early years of the 20th century the old iron rail was replaced with steel, and it is likely that the McKeen cars covered the distance at a somewhat better clip. Even so, the editor of the Folsom newspaper did make the suggestion that cowcatchers be placed on the back ends of the McKeens to protect them from cattle overtaking the cars from behind.