Monday, February 07, 2005

Re: Dates relating to gauge of Pacific railroad.

From: "chris graves"

I noted with interest your mention of the WP. I find, from Colfax, Cal. East to Central Nevada, wrought iron 'pear' rail branded RIC 64, which I suspect was used by the Associates for side rail. The source of this 50 lb iron has been a mystery, my current thoughts revolve around the WP as it ran from San Jose to Niles in early 1865. The rolling mill that made this rail is Rensselaer Iron Co. of Troy, New York, but for whom it was originally made is not known. Should you find, in your Washington, DC search, a reference to this iron, I would be most pleased to learn of it.
Thanks, G J Chris Graves, NewCastle, Cal.

Re: Dates relating to gauge of Pacific railroad.

Passing note - some sources put the Market Street RR gauge at 5 foot 6 inches, not just 5 foot.

Interestingly, Mrs Duncan's Teakettle (the return flued geared engine at Duncan's Mills) is reported to be 5 foot 6 inch gauge.


Note my NEW address of

Kyle K. Wyatt
Curator of History & Technology
California State Railroad Museum

Re: Dates relating to gauge of Pacific railroad.

From: "Wendell Huffman"

One other thing I did not mention--

In Wesley Griswold's "Work of Giants" discussion of the January cabinet meeting at which the gauge of the Pacific railroad was discussed, and subsequent to which Lincoln decided upon the 5 foot gauge, Griswold states that one George Davis addressed the issue. According to Griswold, Davis was a friend of Lincoln's, and he was also a railroad equipment dealer--and was at the meeting at Huntington's request. Several of the first CP locomotives were actually purchased from Davis rather than the builder. One of those engines was the Stanford.

Davis is a character about whom I know little, but it may be interesting to watch for his name.

I swear, politics was the oil that lubricated the Central Pacific.



From: "chris graves"

Small world, here!
Benj. Leete was Montagues assistant, he attended a wedding in 1890 in Oakland.  The gal getting married, Alice Hunt (Curtis) was an artist, she born in 1855, died in 1953.  Her work hangs in this house. Everyone is connected........gjg

Re: Dates relating to gauge of Pacific railroad.

From: "Wendell Huffman"

I'm not sure the SVRR is really too foreign an issue to the gauging of the Pacific Railroad.

The CP's decision to build their line directly from Sacramento–rather than connecting at Auburn with the SVRR-SP&N–was not made until after the Pacific RR Act–when the requirement that they build 40 miles on their own dime was made law (and 40 miles in the valley was a lot cheeper than 40 miles in the mountains. The foreign iron wasn't that big an issue–the grade itself was an investment, and the CP regularly used foreign iron for side tracks.)

James McDougall was also a director of the SVRR–back when he was congressman. I did not know about his involvement with the early SP–that is interesting. I've never been able to figure out which way McDougall thought (in the 1850s) the railroad should run–around the north end of the Sierra or the south. His involvement with the SP rather explains his interest in the southern route. San Francisco generally favored the southern route as the city was only well situated to be the natural terminus of a railroad approaching from the south. But the whole SF-SJ and WP scheme was designed to make sure that the SV's line to the north was connected with San Francisco–rather than the locally dreaded Benicia-Marysville National Railroad's route.

BTW, I suspect the entire five-foot gauge issue was the historical accident of the old "Elephant" having been built for the South Side Railroad of Norfolk, Virginia. I suspect the SVRR was built to five foot gauge to take advantage of that one locomotive already in California.


Re: Dates relating to gauge of Pacific railroad.

From: "Randall Hees"

I have a thought, and couple of other dates: Of course, the Market Street Railroad was 5' gauge, and by eventually was controlled by the SF&SJ (the Sacramento Valley was 5' as well, but that line was not as politially connected as the SF&SJ, so is less important for this discussion)

July 15, 1862 Letter from James A McDougall and James H Campbell (chairs of Senate and House committees on Pacific Railroad) to Lincoln, asking him to set gauge, and suggesting 5’ (letter in Lincoln papers, LofC)

January 24, 1863 Telegram from A. Brody to Lincoln questioning choice of track gauge for Pacific Railroad (LOC, Lincoln papers) (this seems to confirm the date of early January for the gauge decision)

This reads in part " I have been informed that the question of gauge of the Pacific Railroad is about to be decided & that a gauge different fro that all the roads in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Northern Missouri is likely to be adopted. I understand that the argument in favor of a five foot gauge as the fact that a portion of the line on the Pacific Coast has adopted that gauge... "

James McDougall is a Senator from California, a San Francisco "war" democrat (supports the Union) and chair of the Senate committee for the Pacific Railroad. He is one of two men (the other being Timothy Guy Phelps, house member from San Mateo) identified as being present when Huntington and Judah agree to release the rights to build between Sacramento and San Francisco (the Western Pacific) toa group of primarily San Francisco business men. This group, while not identical to the groups building the San Francisco and San Jose and later the Southern Pacific, have many common directors. As chair of the Pacific Railroad committee McDougall will appoint Judah as clerk of the committee.

Both Phelps and McDougall will hold board positions with the three San Francisco railroads. I suspect, but so far can't prove that both men were at least peripherally members of Ralston's Bank Ring. (McDougall on one of the earlier boards of the SF&SJ, Phelps on the SF&SJ, and is the President of the first incorporation of the Southern Pacific)

Phelps a Republican runs against Stanford for governor. Later Phelps will be run out of the Republican Party, in an effort lead by E Soule. I am suspicious (but can't prove) that the attack is payback from Stanford. Locally (on the Peninsula) Phelps is well liked and known as an honest man.

E Soule is a Sacramento area blacksmith/wagon builder, who builds some of the push carts used to build the CP, who is one of the organizers of the May 10 1869 celebration in Sacramento, will later purchase part of the Kimball works, and will sue Kimball asserting bankrupcy (The court turns down the claim, and Soule's lawer for the attemp is associated with Stanford) Soule will later be the head of grounds for Stanford University. Finally, Soule and Stanford grew up together in New York...

With both Phelps and Kimball possibly associated with Ralston, can some of this be explained as a conflict between Ralston and the CP?

I am going to have a week in Washington DC next month. I plan on spending time with the Lincoln papers... There may be stuff there. Phelps is supposed to have been a friend of Lincoln, and "had his ear". Last year I went through the Pacific Railroad Committee notes, but only the Standing committee stuff. It was a select committee until 1861, then made a standing committee. The committee records are incomplete, and the archivist not particularly helpful (not bad, just not helpful) and now that I have done more background research I should understand better. I have already read most of the Secretary of the Interior information on the WP, but will go to the archives at College Park to tie up some loose ends. I have identified the WP ledgers in the Bureau of public dept as another target. If people have specific requests I will try to oblige.