Sunday, February 20, 2005

Harpers Description of May 10

From the sounds of it, I suspect they took their info from other papers.  They only mention three spikes (Hewes, Nevada, Arizona).
Kyle K. Wyatt
Curator of History & Technology
California State Railroad Museum

Note my work address has changed to:
My personal address remains:

Monthly Record of Current Events

Our Record closes on the 28th of May.—The prominent events of the month are: The completion of the Pacific Railroad ...

The 10th of May will be noted as the day upon which the construction of a railroad from the Pacific coast to the Missouri River, and thence virtually, by lines already completed, to every part of the great Valley of the Mississippi and the whole Atlantic coast, was finally accomplished. We do not here propose to present the details of the immense preparatory work performed before the enterprise was fairly started; nor to say to which one, out of many scores for whom the credit has been claimed of having suggested the idea, the honor should he awarded. Within a short time after the value of the region of the Pacific slope was approximately ascertained, it became a settled conviction in the public mind that one or more railroads must be built to connect the Atlantic with the Pacific. Many routes were proposed, the arguments for each being based mainly upon sectional grounds as to whether the line should be northern, central, or southern. In 1853 Congress authorized the War Department to institute a series of surveys of the various routes proposed. The results of these surveys, comprised in thirteen folio volumes, were published. Jefferson Davis, then Secretary of War, recommended a line mainly following the 32d parallel of latitude.

Nothing practical was done until July, 1862, when Congress passed an act granting aid in the construction of a railroad and telegraph line from the Missouri River to the Pacific Ocean. An association named the Union Pacific Railroad Company was empowered to build the line from a point in Nebraska Territory to the western boundary of Nevada, and there connect with the line of the Central Pacific Railroad Company, which bad been already chartered by the Legislature of California. The whole line, from the Missouri to the Bay of Sacramento, was to be completed not later than July 1, 1876, and the Company first reaching the boundary line might proceed until it met the other. The aid promised by Government was of a substantial character. The Company was to have the right of way through the Government lands for 200 feet on each side of the track; besides this the Company received a grant of ten alternate sections to the mile on each side of the railroad, with the right to nse material npon Government lands. Moreover, the Government promised its bonds, the interest payable in gold, at 6 per cent., at the rate of $16,000 per mile for the whole road; but for certain parts, amounting in all to about 150 miles, which were of especial difficulty, $48,000 per mile was granted. For the Californian section the uniform grant was $32,000 per mile. These issues of bonds were to be made only upon the certificate of Commissioners appointed by the Government that sections of twenty miles had been duly completed and thoroughly equipped as a first-class railroad.

With all these possible advantages the work at first advanced but slowly. The Pacific Union Company was organized in 1863, with a nominal capital of $100,000,000, but with the right to proceed when $2,000,000—a fiftieth part of the whole capital—was actually subscribed. It was hard to get even this two million of dollars. But it was finally raised, and the Company began to work. Omaha, on the Missouri River, was fixed upon as the starting-point, from which the work was to be pushed westward. Thence to Salt Lake City was a distance of something more than a thousand miles. Here, or hereabouts, it was expected that the junction would be made with the road to be pnshed eastward by the Pacific Central from Sacramento. The first actual work on the Union Pacific road was begun in August, 1864. Three months later 12 miles had been constructed, and the occasion was duly celebrated. The next year, 1865, 28 miles more were built. At this rate it would take more thau a third of a century to reach the point of junction, near the Mormon capital. The work now fell into the hands of men who were resolved to "push things," no matter at what cost. Heretofore a mile a day had been the utmost at which any railroad had ever been built. This rate was soou reached. In 1866 265 miles were built; next year 235 miles. In 1868 the work was pushed forward with a rapidity heretofore unknown. For weeks four miles a day was the usual rate at which rails were laid; and early in May, 1869, the thousand miles and more from Omaha to the head of Salt Lake had been built.

Meanwhile the Central Pacific Company had been pushing on their road to meet their eastern coadjutors. The line as originally planned was to run to the south of the Great Salt Lake, passing through Salt Lake City. It was changed so as to bend northward, passing the Salt Lake at its northwestern extremity; from this road a branch road of some fifty miles. in length must be built to connect the sacred city of the Mormons with the continental line.

The ceremony of placing the last tie of the united roads was performed with as much display as was possible. The scene was a grassy valley at the head of the Great Salt Lake. About 3000 people of all sorts had here congregated. Among them were many men who had borne a prominent part in the construction of the road. The final tie was of polished laurelwood, bound at the ends with silver bands. A golden spike sent by California, and a silver one by Nevada, and one of gold, silver, and iron by Arizona, were presented. These spikes were driven home by the representative officers of the two Companies by whom the roads had been constructed. Prayers were offered and some speeches made. Arrangements had been made by which the strokes of the hammers were connected with the telegraphic wires; and almost at the instant it was known on the Pacific and the Atlantic that the junction of the roads had been completed. The New York newspapers of the morning of the 12th contained a dispatch from San Francisco announcing that at the moment when the last spike had been driven an in voice of tea had been sent by the road, thus, as the dispatch read, "inaugurating the overland trade with China and Japan."

The length of the Union Pacific road, from Omaha to Ogden, is 1086 miles; that of the Central Pacific, from Ogden to Sacramento, is 690 miles—1776 in all From Sacramento to San Francisco, 124 miles, a road has been built. It is impossible to state with any accuracy the entire cost of the construction and equipment of these roads. Apart from grants of land and material, the subsidies afforded by Government amount to $52,000,000, of which $26,000,000 have been paid to the Union Pacific, and $20,000,000 to the Central Pacific, leaving $6,000,000 yet due to the roads. There can be no doubt that much of the roads has been hastily and imperfectly constructed; but in September of last year a Commission appointed by Government, headed by General Gouverneur K. Warren, reported upon 890 miles of the road then in operation: "Deficiencies exist, hut they are, almost without ex ception, those incident to all new roads, or of a character growing out of the peculiar difficulties encountered or inseparably connected with the unexampled progress of the work. They can all he supplied at an outlay hut little exceeding that which would have obviated them in the first instance, hut at the cost of greatly retarding the progress of the great work."

The accompanying map shows the general line of the two roads, which together may he called the Pacific Railroad. It runs almost due west, following closely the 41st parallel of latitude, bending southward a little when it approaches the Pacific coast. The map also indicates the railroads which, centring at Omaha, run in every direction, connecting this place with the Valley of the Mississippi, the Lake region, and the Atlantic seaboard. It is useless now to attempt to locate the towns which are every day springing up on the line of this long road. It passes in its course four distinct ranges of mountains: (1.) The Sierra Nevada, the highest elevation, about 100 miles from Sacramento, is 7042 feet; then it sinks gradually, hut with alternate risings and failings, to Ogden, 4320 feet. (2.) Then it climbs the Wasatch range, the highest point, 800 miles from Sacramento, being 7500 feet, whence it sinks 1500 feet; and (3.) climbs the Rocky Mountains through Bridger’s Pass, where, 1000 miles from Sacramento, it gains a height of 7500 feet. Thence it runs nearly level for fifty miles, when (4.) it ascends the Black Hills, the summit, 1250 miles from Sacramento, being 8242 feet ahove the ocean. Then the region slopes gradually downward for 500 miles, to Omaha, which is about 1000 feet above the ocean level. There are thus four several points where the road reaches an elevation higher than the loftiest peak in America east of the Mississippi River.

No two measurements of the absolute distance by the traveled routes between New York and San Francisco exactly agree; but the sum of the discrepancies hardly amounts to a hundred miles. It is as yet impossible to lay down the precise time which will be required for the transit. The following table is a close approximation to what is proposed to be accomplished; the whole tune being a few hours less than a week:

New York to Chicago 911 miles, 36 1/6 hours.
Chicago to Omaha 491 mi1es 24 1/2 hours.
Omaha to Ogden 1091 miles, 53 1/2 hours.
Ogden to Sacramento 743 miles, 43 3/4 hours.
Sacramento to San Francisco 117 miles, 3 1/2 hours.

3353 miles, 161 3/4 hours.

Of the commercial value of this road it is yet too early to speak with confidence. Four points, however, may be assumed: (1.) The heavy articles which enter into commerce will not pass over the line. The saving in time will not compensate for the heavy charges which must be imposed. (2.) The "way traffic" upon the line will for many years be inconsiderable. A great part of the road runs through a region which will always he very thinly peopled. (3.) Assuming that the road will be operated with tolerable accuracy, nearly all the passengers between the Pacific and the Atlantic will pass over this road. By it a person starting from San Francisco will reach New York in a week. By way of the Isthmus of Panama he would require nearly a month. (4.) The political uses of the road are incalculable. In case of war with a maritime power, our Government can transport an army to the defense of any point on the Pacific, without any possibility of obstruction from the enemy; whereas, were a force sent by sea, the vessels conveying it would be liable to capture either on the Atlantic or the Pacific side; to say nothing of the possibility that transit across the Isthmus of Panama might be blocked up. In this single point of view every dollar which the Government has expended in aiding the construction of this road has been wisely laid out.

Courtesy Cornell University Library, Making of America.

Brooks insulator found in an SPRR tunnel in Oregon

Thanks for your question.

It seems likely from your description that you have a 19th century Brooks telegraph insulator, and have misread the year as 1861 (it actually says 1867). The word that you can't read is "patent." It should look like the pictures on the Brooks insulator page. What you are calling porcelain is actually either the glass part of the insulator or the sulfur used to hold it together. The metal rod has a metal ramshorn shaped end (if the insulator is intact with no missing parts) which holds the telegraph wire. It isn't an insulator that was used underground. Somehow the insulator fell off the underside of the wooden support to which it was attached, or was discarded and was left on the ground where it may have become partially buried until it was found by your husband's father. When it was attached, it would have looked like the picture of the Brooks Insulators in a Yardarm.

Interesting to learn that Brooks insulators were used in Oregon. These insulators are rather rare.

On Feb 20, 2005, at 11:42 PM, wrote:

thank you for the quick response. this is all i know about the underground electric insulator. my husbands father was a worker for the southern pacific railroad. he was fighting a tunnel fire in oregon (i'm not sure what town) and they found this insulator in the tunnel in the ground.

it has a metal jacket with porcelain in the center with a ground rod going down the center. on the bottom it says:
(writing undecipherable)
august 6, 1861

his father was given a keychain that has the following inscription on it: royal order accredited smoke tasters and eaters reedsport, tunnel # 19 (either 19 or 16 but i'm sure it's 19)
1-30 to 2-8 1975

hope this can shed some light on what kind of insulator it is and any other information you can find would be GREATLY appreciated.

his father gave it to him and he has kept it in a special place for all these years not really knowing all that much about it except where it was found.

sorry i can't send a picture but this internet thing is new to me and havent figured out how to send pictures just yet. thanks again. yolanda bour

From: Central Pacific Railroad Photographic History Museum
Subject: Re: information and pictures ["1861 CPRR underground electric insulator"]

Thanks for your question. Not sure what you mean by an "underground electric insulator." Please explain – do you mean an insulator that was found buried in the ground? Where? Is it glass or metal? Color? Is there any writing on the insulator?

The only insulators from the 1860's relating to the Central Pacific Railroad that we know of were used for the above ground telegraph line accompanying the railroad. The CPRR used metal 1867 Brooks Patent Insulators (rams horn type) which have glass inserts and fit into a hole on the underside of the telegraph pole wooden cross-piece.

The Central Pacific Railroad did not exist in 1861. The Pacific Railroad Act was not even signed by Lincoln until 1862.

The first transcontinental telegraph (not the later one along the transcontinental railroad) was completed in 1861, putting the Pony Express out of business, but we don't have information regarding what insulators were used.

Can you supply any additional information about what you have, where it was found, and e-mail us a photograph of your insulator?

On Feb 19, 2005, at 4:15 PM, wrote:

we looked up your information on the internet and were looking for pictures of an underground electric insulator from central pacific railroad dated 1861. we have an underground electric insulator from the pacific central railroad dated august 1861 and just wanted a point of reference. so how would we go about getting a picture of one? any help would be most appreciated. thank you, yolanda bour

Re: CP Coal to Oil

I came across a couple of photos of Truckee shedding light on the coal to oil conversion. Both photos feature locomotives with train number boards on the boilers. I've forgotten the exact date of the addition of number boards to locos, but I thought it was rather later than the conversion to oil.

In Ev Mills book "Dot, Dot, Dot, Done" (one of a group of paperback photo compilations done by Mills in 1981 with Pacific Coast Chapter - R&LHS support for the opening of the California State Railroad Museum), pg 75. A photo of SP 4-6-0 32176 in firetrain service at Truckee, and coal clearly in the tender. I'd think that a fire train locos would be one of the last to receive number boards.

In Signor, "Donner Pass", pg 129 center. Note the many coal buckets stacked up for loading into loco tenders. Not sure of the loco number, but it looks like a Harriman consolidation - with number boards.


Note my NEW address of

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

Re: CP loco fuel

A J Stevens was employed by San Francisco & Alameda (and SFO&A), Western Pacific (under CP), and CP. To my knowledge elder brother Charles W. Stevens never worked for the WP or the CP.


Note my NEW address of

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

AN Towne and CP loco fuel

I came across the following two pieces of correspondence today from copies of the Huntington microfilm records. They add light to a number of issues that we have been discussing in recent weeks.

Larry Mullaly

1. AN Towne to CP Huntington, January 21, 1870

You ask about fuel. I am fully aware expenses for fuel on our road are enormous and it has been my aim ever since my arrive here to economize as much as possible in this one particular...

On the Western Road we are using coal almost wholly. It costs us from Mt. Diablo coal mines delivered here at Sacramento and at San Francisco $8 per ton coin which is the very best figure I could make.

You may or may not be aware that we have some 4 1/2 or 5 miles of iron laid from what what was known as "Corral Hollow" station up to a point where we have been getting out gravel. I spent the entire day with Mr. Crocker last Monday going up Corral Hollow to the coal mines. We found good coal and I should say in abundance and I have urged upon our people the importance of laying down some light iron from the end of the gravel track to the mines which would be about 8 miles. The grading most of the way is light running up the creek. This will give us some considerable freight to transport over other portions of our line also giving us cheaper fuel for the Western and San Joaquin Roads. From what I could judge of the coal and what we have been using from these mines for the past few months I should say it was nearly as good as the Mount Diablo. It costs us $6 at the present time teaming and all at the end of the track.

We have also changed our switching engine at Ogden to burn coal and are at the present time changing two passenger engines and shall gradually work into coal on the East Division. We are, at present, paying $2 for the coal and are paying the UP folks $3 for transportation from the mines (which are some three miles from the main track near Evanston to Ogden.

I should be glad if you could bring anything to bear that would give us a less rate on the transportation of this coal over the UP road.

Yours etc.

AN Towne
Genl. Superintendent

2. AN Towne to CP Huntington, Feb. 21, 1870


Yours of the 11th arrived.

As we are now paying $3.50 per ton on coal from Evanston to Ogden I would be very glad if you could make accnt. [??] and a half for tone per mile arrangement with them for transportation.

At the present time we have one switcher at Ogden fitted for coal and one passenger engine will be out in a few days, another one in a few weeks, and probably within 8 or ten weeks we will have 5 engines all told ready for burning coal. The present amount of business on the Division between Ogden and Toano will require about 23 tons per day when the five engines [are in use??]. [With the?] business increase which we hope for requiring 2 freights a day each way, we would require 32 tons per day. In the course of 8 or 10 months should we conclude to burn coal between Toano and Winnemucca it would probably require about 33 additional tons per day for that division.

I should say that we will want more than 30 to 40 tons per day from May 1st to December 31, 1870. By that time we should know what success we had in burning it on the Salt Lake Division and might feel justified in changing our engines to burn it between Toano and Winnemucca.


AN Towne

Re: CP loco fuel

My belief is that Stevens was Master Mechanic at Oakland (for the CP/WP) at the time he was appointed General Master Mechanic.

At to his title as General Master Mechanic instead of General Superintendent of Motive Power (the title that both Perkins before Stevens and Small after Stevens had), this may reflect only a change in nomenclature instituted by A. N. Towne, and might be typical of CB&Q practices at the time. (Towne was a CB&Q man, as had Stevens been before coming to California in 1861.)


Note my NEW address of

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

The Other Last Spike

There were two last spikes! Where is the Silver Spike?
MAY 13 1869 Territorial Enterprise Virginia City Nev.

THE LAST SPIKE:- S.T.Gauge arrived in this city yesterday from the front, bringing with him the Nevada silver spike driven at the point where the connection was made between the Central Pacific and the Union Pacific railroads. After a train had passed over them both, the golden spike of California and the silver spike of Nevada were taken out and iron ones substituted. The two last spikes will be carefully preserved. The continent is now spanned, and there can be no more last spikes — nevermore, for it is as "Muchly" spanned as it ever can be. This being the case, these spikes will a hundred years hence be looked upon as sacred relics, and as such treasured and guarded with the most Jealous care.

Dale Darney


I have to find more information which is somewhere in my records about a seam of coal found near Verdi about two miles West at Crystal Peak. After some testing, it proved not to burn well.

A locomotive:-came down from Verdi on Wednesday last using for fuel nothing but Crystal Peak coal.

Dale Darney