Sunday, March 06, 2005

Re: CP/SP Coal History

FWIW, I just looked in the 1880 "report on the agencies of transportation in the United States" under the category of fuel usage. CP reported using 231,000 tons of coal during the year ending 30 June 1880, at $7 per ton. Of the railroads included, only the Nevada Central (at $12) and the SP Arizona (at $8.26) paid more. The Galveston, Houston & Henderson paid $6.48. Several roads were paying less than $2 per ton. AT&SF was paying $1.85 (think about that one in the light of the fare war). At the same time the CP reported using 70,000 cords of pine–at $4.75 per cord. It would be interesting to know the relative amount of steam that could be raised by a ton of coal vs. a cord of pine. Sacramento & Placerville was reporting the use of oak only–at $4.25 per cord. Eureka & Palisade was paying $5.59 per cord and the Nevada Central was paying $7 per cord (both from line of road). The Longview & Sabine Valley was paying $1.10 per cord.

It would take some doings, but one could compare the cost of fuel per mile of road, or per locomotive, or even by ton of freight hauled by running the numbers in this report.

I told Larry the other night I bet the CP/SP would have electrified had it not been for on-line oil. I do wonder how the CP/SP's fuel costs changed during the Harriman period when (presumably) they had better access to UP coal fields.


New Book of UPRR Letters


We have just finished editing the first volume (600 plus pages) of letters of an Omaha man covering the years 1866-1868. Volume 2 1869-1871 should be out by the end of the year. A lot of interesting stuff on the Union Pacific side, good but not necessarily flattering comments about Dodge, Durant and the viewed corruption by the builders of the roads. Lots of good discussion about the bridge at Omaha, shops construction, that sort of thing.

Barry Combs former PR director of UP and author of Westward to Promontory is on the team. We found it fascinating just preparing it.

... You can order it from The Bookworm in Omaha. 402-392-2877. ...

I think you might enjoy it.


Their Man in Omaha, The Barker Letters, Volume 1, 1860-1868. Editors Don Snoddy, Barry Combs, Bob Marks, Del Weber. Published by the Douglas County Historical Society. ISBN 1-930644-07-8.

"This 700-page volume consists of a series of letters and correspondence between immigrant Joseph Barker and his family in England during the 1860s. Compiled and edited by Dr. Del Weber, Barry Combs and Don Snoddy, Their Man in Omaha is available for the pre-publication price of $39.95 plus tax for [Douglas County] Historical Society members. Regular price is $49.95."

Excerpt available.

National Archives

From: "Randall Hees"

I will be in Washington DC / Maryland in a week or so. While I have my own research plate pretty full if someone has something specific that they need from the National Archives at College Park, or at the Library of Congress, I will see if I can find it.

One of my goals is a romp through the Lincoln papers looking for various letters lobbying for the Pacific Railroad, particularly for track gauge.


[Links added.]

CP/SP Coal History

I have been working on the topic of SP's coal to oil conversion for some time. In an early draft of material for a still to be published an article for SP Trainline (this portion new considerably reduced in length), I assembled quite a bit of information information that I give below. My footnotes have been inserted within brackets. Some of this information may have been corrected by our ongoing CP discussion, but by and large it is fairly accurate.

CP/SP Coal History to 1900

In the 1860s, the sight of locomotive tenders piled high with cordwood was commonplace along the lines of the Central Pacific Railroad. Wood fuel was inexpensive and easily harvested from Sierra Nevada railroad lands. But as the railroad built across the Nevada and Utah deserts, reliance on wood fuel became increasingly problematic, and by January 1870 a large-scale conversion of many of its engines from wood to coal was underway. Within two years, virtually all locomotives operating on the 554 miles of track between Wadsworth, Nevada and Ogden, Utah had been changed to coal burning with fuel supplied by the CP affiliate, the Rocky Mountain Coal and Iron Company near Evanston, Wyoming. [San Francisco Daily Alta California, January 6 1870. Correspondence, AN Towne to CP Huntington, August 13, 1873.]

A similar transformation took place on the Pacific slope where by the mid 1870's all Central Pacific lines and its subsidiaries, with the exception of the overland route from Sacramento to Wadsworth, and the CP's Sacramento to Redding line were either fully changed over to coal burning, or in the process of conversion. The changeover from wood to coal fuel over the Sierras did not begin until late 1886, and wood continued in use into the 1890's at least in the Sacramento area. [Report to the Department of the Interior, October 29, 1870; Report of AN Towne to CP Huntington, August 8, 1873. Sacramento Division, 1883 plat maps (CSRM). San Francisco Morning Call, September 15, 1886; January 11, 1887 (John Sweetser research). Sacramento to Redding does not appear to have been converted from wood to coal until 1883. Plat maps showing installation of coal bunkers, CSRM.]

Throughout this period, access to quality coal on the Pacific Coast remained a problem. Northern California lines were able to obtain some local coal from the flank of Mt. Diablo near the San Francisco Bay, and a mine in the Ione Valley, 30 miles southeast of Sacramento. Limited fuel supplies were also available from Coos Bay, Oregon. Unfortunately, this coal was poor-burning lignite, and as SP Vice-President CP Huntington noted in 1877, "the engineers and firemen are all against it." [CP Huntington to D Colton correspondence, December 17, 1877.] As a result, much of the coal used by the railroad as late as the 1890s was imported from Wales and Australia. [Dunscomb and Dunscomb, II, p. 168.] The railroad however periodically resorted to lignite or to a mix of lignite and bituminous coal to prevent coal shippers from raising market rates. "While the coal is not as good as we would like it, we are able to protect ourselves against high prices," CP President Leland Stanford explained. ["A great deal of the coal consumed` is foreign coal," CP President Leland Stanford acknowledged in 1887. US Pacific Railway Commission, p. 2794.]

Significant portions of other Big Four routes were designed as coal burning from their inception. Among these was the SP's mainline south from Goshen in the San Joaquin Valley, and through Southern California during the 1870s on which all engines were coal-fired. By 1878 eleven coaling stations were in operation between Tulare and Yuma. [US Railroad Commissioner reports]. Similar fueling sites were established as the line was built across Arizona and New Mexico.

The search for a secure supply of good coal continued to occupy SP managers through the next two decades. In 1888, the Southern Pacific extended a branch line in the San Joaquin Valley from Huron to Alcalde to access coal that unfortunately proved low in thermal energy and easily ignited when stored. A year later, coal purchased from Mexican mines to fuel locomotives on the Tucson Division proved similarly unsatisfactory. "Almost every freight train, ever since we began using this coal, has been more or less delayed," complained SP General Superintendent JW Fillmore. [JW Fillmore to HJ Small (SP Superintendent of Motive Power) correspondence, Feb. 28, 1899. Stanford University Special Collections, M317, Box 1, Folder 2.] By the early 1890s, the railroad was taking delivery of coal from SP-owned mines at Carbonado in Washington's Puget Sound area, and from Namaino and Comox in British Columbia. In 1893, the coal sources for the SP's operations out of Los Angeles were Australia and the state of Washington. [Railroad Gazette, September 22, 1893, p. 701]. During a twelve-month period beginning July 1, 1895 over 128,000 tons of coal was delivered to Port Los Angles near Santa Monica. The fuel was destined for SP engines from Mojave as far to the east as Gila Bend, Arizona. Beyond this point fuel was provided from Deming, New Mexico and sources east of El Paso. ["Cost of Coal`Pacific System, Port of Los Angeles to El Paso, April 1, 1897." Maintenance of Way document #110B, Southern Pacific Engineering Collection, Oregon Historical Society. ] By the early 1900s, coal from Utah fueled operations on the Salt Lake and Sacramento Divisions. [Ashland Tidings, November 15, 1900.]

Closing Note: The transition from coal to oil was primarily driven by market prices and prospects of secure long-term reserves. Although the SP burned oil in some of its locomotives beginning in 1895, it was a least five years till they seriously began converting to oil, with the lines through Nevada and Utah among the last to be converted. Even after the changeover began, coal remained in use far longer than is often realized.


Judah's birthdate

From: "Wendell Huffman"

In response to a question from Kyle, I share this with all. It was published in Railroad History some time back in the '90s. Bracketed comments are current.

Theodore D. Judah's Birth Date

History "carved in stone" may not always be correct. The mortal remains of Theodore D. Judah–promoter and first chief engineer of the Central Pacific Railroad–lie buried beneath a large tombstone at St. James Episcopal Church at Greenfield, Massachusetts. On the side of the stone is carved the inscription: "Born March 4, 1826, Died November 2, 1863."

The first hint that something might be wrong with this widely accepted birth date came from an examination of Judah's enrollment record at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, from which school he was reported to have graduated. In fact, Judah appears only to have attended Rensselaer during the summer term of 1838, and his birth date was recorded as March 4, 1825–one year earlier than that inscribed on his tombstone. This Rensselaer register is the only known record of Judah's birth date created during his lifetime.

The mystery was seemingly complicated by the 1850 census which records Judah as a twenty-six year old civil engineer of Seneca Falls, New York. As this enumeration was made in October 1850 this age suggests a birth date in 1824. However, this record may only mean that Judah was closer to his twenty-sixth birthday than his twenty-fifth at the time of the census (we know neither how the age question was framed or interpreted [nor do we know who answered]).

Further research led to the baptismal records of St. John's Episcopal Church, Bridgeport, Connecticut, where Judah's father Henry R. Judah was rector at the time of his son's birth. This document records the baptism of "Theodore son of H. R. Judah" in September 1825 (no day given). As this date is six months too early for the 1826 date carved on his tombstone, it strongly suggests that the March 4, 1825 date Judah himself [apparently] gave upon enrollment at Rensselaer is the correct birth date.

[The actual document consulted is a handwritten copy made some time after the fact. I did subsequently locate what is supposed to be the original, but the archivist who examined the document for me was unable to find any baptism record for Theodore–on this date or any other. For what it's worth, one Pierce genealogist examined the same material I looked at and came to the conclusion that the Theodore baptized in September 1825 was an older brother who died, and after whom our Theodore was named–though he had no record for any other Theodore's birth or baptism. And, also for what it's worth, Norman Tutorow elected to stick with the traditional birthdate dispite everything you read here.]

Making Judah one year older than previously accepted hardly changes our perception that he accomplished much as a young man. However, this revision portrays Judah as closer to the ages of his associates than is often held, as it makes him just one year younger than Central Pacific president Leland Stanford.

[Another comment: Judah was very sloppy with dates. Soon after (or in preparation for) the dispute between himself and C.P. Huntington of summer 1863, Judah prepared an inventory of the various things he had done on behalf of the Central Pacific Railroad. In it, he was off by one year from the actual events. So, it is left to you to conclude whether Judah was sloppy with his birthdate at Rensselaer in 1838 and at Seneca Falls in 1850, or in what he told Anna at various times in their relationship. I was never able to determine whether the date was actually carved on Judah's grave marker during Anna's lifetime, or whether that was added after she died–but I imagine it was done by her.

[The Sacramento Union of 28 March 1855 records that Judah was showing off a "handsome ring" which was inscribed "Sac. Valley Railroad, March 4th, 1855, first gold ever taken from earth used in making a Railroad bank." No comment was made by the paper on the significance of that date, but the 4th of March was probably indeed Judah's birth anniversary. I believe the ring was his present on his 30th birthday–perhaps from Anna. The gold in the ring was worth $5 1855 dollars, and it was taken from eight cubic yards of earth one mile east of Alder Springs–about three miles west of the Folsom station.]