Sunday, July 30, 2006

Photo Tourism: Exploring photo collections in 3D

"Photo tourism is a system for browsing large collections of photographs in 3D." See the video demonstration of this exciting new experimental computer technology.

" ... a new 3D software technology designed to create an immersive 3D online photo sharing capability ... "

"photo collections into 3D walkthroughs ... a new technology called Photosynth, which can stitch together 2D snapshots of a location to build a 3D walkthrough. So for instance, you could do a Google Image or Flickr search for photos of the Eiffel Tower, dump all the resulting photos of the monument into Photosynth, and have the software recreate it and its surroundings in 3D. ... "

"Photo Tourism is a system for browsing large collections of photographs in 3D. Our approach takes as input large collections of images from either personal photo collections or Internet photo sharing sites, and automatically computes each photo's viewpoint and a sparse 3D model of the scene. Our photo explorer interface enables the viewer to interactively move about the 3D space by seamlessly transitioning between photographs, based on user control."

Noah Snavely, Steven M. Seitz, and Richard Szeliski, Photo Tourism: Exploring photo collections in 3D," ACM Transactions on Graphics, 25(3), August 2006.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Collector of Scovill Co. items

From: "Bill Michal"
Subject: Scovill Manufacturing Co. CPRR Uniform Buttons and Cameras

Surfing the web for Scovill, I found this site. Would like to e-correspond with someone about CPRR buttons, etc. ...

I have an eclectic collection of items made by the Scovill Manufacturing Company. Searching the www led me to your listing where I found pictured 2 attractive CPRR uniform buttons made by Scovill. My questions would include their availability and their approximate cost.

More than simply asking questions I would like to be put in touch with a collector or group of collectors of these items to be able to correspond with them. Thank you for trying to facilitate that.

—Bill Michal

Friday, July 28, 2006

"The Man Who Gave the Golden Spike."

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Theodore Judah living at Antelope (Sacramento County), California???

From: "Cliff Kennedy"

I'm trying to find out if anyone has any information regarding Theodore Judah rooming for a time in, or near, Antelope (Sacramento County), California. In the book "Penryn - A Village Locked in Time" by local historian Leonard M. Davis, under a biographical sketch for James Blanchard, an early-day Penryn (CA) resident, Mr. Davis writes:

"During the building of the Central Pacific Railroad, he [Blanchard] lived at Antelope along the Sacramento-Placer County Line at which time Theodore D. Judah... roomed and boarded with him."

Unfortunately, Mr. Davis no longer has his notes, so the original source of this information is, at present, unknown.

Considering the fact that Judah left these parts, never to return, in October 1863, I was wondering if this was even possible chronologically, as I didn't think Antelope came into being until sometime in 1864, or shortly thereafter.

Any insights or information would be greatly appreciated. —Cliff Kennedy, Penryn, CA

"Chinese ... were forced to camp, in thin canvas tents, under ten- to twenty-foot snow drifts"

"And the Chinese tunnelers were forced to camp, in thin canvas tents, under ten- to twenty-foot snow drifts. For month after month, they lived like seals, huddled together in padded cotton clothes."

This description of the Sierrra summit camp in winter seems highly implausible, especially that thin canvas tents were in use under twenty feet of snow. Can anyone help to debunk this? Not sure what of this is made up and what can be verified as historically accurate. The description of "one and two-story houses, built quite strongly" (see below) seems much more credible. Here is what we have found so far:


"Snow overtook the Central Pacific crews in December of 1866. That winter was one of the most severe on record. But Crocker ordered the workers to start tunneling Donner Summit. The Chinese lived practically entirely out of sight of the sky that winter, their shacks largely buried in snow. They dug chimneys and air shafts and lived by lantern light. They tunneled their way from the camps to the portal of the tunnel to work long, underground shifts. A remarkable labyrinth developed under the snow. The corridors in some cases were wide enough to allow two-horse sleds to move through freely, and were as much as 200 feet long. Through them, workmen travelled back and forth, digging, blasting and removing the rubble."

"TUNNELS OF THE PACIFIC RAILROAD" Van Nostrand's Eclectic Engineering Magazine, Vol. II, 1870 pp. 418-423 has sections giving detailed descriptions of Snow-Storms, Snow-tunnel, and Snow-cuts.

"The Pacific Railroad — Unopen" by Robert L. Harris in the "Overland Monthly," September, 1869, pp. 244-252 describes:

"October, 1867 ... the 'Summit Camp' ... This is really a small town of one and two-story houses, built quite strongly, to resist the weight of winter snows ... After a hearty welcome at the Summit Camp from brother engineers, and a substantial supper, I gladly coiled myself under as many bed-clothes as the human frame could stand, awakened only in the night by the dull boom of blasts in the tunnel, three hundred feet distant. ... "

Lewis M. Clement’s first person account in his 1887 Statement to the U.S. Pacific Railway Commission stated:

"As we neared the summit of the Sierras winter was again upon us, granite tunnels to bore, deep rock cuttings to make, and retaining walls to construct. Rock cutting could not be carried on under snow drifts varying in depth from 20 to 100 feet. It was decided, no matter what the cost, that the remaining tunnels should be bored during the winter. To reach the faces of the tunnels the snow drifts were tunneled and through these snow tunnels all rock was removed. Retaining walls in the cañons were built in domes excavated in the snow — the wall stones raised or lowered to their places into the dome through a shaft in the snow."

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Comment regarding Technical Notes

Subject: Technical Notes

Read with interest some of your issues. Love what you're doing.

Suggest you upgrade to Adobe Photoshop CS2, at least. This version opens up new opportunties not found in the previous "eight" versions.

I've been using the software in my work. Much easier to work with – especially in restoring old photos.

Best wishes.


Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Milk & Cream cars

From: "Frank"

I would like to know how much info you have on Milk & Cream cars ( Baggage)? To include floor plans, car classification and number blocks per class. Also I would like gather historical info such different classifications service life per class. ie: wood side cars service life and transition to steel cars only. ...

—Frank, SP researcher

Monday, July 24, 2006

Map of the Union Pacific Railroad and Connections, c. 1867

From: "MilaDiNapoli"

I am a French scholar (PhD) working on Railroad maps. ... I would need the source of some of them, which is not mentioned. This information may be of great importance in explaining its use. ... For example, could you tell me where the map entitled Map of the Union Pacific Railroad and its Connections comes from?

—Mila Di Napoli

Engineering Notes on the Sierra Nevada Line

From: "Larry Mullaly"

I recently came across some primary material on the Sierra Nevada portion of the Overland Route (see below) that I thought might be of interest. Although the anonymous writer is generally critical of CP engineering standards, the he seems well versed in such matters and makes insightful comments. Any ideas as to the date of the document and the identity of the author would be welcome — as well as critiques of his critique!

—Larry Mullaly


Comments from An Anonymous Engineer: 

Pino to Reno    

In October, 1998 during a visit to the National Archives in Adelphi, Maryland, I came across a set of hand written notes at the bottom of a box of documents: R(ecord) G(roup)48, Secretary of the Interior Lands and Railroads Division, Railroad Packages Number: 187. The notes, written in ink in a small hand, are unsigned and undated. They provide interesting technical perspectives on portions of the Overland route. My transcription covers only part of this material.  

Larry Mullaly  


If the 6 degree curve to left stat[ion] 669+30-672+85 had been omitted and curves on each side joined by a tangent from one to the other [side?] of this curve, how much would it have increased work? There is too much timidity about being willing to take work to get good line.  

Clipper Gap.            

The several ... curves west of Clipper Gap station are needlessly sharp. Even tangents substituted for some curves would not make the work heavy or much increase it.

Series of reversed curves on 43rd mile could be made much easier. Tangents in place of some of them would not make heavy works. Series of reversed curves on 46th mile could be much improved without making heavy work. The same occurs on the 50th mile curve 9 degrees R. Stato. 970-980 could be replaced by tangent without very great cost and 6 degrees R. at Station 2660 might even have been omitted. Of course to ease curve is less expensive.  

Colfax, Gold Run, Dutch Flat, Alta.            

The road west of this is generally well built so far as culverts, bridges, and embankments are concerned, but the location is throughout on a very contracted vision, the extreme of curvature being adopted to save cost, to the great injury of the commercial value of the road.            

The line examined today (from Auburn) lies in shale formations affording no material for ballast, and the shale rock which has been used in surfacing the road is all disintegrating into clay, grassy [?] and so retentive of moisture as to be unfit for ballast. The cuts in some cases [are] rather narrow. The water tanks entirely too small. [Penned into margin] Note: Compare the locations on the C.P. road with that on the Penna. railroad in valley of Juniata, or that of Pittsburgh and Columbus R.R. between Pittsburgh and Steubenville or between Steubenville and Dennison. See what prodigious work was taken by these latter roads to get good alignment: high embankments and deep cuts to get curves of radii from 957 feet to 1910 feet. A curve as sharp as 957 radius was never used unless more demand existed for it than is on C.P. very often considered a justification for much sharper cures.  

Shady Run            

Bad locations on the 71st mile, stations 3720-3760. Line between this and Alta has same objection as before, too much curvature and needlessly sharp. Occasionally, however, on this line there are points where line is well laid showing less timidity of design.            

7 degree curve east of Shady Run is an instance where an easier curve could have been used at small increase of cost leaving balance of line undisturbed bed. There is a tangent on each side of this curve, and by simply lengthening the curve (that is, increasing the radius) this [could?] have been obtained....            

The 7-degree curve at 117th milepost is needlessly sharp.            

It seems to me the engineering over the Sierra is altogether too much cramped, and that too little attention was paid to the effect on the operating of a road by such a constant use of sharp curves. It is claimed the work is very expensive and as our evidence the tunnels are very numerous. True, there are many tunnels, but after all, the total length of tunnels is small, less than on Baltimore & Ohio road or on Penna. Road, and considerably less than on road between Pittsburgh and Columbus. (Total length tunnels on C.P. was 6262 feet of which.... I cannot think of a proper effort was made for a good location such as would have been in the long run, economical).  


A very great detour is made between Reno and point 5 or 6 mile below, when line approached river again. This is totally wrong. Line should have been straight from point west of Reno to upper end [of?] narrows. It is said present line was taken to avoid low ground, which is a great mistake. In locating roads we must meet and overcome difficulties, providing it can be done with any reasonable outlay, not dodge the [problems?].            

In narrows below this point curvature is needless[ly] great and sometimes almost shameful.            

For 15 miles ... profile not furnished, but cannot reconcile myself to location. Is it proper or necessary to bear away from river so much and make undulations?            

The two curves near 168th milepost are needless even with present grade. It is plain there should either have been less curvature/no reverse, or the grade should have been easier. My ideas is ...[that?] ameliorating should have been secured by taking the requisite work.            

Locations from about Station 3510 on 172nd mile to about 3600 is bad. This undulation could have been avoided at a very light increase of cost and the curvature diminished a same time. Part of the sharpest curvature here is begotten by keeping up the grade. A change in location has served throughout undulating, making an easy grade. Shorten the line, reduce the deflecting, and lengthen the radii of curves with but little additional cost...            

The line down Truckee valley partakes of the general character of the balance of the locations. It is penuriously cheap in first cost, alignment and grades being both sacrificed to attain this. Distances are often needlessly increased and the curvature caused largely in excess of what is required by the valley for a line from moderate cost. The commercial value of the road is diminished and the cost of operating it is increased. I think the whole line bears evidence that a contest for time had much to do with the locating. [Text continues].

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Photo scanning tips

Several comments regarding the excellent write-up, "8 Blunders People Make When They Scan Photographs ... And How To Avoid Them" by Sally Jacobs "The Practical Archivist."

The goal when scanning should be to capture all the detail in the original image. Scanning at 300 dpi is not sufficient, as a general rule, although it may be just fine when scanning an enlargement. The technical requirement (Shannon's sampling theorem) is that the sampling rate be at least twice the highest spatial frequency (the Nyquist frequency) to avoid loss of information and prevent introducing artifacts. Scanning at 600 dpi is barely adequate to capture the detail in 19th century prints such as stereoviews or wood block engravings. Scanning at 300 dpi (at 100% of the original) will also not provide sufficient detail when printing even a moderately enlarged copy from a small picture (such as would be desired for printing a copy of a detail from a stereoview or CDV in a textbook), and would provide disappointing quality if used for an exhibit display print. Scanning engravings at 300 dpi will result in severe Moire pattern artifacts.

TIFF images may be uncompressed, but TIFF allows a variety of compression schemes. Some are lossless such as LZW (based on substring encoding), others such as jpeg (based on Fourier transforms and cosine waves) are lossy (yes a TIFF image can use jpeg compression).

Having multiple backups is not sufficient – to survive long term they must be in different locations that are not subject to a common disaster such as a fire, flood, earthquake, war, etc. Also, each time that a backup format (whether the file format, the physical medium, the electrical interface, the computer instruction set, or the operating system, etc.) is superseded by a new one, you likely will need to make lossless copies into the new format or lose the pictures. There is a high risk that even if the physical medium, such as a disk survives with the data intact, it may be impossible or impractical to find a working device that can read the long obsolete format. How would you go about reading a well preserved DECtape or 8" floppy disk, for example, now ... in a hundred years? Where would you plug in your SCSI drive or RS-232 cable, now that your computer doesn't use such interfaces, and how would you obtain software drivers that work with the current operating system? Will your great grandchildren even know that some unfamiliar object contains pictures, or remember the password? ... Will they realize that the postage stamp size SD flash memory card that they are about to toss in the trash has a thousand pictures on it?

Also see: 1, 2, 3.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

email addresses

From: "Wendell Huffman"

Is it necessary to include everyone's email address with their postings? It doesn't bother me that the postings are "signed" (from so and so), but I just discovered that that is invariably followed with our email addresses. I'm not happy about that discovery. No wonder spammers are finding me!


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Can I visit the CPRR Museum?

From: "Richard L, Ruth"

Just where is the Central Pacific Railroad Photographic History Museum – I would like to see it.

—Richard Ruth, Monterey Bay Photo Mart

Monday, July 17, 2006

SP Engineering Corps

From: "Chris Graves"

You might enjoy this, taken about 1908, just West of NewCastle, California. The fellow in front of the buggy with a transit is Alfred D. Zander – 8-21-81/6-23-69. At the far right is Harold Tishman, 1885–?


S.P. Engineering Corp Newcastle. Courtesy G.J. 'Chris' Graves.
S.P. Engineering Corp Newcastle
Courtesy G.J. "Chris" Graves.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

San Francisco QuickTime Virtual Reality Muybridge Panorama

If you have Apple Computer's Quicktime software installed on your Macintosh or Windows computer, you can view the thirteen image E. Muybridge panorama of San Francisco from Nob Hill, 1878, as a 360 degree QTVR (QuickTime Virtual Reality) panorama! (Rotate the panorama by dragging the image or by using left or right arrow keys.)
Composite and virtual reality panorama courtesy of Bruce C. Cooper.

The Muybridge San Francisco view can also be seen as a conventional static panorama on the CPRR Museum's San Francisco City Views Exhibit.

CPRR Promontory photos [Hart 343-350]

From: "Glenn Willumson"

I am working on the photographs from Promontory and have hit a bit of a snag with which I am hoping the folks on the CPRR Discussion Group can help me.

After Promontory (June 2, I believe), Crocker purchased 21 negatives from Hart (the last CPRR purchase of negatives). This would presumably be Hart numbers 344-364. This would seem to be right, except that 343 seems that it should be included as well.

So that's the first question – is the train in 343 (in Argenta) the same train that appears in 344-350 (in Carlin, Elko, Peko, and Camp Victory – it seems clear that it's not the same train as in 349 – "Scene near Deeth")?

If it is the same train, then there is a second question. Bob Spude has been a great help to me as I try to sort these things out and he pointed out that the locomotive in 343 does not appear to be the Jupiter. Given the sequence at the end of the CPRR series it's hard to believe that the train in #343-350 isn't headed to Promontory. So the question is, which locomotive is it in 343? ... and is it pulling Stanford's special train? I noted that Leslie's account of the ceremonies (5 June 1869 – presumed to authored by by Russell) says that one CP train arrives at Promontory at 8:45am on May 10, then Stanford's arrives about 11:00. Could there have been two trains that left Sacramento – Stanford's and the one on which Hart rode and photographed in #343-350?


See A.A. Hart stereoview images 343-350, detail.

Ogden Shasta Route Creamer

From: "Ellen"

Could you please help me to date a small cream jug. The mark on the base says:

Southern Pacific Company
Sunset Ogden & Shasta Route
Maddock England Vitrified RgNo 647752


Can you spot all the errors?

"Living History: Immigrants drawn to Utah as their El Dorado" by Eileen Hallet Stone, © The Salt Lake Tribune, July 16, 2006. (News Article)

"... In the 1860s, 12,000 Chinese immigrants, employed by Central Pacific Railroad, constructed the transcontinental rail line from Sacramento to Promontory Summit. Skilled in handling explosives for boring tunnels through stone mountains, these men comprised 90 percent of the railroad's labor force. They were proficient with power tools, cleared miles of trees and laid miles of tracks. Nevertheless, they were overworked and underpaid. In the winter of 1866, they labored in snow drifts, some more than 60 feet high. The spring thaw revealed corpses. 'Their monumental achievements, which required them to pour sweat and blood into Utah, have endured long after their names have been all but forgotten,' writes historian Anand A. Yang in Missing Stories. In a remarkable feat at Promontory Summit, the Chinese laborers constructed 10 miles and 56 feet of rail line in one day. ... " [More]

[Courtesy Google Alerts.]

Santa Fe de-Luxe Third Winter Season 1913-14

From: "Richard Martin"

I have come across this brochure about the Santa Fe railroad for train service from Chicago to Los Angeles. It has description, fares, and artist pictures.  

Can you tell me anything about this?  

—Richard Martin

Saturday, July 15, 2006

One man, two cities? [naming Lathrop and Tracy, California]

"One man, two cities?" by Sam Matthews, © Tracy Press, July 15, 2006. (News Article)

" ... Lathrop was named sometime between 1869 and 1871 ... and all evidence points to Lathrop’s name stemming from the family of Leland Stanford’s wife, Jane Lathrop Stanford. ... Leland Stanford ... established Lathrop, originally known as Wilson’s Junction, as a railroad center ... at the junction of the Altamont Pass and San Joaquin Valley lines of the railroad ... after the Central Pacific had a dispute with Stockton officials about the location of a CP rail yard in San Joaquin County’s major city. ... Jane’s brother, Charles Lathrop, ... was then a construction engineer working for the Central Pacific. ... the new railroad line from Martinez to the Altamont Pass line was constructed in 1978 under the supervision of a Central Pacific civil engineer and superintendent by the name of J.H. Stewart ... [who] had worked on the Sandusky, Mansfield & Newark Railroad in Ohio. ... " [More]

[Courtesy Google Alerts.]

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Photographer Patrons


It's interesting to note how different photographers picked up patrons among the owners of the Central Pacific.

Hart's patron was E. B. Crocker, and Hart's work came to an end not long after E. B.'s stroke took him out of active management.

Somewhat later Muybridge found a patron in Stanford.

But the best patronage was received by Watkins from C. P. Huntington. Huntington and Watkins had traveled from Oneonta, New York, to California in the same Gold Rush immigrant party, and Watkins received periodic support throughout his life from Huntington, including the gift of a ranch in Capay Valley around the turn of the century. With the departure of Hart, Huntington saw to it that Watkins received the Hart negatives that the CP had purchased. (Watkins reprinted them regularly, retaining the Hart image numbers and captions.) This also explains why when in 1874 Watkins lost all his negatives to creditors, he did not loose the CP negatives - they still belonged to the railroad. Ultimately they were destroyed with the rest of Watkins' negatives (including his early negatives acquired by Taber in 1874) in the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire.

—Kyle Wyatt

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The dangers of link and pin couplers

From: "Wendell Huffman"

Something I overheard the other day prompted me to wonder what we really know about the dangers of link and pin couplers.

We've all no doubt heard the story about railroad superintendents asking to see the hands of prospective brakeman, with the punch line that the number of missing fingers revealed their work experience. As we've all no doubt come to realize, many of the stories we hear about the past are false-perhaps invented to make a good point, but not actually true. So, what do we really know about this?

In my years of reading old newspapers looking for stories relating to the railroads and railroaders, I don't recall a single story about smashed hands or fingers. True, this may only mean it was so commonplace that it didn't merit reporting. (Though I do recall a newspaper story about fingers cut off in a sawmill.) But there are countless stories in the press about brakemen and switchmen being run over and maimed (or killed). A story from my family tree is of an ancestor who served in the Civil War without a scratch and subsequently lost his foot the first week he worked for the Wabash-a foot, not a finger.

It seems to me the ancient railroaders were as smart (or smarter) as their modern counterparts. And brakemen were generally armed with a club-for adding leverage to the brake wheel. The only time I ever coupled a link pin coupler I used my club to hold the link-and I'd think the real brakemen would have done the same. (And you could always hold it with the pin itself).

I wonder if the real issue with link and pins was with uncoupling, not coupling-trying to uncouple a moving train so as to kick a car off into a siding. What I overheard (and I don't know that it is true) is that one of the first improvements with the link and pin was a lever to lift the pin-specifically to make it easier to uncouple a moving train. If true, that would imply that brakemen were indeed trying to uncouple moving cars. Scampering along the ties between moving cars-especially if there was the added complication of a switch nearby-while reaching to pull a pin would have been a significant danger.

Anyway, I ask if any of you have really seen evidence of the smashed finger(s) and what can be offered about the facts in the matter.

Wendell W. Huffman
Curator of History
Nevada State Railroad Museum
2180 South Carson Street
Carson City, NV 89701
(775) 687-8291 v
(775) 687-8294 f

Monday, July 10, 2006

Locomotive at Cape Horn, 1886

From: "Chris Graves"

This photograph of a locomotive at Cape Horn during construction of the 1886 trestle from the Placer County Archives, is printed in Images of America, ROCKLIN". The author, Carmel Barry-Schweyer, works at the archives. The cut face of Cape Horn sure doesn't look too high, does it? And the drop off, into Burnt Flat, isn't too steep, either, in 1886.

—Chris Graves

Locomotive at Cape Horn, 1886. Courtesy Placer County Department of Museums, Carmel Barry-Schweyer and Alycia S. Alvarez.
This photograph of Cape Horn is labelled on the reverse "locomotive #75." The locomotive is travelling East to West. The bridge, 120 feet long, was built in 1886 and was removed in 1895 according to Southern Pacific Transportation Co. records.
Image courtesy Placer County Department of Museums, Carmel Barry-Schweyer and Alycia S. Alvarez.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

The Central Pacific Railroad and the Legend of Cape Horn

From: "Guy Daugherty"

Mr. Strobridge:

I've just read your article about Cape Horn, and the abuses of historians. I found it to be absolutely fascinating, and wanted to thank you for the depth and accuracy of your efforts. It's interesting to hear odd scratchings in the background when told certains historical "facts," only to find when a bright light is shone upon them that there were mice in the works after all. I'm an Adolph Sutro fan, and had heard some similar distortions while listening to the docents during open house days after his Tunnel's portal had been restored.

You have my admiration and appreciation.

—Guy Daugherty

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Railroad Depot in Fresno, California

From: "Frank Ward"

I am covering my family history here in the UK. I came across this card showing the Railroad depot in Fresno [and] have attached the photo as it may interest you.

—Frank Ward

Railroad Depot in Fresno, California.

Were non-whites allowed to ride?

From: "Chen-Johnson, Mary"

... Were non-whites, specifically Chinese, allowed to ride the Transcontinental RR in the 1800's?

How long was the Transcontinental Railroad in use?

From: "Chen-Johnson, Mary"

... How long was the Transcontinental Railroad in use? I found conflicting information.

—Mary Chen-Johnson

What was done with the bodies of the Chinese who died?

From: "Chen-Johnson, Mary"

... Do you have any information about what was done with the bodies of the Chinese who died during the building of the Transcontinental Railroad? Were they buried where they died or were the corpses sent back to China? Any help would be appreciated.

—Mary Chen-Johnson

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Judson Scenic Route Tourist Car Parties, c. 1906.

Does anyone have any information about "Judson Scenic Route Tourist Car Parties," c. 1906.
"To California via 'The Scenic Line of the World.' Under Personal Escort."

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