Central Pacific Railroad Photographic History Museum
What was the size of the land grants for each mile constructed?
posted from CPRR Discussion Group at 10:11 AM
" ... the grant, which awards to the work 'an amount of five alternate sections per mile on each side of said road,' thus concedes a belt of 6,400 acres for every mile of its length ... "
Later doubled: Changed to ten alternate sections by Sec. 4, 1864, and grant to twenty miles.
From: "Don Snoddy" email@example.comThe land grant for Union Pacific started at 10 alternate sections either side of the right of way. It was amended in 1864 to twenty alternate sections either side of the right of way. Dr. Durant was not a slouch. He wanted every acre of land he could get, and convinced Congress that the railroad could not be built with having the land grant doubled. After the merger in 1880 with the Kansas Pacific and Denver Pacific which were land grant railroads, UP had over 13 million acres of land available for purchase. The grasshopper plagues of the mid-1870's caused UP to forgive payment for the years 1874-1877, since farmers had no way to make their payments anyway.Other land grant railroads and there weren't very many never got over 10 alternate sections. When the Burlington Railroad went across Nebraska just a few years later, their land grant was 10 sections either side, but since their right of way was too close to the UP, their land grant was pushed beyond the UP's land. So while the Burlington went from Omaha to Lincoln to Hastings, McCook and Denver their land grant was nowhere near their right of way.The land grant was supposed to be sold to help pay for the construction of the road, but alas by the time settlers got to Wyoming, no one was interested in the desert land and UP became the second largest land owner in Wyoming next to the Federal government.UP always retained the mineral rights to their land, so when coal was discovered along the right of way in Wyoming and Utah, UP became rather wealthy by selling mining rights to the minerals underneath, but were barely able to get grazing rights to the land above.—Don
The Pacific Railroad Acts state 5, doubled to 10 sections/mile for the railroad (see the Pacific Railroad Act links below). Does 10, doubled to 20 in your comment refer to the total, i.e., railroad + government sections? So is the correct land figure after the 1864 law 12,800 acres/mile granted to the railroad?
From: "Don Snoddy" firstname.lastname@example.orgThat's right. 12,800 acres per mile.
Section 3 of the 1862 Pacific Railroad Act.Section 4 of the 1864 Pacific Railroad Act.
From: "Lynn Farrar" email@example.comBe careful when you estimate how many acres were acquired by a land grant railroad during the 1860's and later. The grant for a tangent railroad line would be those you have quoted but in an area such as the Sierra Nevada the actual acres were much fewer because of the necessarily sharp curves. I suggest you review the government office which today contains the records of the land grants for all railroads receiving them.—Lynn Farrar
Begin forwarded message:From: "Wendell Huffman" firstname.lastname@example.org Here is an interesting bit of information from the Auditor of Railroad Accounts to Robert M. McLane, Chairman of the House Committee on Pacific Railroads, 1881 (as published in Thomas Donaldson’s Public Domain, 1884). The Central Pacific was granted just under 8 million acres of land, mostly in Nevada and Utah. Of this, buyers had only been found for 295,886.79 acres by 1880. (As Orsi points out in Sunset Limited, the railroad, wanting customers, really did try to sell the land. The fact is, no one was interested in buying the mountain or desert land, which is what most of the CP grant was.) For this the company received $1,115,000 (mostly in the form of notes, not cash). If you figure that the railroad cost an average of $60,000 per mile, that means that what the CP really got for the land grants was barely enough to pay for eighteen miles of railroad! And that fails to account for the expense to the company in surveying all that land and managing the land department (that is, trying to unload the land). Apparently the primary value of the land to the railroad was that they were able to use it as collateral on mortgages to raise cash. It would be interesting to know how much property tax the company paid over the years on all that real estate. Wendell W. HuffmanCurator of HistoryNevada State Railroad Museum2180 South Carson StreetCarson City, NV 89701(775) 687-8291 v(775) 687-8294 f
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