Thursday, November 30, 2006

Photographs of groundbreaking ceremonies

We received a request for photographs of the following events:

(1) The beginning of the construction of the Central Pacific Railroad at the groundbreaking ceremony at Front and K Streets in Sacramento, California on January 8, 1863.

(2) The beginning of the construction of the California Central Railroad at the groundbreaking ceremony in Sacramento, California on June 1, 1858.

(3) The beginning of the construction of the Union Pacific Railway at the groundbreaking ceremony in Wyandotte (Kansas City), Kansas on September 7, 1863.

(4) The beginning of the construction of the Union Pacific Railroad at the groundbreaking ceremony on the Missouri River bluffs nearby Omaha on December 2, 1863.

Is it correct that no photographs exist of any of these groundbreaking ceremonies?

Cab Forward Locomotives


A bit of history on the Cab Forward design. It's clear that the primary reason for the design was to prevent crew asphixiation, not to provide visibility. As evidence, none of the other Southern Pacific (SP) steam loco designs included cabs in the forward position. And clearly there were mixed emotions among crews over the visibility/exposure issues.

The traditional lore says that the SP got the idea for the cab forward design in 1909 when someone remembered the narrow gauge cab forward built by the nearby North Pacific Coast Railroad (NPC) in 1901 as #21. This loco included an unusual water tube boiler of a patented design (patent #682,765, application filed June 20, 1901, patent granted Sept 17, 1901), plus a separate design patent for the cab forward feature (design patent #35,806, application filed Nov 25, 1901, patent granted March 11, 1902). The NPC sued the SP over patent infringement but SP successfully argued that the NPC design patent included many features specific to the unique boiler design used by the NPC, and that in any case simply placing the cab in front was not a patentable idea.

However, design patent not withstanding, I'm confident that the cab forward design was in fact not the original idea of the NPC. An Italian designed 4-6-0 with it's cab located forward was exhibited at the 1900 International Railway Congress in Paris, with photos and information published in the US railroad trade press in 1901. The drawing accompanying the original NPC boiler patent showed a cab in the common location. It was only in the later NPC design patent that the cab forward idea was presented. My belief is that the NPC designers saw the Italian locomotive in the trade press articles, and incorporated the design into their new locomotive.

As an interesting side note, it is generally stated that the cab forward design required oil fuel. The NPC boiler was specificly designed to burn oil, and the later SP locos were also oil burners. But the Italian loco was a coal burner, with coal stored in coal bunkers along the sides of the boiler and looking like side water tanks. Actually, water was carried in a fillowing tender.

Both the Italian design and the SP design were successful, with locomotives having long service lives and modernized designs used on later locos. However the NPC loco had only a short life. Crews didn't like the unusual design, and apparently the boiler design proved hard to maintain.


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Bay State Iron Co. tracks

From: "Nancy S. Seasholes"

Is it really true, as you say on your web page entitled "Bay State Iron Company CPRR Rail, 1863 & 1866," that the very first rail for the western part of the transcontinental RR., laid in Sacramento in October 1863, was made by the Bay State Iron Co. of Boston? I'm a historian working on interpretive signage for the former Bay State Iron site and need to know whether that statement on the web page is really true.

—Nancy S. Seasholes, Ph.D.

Monday, November 27, 2006

CPRR Train Robbery


Can anyone out there take on this CPRR Rail robbery history trivia question.It is stated exactly like this:

Open on two deperados forcing an operator to stop the next train and to write a phony order for watering. In what station was the locomotive scheduled to stop?

Please Help!!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

James Howden, nitro-glycerine chemist

From: "Andy Paterson"

Do you know the place and date of birth of James Howden, the Pacific Central Railroad chemist who did on-site production of nitro-glycerine, thus reducing accidents and speeding progress of tunnelling? I understand he died in San Francisco on 6 February 1874 but the obituaries are silent on his place and date of birth.

I have checked with Sacramento Public Library (who found his date of death) and the History Room at California State Library, which had only the same information as the Sacramento Public Library.

—Andy Paterson, Sydney, Australia

Friday, November 24, 2006

12 Men in the Desert

From: "Chris Graves"

In June, 2006, twelve men of questionable wisdom chased the old CPRR grade between Wells, Nevada and Toano, Nevada.

One fellow flew in from Germany, cutting his vacation short to join the crew; another drove all the way from Michigan with his bride in tow (she was wise, and stayed in the motel while he chased dirt and iron).

Informally led by Chuck Sweet, Bob Chugg and I, at the end of three days 'enough was enough' and the 12 went their separate ways, none the worse for the experience, albeit all a bit dustier and worn from it. Chuck and I, discussing the events over a beer in Wells, mutually agreed that such an tour was our last, as dust, dirt, flat tires, mechanical challenges and poor diet had taken their toll.

Looking back through the prism that 6 months of fuzzy memory creates, however, I am once again thinking of chasing the rails through the Pequops, and beyond.

If anyone else is foolish enough to attempt this trek again, (repeat trekkies or newbies, either one) please contact me directly. There is no fee, no charge and no reasonable reason to do this, unless you really are into history and the CPRR.

You would need a minimum of a high clearance vehicle with GOOD TIRES and at least one good spare tire, the ability to see the humor in 40 miles of dusty road with NO FACILITIES, and a stomach strong enough to handle the vagaries of the motels in Wells, Nev.

This junket would again be held in June or July, this time in 2007, to last no more than 3 days, excluding the drive to Promontory Summit, which usually takes a day to complete from Wells. That piece of the trip REQUIRES 4 wheel drive.

—G J Chris Graves, NewCastle, California

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

UPRR Railroad Worker, Joseph Holbrook, c. 1868

From: "Joan Ogg"

A fellow researcher, Ms. Peduzzi, from England contacted me regarding her ancestor, Joseph Holbrook, who immigrated to the States around 1857 residing briefly in New York and then in Massachusetts. It appears that after 1860, Joseph traveled out to the west. His letters to back home told his family that he saw the Mormon temple in Utah and Brigham Young and his new wife. They also stated that his was working in the Black Hills (being attacked by Indians), working in the silver mines, etc.

On April 22, 1868, his address was In care of Carmichal, Fort Sanders, Dakota Territory, North America. In June 1868, he wrote home saying that he was working in the Sweet Water mines and they are troubled by Indians (he stated that he was in Salt Lake 4 years ago). On October 25, 1868, he had left Black Hills 5 months ago and was now 700 miles north up country (300 miles from the gold region. Next March he was going to start for the gold region. This was part of a letter from Humbold County, Winnamucca Post Office. After many attempts to locate information regarding Joseph Holbrook (U.S. Federal Census, vital records), I wrote back to Ms. Peduzzi with disappointment because I could not find anything that matched her ancestor. She e-mailed back stating that she thought her ancestor Joseph may have worked on the railway. Most of the letters she has were written in 1868 and all the addresses were "In Care of L. Carmichael." Some were from Cheyenne Territory, Black Hills, Dakota, Green River Station and one for Fort Sanders. She had done additional research on the addresses and L. Carmichael on the internet and they were all linked to UPRR. When she saw these initials, they did not mean anything to her.

This made a lot of sense to me now – if he was working on the Union Pacific Railroad, there would be no record of him on the Federal Census. It also appears that he may have died in 1869. A letter dated then was returned back to the family many years later.

Any information you can provide me with regarding Joseph Holbrook would be greatly appreciated. If there are any other organizations that may be of help would also be greatly appreciated. ...

Can you help us with any information regarding Lewis Carmichael and his employees? Any information you can provide me with will be greatly appreciated.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Artist's Palette for the SP Sacramento Depot Mural, c.1929

Now online at the CPRR Museum, courtesy of G.J. "Chris" Graves:

Artist John McQuarrie's Palette for the SPRR Sacramento Depot Mural, c.1929,

Artist's study for the SP Sacramento mural

Land Cruises by Private Rail Cars - American Rail Excursions

From: "Frank Corley",

Dear friends:

American Rail Excursions has three tours we think will interest you.

December 30 – January 2. "The Twenty-First Century Unlimited", Roundtrip Chicago-New York-Washington-Chicago, Also available – boarding in St. Louis, December 28 - January 3. $1,199 per passenger, double occupancy in double bedroom from Chicago. Single occupancy also available.

March 16 – 18, 2007. "The Shamrock Special", Roundtrip St. Louis – Chicago to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago. . $399 per passenger, double occupancy in double bedroom from Chicago. Single occupancy also available.

April 10 – 15, 2007. "The Cherry Blossom Special", Roundtrip Chicago – Washington, DC for the magnificent and colorful Cherry Festival in our Nation’s Capitol. Also available with early boarding in St. Louis on April 8, returning to St. Louis on April 16, 2007. . $1,799 per passenger, double occupancy in double bedroom from Chicago. Single occupancy also available.

Most of our clients have already received our new brochure. If you have not received one and would like to be mailed by US Mail a copy of our new brochure with these three trips, please e-mail American Rail Excursions at:

You can also view a very detailed description of these tours with photos by clicking on: and click on What’s New You can order tickets by telephone to 313-300-8411 or 708-758-6680 using VISA, MasterCard or Discover.

All of our tours include the very best in private rail passenger cars, attentive, professional crews and fine food and beverages. All meals prepared fresh onboard by professional chef(s). Our cars are your hotel throughout the tours. No baggage hassles. No hassles checking into or out of hotels.

Come ride with us. See the countryside while you relax in one of our lounges. No airport hassles. See America up close and personal. We look forward to hearing from you.

Best regards,

Frank Corley
Marketing Manager
American Rail Excursions, Inc.
PO Box 2345
Dearborn, MI 48123-2345


Sunday, November 19, 2006

Leland Stanford's business car

From: "Richard Gagnon"

I have just purchased a HO brass CP Huntington locomotive and I would like to build a model of the business car used by Leland Stanford. Is there a photo of the car?

—Richard Gagnon

Check out this old lithograph ...

From: "Jason Franklin"

Please check out this old litho that my father has owned for over 30 years. It was given to him by an old porter for the L&N Railroad in Louisville, KY, where my father and grandfather both had worked. It appears to me that this is not an L&N train. It bears a striking resemblance to a Central Pacific train. Upon close inspection it appears as though an L&N sticker has been placed over something else at the bottom of the print. ...

I am absolutely intrigued by this old dude and would love to know any info pertaining to it's history.

—Jason Franklin, Sellersburg, IN

railroad lithograph
"Speed, Comfort & Safety to All who Travel ... "

Thursday, November 16, 2006

20 Mule Team unloading at railroad in Daggett, California

From: "James Lingren"

I'm trying to date a photograph and need to know what year the Atlantic and Pacific RR (or it may have been ATSF) double tracked through Daggett CA. "No. 46. '20 Mule Team unloading at railroad in Daggett, Cal., after its long trip across the desert.' "

I believe the telegraph pole was used in a lynching.

Obviously the photograph is faked and or staged. The ore coming from Death Valley would have required a gondola car.

—James Lingren

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

My Great Grandfather Joseph Stahr (or Stoehr) worked for the Central Pacific


Here is some info in my Great Grandfather. His name is Joseph Stahr or Stoehr. He was born 20 Nov 1849 in Roschbach, Pfaiz, Bvr Germany. His Parents were John and Anna Maria Baron Both from Germany and both died in Buffalo, N.Y. Joseph's wife was Annie Gibbons. The Los Angeles Associated Press said Joeph was a Construction Foreman for the Central Pacific who directed the driving of the spike. He came to California around the horn in 1868.

The Ogden Associated Press said Joseph Stahr veteran Central Pacific foreman whose death is announced from Los Angeles was struck Sunday by an Automobile in Los Angeles died Tuesday afternoon. burial place in Ogden, Utah July 21 1926.

—Pam Schneider

California Fast freight Line

From: "Jim Wilke"

I'm interested in learning more about the California Fast Freight Line, a private car line operated in joint ownership by several different railroads in the 1880s.

So far I don't know much – an illustration of a 28' car lettered for the line and bearing the initials of the Southern Pacific appears in Kyle Wyatt's article on 28' Central pacific boxcars in the Nevada State Railroad Museum publication Sagebrush Headlight, along with a photograph of a train with a similar 28' car bearing the initials of the Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific.

How many railroads operated this line, and where did the cars run? How long was it in business, and did it have established routes and specific schedules, like a stage or steamship line, or was it operated on another basis? And what colors were the cars, did they have a company specific scheme?

—Jim Wilke

Monday, November 13, 2006

I-80 Railroad Sightseeing Trip

From: "Richard Sparrow"
Subject: Guide Publications

Is there any type of guide or other publication available that would assist me in locating original portions of the railroad while traveling on, or near, I-80? Not necessarily limited to the Interstate, but other highways and roads as well.

—Dick Sparrow

Why did the railroad cars run on coal?


Why did the railroad cars run on coal?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Oregon Short Line, Idaho, 1877

From: "Kathy Lin Eggleston"

My Grandparents took a train in Idaho when they returned from Oregon to Wisconsin in 1877. I would like to find a map that I can see of the Oregon Short Line and information on where they would have boarded. Thanks

P.S. I am a UPRR man's daughter!!! and have enjoyed all the work and info!

S.P.Co. cast iron Caboose stoves


Was wondering if anyone might know if Sacramento Shops (FOUNDRY) cast caboose stoves back in the old days ...

—Charlie Hopkins

Monday, November 06, 2006

BMLRR – Linwood W. Moody negative collection

From: "Peterson, Anne"

I just found your web site, and thought you would like to know that the Linwood W. Moody negative collection is here at the DeGolyer Library. We have one of the largest railroad photography collections in the United States.

We have more than 2,000 negatives from over 100 railroad lines in the Moody collection.

Anne E. Peterson
Curator of Photographs
DeGolyer Library
Southern Methodist University
PO Box 750396
Dallas, TX 75275-0396
214-768-1565 (FAX)

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Newcastle photographs

From: "John Perry"

... Of particular interest [are] the pictures of the trestle project in New Castle, now called Newcastle. Photos of the turn table, 3 story Hotel that burned down, Fruit packing sheds, etc.

I worked in those Fruit packing sheds way back and also the sheds in Penryn and Auburn!! My Father and Grand Father operated and managed the packing sheds in Penryn, Loomis, and Auburn also.

When looking at where the trestle was located there was a small Chinese city there in Newcastle, when Interstate 80 was put there they made an overpass and demolished the Chinese city. Some of the Chinese buildings were moved by trucks to a pig farm up in Colfax. I know where that location is and if you want I could get photos of the houses/shacks that were moved there. They were moved to the Pig Farm on Iowa Hill Road just to the East of Colfax.

When I worked in the packing sheds in Colfax we would take the cull pears out to "Stinky's" Pig Farm place there and drop off the cull pears for the pigs to eat. We pulled inside the gates then we had to go out through the windows of the truck, climb up onto the top of the dump truck, then open the side shoots to release the load of cull pears. We could not simply open a door and get out to do this as the pigs would swarm the truck. We had to be sure all the pigs were out of the way before we drove off as to not run any of them over. ...

—John Perry, Penryn, California

Visual History: Chinese in 1850's


Check out the following for Chinese in California in the 1850's.


Saturday, November 04, 2006

Rail Data

From: "Chris Graves"

This table of Rail Specifications may be of interest ...


Wednesday, November 01, 2006

CPRR Discussion Group

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