Friday, November 30, 2007

Joseph Blasofsel

From: Anonymous

I am interested in speaking with someone about Joseph Blasfosel and learning more information about him. The cast of Theordore Judah was done by Mr. Blasofsel in the Sacramento Shops.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Railroad mileage of counties


I am a 3rd year student at the London School of Economics (LSE) in the UK studying Economics and Economic History.

This year I am going to do a dissertation on American economic history. I am going to study how the development of railroads (in terms of mileage) affected the growth of population of Midwestern states in America from 1860 to 1900.

For my study I am looking to get details of railroad mileage from 1860 to 1900 for the different counties in the state. I was wondering if this data was available and if it is, please could you send it to me or let me know how I could access it.

—Arnab Datta

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Railroad Police Badge History

From: "Rick McMorran"  

I have an original CPRR Railroad Police badge.  It bears the number "82" on the back.  It is a circular badge with a star in the center.  The words "Railroad Police" are across the bottom, and "CPRR" across the top.  

Does anyone know where I might be able to find any information as to the history of this specific badge, such as who might have worn it?  Thanks for any information you can provide me.  

—Rick McMorran, Colorado Springs, CO

CPRR Police Badge

CPRR Police Badge

Total cost to build the Canadian Pacific Railway

From: "Maureen"

What was the total cost to build the Canadian Pacific Railway across Canada in the 1870s?   I have information that the surveying for the railway cost 37 million dollars.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

"Let the naming game begin"

"Let the naming game begin: Railyard developer responds to public's desire to set authentic tone for historic site" by Mary Lynne Vellinga, © Sacramento Bee, November 24, 2007. (News Article)

"... when it comes to picking names for the streets that will someday cross the downtown railyard, the public has proved more vigilant. The developer, too, says picking the right names is crucial to setting the tone for this extension of downtown. Developer Thomas Enterprises is currently holding a contest at for people to submit suggestions for naming the railyard streets. ... "There's the obvious: Huntington, Hopkins, Stanford, Crocker, Judah, Central Pacific Boulevard, Continental way, and then Bigelow, after the city's first mayor," Pacyna said. ... And then there's Stevens Street. And no, Steven is not some developer's kid. The name is a reference to Andrew Jackson (A.J.) Stevens, general master mechanic for Central Pacific. Stevens, who died in 1888, was an inventor and innovator in the building of locomotives." [More]

[Courtesy Google Alerts.]

Thursday, November 22, 2007

"The Iron Horse: The way to Sierra winter sports"

"The Iron Horse: The way to Sierra winter sports" by Mark McLaughlin, © Sierra Sun, November 13, 2007. (News Article)

" ... The Southern Pacific railroad's Snowball Express delivered winter sports enthusiasts to Truckee in the 1930s. ... Building a railroad over the Sierra Nevada, however, was a major challenge to the men laying the rails, especially during the heavy winters of 1867 and 1868. Forty-four snowstorms during the winter of 1867 took a lethal toll on the Chinese railroad crews struggling to reach the Sierra Crest west of Coburn’s Station (soon re-named Truckee). Total accumulation on Donner Pass that year exceeded 40 feet, which effectively shut down all construction except for tunnel work. One avalanche wiped out an entire work camp; when the bodies were discovered the following spring, work tools were still clutched in their hands. ... " [More]

[Courtesy Google Alerts.]

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

3 cent 1869 - 1944 completion transcontinential railroad stamp

From: "Eric Johnson"

How much do you think a 3 cent 1869 - 1944 completion transcontinential railroad united states of America postage stamp would be worth.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

"Central Pacific’s unlucky Tunnel 13"

"Central Pacific’s unlucky Tunnel 13: In an era where brakemen rode on top of the cars, this tunnel was a special hazard" by Gordon Richards, © Sierra Sun, November 20, 2007. (News Article)

" ... Accidents were very common along the dangerous stretch of railroad from Verdi at the base of the Truckee River Canyon over Sierra to Emigrant Gap on the west, but Tunnel 13 had more than its share of wrecks, accidents and deaths. Unlucky 13 was a difficult tunnel to construct through glacial debris and volcanic rock, including cave-ins that injured several Chinese laborers. As it was being completed in 1868, the superstition began to spread. The first notable accident occurred in June of 1869 when an engine ran into a handcar in the tunnel. The section men heard the engine just in time and all but one jumped to safety. One man was gravely injured. ... " [More]

[Courtesy Google Alerts.]

Train-order delivery devices (hoops and forks)

From: Fred C. Gamst

What follows is material that hit the cutting room floor when I wrote Highballing with Flimsies. Espee innovated with widespread use of the high-speed delivery fork. (The IC, Q, and B&O also thus innovated.) The IHB first used this delivery device ca. 1933. The High-Speed Delivery Fork Company of Shelby, Indiana apparently held its patent. This innovative device eliminated the pain imparted to the on-train receiver of clearances, TOs, and messages (hereinafter documents) handed up while tied to a solid hoop (often of bamboo or wood, earlier of willow wands). The solid hoops could either be handed up manually or mounted at right angles to a delivery post, illuminated with a white light or not. Fifty years ago, a chief DS told us that dozens of patents for solid hoops and even for delivery posts existed, from the 1880s onward. Early hoops were sometimes made from plain old steel barrel hoops. Espee made solid hoop at its West Oakland lumber mill. Thru the late 1980s, operators also handed up a roll of documents by hand. It took more skill to catch these on the fly. If a receiver crewmember missed the documents handed up by any means, the train had to back up to retrieve the flimsies. You cannot run past a "red board" (TO signal), without at least receiving a clearance card for your train. Crews were supposed to provide flag protection for the rearward movement when thus backing in a block, but. ... If a train had, say, head-end, swing, and rear-end helpers, a delivery post would not suffice, and the delivery devices had to be held up by hand by the operator, for each engine and the caboose. During 1956, in the Valley, a young operator told me, "it is a thrill," to have us barreling and roaring toward him while rocking sideways, as he held up the delivery fork. It was a bigger thrill at night in the rain, he explained. A hand held delivery device could catch onto a part of the engine before the cab reached the standing operator. Oh, oh! Ca. 1904, the Espee Pacific Lines (and other lines) implemented the 19 Order. The 31 orders had to be signed for prior to receipt but not the 19 orders. This should be about the time documents of the safety-critical kind were handed up (clearances and Form 19 TOs). But the earlier existence of solid delivery hoops could mean that messages, at least, were hooped: "SET OUT AJAX LOADS AT ACME PICK UP LOADED REEFERS AT SUNKIST SPUR GO TO BEANS AT NOWHERE" Eventually 31 orders were eliminated in favor of all 19 orders. (From 31 sheets found use as office notepaper.) Espee delivery posts sometimes had a short ladder for climbing and affixing the delivery device. Espee's latest delivery fork (I hold one in my hands as I write this) consists of two stiff wooden arms, each having, at the far end, a cylindrical steel tip with a hook. The paired arms are joined at the center of the fork by a spring loaded steel clip, having a mounting bracket for attachment to the delivery post. A loop of TO cord binds with a slip knot a tight bundle of documents and attaches to the two hooks pulling them toward each other to a spring-tensioned position about 18 to 20 inches apart. Accordingly, the entire assembly now has the shape of a triangle, with the white cord between the two arms. This assembly the operator attaches to the deliver post. The high-speed fork's cord does not hurt the receiver's arm.


[from the R&LHS Newsgroup.]

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Surveying engineer stations


Railroads and Highways use E(ngineer) S(tations) to locate on maps or plats a drawing of where their route is on the ground.  An ES is 100 feet in length denoted as 1 + 00.  Thus one mile would be 52 + 80 feet on a drawing which normally shows the scale of the drawing, for instance, 1 (one) inch = 100 (one hundred) feet.  My descriptions are for those uses of ES's that were employed on Southern Pacific lines including predecessor companies but they will conform to the majority of railroads in the US.  A survey for a railroad would be in conformance with an order by the Board of Directors or someone with authority to order same and would instruct a survey crew what termini were desired, such as Podunk, (state) to Greater Butterflyville, (state).  For terrain with no great physical obstacles only one survey might possibly be necessary, and if these towns or cities were 10 miles apart by the line taken by the surveyors the ES's would start at ES 0 + 00, most commonly used, and run to ES 520 + 00.  Railroad lines not only are measured in feet and ES's but also in miles.  In our example the M(ile) P(osts) would start at MP 0 and run to MP 10.  Where terrain contains physical obstacles such as rivers or mountains or where acquisition of property is a problem more than one survey may be necessary.  In such cases the first survey might be identified by placing a letter with the ES's such as A0 + 00, the second survey might show B0 + 00, etc. On longer surveys where multiple survey lines are used it is often the case where the surveyed lines meet or cross that ES equations are used to identify which survey lines are which.  Thus in our examples we might start a new survey 3 miles from the start at (ES) 158 + 40 and rejoin the first line 3 miles further on but with a saving of 500 feet in length.  The new line would be shown as (ES) 158 + 40 to (ES) 311 + 80=(ES) 316 + 80.  Equations are also used where subsequent surveys of the same line find differences or a surveyed line is undertaken by more than one survey party to speed up the work.

In the first years of railroad construction curved track was constructed using "simple" curves, that is, the curved portion was all two degrees or whatever was the degree of curvature used.  When William Hood was appointed Chief Engineer in mid 1880's he developed what were called "Hood's Taper Curves".  These "transition" curves eased the locomotive and cars into the "main" curve.  After Hood's departure as Chief Engineer Southern Pacific and affiliated lines used "spiral" curves employed by many other railroads.  The use of taper and later spiral curves resulted in small reductions in track length with the consequent need for (ES) equations.

This is a much simplified description of engineer stations.  If you have further questions I will be happy to attempt an answer for them. 

—Lynn Farrar

Early Montana railroads

From: "lindleywicks"

Can anyone please tell me if in the state of Montana during the time frame of 1861-1864 was there a railroad being built.

Especially, interested in:

1. Was there a railroad in the upper part of Montana being built?

2. Did they hire Blackfeet Indians?

3. Do you know if Leland Stanford's railroad during this time frame had men building and or working on the railroads?

Please contact me at:

Friday, November 16, 2007

Unknown: Howard Fogg print

From: "Bart Brown"

I have a Howard Fogg print and I can't find it anywhere on the internet. I was wondering if you could help me identify it. ... [the logo on the front of the locomotive reads] Missouri Pacific Lines. ... I appreciate any and all info such as date or name of the print. ... Thanks.


Howard Fogg print

W.L. Pritchard, Freighter Associated With Building CPRR

Begin forwarded message: From: "Duane Bartholemew"

... I am looking for information on W.L. 'Nick of the Woods' Pritchard who is mentioned on one page of the website (see below).

What we know

Comments attributed to [J].H. Strobridge state that track material, three locomotives etc. were hauled to Donner Lake. In an interview of R.L. Fulton with Mr. Strobridge, W.L. Pritchard is mentioned as the freighter who hauled the locomotives and perhaps also the other materials referred to in the above web page. Some similar comments about hauling locomotives and track on sleds was found at the Nevada Historical Society but the freighter's name was not mentioned.

Its Possible Relevance

W.L. Pritchard is my wife's great grandfather and we are trying to find more information about his freighting activities as well as to use his business to put a face on wagon freighting in California and Nevada. Much information is available on railroads but we have found, subsequently confirmed with people at the Nevada Historical Society, that little has been written about organized freighting activities or stage coach operations during the development of California and Nevada.

What We Want to Know

Are there any accounting records in the CP RR collection(s) that would allow the names of the freighters and their contribution to the building of the railroad to be identified/determined? J.M. Graham states that R.H. Pratt was in charge of obtaining all the wagons and teams from Cisco to ? (location marked out). Are there any records of the transactions of R.H. Pratt and, if so, do they perhaps include information on who provided the teams and wagons?

My wife and I will be in the Sacramento area to attend a family funeral. We would be interested in meeting anyone who might help with our search for information on Monday or Tuesday (Nov. 26 and 27) if any information is available. —Duane Bartholomew

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Cost of a trip

From: "Danny Weiss"

How much was the cost of a trip in 1875?

Promontory grade

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

SOO Line Railroad

From: "Hazel Webster"

I'm trying to do some research on my great grandfather and great grandmother. He worked for SOO Railroad. One lived in Indiana the other in Wisconsin. I'm trying to figure out if the railroad went from Indiana to Wisconsin.

—Hazel Webster

Monday, November 12, 2007

Steepest grade

From: "Nathaniel Wirth"

I was trying to find out what the steepest grade a train could climb with the first transcontinental railroad and what the steepest grade a locomotive can climb today? After all, I'd imagine that locomotives are more powerful now, and we can lay steeper tracks ...


Sunday, November 11, 2007

Energy Efficiency of Rail Transportation

The American Association of Railroads reports that freight trains move 1 ton of cargo 423 miles using only 1 gallon of fuel.

Freight Rail Works.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Jupiter facing the UP 119

From: "Amanda Haygood-Stephens"

I am making a model/diorama of the first transcontinental railroad for a school project. I was hoping to do the scene where both the CP Jupiter # 60 and the UP #119 meet at Promontary, Utah. I have been unable to find any reasonably priced model trains – they are really, really expensive. I have also been unable to find any paper train kits of these 2 trains.

So, my mom suggested I ask you if you have pictures of each train that we can print out on cardstock and attach to our tracks. We would need the Jupiter facing toward the right and the UP 119 facing toward the left.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

How much does a railroad spike weigh?

From: "Gene Boone"

How much does a railroad spike weigh?

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Gravel train accident at Clipper Gap, 1875

From: "Roger Blair"

I would like to find out more about an April 23, 1875 gravel train accident at Clipper Gap, in which Geo. F. L. Hoth and A. Buck were killed. Are there official CPRR records of an investigation that I might explore – or other information on this event? Other sources?

—Roger Blair

CPRR rails used in Colorado gauging station

From: "Brodbeck, Mark"

We are researching this structure found along the Colorado River near Bullhead City, Arizona. It sits at the edge of the old flood plain and appears to be an old gauging station. It is built with old railroad rails that are marked "CAMMELL SHEFFIELD TOUGHENED STEEL CPRR Co 1881".

Any information of the age of the rails, where they might have come from, the Cammell Sheffield Company, and on uses such as this would be appreciated.

Mark Brodbeck, Coordinator
Cultural Resources Section
HDR | ONE COMPANY | Many Solutions
3200 E. Camelback Road, Suite 350
Phoenix, AZ 85018-2311