Friday, December 14, 2007

Rail cars at Promontory


As a model railroader I have some questions regarding the Transcontinental Railroad at Promontory Utah, 1869.

Is it true the C.P.R.R. had only two passenger cars, a coach and combine?

How many passenger cars did the U.P.R.R. have? What was the make-up of the cars – coach, baggage, combine?

What were the authentic colors of the passenger cars for each railroad? This one is important to me as I am duplicating these two railroads and I would like to be as accurate as possible.

—Barry Bird


Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Kevin Bunker"

It's not at all true that Central Pacific Railroad had only two passenger cars in May 1869.

Indeed, the CPRR had been providing local daily passenger train service from Sacramento to way stations west of Truckee between 1865 and 1867, and used a good number of day coaches (with no clerestory roofs – just rolled roofs) similar to those used by Sacramento Valley Railroad. These can be seen here and there in any number of historic photos here on the CPRR Museum website. You may be judging from the photos taken on May 9 & 10, 1869, which show the two special service cars coupled behind CP's No.60, JUPITER, these being the baggage-like Commissary Car (fitted with ice-chilled lockers for meats and produce) and storage of baggage for high ranking railroad officers using the Directors' Car, coupled immediately to the rear.

By June and July 1869, the Central Pacific began to receive and put in service clerestory roofed coaches from eastern factories and its own Sacramento Shops, and sleeping cars – the "Silver Palace" cars followed almost immediately thereafter so that CPRR did not have to pay the Pullman Company for use of its sleeping cars which were – for a time – halted at Ogden, Utah. Passengers coming west from the east had to transfer into CPRR's Silver Palace sleepers if they wanted first class service coast to coast, at least until CPRR surrendered and began allowing Pullman sleepers to run through from the east to Oakland.

No one really knows for sure what colors were used on the CPRR or the Union Pacific for that matter. We do know that both roads used light yellow tints for body colors – loosely and popularly called "straw." These were typical a pale golden-yellow. There is no firm documentation about trim colors used by either railroad – the tints or stronger colors used for roofs and trucks, striping and lettering.

You'd likely do well to join the Yahoo chat group, EarlyRail, which is largely a worldwide group of modelers interested in early to mid-19th century railroading in the United States. Archived discussions on this very same topic are there for easy referral and reading.

—Kevin Bunker

12/15/2007 9:18 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...


Thank you for responding so quickly to my questions. I guess I didn't state my questions very well regarding the number of passenger car for C.P.RR and the U.P.R.R.. I was really wondering what was the number of cars and the make-up of the types of cars for each R.R. that showed up at Promontory for the spike driving ceremony. I guess you answered the part about what the C.P.R.R. had. But I haven't seen any photos that tells me what the U.P.R.R. arrived with. I did see one photo that looked like there may have 7 or maybe 9 cars but the angle of the photo was such that you couldn't tell what type they were. Does anyone know?? ...


12/16/2007 10:24 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

Also see the discussion of Hart photographs.

12/16/2007 10:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You might want to read the pages in David Bain's terrific book, Empire Express, that relate to the UPRR at Promontory to see if there is any information that would help to answer your questions.

12/16/2007 10:51 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

Also see the additional discussion of Hart photographs.

12/16/2007 10:56 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

Also see the information about the first transcontinental train.

12/16/2007 1:54 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...


The official train of the CP consisted of two cars; the Directors Car (built in the CP Shops in 1868, AKA "Commissioners Car"), and its support car (looks like a short baggage car, but has a crew sleeping quarters included at one end by the window).

The UP had a four car official train; the Directors Car (AKA "Brunell's car" – so called from the 1868 tour that he made over the UP – Bushnell was on the UP board of directors) and its support car (looks like a UP caboose of the time, except has 4 evenly spaced windows on each side, and no side doors), UP excursion sleeping car #29, and a Pullman hotel car of undetermined identity but likely built to Pullman plan 5.  Contrary to some statements, the Lincoln car was not present – the photo at Corrine is of a UP coach with a monitor roof, not the Lincoln car.  Also, the famous Pullman car Pamyra was not at Promontory, although it had a long and significant history on the UP later.

In addition each railroad had several passenger trains bringing people from the region to the site.  The CP had at least one train from eastern Nevada, using the CP-built passenger cars of the time.  The UP had several trains from Ogden, Brigham City, etc.  Also, a US Army company headed for station at the Presidio of San Francisco was aboard a UP passenger train – with officers riding in the first two Wason coaches being delivered (CP #s 12 and 16, per a CP journal entry – there is a Wason builder photo of #12).

—Kyle Wyatt

12/16/2007 9:19 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Kevin Bunker"

... As far as I know, no one has yet attempted a roster of passenger rolling stock for the CPRR – being that the records that could document all car numbers mostly burned in the 1906 San Francisco Fire. Some recording of numbers has been attempted by reading CP financial vouchers and what few cash books survive, but the vouchers especially get very non-specific after about 1866-67 as so much purchasing was happening, and the accountants could barely keep up.

Here's a view at Wadsworth NV of the CP train en route to Promontory on May 7th.

Note the day coach for local passengers coupled behind the Directors' and Commissary cars. That's JUPITER alongside the consist. It had probably uncoupled to grab a load of cordwood and to run its crosshead water pump to fill the boiler while waiting for dispatcher's clearance on the line ahead. Lacking an injector, the locomotive had to move to fill its boiler ... this was true of many CPRR locomotives during the 1860s, since the injector was till new technology that cost a lot and many railroad master mechanics and engineers didn't yet trust the device(s).

Supposedly UP's No.119 and train with President Durant, directors and VIP guests aboard was about five cars, including a baggage-express car, the UP's Directors' Car, several Pullman Palace sleepers and (I believe) two UP day coaches. The book I mentioned, Westward to Promontory has the best published photos of the train. The 117 was already at Promontory, having headed a construction train to the summit arriving May 8th, the day the Great Event was originally scheduled for. However, as you may know, UP laborers staged a delay to the UP directors' train by chaining it to the rails further east, supposedly for payment of overdue wages. There's still debate that UP President Durant may have actually orchestrated the "delay" to capture more attention by arriving late, and to dodge cash payments to equipment suppliers back east that he was supposed to have made before leaving New York ... but the record is still murky.

I don't know if anyone has successfully managed to produce a c.1869-70 roster of UPRR passenger equipment, or if sufficient primary resource documents survive to permit a bona fide roster.


12/16/2007 9:36 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...


The CP special (locomotive and the two cars) hit a log in the Truckee River canyon and disabled the CP engine.  As a result the special cars were coupled to the regular passenger train running to Carlin or Toano (I don't recall off hand where the reguler train terminated).  The loco on the regular train was the Jupiter.  It continued on from where the regular train terminated with just the two special cars, and that is how the Jupiter came to be the CP loco at Promontory – it was not originally planned to be there.

There seems to be some uncertaintly as to whether Durant's UP train was actually significantly delayed by striking workers, or whether the delay was because of high water undermining the temporary bridge at Devils Gate in Weber Canyon.  Certainly we know the bridge was a problem.  It almost washed out, and had to be temporarily shored up.  Even then no locos crossed it.  Each individual car in Durant's special was pushed across – with most of the passengers walking across separately on a foot bridge instead of riding the cars across.  And this was a day or two after the highest water had receided.  On the other side UP #119 was pressed into service to pull the train, and that is how it came to be at Promontory.  So neither the CP Jupiter nor the UP 119 were the locos originally planned to represent their railroads at the ceremony at Promontory.

The photo referenced above is actually Hart 345, taken at Carlin (not Wadsworth), and may have been taken earlier in 1869 when the US Railroad Commissioners were inspecting the railroad (and using the CP Directors car and its support car).  The locomotive is facing the wrong direction relative to the special cars, so while it is one of the CP Schenectady locos (several of which were in service in the area), I'm not certain whether or not it was the Jupiter.  As I said earlier, the photo may not have been taken in May while the cars were on their way to Promontory, but may have been taken earlier.

Since both an 1875 and an 1878 CP roster survive, it is not all that difficult to reconstuct the CP roster of the late 1860s.  Nearly all the cars are still in service in the late 1870s.  Pretty much all the cars were either assembled by the CP from kits shipped around Cape Horn, or built from scratch by CP.  CP received their first Eastern built cars (the Wason coaches) after the driving of the golden Spike in May of 1869.  I believe Leland Lee, among others, has compled the information.  CP coach #11 was the first of the Wason coache, so clearly prior to Promontory CP coaches were numbered 1-10.  (Note the Directors Car was un-numbered as was its support car.)

The Union Pacific 1860s roster is a bit more challenging.  The earliest UP roster I have seen is from 1885, with another from 1888.  By this time there has been a fair amount of change – including an 1885 renumbering that is enumerated in the 1885 roster.  Further, UP was regularly receiving cars from several eastern builders, plus building a few of thier own.


12/17/2007 9:10 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...


You might want to look at the Appleman report, mostly for graphics.


Bob Spude – Historian – Cultural Resources Management – National Park Service – Intermountain Region – 505.988.6770 Voice – 505.988.6876 Fax

The National Park Service cares for special places saved by the American people so that all may experience our heritage.

12/17/2007 9:15 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Kevin Bunker"

I ran across an interesting historic news item last night while combing thru some 25 year old notes files last night, items trancscribed by the late Gerry Best – from the Sacramento UNION, 12 Feb 1869:

"Subsistence Car. A subsistence car, or 'tender,' has just been completed at the C.P. shops and will be used with President Stanford's business car whenever it is on the road. It looks like an ordinary baggage car externally, but the interior is divided up into a large number of compartments – one lined with zinc and surrounded with ice, for meat; several for vegetables; one with a wire door for [live] fowls; large tanks of fresh water; bins full of ice; lockers for liquor, wine and champagne."


12/19/2007 2:13 PM  
Blogger rlzimme said...

I am trying to model, in ho scale, the freight cars of the Central Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads as they would have been during the 1870s. My problem is determining what colors the boxcars were painted during that time frame. Can you help me?
Ray Zimmerman

12/13/2009 9:10 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

See, Colors.

12/13/2009 3:03 PM  

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