Monday, March 31, 2008

Sail Cars

From: "Don Ball"

I was just reading through the Central Pacific Annual Report of 1884 and found a listing of the number of cars owned by the railroad. In it, I see that they had 58 sail cars and had just added two that year. In an earlier report in the 1870s, I saw that they had one or two and then there was no further mention of them so I concluded that the experiment was a failure. By 1884, they had 58 (compared to 384 section cars, which I presume to be hand cars, and 31 push cars). This was more than an experiment and, apparently, was successful enough that they were still acquiring the cars. Has any of you ever seen any mention of these outside of an annual report? Any photos?

—Don Ball

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Rocklin's Roundhouse and Other Things

From: "Ken Morrow"

I never cease to be amazed at the history that this place (Rocklin and vicinity) harbors. It doesn't surprise me that land speculation was going on then. The housing bubble that we have today is not much different. I am reminded of a comment by Ann Richards when someone questioned why politicians in her state were so corrupt, she said, "Hey, this is Texas." With land in the "Wild West" so cheap (even free), one would have had to be crazy not to take advantages of the "available opportunities." Hey, out here you could even pick up gold from the streambeds!

On March 24th, Ken Yeo, the retired Supervisor of Restoration and Maintenance of the Sacramento Rail Museum, gave a pictorial presentation before the Springfield History Club. He showed literally hundreds of photographs of the railroad line in the vicinity of Auburn. He had developed the talk years before at the request of the Auburn Chamber of Commerce who had their offices in an old historic railroad building.

He showed before and after photos and made many comments about the denuding of the land that occurred when the railroad went through an area. The appetite for wood was voracious in the early days of the rails. As one might expect, the cutting of trees proceeded outward from the line. The easiest trees to harvest were those closest to the rail line. The Rocklin History Museum is where I found the information that Oak was preferred for the railroad ties. Considering the growth pattern of Oaks, there are probably not very many ties that could be cut from a single oak tree, but the other limbs could still be used for fuel. Also, from the photos that Ken Yeo showed, it didn't seem to matter whether the trees were on a steep hillside or not. It was still easier to take those closest to the line than those that had to be carted a larger distance.

With regard to the Roundhouse Foundation, I went to the site some months ago and discovered that most of the foundation is still there although a good section is covered with soil (or so it seems to me). I just stepped off the distances, but it looks to me that about 300 feet of the foundation is still there. Does anyone know the actual dimension of the facility? Some other comments follow. Even though it was called a "roundhouse," I think that it was in the shape of a semi circle. Is that true? The assumption seems to be that it's primary function was the servicing of the engines. We know that there were about 25 stalls. It seems to me that not all stalls were occupied by engines. Ken Yeo showed pictures of logging trains that had a brakeman for each car. I am of the opinion that the bearings on the first railroad cars were made of bronze. I would like to see someone answer the question as to when ball bearings arrived on the scene. If the bearings were made of bronze then it is quite likely that many of the roundhouse workers were employed as "grease monkeys" trying to keep the car bearings from burning up. Another large amount of work must have been associated with keeping the brakes in working order. Air brakes didn't come until later.

I also think that I may have some faulty information that I obtained from the Museum. On one photograph of the Roundhouse it mentions that it was capable of storing 25,000 cords of wood. I now wonder if this is correct. A cord of wood is a stack with dimensions of 4 by 4 by 8 feet or 128 cubic feet. It appears to be a unit of measure that was the amount that could be gotten on a horse drawn wagon of the time. Gary mentioned that the wood storage shed was 8000 square feet in size. If the stack of wood that could be stored inside of this structure was as much as 20 feet high (which is suspect), the volume would be 8000x20=160,000 cubic feet. This is 160,000/128=1250 cords. Knowing that 16 cords was required to power each of the three engines, each train would have to be loaded with 48 cords. If that is true, then the shed could only have serviced 1250/48=26 trains going uphill. Does anyone know how many trains were going uphill in any given day?

What is even more disturbing is that if the 25,000 cord figure is correct then 25,000/48=520 trains could have been serviced. This is 20 times more than could be stored in the wood shed. The following is even more difficult to contemplate. If you were to make a stack of wood that was 20 feet wide and 20 feet high, 25,000 cords represents 3,200,000 cubic feet, and the length of the pile would be 3,200,000/(20x20)=8,000 feet long! This is about 1.5 miles. Does anyone know if this has been photographed, researched or verified? Were there long piles of wood stored adjacent to the tracks? Has anyone researched how this wood was handled. Was it loaded by hand? Very interesting questions, you must admit.

As to Gary's comment about getting a fix on how property can be located, this can be answered by getting the tract maps for each of the land sales or transfers that are recorded at the Auburn County Assessor's office. They are keyed (I believe) to the Township and Section layout that has been used for years. I believe that this is indicated on the original maps. ... I am of the opinion that copies of all of the 140 +/- land transactions of Joel Parker Whitney could be acquired for 1 or 2 dollars per transaction. I'll check this out.

I'm also including .. a table that I obtained from the Museum that shows the elevations of each of the towns along the rail line. Unfortunately, the information regarding the distance from Sacramento was not included (other than the 82 miles to the summit). If anyone has the distances, along the railroad right of way, I would appreciate it if you could respond. I could calculate the (average) grades between the towns if I had this information. Just by looking at the data in the table, and knowing that Rocklin is about 20 miles from Sacramento, you can see that, yes by gosh, we are going into the hills near Rocklin, Loomis and Penryn as Wendell Huffman suggested in the statement that this is where the grade commenced (and the going gets tough). I'll bet that the firemen had memorized the number of logs that they had to throw on the fire at each point along the way. Did they have some way to get the logs moved to the front of the firebox other than stoking by hand? Anybody know that answer?

—Ken Morrow

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Guide to Railroads in California by L. M. Clement

Bruce Cooper directs our attention to:

Guide to Railroads in California by L. M. Clement

"L. M. Clement was one of the leading civil engineers responsible for surveying and building the eastbound route of the Central Pacific Railroad, thereby contributing to the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869. The collection comprises a handwritten copy of Clement's twelve-page report on the state of the California railroads before 1876, including assessments of Chinese laborers and their supervision, an evaluation of the condition of California's roads, and a description of the role of chief engineer in a railroad project."

Help with college paper on Chinese RR Workers

From: "Richard Winters"

I'm working on a college thesis paper detailing the contributions of Chinese immigrants. I'm essentially trying to prove that, without their help, it wouldn't have been finished near as quickly.

I've picked up a couple books (the best being Nothing Like It In the World), but I'm looking for more sources with statistical information to help make the case. This site looked like the best bet, and it was referenced in my ECON textbook. If you have any suggestions on sources with good statistics, I would be most appreciative. ...

—Richard Winters

Historic railroads which still operate

From: ""

I am looking for a good website or sites that has information on historic railroads which still operate. Can you provide me any links? Thank you.

—Andrew Otto

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Sacramento Mayor Jabez Turner, 1878

From: "M. Gregory"

My name is Peter Gregory from Kettering, Northanptonshire, England.

I am researching my family and Jabez Turner, Mayor of Sacramento, California in the year 1878, was great great uncle and he worked for the Southern Pacific Railroad Company as a foreman of the wood working department in the locomotive shops.
I am trying to find phots of Jabez when he was Mayor and any of him at work in railroad workshops.
He also was a director of the Sacracmento Free Library and the Sacramento Building and Loan Association.

If you have any photos or write ups on Jabez, I would be very pleased if you would be able to email to me.



P.S. I still live 5 miles from were Jabez was born.


From: "Doctor Z"

A friend and I were talking the other day about the history of the Transcontinental Railroad, and a question came up.

In the 1870's there was no radio communications, and telegraph needed a hardwired station, and the fact that there was telegraph means the Pony Express was gone, so we were wondering about this and hopefully you will be able to provide an answer.

Let's say you have a passenger train heading along the Transcontinental Railroad and the Locomotive breaks down. Exactly how did they get word to alert the other trains that the tracks were blocked, and how did they get the locomotive repaired when it was stuck in the middle of nowhere, and how did they care for all the stranded passengers during the wait?

I guess that was three questions but they all relate to the one situation. Exactly what was the procedure in place at the time to handle mechanical failure 100's of miles from nowhere in the 1870's?


Sunday, March 23, 2008

Gallatin Ranch

"Field Day set for March 29" by Jean Barton, © Red Bluff Daily News , March 23, 2008. (News Article)

"The public is invited to the 43rd annual Tehama County Cattlemen's Spring Field Day on Saturday, March 29. It will be held at Tom and Terry Bengard's historic Gallatin Ranch ... A hundred years ago the Gallatin Ranch was many thousands of acres of rolling land west of Red Bluff, and wheat was raised on the hills.

In 1860 Albert Gallatin (1835-1905), a native of New York came to California and became associated with the 'Big Four' – Hopkins, Huntington, Crocker and Stanford – better known as the Central Pacific Railroad. When the railroad was under construction, Gallatin owned a hardware store in Sacramento and received a lucrative contract to be a major supplier for that project. Gallatin was influenced by Stanford and branched out into the sheep business. On Aug. 1, 1886, Gallatin made his first purchase of land on the south shore of Eagle Lake, when he bought 160 acres from George Nelson for $400. In the next two years, Gallatin purchased 4,962 acres around the lake for a total cost of $9,070. When Gallatin died he was deep in debt.

It appeared that this and other properties would be lost to his creditors.

Gallatin's second wife, Malvena (1867-1956) reversed the financial situation, paid off all of her deceased husband's debts and continued to purchase additional isolated tracts of land at Eagle Lake. By 1924, Malvena owned more than 40 miles of lakeshore property on the east side from Eagles Nest to Bucks Bay.
[From Lassen County Almanac by Tim Purdy.]

The public still enjoys Gallatin Beach at Eagle Lake, and her summer home is now the Ronald McDonald camp. The [California] Governor's Mansion in Sacramento was once owned by the Gallatins." [More]

[Courtesy Google Alerts.]

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Rumored CPRR sale, 1873

From: "Noah Belikoff"

In the course of my research I came across these CPRR-related articles dating to June, 1873 (rumored sale) and thought they might be of interest. ...


San Francisco Chronicle 6-8-1873
San Francisco Chronicle 6-8-1873

Daily Alta California 6-9-1873
Daily Alta California 6-9-1873

San Francisco Chronicle 6-12-1873
San Francisco Chronicle 6-12-1873

San Francisco Chronicle 6-12-1873
San Francisco Chronicle 6-12-1873

"Big Four"

From: "Nora Zelevansky"

I'm researching "The Associates" or "Big Four" for an article. I'm trying to find out information on Mark Hopkin's estate in Nob Hill (before it was destroyed, of course). I'd love to find out architectural/decor details about the original mansion. Does anyone know where to find that information?

Also, does anyone know where to find the value of Leland Stanford, Mark Hopkins, and Charles (and E.B.) Crocker's estates at the time of their respective deaths? If anyone has information, I'd love the help.


Sunday, March 16, 2008

1869 Iron Horse model


I was looking for steam railroads and came across this site. I love the old time trains and being a woodworker on the side, I found a blueprint on the 1869 iron horse. I built a model of the locomotive, tender car, coach car, and put it all on a stone bridge with tracks and lamp posts. It took me 188 hours to make it complete. I was wondering if you would be interested in it?

1869 Iron Horse

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Torpedo Requiem

Ladies and Gentlemen:

As you are aware, on April 14, 2008, a significant milestone in regulatory reform shall be upon us — one that cries out for acknowledgement. That is the date which, perhaps, will live in infamy for torpedo manufacturers, but it heralds the official end of the Federal requirement to have and use torpedoes for rear end flag protection (and also protection to the front, but only if a railroad’s operating rules had required it). Torpedoes are (or were) an antiquated signaling device that have essentially outgrown their practical usefulness. Further, railroad operating rules and methodologies are such today that virtually every railroad in the country meets at least one of the five exceptions to flag protection listed in § 218.37(a)(2) at all times and at all locations. I am not aware of any railroad today that requires protection against following trains on the same track. If there is, they would still have to comply with § 218.37(a)(1), but with respect to flagman’s signals (hmmm, I suppose that should be flagperson’s signals — we’ll get around to that next time), they would still need to provide the appropriate red flags and white lights, and the requisite number of fusees when providing the protection, but no torpedoes (unless they choose to). Lest I be termed ungrateful for ignoring the many years that torpedoes did actually soldier on by serving the railroad industry in the prevention of rear-end collisions, in tribute to their long years of faithful service in discharging that function, I have composed a short tribute to their passing from the scene in the attached “Requiem for Torpedoes.” I would be remiss in my responsibilities as a railroad historian if I permitted this date to pass without some form of recognition. Upon assimilating it, silent reflection is authorized, as appropriate.


Dennis Yachechak
Operating Rules Program Manager
Federal Railroad Administration
Washington, DC


Requiem for Torpedoes
(August 1, 1977 - April 14, 2008)

(With profound apologies to Robert Frost)

Something there is that doesn’t love a torpedo,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under them
And spills the upper ballast in the sun,
And cause a sound that only two can make.
The work of flagmen is another thing:
I have come after them and made reduction
Where they have left not two but one
But they could jolt a rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping Feds. The sound I mean,
No one had seen them placed or heard them placed,
But round the next bend I find them there.
I let the flagman know beyond the hill;
And on this day we meet to walk the line
And set the torpedoes once again.
We keep the distance between us as we go.
To each the torpedoes have fallen to each.
And some are round and some so nearly square
We have to use a strap to make them balance:
“Stay where you are until our backs are turned!”
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of outdoor game,
One on opposite sides. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the torpedo:
I am all noise and he is deaf to it.
My flagman will never get across
And protect his train, I tell him.
He only says, “Good torpedoes make good protection.”
Spring is he mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in their heads:
“Why do they make good protection? Isn’t it
Where there are other trains? But here there are no other trains.*
Before I required torpedoes I’d ask to know
What I was protecting or protecting against,
And to whom I was likely to give offense.**
Something there is that doesn’t love a torpedo,
That wants them knocked down.” I could say “Nuts” to him,
But it’s not nuts exactly, and I’d rather
He said it for himself. I see him there,
Bringing a torpedo grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He places them in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father’s saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, “Good torpedoes used to make good protection.”

“Sic Transit Gloria Mundi Torpedoes”

*TWC territory – absolute blocks negating need for flag protection to the rear.
**Such as expensive condos and townhouses adjacent to the tracks.

[from the R&LHS Newsgroup. Courtesy of Martin K. O'Toole.]

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Portrait of Alfrederick Smith Hatch and Family at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

"Alfrederick Smith Hatch (1829–1904) was a prominent Wall Street broker in the firm of Fisk and Hatch and president of the New York Stock Exchange from 1883 to 1884." His partner was Harvey E. Fisk.

"Bankers Fisk & Hatch, New York" sold bonds used to finance the Central Pacific Railroad.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Brooks locomotive plans


I am attempting to build a 1908 (+ or -) Brooks 4-6-0 locomotive for the Parker Tube Float, in Parker, Arizona. It was used on the local railroads here in the early 1900's

I would like to know if you have any web sites or know where I can find detailed plans in which I can use to build the locomotive. What I have scaled out so far is one approximately 10 feet long and about 4 foot tall but I need more accurate scales and diagrams to make it as authentic as possible. I would like better pictures that what I have and would be awesome if I could get detailed spec sheets showing the actual dimensions including front, rear, side, and top views. ...

—Ted Martin, Lake Havasu City, AZ

Friday, March 07, 2008

Construction Dates

From: "Carolyn Chase"

How long did it take to complete the Central Pacific 690 miles of track?

"The Arts: Opening Party for Chinaman's Chance"

"The Arts: Opening Party for Chinaman's Chance." © Pasadena Now, March 7, 2008. (News Article)

"Pacific Asia Museum presents a multi-media exhibition that examines the diverse Chinese-American experience from the days of the Transcontinental Railroad's construction to today. Curated by Chip Tom, Chinaman's Chance: Views of the Chinese-American Experience will be on view from March 6 through July 27, and includes new works from three Chinese-American artists: Amanda Ross-Ho, Zhi Lin, and Arthur Ou. ... To conquer the treacherous terrain, workers were often suspended from the top of cliffs to plant explosives. It was from this dangerous task that the phrase 'A Chinaman's Chance in Hell' was coined. Later shortened to 'Chinaman's Chance,' the phrase unfortunately defined many immigrants' experiences. ... " [More]

[Courtesy Google Alerts.]

Tuesday, March 04, 2008


Many Facts Per March 4, 1905 Scientific American

1879 Solano Carried First Train
1905 Solano Rebuilt to handle larger and heavier trains
1915 Contra Costa added to run
1916 Solano Rebuilt to handle larger and heavier trains
1929 Benicia-Martinez Railroad Bridge construction started
1930 Bridge finished, Last Sailing of the Solano
1931 Solano sunk as a breakwater near Antioch, California (she is still there today).

Length: 424 feet (length of deck with 4 tracks)
Width over guards: 116 feet, 8 inches
Registered Tonnage: 3549 Tons
Draws (1905): 6 feet, 4 inches light; 10 feet, 7 inches loaded
Steam Engines: Two independent Vertical Walking Beam Engines each having a 5 foot diameter piston and an eleven foot up and down stroke developing 2,252 HP each
Paddle Wheels: Two independent wheels each 30 feet in diameter (as high as a commercial 3 story building), with a 24 inch diameter shaft and 24 buckets
Boilers: Eight Boilers (6 in use, 2 being serviced while boat was transporting trains)
Steering: Four rudders at each end of the boat, controlled by a steering lever in each pilot house which operates a valve and uses a steam driven hydraulic pump to move a piston connected to the rudders.
Capacity: Two Pacific 4-6-2 locomotives (SP P-1, P-3, P-4 & P-5’s), 17 or 18 heavy-weight Pullman sleeper and baggage cars and the “Boat Goat” (0-6-0 switcher)
Crew: Two Crews of 17 men each, working 12 hour shifts

Location: Carried entire trains across the Carquinez Strait between Benicia and Port Costa, California, on the Central Pacific and the Southern Pacific mainline connecting Sacramento with Oakland (San Francisco), California on the extension of the original Transcontinental Railroad.
Description: 1 mile crossing, 8 foot average tide, 13 foot extreme tide, 8 miles per hour bi-directional current. Fog was of main concern.

Probably the busiest train ferry in the world:
In 1904 she handled approximately 115,000 freight cars and 56,000 passenger cars in one year. (that is averaging 315 freight cars and 153 passenger cars daily, 365 days a year).
In 1904 she was making thirty six to forty six crossings every 24 hours (that’s averaging a trip every 31 to 40 minutes, day and night, seven days a week, 365 days a year).
October 8, 1909, Time Table shows 23 scheduled passenger trains crossing on the Solano per day.


Transcontinental Trains San Francisco – Ogden – Omaha - Chicago

Overland Flyer
Overland Express
Overland Limited
San Francisco Overland Limited
Atlantic Express
Pacific Express
California Express
Gold Coast Limited

San Francisco – Nevada

Tonopoh Express
Nevada Express

San Francisco – Portland, Oregon

Oregon Express
Portland Express
San Francisco Express
Shasta Limited

San Francisco - Sacramento

Sacramento Passenger
Sacramento & Oroville Passenger
Sacramento Local
Fast Mail
Bay City Local
Ridorado Flyer
Eldorado Flyer
Fort Sutter

"Solano Facts" and Solano Model Images Courtesy of Bill Rubarth.



Monday, March 03, 2008

Solano employee M. NORONHA

From: "Katharine F. Baker"

... I'm hoping you can help me find employment records (or any other information) re my great-grandfather, MANUEL MARIA NORONHA (a/k/a MICHAEL NORONHA), who, according to his obituary, was a long-time employee on the "Solano" – so, specifically, I'm interested to know what his job responsibilities were on the "Solano" over the years. From my research thus far, I've learned that:

a) According to the 1880 US Census, he, his wife and their toddler daughter settled in Benicia in 1879 (their second daughter was born in California in 1879) ( erroneously transcribed the surname Noronha as Heremla, but if you examine the photstat of the Census enumeration itself, it's clearly Noronha);

b) According to his obituary in the 5 Dec 1929 Benicia [CA] Herald, "Manuel M. Noronha, pioneer resident of Benicia, passed away at his home in this city Sunday at the advanced age of 84 years. The deceased came to Benicia fifty years ago this month in the employ of the Southern Pacific on the Steamer Solano and was retired from the service fifteen years ago. Mr. Noronha was born on the Island of St. George, Azores, December 16, 1844. In 1864 he left his home to follow a seafaring life..."

c) According to parish records in the Regional Archives at Angra do Heroísmo, Terceira, Azores, he was in fact born on 16 Dec 1843 (so was actually a year older than he claimed!). BTW. the Portuguese name of his native island is "São Jorge," and Manuel/Michael hailed specifically from the village of Topo on the easternmost tip of the island.

I look forward to hearing ... any research results you can discover re my great-grandfather's employment on the "Solano."

Katharine F. Baker



Benicia Herald, July 16, 1915

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Information telebinocular viewers

From: "Jana Harrison"

I was wondering ... the approximate value of the collection listed as:

Keystone Telebinocular Viewers.
The Keystone System of Travel. Tour of the world.
1,200 stereo cards in book shaped boxes with 2 telebinocular stereo viewers with clip on incandescent illuminator and stand. Original bill of sale and a dated 1936. Accompanying book showing the stereoview titles, 185 pages. Approximately 70 lbs.

I was on the net trying to find the value of one set of the viewers and the boxes of cards that were recently found in a library that is under my direction. If you have any info let me know. I am attaching this photo of the viewers that were found.

—Jana Harrison

Telebinocular Viewers

telebinocular viewers

China Wall

From: "Chris Graves"

Do you have the dimensions of the China Wall, between Tunnel 7 and 8? I am wanting to know its height, length, and width.


Saturday, March 01, 2008

CPRR Discussion Group

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