Thursday, March 03, 2011

The CPRR didn't validate existing towns - it created new ones.

"JARDINE: Railroad towns against their use?" by Jeff Jardine, © The Modesto Bee, DATE. (Article)

"... The ... Central Pacific ... railroad ... didn't validate [existing] towns. It created them and profited by controlling or selling the land adjacent to the tracks. ... " [More]

[Courtesy Google Alerts.]


Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Wendell Huffman"

I have only a vague idea what is meant by "validate [existing] towns", but the CP certainly supported more pre-existing towns than there were those that died because the railroad missed them. The company made a big deal about running the Pacific railroad through Sacramento rather than directly from Junction (Roseville) to Stockton. Rocklin, Cisco (as Heatonville), Winnemucca, Elko, Corrine, and Odgen pre-existed the railroad and the company made no effort to avoid them. Roseville and Truckee sprang up around the railroad without any profit to the railroad. The railroad missed Dutch Flat and Illinoistown, and their station at Colfax did become more important than Illinoistown. The company did try to make something of townsites on their land, but generally failed. On 23 July 1867 EB Crocker wrote: We have tried to make something of towns with “poor success”; values go down when railroad advances. Colfax has held up pretty well, but Newcastle, Clipper Gap, Alta have gone in. Other towns which "failed" were Argenta and Tulasco. Their one real success was Reno, which owed its success to the juxtaposition of the railroad and the Comstock. Mark Hopkins wrote on 14 May 1868: I am just back from Reno where we laid out a town of 400 lots, and auction sale of 3 hours, sold 80 lots for $30,000.


3/03/2011 4:59 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...


Yes, the Central Pacific created towns, but the majority of those were in the middle of nowhere with no other options around – think Reno and just about every town in Nevada and Utah it "created." Having a land grant also influenced selection of townsites (usually on their own sections). The Union Pacific did the same – across western Nebraska, Wyoming (including Cheyenne), and Utah. Except for a few trading posts, trail side outposts and ranch headquarters there were really no towns along the right of way in these regions, except, of course, the small communities of Mormon settled Utah.

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.

3/03/2011 5:02 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Larry Mullaly"

"It created them and profited by controlling or selling the land adjacent to the tracks. ... "

A few comments:

The suggestion that the Central Pacific 1864-1885 (I assume this includes its Southern Pacific subsidiary) failed to "validate" existing towns is off the mark.

The instances most frequently cited to demonstrate this theory are Visalia, and San Bernardino, and possibly Bakersfield. I am not aware of any similar Central Pacific issues, apart from some unhappiness that the Stanford/Huntington company skirted downtown Stockton.

Left out of the equation is the fact that the same company went through towns such as Marysville, Gilroy, Salinas, Los Angeles, Yuma, El Paso and others. Contrary to popular lore, there are no instances apart from Los Angeles where the railroad demanded a subsidy as the price of passing through an existing town. Visalia and San Bernardino had been asked to support a county subsidies in December 1869 but a vote was never taken, and when the railroad was actually built several years later the subsidy request was not renewed.

There were several elements involved in the decision to bypass a town. The first was the engineering consideration: grade, track curvature, nature of the ground to be traversed. This was always the primary consideration and explains most of these so-called deviations around existing townsites.

The practice of building on the best line possible was followed by virtually all major railroads at this time and thereafter.

The second element was the need to maximize profit – something that should be seen as normal for any well-run business. The railroad created towns wherever it could as a way to develop its territories. This is particularly true in the San Joaquin Valley and exemplified by Modesto, Merced, Fresno, and Tulare. In the case of such towns, it is true that "It created them and profited by controlling or selling the land adjacent to the tracks. ... "

But then again, the railroad had been given land grants along the tracks precisely to help reimburse the company for building the line. In general the railroad profited very little from these land sales because of the poor quality of the land involved. This applies in a particular way to the vast land holdings of the Central Pacific across Nevada and Utah.

In all of these matters, the railroad was hard-nosed, and matter-of-fact in its style of conducting business. But in the Far West, this was how things were done in all areas of commerce. It is also important to realize that the railroad was operating under very heavy debt loads with heavy bond payments due to its investors twice year, and massive capital costs.

This was how you ran a railroad if you expected to stay in business.

—Larry Mullaly

3/03/2011 5:09 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...


Don't forget Tucson.

—John Sweetser

3/03/2011 10:28 PM  

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