Sunday, April 26, 2015

Importance of ranching to the completion of the transcontinental RR

From: "Charlie Saba"

I am creating a documentary about ranching for the Amazing Earthfest, an annual event in Kanab, Utah. I am interested in your opinion of the importance of ranching to the completion of the transcontinental RR, and "manifest destiny". ...

—Charlie Saba


Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

The western CPRR lands were largely (approximately 84%) worthless, arid, barren, and/or mountainous, and ultimately unsaleable.

4/26/2015 12:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From: "Larry Mullaly"

Thank you for your question regarding the impact of the transcontinental railroad and Far Western ranching. Although this is outside of my area of railroad expertise, I can at least offer some starting points on the topic, limiting myself to the area between Ogden and Reno during the period 1869-1883.

I do not think that ranching was significant enough to have had any impact on the building of the trancontinental railroad. If we reverse the topic somewhat and ask what impact the railroad had on the development of ranching along its route west of Ogden, the following picture emerges:

In the wake of the railroad, ranching (free range) operations that developed in Utah and Nevada Territories had a market in Virginia City and other mining towns, but I am guessing that the major market for rail shipment of livestock was San Francisco. Lesser cities in California were probably served by local cattle ranches that had a long tradition of trail drives to the cities and northern California towns going as far back as the gold rush. The railroad in California could have helped the ranching industry but was not essential to it.

In terms of development, the question of scale becomes the key thing. The specialized volumes on agriculture of the U.S. Census of 1870 and 1880 may well give this information and make it possible to monitor the growth of the ranching industry by county.

Location of ranching is perhaps a little easier to determine. Railroad documentation in the form of annual company reports does not seem to address this topic. However, the earliest listing of railroad stock yards and loading chutes dating to 1879 shows facilities in place at the following station points: Reno, Humboldt, Wadsworth, Mill City, Winnemucca, Iron Point, Battle Mountain, Beowawe, Carlin, Elko, Halleck, Deeth, Wells, Toano, Kelton, Corinne, and Ogden. This would seem to indicate that open range ranching was fairly common in an area that prior to the coming of the transcontinental railroad may have had very little ranching.

The California State Railroad Museum has station plats showing the physical scale of these loading facilities about 1883:

Reno: 6 corrals

Wadsworth: 8 large corrals

Mill City: 3 corrals

Lovelocks: 3 corrals

Humboldt: 2 corrals

Winnemucca: 6 corrals

Iron Point: 2 corrals

Battle mountain: 3 corrals

Beowawe: 2 corrals

Carlin: 3 corrals

Elko: 2 corrals

Halleck: 3 corrals

Deeth: 2 corrals

Wells: 1 large corral

Corrine: 2 corrals

Ogden: 7 corrals.

Clearly, Reno, Wadsworth, Winnemucca and Ogden are the key loading points.

None of this is overly scientific, but it does give you a start to a very interesting topic.

Wishing you all the best in your research! ...

—Larry Mullaly

5/02/2015 8:47 PM  

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