Sunday, September 10, 2006

How many workers?

From: "Kris Hara"

How many workers (total) did it take to build the transcontinental railroad?


Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

The total number is not known. The peak employment on the Central Pacific Railroad during the construction period was about 10,000, but due to turnover, the number of individuals is higher. Information about the size of the Union Pacific Railroad construction force is lacking.

See the previous discussion.

9/10/2006 2:49 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Bill Chew"

My book Nameless Builders of the Transcontinental Railroad calculates the total number of Chinese workers was 23,004. A post re-calculation comes up with 30,000. These numbers are MINIMUM since 29 months of payroll records are missing from the calculated period from Jan. 1864 to Dec. 1867. The road was finished in May 1869. There would not be a large difference since most of the workers were laid off after 1867 since the hard work through the mountains was done leaving the laying of rails through the flat desert.

The other important history is the first date of employment, the names of the first workers, and the number of fatalities. You may want to buy my book at a dicount of $17 including s/h by sending a check or money order to William Chew, 818 W 83rd St., #1, Playa Del Rey, CA 90293.

9/10/2006 2:57 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Chris Graves"

The comments by Mr. Chew are interesting, but some are without foundation.

For example, he says that the number of workers declined following the work through the Sierras. This statement is a wonder, as from Truckee, East to Toano, the railroad built from one to two miles a day; a tremendous feat for the workers on the CPRR. The cuts and fills East from present day Sparks are large, deep and leave a present day observer wondering at the labor involved to complete the work.
That the number of workers declined from 1867 is further a question, when one realizes, from the reading of the Elko Independent, of January, 1870, that "six cars are strung along the grade," picking up bodies of deceased male Chinese railroad workers. Six railroad cars can hold a heck of a lot bodies, and to need six of those cars, to pick up the bodies of the deceased workers, one wonders at the number of LIVE workers above ground.

As to 30,000 workers over the time of construction, I would not doubt it. News accounts of the day speak of gangs of workers coming and going; that work was hard and unpleasant, I would not want to spend any length of time doing it, either.

An interesting comment is made by Federal Inspectors, on October 7, 1867: "the workmen are kept promptly supplied with provisions, tools, horses, carts, powder and all the necessary material for carrying on the work efficiently." And, under the same date: "The laborers on the tunnel (Summit Tunnel) have been principally Chinese. They worked in gangs of three shifts of eight hours each per day (elsewhere, the numbers of workers in a gang are numbered at 20)laboring steadily day and night during the storms of one of the severest winters ever known in California" and then, speaking of the camps, the Federal Inspectors commented: "Then the building of the camps had to be erected, and in the mountainous regions they are required to be made strong and capable of resisting the pressure of snow as to prevent the inmates from the ... storms. These (camps) with the small buildings erected by the Chinese laborers for their own use, make quite a village."
No mention is made in these reports of the number of fatalities, in fact, no mention is made at all of any deaths.

There is still a lot to be learned and discovered about the construction of the CPRR, I commend you for your effort to discover for yourself the answers to your question.

—G J Chris Graves, NewCastle, Cal.

9/10/2006 6:37 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Gilbert"

How many people worked on the transcontinental railroad?

10/13/2007 9:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The total number is not known. About 10 thousand people worked on the Central Pacific Railroad at the peak of construction, although due to worker turnover the number of individuals ever employed was undoubtedly greater. The number constructing the Union Pacific Railroad was likely similar, although that is only a guess as we have not seen this documented.

"I think that we very nearly approached 10000 men on the work"

10/13/2007 9:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

William F. Chew, Jr. (b. 1/26/1931 - d. 11/15/2010) R.I.P.

1/14/2011 9:05 AM  

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