Monday, July 02, 2007

Fictional literature

Do you know if there is any fictional literature ... regarding the building of the Rail Road from Sacramento to Promontory ... [or] dealing with the Chinese and Irish who were building the tracks? Or do you know of any recommendable books on remarkable characters who were involved in the building of the tracks?


Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

The best modern history is David Bain's Empire Express.

For information about the Chinese workers, see:
Chinese Railroad Workers
More Chinese Worker related web pages
Note that there is considerable misinformation about the Chinese workers in the secondary literature. See:
Chinese – Accuracy

For books about the railroad, see:
Recent Books
Some of the childrens' books listed there are fictional.
Also see:

For information about building the transcontinental railroad, see:

For information about the people, see:
Lewis Metzler Clement
Chapter in Galloway's book
Lynn Farrar's Biographical Notes
Henry Root's Autobiography

Some books about the people in charge of the Central Pacific Railroad:

Evans, Cerinda W. Collis Porter Huntington. The Mariner's Museum, Newport News, Virginia, 1954. 2 vols.

Lewis, Oscar. The Big Four. Alfred A Knopf, New York, 1941.

Norman E. Tutorow The Governor: The Life and Legacy of Leland Stanford. Arthur H. Clark Co., 2004. 2 vols.

7/02/2007 5:25 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Chris Graves"

There is not enough ink in my inkwell to answer this question.


7/03/2007 3:17 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...


... As to individual Chinese, we do have the names of three of the Chinese who carried forward and placed the last rail at Promontory. Ging Cui, Wong Fook, Lee Shao

We do have the name of Ah Toy, one of the first Chinese to work on the CPRR in 1864, who had previously worked on Strobridge's ranch.

CSRM also knows a little about Hung Lai Woh, who worked on the CPRR, and later became a successful merchant in San Francisco, married with 5 children. We tell some of his story (mostly later in his life) on a panel in the newly expanded Chinese exhibit in the Transcontinental Gallary.


7/03/2007 7:30 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Chris Graves"
Subject: Chinese film makers

I was contacted this morning by a fellow that identified himself as a representative of a Chinese American film company, that was in the early planning stages of a film regarding the Chinese effort on the CPRR. Has anyone else been contacted by these folks? ... The thrust of the movie is to identify one or more 'significant' Chinese that were involved on the CPRR, and then build the film around them. ...

G J Chris Graves
NewCastle, AltaCal'a
Winter's Summer Garden

7/03/2007 7:45 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Bill Anderson"

A lady, of Chinese decent, here in Folsom has been approached recently by a Chinese film company. Seems they may be returning in a couple of months for actual filming. ...

—Bill A.

7/03/2007 9:53 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Larry Mullaly"

While we have yet to find the longed-for first-person account of a Chinese worker on the CPRR, there is a remarkably well-told account of a Chinese herbalist working with the railroad in Lisa See's On Gold Mountain (ST. Martin's Press, 1995). Lisa's description of the life of her great grandfather, Fong Dun Shun, combines strong historic research with family lore. She is an excellent writer and was recently featured on NPR.


7/04/2007 1:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From: "Jakob Boersch"

Working for LA based Film Production Company Stallion Media LLC, I am currently researching on the building of the Central Pacific Railroad. We are interested in developing a story putting the Chinese workers into focus.

Online and in books I was able to find a lot of information on the historical background, the financiers and the engineers of the CPRR.

However, finding information on Chinese laborers who became famous or infamous during that time or even after the CPRR was built turns out to be more difficult.

Do you know of any Chinese character who became known? Or do you know who I could get in touch about this?

—Jakob Boersch, Stallion Media LLC

7/08/2007 12:23 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

Regrettably, to the best of our knowledge no examples of the type of personal narrative of CPRR Chinese railroad workers that you are seeking are known to exist. We find it quite surprising that with more than ten thousand Chinese eyewitnesses that no oral or written accounts of their experiences are known.

The Library of Congress, states that: "No first-person memoirs of the Chinese experience in nineteenth-century California are known to survive. There is always hope that further research in the United States and the People's Republic of China will produce such a narrative, but for the time being, readers must content themselves with studies such as Robert McClellan's The Heathen Chinee: A Study of American Attitudes toward China, 1890-1905 (Columbus, Ohio: Ohio State University Press, 1971) or Betty Lee Sung's Mountain of Gold: The Story of the Chinese in America (New York: Macmillan, 1967)."

7/08/2007 1:05 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Chris Graves"

There remains, Old Son, a tremendous story to be told re: the building of the Transcontinental Rail Road and the Chinese that did the heavy lifting. I remain hopeful that in my lifetime such an effort will be successfully accomplished.

Blood, toil and tears by the bucket full.

With luck, you will not be mislead by the modern OR the 19th Century fable tellers, but will hone to the true path of history.

'Twill be a difficult road, but one that can be traversed.

Good Luck...........


7/08/2007 1:07 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

Lisa See writes in the first chapter "The Wonder Time, 1866-1871" of her family history, On Gold Mountain that her peasant herbalist great grandfather, Fong Dun Shun, "was ministering to a woman with boils [in Dimtao, Kwangtung Province, China, near the city of Canton] when the railroad scout spotted him and asked if he would like to go to the Gold Mountain to help the Chinese Laborers when they got sick. 'The coolies don't trust our western doctors,' the foreign devil rattled off in tones that Fong could not understand, but which were translated for him by a Chinese helper. Fong was told that the railroad company would pay for his passage, his herbs, and his knowledge. He didn't have to consider the proposal very long ... "

Unfortunately, it is not possible to distinguish what portions of her compelling narative are genuine and uniquely valuable oral history from her elderly relatives, versus now recognized misinformation she acquired from her reading and research (i.e., known to be false descriptions of Chinese dangling in baskets, swinging away from the cliff as they set off dynamite and being blown up if their timing was off, as we are confident that neither such baskets nor dynamite were actually used in the CPRR construction).

7/14/2007 2:27 PM  

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