Saturday, March 12, 2011

A few research questions about Chinese railroad workers

From: "Betty Yee"

... I am currently working on a young adult historical novel about the building of the transcontinental railroad and I have a research question that I wasn't able to find the answer to by just looking through the artciles so far.

That is: how did the Chinese sojourners send money back to China? Or did they wait, hide all their money and carry it back themselves when they went home? Were they paid in gold or paper currency?

Since the stakes were so high, was sabotage ever an issue? ...

—B Yee


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not aware of any sabotage problem on the Central Pacific Railroad. Unfortunately, there are no surviving first person accounts from the Chinese railroad workers, so details like how the gold savings were safeguarded and transported may not have survived the passage of time.

"The Chinese [railroad workers] ... are paid from $30 to $35 in gold a month ... They are credited with having saved about $20 a month." —Alta, California, November 9, 1868 Newspaper.

3/12/2011 1:07 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Wendell Huffman"

Workers were paid in gold. I believe I read somewhere in Google Books that the "Six Companies" aided the Chinese in sending payment home. Some creative searching in Google Books might reveal the answer to how money was sent. I suspect in gold coin.

In a sense, both the CPRR and the UPRR tried to "sabotage" the efforts of the rival company. At the end of 1867 and into 1868 the CPRR tried to give the UP the impression that they were not making much progress, in hopes that the UP would slow down. The UP began grading far ahead of their approved line in hopes of getting approval ahead of the CP. An example that might be closer to what you really mean by "sabotage" is the strike of late June 1867. The CP managers believed that the UP had stirred the workers to strike to stop their progress – and they may have been correct. The CPRR's cash-flow virtually stopped when the railroad was completed. Their primary income for months had been the sale of US bonds issued for track completed. WIth no more track to build, the bonds – and cash – stopped. For several months workers were paid late, and many were laid off. The bridge across the American River, snowsheds near Cisco, and wood piles of locomotive fuel were "mysteriously" burned.


3/12/2011 5:59 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...


The Chinese workers for Central Pacific were paid in gold, the same as other Central Pacific workers.

As to shipping money home, I don't know for sure, but I imagine the Chinese 6 Companies had methods for sending money back there were available to their members.


3/14/2011 8:19 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

Regarding mysterious fires, it needs to be pointed out that wood burning steam locomotives can cause fires if some burning embers are not stopped by screens covering their smokestacks.

3/14/2011 8:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From: "Betty Yee"

I am in the process of writing a young adult novel about the Chinese workers of the TCRR. I am very interested in visiting some of the areas I've been reading about but realize there is no "tour" What do you think my best approach should be? I am particularly intersted in seeing the tunnels including Donner Pass and Summit Tunnel, and Cape Horn. ...

—Betty Yee

5/03/2012 5:26 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

See related discussion.

1/18/2013 2:09 PM  

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