Arizona Daily Star from Tucson, Arizona on May 8, 1969 · Page 34
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Arizona Daily Star from Tucson, Arizona · Page 34

Tucson, Arizona
Issue Date:
Thursday, May 8, 1969
Page 34
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PAGf SIX SECTION C ate Blood, Sweat Built Railway By BILL STALL SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) They opened the gates of the American West to mass immigration. They took the pioneer off the covered w agon and put him on the Iron Horse, pounding across the desert and mountain toward California at the dizzy rate of 20 miles an hour. "The Big Four,' called. they were Their names were Leland Stanford, Mark Hopkins, Col-lis P. Huntington, Charles B. Crocker. They built the Central Pacific Railroad from Sacramento to Promontory, Utah 690 miles of wooden ties and iron rail, blood, sweat, financial wizardry and political intrigue. At Promontory, Utah, on May 10, 1869, Central Pacific President Stanford helped drive the last golden spike that physically tied East to West, Atlantic and Pacific by a fragile link of rails. The scene appears in nearly every grammar school history book. The funny little locomo-tives meet nose-to-nose on the Utah plains the Central Pa-, cific's diamond-stacked "Jupiter" on the left and the Union Pacific's "No. 119" on the right. An inscription on the golden 6pike, now owned by the Stanford University museum, reads, "May God continue the unity of our Country as this Railroad unites the two great oceans of the world." The meeting of the rails will be re-enacted by history fans and railroad buffs at Promontory this May 10. The telegraph will click out the same message as it did at 12:47 p.m. 100 years earlier: "Done! The last rail is laid. The last spike is driven. The Pacific railroad is completed. The point of junction is 1,086 miles west of the Missouri River and 690 miles east of Sacramento City." The Pacific railroad actually was two railroads, both built with millions of federal aid and millions of acres of land grants under the Pacific Railroad Act of 1862 and other government concessions. The Central Pacific, later the Southern Pacific, forged a route eastward across the Sierra Nevada, the state of Nevada and the Utah salt flats. The Union Pacific didn't get substantially under way until 1865, when the Civil War was over and a ready supply of labor became available. UP built westward across the rolling plains, across Wyoming and up through a broad natural pass in the Rockies. For much of the way, its materials were shipped cheaply up the Mississippi and Missouri rivers to the railhead. In California, the first shovelful of earth was turned by Stanford on a rainy Jan. 8, 1863, at the foot of K Street rear the Sacramento River. He was then governor of California as well as president of 11 : , - - J fic' Ml CALIFORNIA ! NEVADA L&t&k To American West Opened Century lllllllll'''' ' "' : ' ;;: ; it m- m ir ?f iwir. ? f, ifj) y?en 7?e Two 'Pacifies Linked Up Joining of the Central Pacific (left) and Union Pacific ture shows chief engineers of the two lines shaking hands at at Promontory, Utah, was recorded in this historic photo. Pic- the laying of the last rail on May 1 0, 1 869. the Central Pacific Railroad a railroad with great plans and few physical assets. As Stanford used a silver shovel to turn the first earth, the more pragmatic Huntington, a hardware merchant, is reputed to have grumbled, "If you want to jubilee in laying the first spike here, go ahead and do it. I don't. These mountains look too ugly and I see too much work ahead. We may fail, and I want to have as few people know it as we can." Huntington, a massive figure physically, ultimately emerged as the strong man of the Big Four. He also outlived the others, surviving until 1900. The Big Four had the means, they thought, to build the railroad. The vision for it came from another man, Theodore D. Judah, an evangelistic young railroad planner whose goal was successful promotion of a transcontinental railroad. Judah tried and failed to interest San Francisco bankers. Then he approached the Sacramento Big Four. They were merchants who were becoming prominent in the community and the new Republican party. Judah emphasized the quick profits to be realized from hauling freight to and from the Nevada mines. For a fee of $9, articles of association of the Central Pacific Railroad Co. of California were filed in 1861. Stanford, Crocker, Hopkins and Huntington were the major subscribers, taking 150 shares of stock each at $100 a share. Over the years, the four Sacramento merchants kept firm control of Central Pacific later Southern Pacific Railroad stock. By doing this, they assumed all financial risk and the debt built up during the costly construction period. They were heavily criticized in later years, when the expanding railroad reaped huge profits swelling the fortunes of the Big Four to an estimated $120 million. A current Southern Pacific fi,ij i 1 Ml I KT - Iff ."! - kit r i 1 , M Co. publication notes that tiie Big Four took the risks, "accepted the challenge of the Sierra and later reaped the rewards of their efforts." When construction was done, the publication says, "They proceeded to make the railroad valuable by making it pay a task just as difficult as the original construction." The original incorporation document, creased and yellowed, is on file in the State Archives in Sacramento along with the carefully handwritten iK4 KvXvXvXvXvIvivXvJfciiijr, (' Tl I'll 4 m'- J If t 'ul 4 annual reports of the corporation in its early days days in which income was zero. The first offices were in the second floor of the Huntington-Hopkins hardware store at 54 KSt. Hardly had construction begun than Judah and the Big Four split over methods of construction and financing. Judah went East to seek new backers, but died crossing the Isthmus of Panama in 1863 at the age of 37. Jeeringly called "Crazy Judah" by his detractors, he had successfully plotted a railroad route through the Sierra barrier and, as a lobbyist in Washington, virtually wrote his own terms in the Pacific Railroad Act. That act granted the railroad 10 sections (later 20) of land, 6,400 acres, for each mile of rail built across the public domain. The company received subsidies actually bonds of $16,000 for each mile of road built in the valley, $32,000 in the foothills and $48,000 in mountain areas. The Big Four also arranged for state subsidies, even while Stanford was governor, and for stock subscriptions by some of the California counties along the line. Meanwhile, the railroad builders were able to convince federal officials that the valley ended and the Sierra began at Arcade Creek, only seven level miles out of Sacramento. This resulted in an immediate boost in the construction subsidy. "When news of the ruling reached California, a roar of amazement shook the state," WTOte historian Oscar Lewis. "Sacramento's four shopkeepers began to command closer attention . . . Any group who could move the base of the Sierra Nevadas 25 miles westward into the center of the valley and could net a half million dollars by the exploit would bear watching." Just how much did the railroad cost and how much of that came from the Big Four? The 1869 Central Pacific an- THE ARIZONA DAILY STAR nual report lists construction costs of $56.8 million to date. A federal commission later estimated the Central Pacific could have been built for $23 million. Construction literally a pick and shovel operation went slowly and expensively up the west slope of the Sierra. A major problem, labor, was overcome when Crocker discovered the advantages of hiring Chinese workers. He even went to China to recruit more, with a total of 12,000 on the construction front eventually. The tunnel at 7,242-foot Don-ner Summit finally was completed in late 1867. Crocker's crews then sped down the eastern slopes and across Nevada, building 362 miles of road in 1868. The race was on with the Union Pacific to build the most miles of line and earn the greater subsidy. Meanwhile, there already was grumbling from farmers along the already opened portion of the Central Pacific about high rates, an issue that was to rage for years. A Nevada County group petitioned the legislature in 1868 to cut the rates by two-thirds, contending that a third of the charge would be adequate "considering that the construction of the road has not and will not cost them a dollar of their own money." There is no record of any action on the petition. With the last spike driven, the Central Pacific turned to developing its market. It staked out towns on land grant land and sold farmland "at prices as low as a dollar an acre," a Southern Pacific booklet says. Colonists came from the East on low-fare immigrant trains. "Transcontinental freight rates were established at levels low enough so Western farmers and manufacturers could compete directly with producers much closer to Eastern markets," the literature argues. Critics said the railroad Rails Roll Out Construction of track and a telegraph line in 1868 as Central Pacific forces were building the western link of the first transcontinental railroad, now a part of the Southern Pacific system. charged all that the traffic would bear until federal and state control forced reductions. By 1884, the firm controlled more than 5,500 miles of railroad, including all the lines serving San Francisco, Sacramento, Stockton and Los Angeles. Today the SP's system stretches over 14,000 miles. The final federal debt, $58.8 million, was paid in 1909, after SP critics were successful in preventing the railroad from getting an extension on the loan. Signs of the Big Four remain here and there in Sacramento. Stanfords portrait commands a prominent position in the gallery of California governors in the first floor hall way of the capital. Nearby is Thomas Hill's famous painting "Driving the Last Spike." Its group of figures includes many who were not at Promontory, including Hunt ington, Crocker and Theodore Judah, who had been dead for six years. Judah's role in building the railroad largely was ignored until 1930, when Southern Pacific employes raised money for a memorial statute. At present, it rests temporarily on loose blocks and beams in the parking lot of the Southern Pacific terminal in Sacramento, having been uprooted to make room for a freeway ramp. Theodore Dehone Judah's dream of routing a transcontinental railroad through the Rockies earned him the nickname "Craiy Judah." But four Sacramento merchants listened, and thought the Idea made good sense. Together Piggyback Idea Not New Then and now photos show "piggyback" transport idea was as popular 100 years ago as it is now. Back about 1869, (top) track-laying crews moved freight wagons on open flat cars during construction of the Union Pacific line through Wyoming. Today, containers, the latest word in "piggyback," hustle prepacked freight through the Cajon Pass in southern California (bottom photo). (NEA) 'Crazy Judah' Made Good Sense v XZ-. Ht& ( J 'i The Golden Spike Driving the golden spike ceremonies celebrating completion of the first transcontinental railroad with the joining of the Central Picific and the nUion Pacific lines at Promon-tory, Utah, May 10, 1869. ' 9 A, 9 V 4 j they founded and built the Central Pacific Railroad. This painting, by Eleanor McCarger of Burlingame, shows them, left to right: Mark Hopkins, Judah, Collis P. Huntington, Charles B. Crocker and Leland Stanford. (AP Wirephoto) TUCSON, THURSDAY, MAY 8, I96f Ago (7 i Tiu.u -r-f

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