Transkontinentale jernbanetjenester begyndte - historie

Transkontinentale jernbanetjenester begyndte - historie

Den 10. maj blev der ved Promontory Point, Utah, ramt en gylden jernbanespids, der fuldførte den første transkontinentale jernbanelinje. Spidsen sluttede sig til linjerne i Union-Pacific Railroad, der bygges mod vest, fra Omaha, Nebraska; og dem i det centrale Stillehav bliver bygget mod øst, fra Sacramento, Californien.

Den transkontinentale jernbane

Muligheden for jernbaner, der forbinder Atlanterhavet og Stillehavskysten, blev diskuteret i kongressen allerede før traktaten med England, der afgjorde spørgsmålet om Oregon -grænsen i 1846. [8] Hovedpromotor for en transkontinentale jernbane var Asa Whitney, en købmand i New York, der var aktiv i handel med Kina, og som var besat af tanken om en jernbane til Stillehavet. I januar 1845 begærede han kongressen om chartring og bevilling af en 60-mile strimmel gennem det offentlige område for at hjælpe med at finansiere byggeri. [9]

Whitney foreslog brug af irsk og tysk immigrantarbejde, som dengang var i stor overflod. Lønninger skulle betales i jord og dermed sikre, at der ville være bosættere langs ruten for at levere produkter til og blive lånere af den færdige linje. Kongressens undladelse af at handle på Whitneys forslag skyldtes hovedsageligt den kraftige modstand fra senator Thomas Hart Benton fra Missouri, der favoriserede en vestlig rute med oprindelse i St.

I 1849 udgav Whitney et hæfte til fremme af hans ordning med titlen Projekt for en jernbane til Stillehavet. Det blev ledsaget af et oversigtskort over Nordamerika, der viser ruten for hans jernbane fra Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, over Rocky Mountains nord for South Pass. En alternativ rute syd for passet sluttede sig til hovedlinjen ved Laksefloden og fortsatte til Puget Sound. De foreslåede linjer strakte sig også fra St. Louis til San Francisco og fra Independence, Missouri, til New Mexico og Arkansas River. Dette er et af de tidligste reklamekort, der blev indsendt til kongressen, og blev ifølge forfatteren udtænkt allerede i 1830 [10].

Selvom kongressen ikke lykkedes at sanktionere sin plan, gjorde Whitney Stillehavsbanen til et af de store offentlige spørgsmål i tiden. Anskaffelsen af ​​Californien efter den mexicanske krig åbnede vejen for andre ruter til kysten. Opdagelsen af ​​guld, afviklingen af ​​grænsen og succesen med de østlige jernbaner øgede interessen for at bygge en jernbane til Stillehavet. [11]

Jernbaner var også nødvendige i Vesten for at levere bedre posttjenester, som var blevet udviklet i øst, ved at udpege jernbanelinjer "postveje" i 1838. Styrket af andre forslag som f.eks. Hartwell Carver i 1849 og Edwin F. Johnson i 1853 erklærede sådanne førende statsmænd som John C. Calhoun, Stephen A. Douglas og Jefferson Davis deres støtte til at forbinde landet med skinner. Lovgiverne kunne imidlertid ikke blive enige om en østlig endestation, og de så ikke fordelene ved de flere ruter mod vest. For at løse debatten blev der afsat penge i 1853 til hærens topografiske korps "for at fastslå den mest praktiske og økonomiske rute for en jernbane fra Mississippi -floden til Stillehavet."

I henhold til bestemmelserne i Army Appropriation Act fra marts 1853 blev krigsminister Jefferson Davis instrueret i at undersøge mulige ruter til Stillehavet. Fire øst til vest -ruter, groft sagt efter specifikke paralleller, skulle undersøges af parter under tilsyn af det topografiske korps. Den nordligste undersøgelse mellem de 47. og 49. paralleller var under ledelse af Isaac Ingalls Stevens, guvernør i Washington Territory. Denne rute tilnærmede tæt den, der blev foreslået af Asa Whitney.

Det skæbnesvangre parti under kaptajn John W. Gunnison skulle udforske ruten langs 38. og 39. paralleller eller Cochetopoa Pass-ruten, som blev anbefalet af Missouri Senator Thomas Hart Benton. Efter Gunnisons død i hænderne på fjendtlige indianere fortsatte løjtnant Edward G. Beckwith undersøgelsen langs den 41. parallel. Kaptajn Amiel W. Whipple, assisterende astronom ved den mexicanske grænseundersøgelse og løjtnant Joseph Christmas Ives undersøgte ruten langs den 35. parallel vestpå til det sydlige Californien. Denne linje blev foretrukket af Jefferson Davis og var hovedsagelig den rute, som Josiah Gregg gennemgik i 1839 og senere blev undersøgt af oberst John J. Abert. Den mest sydlige undersøgelse, der fulgte 32d -parallellen, blev undersøgt af løjtnant John G. Parke fra Californien langs Gila -floden til landsbyerne Pima og Rio Grande. Kaptajn John Pope kortlagde den østlige del af ruten fra Dona Ana, New Mexico, til Red River.

En femte undersøgelse, efter en nord-syd orientering, blev udført under ledelse af Lt. Robert S. Williamson. Denne part gennemførte topografiske undersøgelser for at lokalisere passager gennem Sierra Nevadas og Coast Range i Californien for at bestemme en rute, der ville forbinde Californien, Oregon og Washington, blev foretaget under ledelse af Lt. Robert S. Williamson [12].

Disse undersøgelser viste, at en jernbane kunne følge en af ​​ruterne, og at den 32. parallelle rute var den billigste. Southern Pacific Railroad blev efterfølgende bygget langs denne parallel. De sydlige ruter var modbydelige for nordlige politikere og de nordlige ruter var modbydelige for de sydlige politikere, men undersøgelserne kunne naturligvis ikke løse disse sektionsspørgsmål.

Mens sektionsspørgsmål og uoverensstemmelser blev debatteret i slutningen af ​​1850'erne, kom der ikke nogen beslutning fra kongressen om spørgsmålet om jernbane i Stillehavet. Theodore D. Juda, ingeniøren i Sacramento Valley Railroad, blev besat af ønsket om at bygge en transkontinentale jernbane. I 1860 henvendte han sig til Leland Stanford, Collis P. Huntington, Mark Hopkins og Charles Crocker, førende Sacramento -købmænd, og overbeviste dem hurtigt om, at opførelse af en transkontinental linje ville gøre dem rige og berømte. Udsigten til at udnytte rigdom i Nevada minebyer og kommende lovgivning for føderal bistand til jernbaner stimulerede dem til at indarbejde Central Pacific Railroad Company i Californien. Denne linje fusionerede senere med det sydlige Stillehav. Det var gennem Judas indsats og støtte fra Abraham Lincoln, der så militære fordele i linjerne samt bindingen mellem Stillehavskysten og Unionen, at Pacific Railroad endelig blev en realitet.

Railroad Act fra 1862 satte regeringsstøtte bag den transkontinentale jernbane og hjalp med at oprette Union Pacific Railroad, der efterfølgende sluttede sig til Central Pacific i Promontory, Utah, den 10. maj 1869 og signalerede sammenkædningen af ​​kontinentet.


Artikler med transkontinentale jernbaner fra historiens netblade

Den amerikanske romanforfatter Marcia Davenport ville selv opdage det vilde vesten. Problemet var, at hendes søgen efter det vest først fandt sted i 1932, et par årtier for sent, må mange amerikanere have tænkt. Det år ville det vildeste møde for de fleste mennesker kæmpe med økonomisk dysterhed og undergang. Davenport fandt dog sit vilde vesten og skrev om det i God husholdning magasin i en artikel med titlen “Covered Wagon — 1932.”

"[Jeg] ønskede eventyr, eller hvad der nu kunne ses af det i 1932," skrev hun. "Så selvfølgelig fløj jeg." Davenport mente, at man skulle snyde for at krydse USA fra Los Angeles til New York "prosaisk med jernbane". Hun forklarede, at det “ikke gav mening for mig at sidde i dagevis i store overdådige lænestole, plejet af tropper af ekspertbetjente, spise og drikke lækkerier og lede efter måder at indtage ennui på.” I stedet for den stadige "brummen af ​​de sikre stålskinner" tog Davenport ud på en rejse, der for hende påkaldte romantikken "Oh, Susanna!" gået til Oregon med overdækket vogn "med en banjo på mit knæ."

Det krævede fire separate flyvninger for at foretage den transkontinentale rejse. På segmentet fra Salt Lake City videresendte United de otte passagerer ombord på en tømmermæssig trimotorisk biplan, der fulgte Overland-ruten “dyrket af sang, vers og historie, oksetogernes rute, de fyrre-ninere, scenecoaches, den pony express. ” På vej til Cheyenne tvang dårligt vejr Davenport ’s fly til at foretage en uplanlagt landing ved et amerikansk regerings luftpost nødfelt kaldet Parco, Wyo. Stedet for "et fyrtårn, der var passet af en mand og hans kone og hans datter, der boede i et lille uld-vestlig hytte på kanten af ​​feltet. ”

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På denne isolerede flyveplads ventede passagererne stormen. Efter en urolig nat med lidt søvn fløj gruppen østpå igen den næste dag for kun at blive tvunget af tæt tåge til at foretage en anden nødlanding, denne gang i Laramie. For Davenport så alle sådanne problemer ud til at tjene som en glad påmindelse om en tid, hvor den uforudsigelige karakter af rejser over Vesten gjorde hver rejse til et mindeværdigt eventyr, men mange år tidligere havde jernbanerne taget "det vilde" ud af Vesten og gjort langdistancerejser sikre, forudsigelige og dermed til eventyrlystne rejsende som Davenport kedelige.


Sydruten og Gadsdenkøbet

Californien blev et amerikansk territorium i 1848 med Guadalupe Hidalgo-traktaten, der sluttede den mexicansk-amerikanske krig. Samme år begyndte California Gold Rush (bedre kendt i 1849), der bragte et stort antal mennesker vestpå, hvoraf mange blev. Californien blev i stigende grad en vigtig del af USA, og tanken om en jernbaneforbindelse til den fik støtte.

Bekymringerne blev ved med at sne ville gøre den centrale rute upraktisk. En undersøgelse viste, at den bedste sydlige vej løb gennem territorium, der stadig er i Mexico. Derfor foretog USA i 1853, kun fem år efter at have indtaget Californien med magt, Gadsden -købet fra Mexico og erhvervede de sydlige dele af det, der nu er New Mexico og Arizona. Dette placerede den sydlige transkontinentale rute helt inden for USA.Men på trods af godkendelsen af ​​købet finansierede kongressen ikke anlæg af en jernbanelinje på det tidspunkt. Den sydlige rute blev afsluttet i 1881, hvilket gav den den tvivlsomme sondring at være Amerikas sekund transkontinentale jernbane. Ruten følges generelt af Interstate 10 i dag.


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Den transkontinentale jernbane

Den 15. maj 1869 begyndte regelmæssig togtrafik på Amerikas første transkontinentale jernbane. Tusinder af amerikanere, der havde vænnet sig til at træne rejser i de østlige stater, kunne nu rejse bag en jernhest helt til Walt Whitmans vestlige hav. Selvom det ikke var muligt - undtagen i tilfælde af særlige udflugter - at stige ombord på en bil i en østlig by og rejse uafbrudt til Californien, så de fleste af disse pionerrejsende ud til at se på de nødvendige overførsler i Chicago og Omaha og Promontory eller Ogden, som velkomne pauser i et otte til ti dage eventyr.

„Enhver mand, der kunne styre tiden og pengene, var ivrig efter at tage turen,“ erklærede den energiske rejsende reporter John Beadle, „og alle, der kunne slynge blæk, blev korrespondenter. Lige fra begyndelsen syntes mange rejsende faktisk at være tvunget til at lave en skriftlig oversigt over deres oplevelser. Deres regnskaber var normalt meget skitserede, indtil de passerede Chicago eller Omaha. I løbet af det første år med transkontinentale tjenester ankom passagerer fra øst til Chicago på Michigan Central Railroad, men i midten af ​​i87o’erne havde de deres valg af forbindelser fra Pennsylvania, Erie eller New York Central.

"Femoghalvfjerds minutter er tilladt for at komme fra ankomststationen til afgangsstationen," sagde William F. Rae, en englænder, der tog turen sent i 1869. "I mit eget tilfælde svarede togernes tider ikke det ene tog var startet en time før det andet ankom. ” Fordi han havde planlagt at stoppe kortvarigt i Chicago, blev Rae ikke skuffet over den håndhævede forsinkelse på fireogtyve timer, men mange af hans medpassagerer var, og i et andet århundrede ville rejsende gennem Chicago fortsat lide generne ved at skifte tog og manglende forbindelse. I storhedstiden for amerikanske passagerrejser med jernbaner var et af de almindelige ordsprog, at et svin kunne rejse over landet gennem Chicago uden at skifte bil, men et menneske kunne ikke.

For at nå Union Pacific fra Chicago havde rejsende deres valg mellem to direkte ruter, Rock Island eller Northwestern, og en indirekte rute, Chicago, Burlington & Quincy. Kyndige mennesker, der tog de direkte ruter, lærte snart at undgå aftenens eksprestog, der efterlod dem strandet i Council Bluffs eller Omaha i næsten 24 timer, mens de ventede på afgang fra U.P.s daglige tog til Stillehavskysten.

Indtil en bro blev færdiggjort over Missouri -floden i 1872, måtte vestgående rejsende også udholde en overfart i en færge fra Council Bluffs til Omaha. Og selv efter at broen blev bygget, nægtede jernbanerne at være samarbejdsvillige nok til at tage bilerne fra de østlige veje over floden til Union Pacific station. Ved ankomsten til Council Bluffs måtte passagererne fjerne sig selv og deres bagage til transferfirmaets biler. John Erastus Lester fra Providence, Rhode Island, der rejste vestpå i 1872 i håb om at forbedre sit helbred, sagde, at passage fra Transfer Company "fik flere hårde ord til at blive talt, end der kan slettes fra den store bog i mange dage." Han var ikke kun skuffet over selskabets behandling af passagerer, men af ​​dets krav om, at al gods skulle læsses fra østlige biler og derefter pakkes om til forsendelse over floden.

Tidlige rejsende på den transkontinentale jernbane så lidt at beundre om Omaha. En fandt det at være "det mest mudrede sted, jeg nogensinde har set", men tilføjede, at "vejene generelt er dybe af støv." En anden beskrev også byen som lag af mudder, hvorigennem ”omnibussen arbejdede langsomt, udenforpassagererne blev rådet af føreren til at bevæge sig fra den ene side af taget til en anden for at beskytte mod at forstyrre det overbelastede køretøj. En generel lettelse føltes, da stationen på Union Pacific Railway blev nået. ”

Næsten alle var enige om, at de sjældent havde set en sådan travl forvirring, som dengang udviklede sig på Omaha -stationen til togafgange. I løbet af de første år, hvor rejsen mod vest blev betragtet som en vovet virksomhed, blev rygter bevidst spredt blandt greenhorn -billetkøberne om fare fra vilde indianere, der ødelagde eller angreb tog, dette hjalp naturligvis Omaha -jernbaneagenterne i salget af forsikringer til rejsen.

Bortset fra en hurtig fløjt fra motoren og konduktørens råb om "Alt ombord!" der var ingen advarsel om togets afgang. Dette resulterede normalt i et travlt af passagerer, der måtte hoppe ombord på de bevægelige biler. "I tre eller fire miles passerer vi langs de bluffer, som Omaha er bygget på," skrev John Lester, "og skubber derefter ud på den åbne prærie, de frugtbare lande i Nebraska. En vidstrakt slette, der er spredt hist og her med træer, strækker sig væk på alle sider. ”

Om foråret var det rullende land dækket af vilde blomster, hvis duft drev ind i de åbne vinduer i biler, der kørte langs med 20 kilometer i timen i sommer tumbleweeds af tusinderne, der trillede hen over det tørrende græs, og af efteråret præriebrande flammede mod horisonten. "Skuespillet med en prærie i brand er et af uendelig storhed," sagde William Rae. "Kilometer på alle sider er luften tung med mængder kvælende røg, og jorden rødmet af hvæsende og brusende ild."

Rejsende fra udlandet fandt, at Great Plains-græsset var kortere, end de havde forventet, og de sammenlignede den vinddrevne strøm af grågrønt med havbølger, "bølgende som Atlanterhavet med et tungt grundvand." De klagede også over, at deres øjne blev trætte af landskabets ensartethed, at toget tilsyneladende stod stille i et enormt tomrum. Alle hilste det første brud i slettenes monotoni velkommen - Platte -floden, som jernbanen fulgte mod vest, ligesom vognbanerne fra tidligere år havde.

Da den transkontinentale jernbane åbnede for service, havde George Mortimer Pullman fremstillet eksperimentelle modeller af sine sovebiler i fire år, og Union Pacific accepterede flere af dem i 1869. De blev kaldt Pullman Palace Cars og deres ydre var malet i rige brune farver at skelne dem fra de triste trænere. Alle, der havde råd til de ekstra $ 25 til førsteklasses billetpris og $ 4 om dagen til en Pullman Palace Car, var ivrige efter at få en køje. Førsteklasses rejsende betalte f 100 for rejsen fra Omaha til Sacramento anden klasse eller bus $ 75. Der var også en særlig sats på $ 40 for immigranter, der red på trange brædersæder. Fire til fem dage var normalt påkrævet for at fuldføre rejsen med ekspres, seks til syv dage med blandet tog. Toghastigheden varierede alt efter forholdene på spor og broer og faldt til ni miles i timen over hastigt byggede sektioner og steg til femogtredive miles i timen over glattere spor. De fleste rejsende fra begyndelsen af ​​1870*5 nævnte atten til toogtyve miles i timen som gennemsnittet. Selvom hastighederne blev fordoblet inden for et årti, forhindrede tidskrævende stop og start på mere end to hundrede stationer og vandtanke enhver betydelig reduktion i de samlede timer brugt på den lange rejse.

Selv i en æra, hvor de mest dygtige amerikanere tjente mindre end $ 100 om måneden, var efterspørgslen efter Pullman -plads på hundrede dollars på den transkontinentale jernbane så stor, at Union Pacific begyndte at køre tre sovevogne på nogle tog tidligt i 1870 og stadig vendte sig væk ville -vær billetkøbere. På grund af George Pullmans interesse for Union Pacific stillede han den jernbane til rådighed med de luxe innovationer længe før de nåede de østlige veje. Rejsende hørte eller læste om Palace Cars og var ivrige efter at køre på dem, uanset hvad det kostede. „Jeg havde en sofa for mig selv, med et bord og en lampe,“ skrev en tilfreds rytter. ”Sofaerne udvides og gøres til senge om natten. Min køje var tre fod tre centimeter bred og seks fod tre centimeter lang. Det havde to vinduer, der kiggede ud af toget, et smukt spejl og var godt indrettet med sengetøj og gardiner. ”

Britiske rejsende var især imponerede og sendte alvorlige breve til jernbanedirektører i London og opfordrede dem til "at tage et blad ud af amerikanernes bog og levere sovevogne til lange natture." De glædede sig også over bevægelsesfriheden fra den ene bil til den anden, selvom den rejsende, der underskrev sig selv "A London Parson", indrømmede, at det var lidt ubelejligt at forsøge at klæde sig selv i en kasse på to fod. ”Det var en mærkelig oplevelse at gå i seng med omkring tredive damer, herrer og børn i praktisk talt ét rum. I to nætter havde jeg et ungt ægtepar, der sov i sengen over mit. Damen vendte først ind, og i øjeblikket blev hendes kjole hængt ud over skinnen, som hendes sengegardiner var fastgjort til. Men yderligere afbrydelsesprocesser blev angivet ved ophidselse af draperiet, der skjulte hendes rede. Da det samme forhæng tjente til begge køjer - hendes og mine - holdt herren sin portion sammen over mit hoved, når det var nødvendigt for mig at trække mig tilbage. Endelig blev alle indkvarteret, og nogle snorker steg over togets rangle. Jeg sov ikke meget den første nat, men kiggede over den måneskinnede prærie fra min pude. ”

Selvom Pullman introducerede en "hotelbil" i 1870 med et køkken i den ene ende, hvorfra der blev serveret måltider på aftagelige borde anbragt mellem stuernes sæder, planlagde Union Pacific bilen kun for en tur hver uge. Indtil langt ind i i88o’erne fodrede den transkontinentale jernbane sine passagerer på spisestationer undervejs, hvilket tillod dem tredive minutter at få deres mad og skrue den fast, inden de genoptog rejsen.

At dømme ud fra kommentarer fra rejsende varierede maden fra elendig til middelmådig messe. Det første spisested fra Omaha var Grand Island. "Ill tilberedt og dårligt serveret," lød en passagers sløve kommentar. “Vi fandt kvaliteten i det hele taget dårlig,” sagde William Robertson fra Skotland, “og alle tre måltider, morgenmad, aftensmad og aftensmad, var næsten identiske, dvs. te, bøffelsteaks, antilopkoteletter, søde kartofler og kogt indisk majs, med hakkekager og sirup ad kvalme. ” New Yorker Susan Coolidge klagede også over, at kosten var ens. "Det var nødvendigt at kigge på sit ur for at fortælle, om det var morgenmad, aftensmad eller aftensmad, vi spiste, og disse måltider havde altid de samme fremtrædende egenskaber ved oksebøf, spejlæg, stegte kartofler." Hun var gavmild nok til at komplimentere kokken i Sidney, Nebraska, for at have serveret "terninger af stegt grød, der diversificerede en morgenmad med usædvanlig fortræffelighed." Harvey Rice fra Cleveland, Ohio, beskrev Sidney -morgenmadsstationen som en rå struktur af brædder og lærred. “Her blev passagererne genopfyldt med en fremragende morgenmad-en kyllingegryde, som de formodede, men som, som de senere blev informeret, bestod af præriehunde-en ny række kyllinger uden fjer. Disse oplysninger skabte en ubehagelig fornemmelse i forskellige sarte maver. ”

Ifølge William L. Humason fra Hartford, Connecticut, jo længere man rejste hen over sletterne, jo værre blev spisestationerne, “bestående af elendige shanties, med borde beskidte og tjener ikke kun beskidte, men tynde. Te smagte som om den var lavet af salviebørstens blade-bogstaveligt talt salvie-te. Kiks blev lavet uden sodavand, men med masser af alkali, harmoniserende med den store mængde alkalistøv, vi allerede havde slugt. ” Den eneste spisestation, Humason havde et godt ord for, var i Cisco, Californien, hvor vandet på bordet var klart som krystal, men han syntes, at en dollar og en fjerdedel var “en temmelig stejl pris at betale for stegt skinke og kartofler. ”

Ved de fleste spisesteder var måltidspriserne en dollar, og i Californiens del af det centrale Stillehav blev priserne reduceret til 75 cent, hvis dineren betalte i sølv frem for i papirpenge. Hverken Union Pacific eller Central Pacific drev deres spisehuse og foretrak at indlevere dem til private uden nogen påkrævet servicestandard. De fleste af dem var i ru ramme bygninger fyldt med lange borde, hvorpå store tallerkener mad ventede, da passagerer steg ned fra togene. Efterhånden opnåede de enkelte stationer ry for visse specialiteter såsom oksebøf på Laramie, varme kiks ved Green River, antilope ved Sidney, fisk i Colfax. Det mest roste spisestop var Evanston, Wyoming, hvor bjergørreder var specialet. „Den blev opbevaret af en farvet mand ved navn Howard W. Crossley, hvis åbenlyse ønske var at behage alle,“ skrev John Lester. Han tilføjede, at de fleste "ejere af spisestederne burde fremmes til højere kald, for de er åbenbart over at drive et hotel."

Fordi Cheyenne blev opført i guidebøgerne som den største by mellem Omaha og Sacramento, forventede mange passagerer en overlegen kvalitet af madservering der. De var skuffede over at finde en lille by bestående af tavler og lærredsbygninger (som man skrev) besat af omkring tre tusinde "farligt udseende minearbejdere i store støvler, bredbrede hatte og revolvere." Det eneste tilføjede element i spisestationen var en formidabel række af hoveder af store dyr, der stirrede ned fra væggene på de sultne passagerer. "Koteletterne var generelt lige så hårde som piskesnør, og knivene var lige så stumpe som mureres murskeer," rapporterede en rejsende.

Mellem stoppesteder til måltider blev passagererne afledt af et optog af ukendt dyreliv langs hver side af banen, idet antiloper og præriehunde var de mest almindeligt set. Langt flere antiloper end bøfler varierede langs Union Pacific-sporene, og lange filer af disse flådefodede dyr nærmede sig ofte meget tæt på forbipasserende tog, der tilsyneladende kørte med bilerne og normalt vandt. Selvom Union Pacific rynkede panden, så ivrige jægere undertiden affyrede disse dyr med rifler og pistoler fra bilernes åbne vinduer. Få hits blev registreret.

Prairie-hunde landsbyer var også tæt nok på, så passagererne kunne observere disse gnavere gnavere, der sad ved indgangene til deres huler. "De slynger sig i luften med en homoseksuel smidighed, der er smuk at se, vender en salto og præsenterer for den rejsendes beundrende blik to lodne hæle og en kort furry hale, når de forlader handlingsstadiet," skrev en passager.

Elg, ulve og bjørne blev ofte set, da jernhesten tordnede over Vesten, og en rejsende var sikker på, at han så en flok vilde hunde travle parallelt med jernbanen, indtil han fandt ud af, at de var coyoter. Sværme af græshopper og sirisser var et andet ukendt syn, de nogle gange faldt ned på sporene og fik lokomotivhjulene til at dreje ind i en midlertidig bod.

Selvom der kun forblev tyndere besætninger af bøfler i nærheden af ​​Union Pacific lige efter togrejser begyndte, blev jernhestene i Kansas Pacific (der løb mindre end to hundrede miles mod syd og forbundet med Union Pacific ved Cheyenne) lejlighedsvis omgivet af bøffel og måtte bremse eller vente, indtil flokken passerede. En rejsende på Kansas Pacific fortalte om at se en flok, der strakte sig så langt som øjet kunne nå. “Med hovedet nede og halerne opad galopperede de mod banen og gjorde ekstraordinære anstrengelser for at komme over foran lokomotivet. Ved forsøget på denne strategiske bedrift fandt en prøve sig selv tvangsløftet i luften og kastet i grøften, hvor han lå på ryggen, og hans kløende fødder nærede vanvittigt. ”

I sine tidlige dage, inden forbindelser blev planlagt til andre jernbaner, stoppede ingeniørerne i Kansas Pacific villigt tog for at give passagererne mulighed for at forlade bilerne og skyde på forbipasserende bøfler. "Alle løber tør og begynder at skyde," skrev advokat John Putnam fra Topeka til en ven i 1868. "Det lykkedes os ikke at sække en bøffel. Jeg skød ikke, da jeg havde dårligt definerede ideer om jagtgeværer, som ender med at du lægger læsset i, og hvilken ende du slipper det ud på ... Men jeg skyndte mig ud med resten - råbte promiskuøst - 'Buffalo! - Stop toget'— 'lad mig komme ud' '' der er de! -Hov-pey '-' Giv dem torden '-' ikke gå '-' Kom tilbage '-' kør videre '-Så du ser, at jeg hjalp en god handel. "

Bufflen og andre dyr underholdt de rejsende mod en konstant skiftende baggrund af landskaber, der blev mere og mere fascinerende, da de forlod sletterne bag sig. Det første glimt af den snedækkede rækkevidde af Rocky Mountains sendte altid en bølge af spænding gennem personbilerne. "Mine drengedrømme blev realiseret," registrerede en mand. ”I timevis ved skolebordet har jeg grublet over kortet og vandret i fantasi med Lewis og Clark, jægerne og fangerne og de tidlige emigranter, væk til disse Rocky Mountains, som et sådant mysterium syntes at hænge om, -drømmer, ønsker og håber mod håb, for at mine øjne en dag kan se deres snekronede højder. Og her lå det første store område i renheden af ​​hvidt fjernt, helt sikkert, men der lå det, forankret i skønhed. ”

Wyoming var fyldt med vidundere for disse rejsende fra øst, men da jernhesten bragte dem gennem tunneler ind i Utahs Echo og Weber -kløfter, var de tabt for superlativer til at beskrive de tårnhøje kastelignende klipper. "Store uden beskrivelse ... slotte i luften ... fantastiske former og profiler ... scenen er lige så frygtelig som den er sublim." Kort efter at have indtastet Narrows of Weber Canyon noterede stort set alle det tusind-mile træ, en enkelt grøn fyr i en øde sten og salvie, der markerede afstanden fra Omaha. Europæiske rejsende sammenlignede Weber Canyon med portene til Alperne. Castle Rock, Hanging Rock, Pulpit Rock, Devil's Gate, Devil's Slide - alle kom ind i notesbøgerne til klatrende passagerer, der syntes at være uenige om, hvorvidt de var skabninger af Gud eller Satan.

Undervejs var lejlighedsvis påmindelser om pionerer fra en tidligere dag-knoglerne på langdøde okser og heste ved siden af ​​de dybt ruttede stier, hvor overdækkede vogne var kravlet, en ensom gravmarkør, et ødelagt hjul, et stykke kasserede møbler. "Inch for inch, holdene sled for at få et højere fodfæste," sagde en anerkendende togrejsende, "inch for inch de klatrede ned ad de barske pas nu i luksuriøse busser, med heste af jern, med en dygtig ingeniør til en chauffør, vi er transporteres i komfort. ”

Når der ikke var dyr eller natur at underholde eller ærefrygt for, var der altid vestens stadigt skiftende vejr. Toget, som Harvey Rice rejste til Californien i 1869, kørte gennem et typisk voldsomt tordenvejr på Great Plains. ”Himlen blev pludselig sort som stjerneløs midnat. Lynet blinkede i alle retninger, og elektriske ildkugler rullede over sletterne. Det virkede som om himmelens artilleri havde gjort dalen til et mål, og at vi var dømt til øjeblikkelig ødelæggelse. Men heldigvis forsvandt vores frygt hurtigt. Stormen blev efterfulgt af en strålende regnbue. ”

Kraftig regn ville sandsynligvis oversvømme sporene, og i de første år før vejbanerne var godt ballastede sank båndene i mudderet. En rejsende blev forskrækket over at se bilen bag ham, der væltede sådan et skum af mudder, at den lignede en båd, der skyndte sig på vandet. Det var ikke usædvanligt, at haglbyger knuste bilruder, og tornadoer kunne løfte et tog af banen. En af legenderne i Kansas Pacific vedrører en tornadisk vandløb, der faldt ud af et massivt tordenvejr, skyllede seks tusinde fod spor og slugte et godstog. „Selvom der blev gjort en stor indsats for at finde den,“ sagde Charles B. George, en erfaren jernbanemand, “er der ikke nogensinde blevet opdaget et spor af den.

Vinterrejsende kunne forvente storslåede snestorme eller voldsomme snestorme, som nogle gange gjorde en rejse over kontinentet til en prøvelse. På William Raes returrejse øst for Californien i vinteren 1870 kæmpede motoren, der trak hans tog, en to timers kamp med en snestorm over fire miles af Laramie-sletterne. The delay played havoc with train schedules on the single-track Union Pacific, but Rae reported that the hot-air stove in his Pullman car kept it “as comfortable as the best-warmed room in an English house.”

Rae might not have been so fortunate had he been traveling on the Kansas Pacific, which suffered as severely from blizzards as it did from thunder squalls. High winds drifted both snow and sand into cuts, leveling them across the tops, and the sturdy little wood-burning locomotives would have to back up, be uncoupled from the cars, and then run at full speed into the snowbanked cuts. This was called “bucking the snow,” and usually had to be repeated several times before it was effective. Engineer Cy Warman told of bucking an eighteen-foot drift with double engines so hard that his locomotive trembled and shook as if it were about to be crushed to pieces. “Often when we came to a stop only the top of the stack of the front engine would be visible. … All this time the snow kept coming down, day and night, until the only signs of a railroad across the range were the tops of the telegraph poles.” If the passengers were lucky, the train was backed to the nearest station, but even then conditions might be harsh. A group of snowbound train travelers who crowded into a hotel in Hays City, Kansas, spent an uncomfortably cold night and at daylight found their beds covered with snow which had drifted through cracks in walls and roof.

The universal desire of all pioneer travelers on the transcontinental was to see a “real wild Indian.” Few of them did, because the true warriors of the plains hated the iron horse and seldom came within miles of it. After the resisting tribes finally realized they could not stop the building of the Union Pacific’s tracks, their leaders signed treaties which removed their people from the broad swaths of land taken by the railroad. As the buffalo herds also fled far to the north and south, there was no economic reason for the horse Indians to approach the tracks. The Indians that the travelers saw were mostly those who had been corrupted and weakened by contacts with the white man’s civilization—scroungers, mercenaries, or beggars by necessity.

Except for a few acculturated representatives of Mississippi Valley tribes (who still plaited their hair but wore white man’s clothing and frequented railroad stations from Chicago to Omaha) the westbound travelers’ first glimpse of Plains Indians was around the Loup Fork in Nebraska where the Pawnees lived on a reservation. Although the Pawnees had virtually abandoned their horsebuffalo culture and lived off what they could cadge from white men, the warriors still shaved their heads to a tuft, painted their faces, and wore feathers and blankets. To travelers fresh from the East the Pawnees had a very bloodthirsty appearance, and according to the guidebooks every one of them had several scalps waving from the tops of lodgepoles.

Anywhere across western Nebraska or Wyoming, a traveler might catch a quick glimpse of a passing Sioux, Cheyenne, Arapaho, or Crow staring at the iron horse, but they were few and far between. Not until the train reached Nevada was there a plenitude of Shoshones and Paiutes hanging about every station and using their treaty rights with the Central Pacific to ride the cars back and forth. Because these desert Indians were generally covered with dust and were often unbathed (there was no water readily available), the fastidious passengers found them objectionable, and the Central Pacific gradually put restrictions on their use of trains. At first they were confined to the emigrants’ coaches, and then after the emigrants objected to their presence, the Indians had to ride in the baggage cars or outside on the boarding steps.

Despite these docile remnants of the Great Plains tribes, some travelers spent a good deal of time worrying about Indian attacks. But train wrecks, and not ambushes, were the most immediate danger. Because of the relatively slow speeds of the early years, bruises rather than fatalities were the likely results unless the accident occurred on a high bridge or mountain shoulder. Poor tracks and hot boxes (overheating of axle bearings) caused many wrecks, and a surprising number of passengers suffered injuries from falling or jumping out of open car windows. One of the pioneer passengers of 1869 recorded how it felt to be in a train wreck in Echo Canyon: “On we bounded over the ties, the car wheels breaking many of them as though they were but pipe-stems. Every instant we expected to roll down the ravine. We ordered the ladies to cling to the sides of the seats and keep their feet clear of the floor. It seemed as if that train could never be stopped! But it was brought to a standstill upon the brink of an embankment. Had the cars gone a few rods further the reader would probably never have been troubled by these hastily written pages.”

Still another westbound traveler during that first year told of being shaken out of his seat when a Central Pacific train ran into a herd of cattle between Wadsworth and Clark’s Station, Nevada. The collision threw the locomotive off the track, but a telegrapher aboard climbed the nearest pole, tapped the line, and summoned a relief engine. During the eight-hour delay the hungry passengers butchered the dead cattle, built a fire, and cooked «teaks. Such encounters with cattle were among the most common causes of train wrecks in the West, and railroad men and ranchers were in constant friction for more than half a century over the rights of cattle to trespass on railroad property.

There were, of course, less-violent diversions than wrecks. At times on the journey, said Henry Williams in The Pacific Tourist , one could “sit and read, play games, and indulge in social conversation and glee.” By “glee” the guidebook author probably was referring to the improvised musicales and recitations that were especially popular among the Pullman passengers. In the early 1870’s some Pullman cars had organs intalled on them, and in the evenings amateur musicians as well as traveling troupes of professionals willingly gave performances. As one Pullman passenger described it, “music sounds upon the prairie and dies away far over the plains merrymaking and jokes, conversation and reading pass the time pleasantly until ten o’clock, when we retire. … If people who are traveling together will only try to make those about them happy, then a good time is assured. The second night on the road we arranged a little entertainment in the car and invited the ladies and gentlemen from the other cars into our ‘improvised Music Hall.’ The exercises consisted principally of recitations, with the delineation of the characters of Grace Greenwood. … The young ladies sang for us and we were all happy—for the time, at least.”

It was customary on Sundays to hold religious services in one of the cars. On a train rolling through western Wyoming in 1872, John Lester read the Episcopal service, the Reverend Mr. Murray delivered a sermon entitled “To Die Is Gain,” and a choir sang “Nearer, My God, To Thee” and the American national hymn. “Here in the very midst of the Rocky Mountain wilderness,” wrote Lester, “our thanksgivings were offered up and our music floated out upon the air, and resounded through the deep caverns, and among the towering hills.”

According to most travelers the popular pastimes were cards, conversation, and reading. “We had an abundant supply of books and newspapers. A boy frequently traversed the train with a good store of novels, mostly English, periodicals, etc. … In the evening we had our section lighted, and played a solemn game of whist, or were initiated into the mysteries of euchre, or watched the rollicking game of poker being carried on by a merry party in the opposite section.”

There may have been some “rollicking” poker games on Pullman cars, but most of them were as deadly serious as the real money-making endeavors of the players in that gilded age of the robber barons. Brakeman Harry French told of witnessing such a game one evening in the course of his duties. “The car was loaded to capacity with wealthy stockmen, and I suspect, a number of fancy women. In the cramped quarters of the men’s smoking room, a highplay poker game was in progress. Gold pieces and bills were the stakes, and they were very much in evidence. I was particularly interested in one of the players. Fine clothes, careful barbering, diamond-decked fingers marked him as a gambler.” Poker-playing professional gamblers, fresh from the declining riverboat traffic of the Mississippi River, could indeed be found on almost any transcontinental train in the 1870*5, and many a greenhorn bound west to seek his fortune lost his nest egg before reaching the end of his journey.

By the time the passengers arrived at Sherman Summit on their second day out of Omaha, they had formed into the usual little groups and cliques, and knew each other by sight if not by name. Sherman Summit, the most elevated station on the Pacific railroad (the highest in the world, according to the guidebooks), was also the halfway point between Omaha and the Union Pacific’s end of track at Ogden. If the westbound express was on schedule, the engineer would stop his panting iron horse longer than usual at the Sherman water tank in order to give the passengers a chance to stretch their legs, inhale the rarefied air, and enjoy the view before crossing Dale Creek bridge and plunging down the mountains into Laramie for a noon meal stop.

At Sherman some passengers were afflicted with nosebleed from the height, or were badly chilled by the cold wind, and were glad to leave it behind. Others found it inspiring: “Never till this moment did I realize the truthfulness of Bierstadt’s scenery of these hills. The dark, deep shadows, the glistening sides, and the snow-capped peaks, with their granite faces, the stunted growth of pine and cedar, all render the scene such as he has painted it.” And another traveler, Dr. H. Buss, whose medical skill may have been better than his poetry, preserved the memory of his visit in verse:

After lunch at Laramie, where “the people around the station are more intelligent-looking than at any place since leaving Omaha,” the train was soon across Medicine Bow River and into Carbon Station. Coal had been discovered there and was rapidly replacing wood for fuel on the Union Pacific locomotives. Westbound travelers usually crossed Wyoming’s deserts after nightfall, but even by moonlight the endless sweep of dry sagebrush and greasewood was described by various travelers as dreary, awful, lifeless. They complained of burning eyes and sore lips caused by the clouds of alkali dust swirled up into the cars, and thought Bitter Creek and Salt Wells appropriately descriptive names for stations.

About sunrise the train arrived at Green River for a breakfast stop, and for the next hundred miles everyone looked forward to the moment of crossing into Utah Territory, the land of the Mormons and their plural wives. Wahsatch was the noon dining station, and every passenger from the East who stepped down from the train peered expectantly around for Mormons, but the What Cheer Eating House looked about the same as all the others they had seen.

At Ogden, passengers awaiting connecting trains frequently had to spend many hours in a long narrow wooden building which had been erected between the tracks of the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific. In addition to ticket offices and a large dining room, sleeping rooms furnished only with curtains for doors were available upstairs. One Englishwoman considered her enforced stay there an adventure: “Except for the passing trains this is a most lonely, isolated spot, weird and still, lying in the heart of the mountains. In the evening a blinding snowstorm came on, and the wind, howling fearfully with a rushing mighty sound, shook the doors and rattled at the windows as though it wanted to come in and warm itself at our blazing wood fire.”

Upon boarding the Central Pacific at Ogden, the firstclass passengers found themselves in Silver Palace cars instead of Pullmans. Collis Huntington and his Big Four partners refused to accept George Pullman’s arrangement for the use of his sleeping cars and ordered their own constructed. The Silver Palaces were attractive with their white metallic interiors, but although they were outfitted with private sitting rooms and smoking rooms, they lacked the luxurious touches which travelers from the East had grown accustomed to in their Pullmans. Passengers complained that their berths were not as roomy or as comfortable, and some said the cars were often too cold. Eventually the Central Pacific had to give up the Silver Palaces because transcontinental passengers resented having to change from their Pullmans.

The Cosmopolitan Hotel of booming Elko, Nevada, was the first dining stop west of Ogden. Alkali dust swirled in streets filled with freight wagons drawn by long mule teams hauling supplies to miners in nearby Pine Valley. Chinese workers discharged by the railroad had established a colony here and were much in evidence around the hotel. Beyond Elko was the valley of the Humboldt and the crossing of Nevada’s barren deserts. In summer, passengers choked on dust if they left the windows open, or sweltered in heat if they closed them. After passing Winnemucca, the iron horse turned southward to the Humboldt Sink (where the river was literally swallowed up by the desert) and thereafter, instead of facing the sun, continued a southwesterly course to the Sierra.

By this time the passengers were beginning to show the effects of several days travel, “a drooping, withered, squeezed-lemon appearance,” as one observer put it. “There were the usual crumpled dresses, loose hanging and wayward curls, and ringlets, and possibly soiled hands and faces which reduces the fair sex from that state of perfect immaculateness. …” Even the self-reliant Susan Coolidge admitted that after two or three days on the Pacific railroad she began to hate herself because she could not contend with the pervasive dust which no amount of brushing or shaking could completely remove from her hair and clothing. And one of the most frequent complaints of all early travelers was the discomfort caused by “the very oppressive smoke” from locomotives which constantly drifted into the cars.

The bracing air of the Sierra, however, was a perfect restorative for the weary travelers. With two locomotives pulling the cars, the train slowly climbed the winding canyon of the Truckee River, rising eighty feet to the mile. Pine and fir replaced the dreary desert sagebrush, and then came a spectacular view of Donner Lake encircled by forested mountains. The guidebooks told the travelers all about the gruesome tragedy of the Donner Party during the winter of 1846–47. And then, as one observer wrote, “after snorting and puffing, whistling and screaming, for an hour and a quarter, our pair of Iron Horses stop in the snow-sheds at the station called ‘Summit.’ Here we have a good breakfast, well cooked and fairly served although we could not expect waiters enough to attend in a rush such as they have when the passengers, with appetites sharpened by mountain-air and a long ride, seat themselves at table, and all with one voice cry, ‘Steak! coffee! bread! trout! waiter! a napkin!’”

From the summit of the Sierra to Sacramento was 105 miles, a drop from 7,017 feet to thirty feet above sea level. According to William Humason, fifty miles of the descent was made without the aid of steam. “The conductor and brakeman ran the train with brakes on most of the way.” For some travelers the ride down the western slope of the range was terrifying, and the coasting trains made so little noise that unwary railroad workers, especially in the snowsheds, were often struck and killed. “The velocity with which the train rushed down this incline, and the suddenness with which it wheeled around the curves,” said William Rae, “produced a sensation which cannot be reproduced in words. … The axle boxes smoked with the friction, and the odour of burning wood pervaded the cars. The wheels were nearly red hot. In the darkness of the night they resembled discs of flame.”

Corresponding somewhat to the biggest drop and swing of a modern amusement park’s roller coaster was Cape Horn, nine miles below Dutch Flat. The guidebooks warned timid passengers not to look down upon the awful gorge of the American River two thousand feet below, and John Beadle said that although Cape Horn offered the finest view in the Sierra, the sight was not good for nervous people. “We’re nearing Cape Horn!” someone would always cry out, and the next moment the train would careen around a sharp curve. “We follow the track around the sides of high mountains,” said William Humason, “looking down into a canyon of awful depth, winding around for miles, until we almost meet the track we have before been over—so near that one would think we could almost throw a stone across. We have been around the head of the canyon, and have, therefore, ‘doubled Cape Horn.’”

Almost as fascinating as the scenery and the rollercoaster ride were the Sierra snowsheds built by engineer Arthur Brown. When passenger service began, these sheds—built with sharp sloping roofs against the mountainsides so that deep snowfalls and avalanches would slide right off them—covered forty miles of track between Truckee and Cape Horn. After numerous passengers complained that the walls blocked their view of the magnificent mountains, the Central Pacific responded by cutting windows at the level of those of the passenger cars. The result was a series of flickering scenes somewhat like those of an early motion picture, but even this pleasure was denied Sierra travelers during the snowy months of winter when the openings had to be closed again.

“A blarsted long depot—longest I ever saw,” was the comment of an oft-quoted anonymous Englishman as he passed through the snowsheds, and another British traveler said he had never seen “a more convenient arrangement for a long bonfire. The chimney of every engine goes fizzing through it like a squib, and the woodwork is as dry as a bone.” To prevent fires the Central Pacific kept watchmen at regular intervals inside the sheds, with water barrels and hand pumps always ready to extinguish blazes set by sparks from locomotives. There was little they could do, however, against the forest fires which sometimes swept across sections of sheds. And sturdy though the structures were, an occasional mighty avalanche would crush one of them. The train on which Lady Hardy was traveling was delayed all night by the collapse of a shed while fifty male volunteers from among the passengers went ahead to clear the tracks.

The snowsheds not only covered the main track, they also enclosed stations, switch tracks, turntables, and houses where workmen lived with their families. Children were born in this eerie, dimly lit world where without warning a huge boulder or avalanche might crash through the roof, where trains derailed with disastrous results, and at least on one occasion wild animals escaped from a wrecked circus train to terrify the inhabitants. As snowplows were improved, some sheds were removed, others were replaced with concrete, and the army of workmen declined to a handful of lookouts and track walkers.

Although passage through the Sierra was their introduction to California, most westbound travelers did not feel that they had truly reached that golden land until their iron horse brought them down into the blazing sunshine and balmy air of the Sacramento Valley and the flowers and orchards of the Queen City of the Plain. “We seem in a new world,” said one. “The transition was sudden and the transformation magical,” said another. “The sun descended in a flood of glory toward the Pacific Ocean.” In Sacramento they were still more than a hundred miles from the Pacific, and like inspired pilgrims most decided to travel on to that legendary Western sea. Until 1870 they transferred to the cars of the California Pacific, which took them to Vallejo—where again they had to change, this time to a steamboat running down the bay to San Francisco. After the Central Pacific completed its subsidiary Western Pacific to Oakland in 1870, the journey was easier, although they still made the final crossing by boat before reaching San Francisco and the Pacific shore. After a week of noise, dust, and locomotive smoke the first act of those travelers who could afford it was to register at the magnificent Palace Hotel and seek out a quiet room and a warm bath.

And what were the feelings of travelers after they had completed their first journey by rail across the American continent? Those from other countries were impressed by the grandeur of the Western land, and of course they made comparisons with their own nations, sometimes favorable, sometimes unfavorable. They found travel by train across the West less tedious because they could walk about in the cars and stand on the platforms to enjoy the passing landscapes, yet at the same time they complained of the lack of privacy. They praised the comforts of the Pullman cars, but deplored the necessity for constantly changing trains. They confessed that before the journey they had feared the rumored American defiance of rules and regulations and recklessness in regard to speed, but they were pleased to find that American railway men held human life in as high regard as it was held in their native lands.

American travelers on the other hand were more concerned with feelings of national pride. After crossing the vastness of the American West, the endless unclaimed fertile lands, the prairies and forests, the broad rivers and towering mountains, they felt that they had seen a new map unrolled, a new empire revealed, a new civilization in process of creation. In the first years after the Civil War, the salvation of the Union was still a glorious promise of destiny. “I felt patriotically proud,” wrote one traveler to California. He saw the transcontinental railroad as a force binding the Union together “by links of iron that can never be broken.” Although Americans were aware that private corporations had built this first railroad to the Pacific, they rejoiced in the belief that California was a rich prize of empire which had been won for them by those connecting links of iron. In their first flush of triumphant pride, they viewed the railroad as a cooperative venture shared by the builders and the people. The disillusionment would come later, as would their doubts in an everexpanding empire.

For Americans and foreigners alike, there was a deepening sense of wonder at this final link in the encirclement of the earth by steam power. From San Francisco they could now journey to China and Suez by steam-powered vessels, from Suez to Alexandria by rail, from Alexandria to France by water, from France to Liverpool by rail and water, from Liverpool to New York by water, and from New York to San Francisco by rail. In reaching the Western sea, the iron horse had shrunk the planet.


Transcontinental Railroad of 1869

The Pacific Railway Act of 1862 called for the laying of track by the Union Pacific (UP) and the Central Pacific (CP), the former going west from Omaha and the latter going east from Sacramento. The two roads would eventually link.

The project had more than its share of problems. The government subsidies introduced perverse incentives, all chronicled by Professor Folsom. Since the railroad companies received land and loans in proportion to the amount of track they laid, management had an incentive to lay track rapidly in order to collect as much federal aid as possible. There was much less emphasis on the quality of track laid or on following the shortest possible route than there would have been in the absence of these government handouts. To the contrary, circuitous routes meant more track laid and therefore more federal aid. Moreover, since low-interest loans were granted in higher amounts for more mountainous terrain, the railroad companies had greater incentive to lay track over less suitable land than if they had had to lay track with their own resources.

As the two tracks approached each other in Utah in 1869, more serious troubles began. Seeing the end of subsidies looming, the two lines built track parallel to each other instead of joining, and both lines applied for subsidies on the basis of the parallel track. Worse, physical destruction and even death resulted when the mainly Irish UP workers clashed with mainly Chinese CP workers. The celebrations that took place on May 10, 1869, when the two lines finally met, obscured the often shoddy workmanship that government grants had inadvertently encouraged, and it was not until several years later that all the necessary repairs and rerouting were completed. Looking back on the construction process, UP chief engineer Grenville Dodge remarked, “I never saw so much needless waste in building railroads. Our own construction department has been inefficient.”


Transcontinental Railroad

The first Transcontinental Railroad (known originally as the "Pacific Railroad" and also as the &ldquoGreat Transcontinental Railroad&rdquo and the &ldquoOverland Route&rdquo) was a continuous railroad line constructed between 1863 and 1869. It connected the existing eastern U.S. rail network at Omaha, Nebraska/Council Bluffs, Iowa with the Pacific coast on San Francisco Bay.

While Asa Whitney published his ideas on the idea of a railroad to California in 1849, others also joined the chorus. Eventually Theodore Judah, chief engineer for the Sacramento Valley Railroad, undertook a survey to find a manageable route through the Sierra Nevada mountains and presented his plan to Congress in 1856. The next stop on the timeline is July 1, 1862 when Congress passed the Pacific Railroad Act of 1862 which created the Central Pacific Railroad and the Union Pacific Railroad. In total, the rail line was built by the Central Pacific Railroad Company of California (CPRR), Union Pacific, and Western Pacific Railroad Company over public lands provided by extensive US land grants.

It opened for through traffic on May 10, 1869 when CPRR President Leland Stanford ceremonially drove the gold "Last Spike" (later dubbed the "Golden Spike") at Promontory Summit. The entire line wasn&rsquot completed until November 1869 when the Central Pacific finally connected Sacramento to the east side of San Francisco Bay and Union Pacific connected Omaha to Council Bluffs completed the Union Pacific Missouri River Bridge in 1872.

The material here is just a fraction of what is written on the topic and is only intended to get researchers started. The following materials link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to digital content are provided when available.


Transcontinental Rail Service Begun - History

Not everything the railroads brought was desirable. Railroads provided an endless supply of transient strangers, which proved great prospects for those of evil intent. Historian Ryan Roenfeld noted, "The wily skills shown on the muddy streets of Council Bluffs during the late 19th century would be the envy of the author of any Nigerian e-mail scam circulating the Internet today." Council Bluffs was a centralized location for con artists to work from it was so much easier to just stay put and let the pigeons flock to them. Better yet, the victims were generally just passing through. Before they could cause too much fuss they were on another train out of town, somewhat less financially well off than when they arrived. Where were the police during all of this? It appears as long as no locals were hassled strangers passing through were considered fair game. It was a different era with a different attitude one law enforcement officer was quoted as saying it serves the victims right "The shenanigans only succeeded because of the fundamental dishonesty of the victims wanting something for nothing."

The railroads were, and remain, as important as ever, but it doesn't take nearly as many people to keep the trains rolling. Diesels don't require the manpower that steam locomotives did they need less maintenance and a fireman isn't necessary in the cab. Much that had been done by hand became mechanized. Even the Railway Mail Service terminal became a casualty of the ZIP code and the mechanization it permitted. Though the trains kept right on rolling to and through Council Bluffs employment dipped precipitously and the city fell into economic doldrums. As business dipped local merchants couldn't afford improvements, making the downtown look outdated by the 1960s a whopping 77% of southwest Iowa retail business was going across the river to Nebraska. This triggered the aggressive urban renewal project that dramatically changed downtown.

So where does that leave us in our "what if" game? If the transcontinental railroad had started elsewhere the best guess is the metro area would be much smaller some prognosticators have speculated the Council Bluffs/Omaha population would be closer to ten thousand than the nearly one million it is today. We would likely be minus some of our tourist attractions. Seems unlikely the Union Pacific would have placed their museum in Council Bluffs had milepost zero been elsewhere. Would UP Chief Engineer Dodge have built his home in Council Bluffs if he had been working out of a different city? The "Squirrel Cage" jail came into being because the explosive growth of the city fueled by the railroads outpaced the efforts of law enforcement to keep up. Additional capacity was need quickly and economically. Certainly there wouldn't have been a Golden Spike monument, as there would have been no milepost zero along Ninth Avenue to mark.

What Council Bluffs really would have looked like without the transcontinental railroad will never be known exactly. It's not a risky assumption, however, that the metro area would be much different had that encounter between Lincoln and Dodge not taken place on the veranda of the Pacific House Hotel 160 years ago this summer.

The economy was booming Council Bluffs was the fifth largest rail center in the country— quite an impressive feat considering it was nowhere near the fifth largest in population. Then times changed.

The railroads were, and remain, as important as ever, but it doesn't take nearly as many people to keep the trains rolling. Diesels don't require the manpower that steam locomotives did they need less maintenance and a fireman isn't necessary in the cab. Much that had been done by hand became mechanized. Even the Railway Mail Service terminal became a casualty of the ZIP code and the mechanization it permitted. Though the trains kept right on rolling to and through Council Bluffs employment dipped precipitously and the city fell into economic doldrums. As business dipped local merchants couldn't afford improvements, making the downtown look outdated by the 1960s a whopping 77% of southwest Iowa retail business was going across the river to Nebraska. This triggered the aggressive urban renewal project that dramatically changed downtown.

So where does that leave us in our "what if" game? If the transcontinental railroad had started elsewhere the best guess is the metro area would be much smaller some prognosticators have speculated the Council Bluffs/Omaha population would be closer to ten thousand than the nearly one million it is today. We would likely be minus some of our tourist attractions. Seems unlikely the Union Pacific would have placed their museum in Council Bluffs had milepost zero been elsewhere. Would UP Chief Engineer Dodge have built his home in Council Bluffs if he had been working out of a different city? The "Squirrel Cage" jail came into being because the explosive growth of the city fueled by the railroads outpaced the efforts of law enforcement to keep up. Additional capacity was need quickly and economically. Certainly there wouldn't have been a Golden Spike monument, as there would have been no milepost zero along Ninth Avenue to mark.

What Council Bluffs really would have looked like without the transcontinental railroad will never be known exactly. It's not a risky assumption, however, that the metro area would be much different had that encounter between Lincoln and Dodge not taken place on the veranda of the Pacific House Hotel 160 years ago this summer.


The Chinese railroad workers who helped connect the country: Recovering an erased history

May 10, 1969, marked 100 years since the golden spike was hammered in at Promontory, Utah, signifying the completion of America’s first transcontinental railroad — a monumental engineering feat that linked together the nation's coasts.

A ceremony commemorating the anniversary drew a crowd of around 20,000. Among the attendees were Philip P. Choy, president of the San Francisco-based Chinese Historical Society of America, and Thomas W. Chinn, one of its founders.

Centennial officials had agreed to set aside five minutes of the ceremony for the society to pay homage to the Chinese workers who had helped build the railroad, but whose contributions had been largely glossed over in history. Choy, Chinn and the others gathered at Promontory that day had hoped this would be the moment when the more than 10,000 Chinese who labored for the Central Pacific Railroad finally got their due.

“Who else but Americans could drill 10 tunnels in mountains 30 feet deep in snow?” then-Transportation Secretary John A. Volpe said in his speech, according to a May 12, 1969, San Francisco Chronicle article.

“Who else but Americans could chisel through miles of solid granite? Who else but Americans could have laid 10 miles of track in 12 hours?”

Volpe’s remarks referenced some of the backbreaking and deadly work done on the Central Pacific by a labor force that was almost 90 percent Chinese, many of them migrants from China, ineligible to become U.S. naturalized citizens under federal law.

But the ceremony featured nothing more than a “passing mention of the Chinese.” The five minutes promised to the society never happened.

Choy and Chinn were incensed.

“Short of cussing at those people . I was beside myself,” Choy, who passed away in 2017, recalled during a 2013 interview.

This May, for the 150th anniversary, descendants of the Chinese railroad laborers and other advocates have been working hard to ensure history does not repeat itself. Among the events planned around the sesquicentennial is the 2019 Golden Spike Conference, organized by the Chinese Railroad Workers Descendants Association, which will feature workshops, lectures, tours and a musical by Jason Ma entitled “Gold Mountain.”

“It is the best opportunity I will have in my lifetime to have this story shared, to have it understood and appreciated by people outside our community,” said Michael Kwan, the association’s president, whose great-great grandfather worked for the Central Pacific.

AN EXPERIMENT YIELDS SUCCESS

The Central Pacific broke ground on the first transcontinental railroad Jan. 8, 1863, and built east from Sacramento. The Union Pacific Railroad pushed west from Council Bluffs, Iowa (bordering Omaha), where their rails joined existing eastern lines. Acts of Congress provided both companies with land grants and financing.

The first transcontinental railroad became a boon to the economy of a nation recovering from a civil war, shaving significant travel time across the continent from several months to about a week. Produce and natural resources were among the things that could now be moved more quickly and cheaply from coast to coast.

It also generated tremendous wealth for railroad tycoons such as Leland Stanford, a former California governor who ran under an anti-Chinese immigrant platform. Stanford also served as president of the Central Pacific and later established the university that bears his name.

To grow its workforce, the Central Pacific took out an advertisement in January 1865 seeking 5,000 railroad laborers, but only a few hundred whites responded, according to “The Chinese and the Iron Road: Building the Transcontinental Railroad,” a book scheduled for release in April and edited by Gordon H. Chang and Shelley Fisher Fishkin, co-directors of the Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project at Stanford University.

Many whites who took the jobs did so for only a time, reluctant to shoulder the demanding and hazardous work expected of them. Eventually, they headed to the Nevada silver mines for better wages and the prospect of striking it rich, Hilton Obenzinger, the project’s associate director, said.

Facing a labor shortage, the railroad may have turned to recruiting Chinese at the suggestion of Central Pacific construction contractor Charles Crocker’s brother, E.B., a California Supreme Court justice and an attorney for the company. The Chinese had earlier worked on other California railroads as well as the Central Pacific in small numbers, according to the project.

But the plan hit opposition amid anti-Chinese sentiment that stemmed from the California Gold Rush. Among those initially against it was the Central Pacific construction supervisor, James H. Strobridge.

“He didn’t think they were strong enough,” Obenzinger told NBC News in a 2017 interview.

Strobridge also worried that the whites wouldn’t labor alongside the Chinese, who he thought lacked the brainpower to perform the work as well.

Eventually, he yielded and in 1865 the Central Pacific tested out 50 Chinese laborers. They were among the 50,000 to 60,000 Chinese living in California who arrived in the early 1850s to work in mining and other sectors of the American West, according to the project. They hailed from Sacramento, San Francisco and the gold-mining towns of the Sierra Nevada.

The success of the experiment led the Central Pacific to hire additional Chinese workers, but the Chinese labor pool in California soon ran out. So the company arranged with labor contractors to bring workers directly from China, mostly from Guangdong province in the south.

At the time, it was a region enmeshed in political and social turmoil, but residents there often had contact with foreigners and were less fearful of taking long ocean voyages, making them good recruits, according to Fishkin.

“And particularly for sons who were not the first sons in the families, it often made more sense to try to seek your fortune abroad,” Fishkin added.

By the end of July 1865, boatloads of Chinese were arriving in San Francisco. Less than two years later, almost 90 percent of the Central Pacific workforce was Chinese the rest were of European-American descent, mostly Irish. At its highest point, between 10,000 and 15,000 Chinese were working on the Central Pacific, with perhaps as many as 20,000 in total over time.

The Union Pacific, by contrast, had no Chinese laborers during the construction of the first transcontinental railroad. They instead relied on Civil War veterans and East Coast immigrants, among others, according to Chang.

THE LIVES THEY LIVED

“The Chinese and the Iron Road: Building the Transcontinental Railroad” and Chang’s separate book “Ghosts of Gold Mountain: The Epic Story of the Chinese Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad,” which is scheduled to be released in May, both describe the Chinese taking on some of the most dangerous, most exhausting assignments for less pay (and worse treatment) than their Euro-American counterparts.

Often toiling in extreme weather, they cleared obstructions, moved earth, bored tunnels and built retaining walls — work done virtually all by hand. They became experts in drayage, masonry, carpentry and track laying. Sometimes they were lowered off cliffs to plant explosive charges when blasting was necessary, knowing that once the fuse was lit the difference between life and death hinged on how fast they were brought back up.

But it wasn’t just the blasting that was dangerous.

“There were occasions when avalanches buried workers in snow and they weren’t found until the snow melted the following spring,” Fishkin said.

Since records of worker deaths weren’t kept, Stanford scholars don’t know precisely how many Chinese died building the railroad. They estimate there were hundreds, possibly more than a thousand.

Though they have discovered evidence that many workers were able to read and write in Chinese, Stanford researchers have found no letters or journals from them, perhaps because they were destroyed or not preserved during the ensuing social upheaval in China.

Despite this, the Chinese Railroad Workers Project has been able to glean insight into aspects of the laborers’ lives through their research.

They know, for instance, that the Chinese boiled water for tea, which helped stave off dysentery and other waterborne illnesses. They also know the men set up camps along the worksites, didn’t imbibe too much alcohol, worked well together, and sent money back to their families in China.

They even staged a strike in June 1867 demanding pay equal to whites, shorter workdays, and better working conditions, an action that helped counter the image that the Chinese were docile and wouldn’t fight for their rights.

Relaterede

News 150 years ago, Chinese railroad workers staged the era's largest labor strike

From tunneling through solid granite to laying down 10 miles of track in a day, the Chinese workers proved their mettle time and again.

Even Leland Stanford, whose anti-Chinese views were central to his gubernatorial campaign, changed his tune.

“He comes to have open respect for the abilities, the work ethic, the talents and the hard work, the industriousness of the Chinese,” Chang said.

But at times Stanford, who was later elected to the U.S. Senate, still resurrected certain anti-Chinese rhetoric when running for or in office, Chang noted.

“Stanford became one of the wealthiest men in the world because of their labor,” he said. “But there’s also lots of evidence to show that the Stanfords had an affection for many of the Chinese, especially in their employ. So it wasn’t just an exploitative relationship.”

A HISTORY ERASED, A HISTORY RECOVERED

After completing the first transcontinental railroad in 1869, Chinese laborers fanned out across the United States to work on at least 71 other rail lines, according to Fishkin.

This came amid rising anti-Chinese sentiment and violence in the U.S., as whites blamed the Chinese for squeezing them out of jobs by accepting work at lower wages.

Owing to white hostility, tens of thousands of Chinese were forced to leave the U.S. by 1882, according to “The Chinese and the Iron Road.” That same year, Congress responded by passing the Chinese Exclusion Act, the first and only major federal law to explicitly suspend immigration for a specific nationality. It wasn’t repealed until 1943.

It is the best opportunity I will have in my lifetime to have this story shared, to have it understood and appreciated by people outside our community.

Almost a quarter of a century later, in 1969, amid the backdrop of the civil rights movement, Choy and Chinn found themselves at Promontory Point, Utah, waiting for a moment that never came.

Since that day, advocates have continued working toward giving Chinese railroad laborers the recognition they deserve, in an effort to recover a period of history that connects China and the U.S.

In 2014, the U.S. Department of Labor inducted Chinese railroad workers into its Hall of Honor. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders elected to Congress in record numbers are among supporters of a House resolution to recognize the workers and their contributions. And a commemorative postage stamp in their honor has been proposed as well.

Der er også det kinesiske Railroad Workers Memorial Project, der har skaffet mindst en kvart million dollars til et monument, og Chinese Railroad Workers Descendants Association, hvis medlemmer besøger Utah -skoler for at lære børn om de kinesiske arbejdere.

Selv kunstnere, fotografer, journalister og akademikere fra Kina samt forskere fra Taiwan og dem med Stanfords Chinese Railroad Workers Project har fordybet sig i emnet.

"Vi vil sikre os, at dette ikke slutter den 10. maj," sagde Kwan, efterkommerforeningens formand.

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