Central Pacific Railroad
In 1869 the Central Pacific Railroad out of Sacramento, California, and the Union Pacific Railroad out of Omaha, Nebraska linked tracks in the Golden Spike ceremony at Promontroy Summit, Utah to form the first transcontinental railroad service in the United States.    Settlers were attracted to communities near railroads because they provided access to markets. Railroads encouraged settlement along their routes to help increase the need for their service. If an ancestor settled near a railroad, you may be able to trace their place of origin back to another place along the tracks.
Historical Background[edit | edit source]
In order to bind the nation together from California to the eastern states visionaries proposed a railroad between the west and east coasts of the United States. During the Civil War Congress authorized the building of this railroad. Congress offered land grants along the tracks in a checkerboard pattern as an incentive to the builders. The company that could build the most track would receive the most land.
Starting in 1863 in Sacramento, California, the Central Pacific laid their first tracks. They slowly started their eastward race toward the oncoming Union Pacific Railroad by building to Roseville, California in 1864. In 1865 they reached Colfax, and in 1866 Cisco, California. They overcame terrific problems including, labor shortages, difficulty obtaining U.S. steel tracks, lack of blasting powder, and the expense of grading, tunneling and bridging in steep mountains. In 1868 they laid 306 miles of track across Nevada, and set a world record building ten miles of track in twelve hours in 1869. On 10 May 1869 the Central Pacific joined track with the Union Pacific at Promontory Summit, Utah north of the Great Salt Lake to form the first transcontinental railroad in the United States. Later in 1904 the Lucin Cutoff was completed across the Salt Lake to shorten the route to Ogden, Utah and avoid mountain grades and curves.
Route[edit | edit source]
The Central Pacific Railrad from west to east went through the following towns (listed with their modern county names):
[edit | edit source]
- Newcastle, Placer County
- Auburn, Placer County
- Colfax, Placer County
- Through Sierra Nevada Mountains in California
- Extension to Alameda, Alameda County
- Extension to Oakland, Alameda County
- Extension to Stockton, San Joaquin County
- Extension to Vallejo, Solano County
- Extension to Benicia, Solano County
- Promontory Summit, Box Elder County
- Corrinne, Box Elder County
- Brigham City, Box Elder County
- Ogden, Weber County
- Feeder line to Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County
Settlers and Records[edit | edit source]
Settlers using the Central Pacific Railroad were likely to be from Eastern or Midwestern states along the tracks of the Union Pacific and connectors such as Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, Wyoming, and Utah. Most would have settled in Utah, Nevada, or northern California. There are no known Central Pacific Railroad passenger list records.
Workers on the Railroad - Chinese[edit | edit source]
Between 1865-1869, 10,000 -12,000 Chinese were involved in the building of the western leg of the Central Pacific Railroad. The work was backbreaking and highly dangerous. Approximately 1,200 died while building the Transcontinental Railroad.
- Chinese Railroad Workers - FamilySearch Wiki Article
- FamilySearch Blog:The First Transcontinental Railroad: Did Your Chinese Ancestors Help Build It?
- Chinese-American Contribution to the Transcontinental Railroad
- Chinese Laborers and the Construction of the Central Pacific
- A Legacy from the Far East - National Park Service
- Chinese Railroad Workers Descendants Association
- Stanford University Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project - Home Page
- Stanford University Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project.
- Payroll Records- California State Railroad Museum Library
- Chinese Railroad Workers Memorial Project
Publications[edit | edit source]
- William F. Chew. Nameless builders of the Transcontinental Railroad : the Chinese workers of the Central Pacific Railroad. Victoria, British Columbia: Trafford, 2004. FHL 973 H2cwf
- Annian Huang. The Silent Spikes:Chinese Laborers and the Construction of North American Railroads. rev.ed. Beijing:China Intercontinental Press, 2017 not at FHL
- George Kraus. High Road to Promontory: Building the Central Pacific (now Southern Pacific) Across the High Sierra. American West Publishing Company, 1969. not at FHL
- George Kraus. " Chinese Laboroers and the Construction of the Central Pacific." Utah Historical Quarterly 37(Winter,1969):
- Alexander Saxton."The Army of Canton in the High Sierra." Pacific Historical Review 35 (May 1966): 141-152.
- Chinese Railroad Workers on Donner Sumit - Pt I. The Donner Summit Heirloom. History and stories of the Donner Summit Historical Society June, 2016 issue #94
- Chinese Railroad Workers on Donner Summit - Pt II Life, Work & Danger. The Donner Summit Heirloom. History and stories of the Donner Summit Historical Society. July, 2016 issue #95
- Chinese Railroad Workers on Donner Summit - Pt III Summit Camp. The Donner Summit Historical Society. History and Stories of the Donner Summit Historical Society. August, 2016 #96
- Chinese Railroad Workers on Donner Summit - Pt IV Celebration for Some. The Donner Summit Heirloom. HIstory and Stories of the Donner Summit Historical Society. September, 2016 issue#97
- Tunnel 6 - The Building. The Donner Summit Heirloom. History and Stories of the Donner Summit Historical Society. July 2012 issue #47
- Exploring the Path of Chinese Railroad Workers. A Self-Guided Heritage Tour of Chinese Railroad Worker Sites from Auburn to Donner Pass.
Published in 2019
- Gordon H. Chang and Shelley Fisher Fishkin, eds. The Chinese and the Iron Road: Building the Transcontinental Railroad. Stanford University Press, Publication date April 30, 2019.
- Gordon H. Chang. Ghosts of Gold Mountain:The Epic Story of the Chinese Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt,Publication Date May 7, 2019.
- Manu Karuka. Empire's Workers:Indigenous Nations: Chinese Workers, and the Transcontinental Railroad.University of California Press, Publication Date March 5, 2019.
Websites[edit | edit source]
- Wikipedia - Central Pacific Railroad
- American Western History Musuems - Central Pacific Railroad
- Central Pacific Railroad Museum
- California Railroad Museum Library & Archives
Sources[edit | edit source]
- Wikipedia contributors, "Central Pacific Railroad," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Central_Pacific_Railroad Wikipedia contributors,
- "Union Pacific Railroad," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Union_Pacific_Railroad Wikipedia contributors,
- "Golden spike," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Golden_spike and Wikipedia contributors,
- "Promontory, Utah," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Promontory,_Utah
- "Central Pacific Railroad" in American Western History Musuems at http://www.linecamp.com/museums/americanwest/western_clubs/central_pacific_railroad/central_pacific_railroad.html (accessed 10 July 2009).
- Wikipedia contributors, "Lucin Cutoff" in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Lucin_Cutoff (accessed 10 July 2009).