Abraham Lincoln and Dodge at the time of their first conversation, in 1859. Lincoln was a politician and a railroad lawyer running for president. He met Grenvilk Dodge in Council Bluffs, Iowa. His first words were, “Dodge, what’s the best route for a Pacific railroad to the West?” From then on, until his assassination, Lincoln was the number-one proponent and supporter of the railroad.
The Big Four of the Central Pacific (clockwise from top left): Leland Stanford (18241893), Collis P. Huntington (1821-1900), Charles Crocker (1822-1888), and Mark Hopkins (1814-1878). They were as stern and determined as they look, but they took great risks with their money and their time and energy to build the line. Stanford was president and the chief politician. Huntington borrowed the money for capital expenses in New York, Boston, and Washington, and lobbied Congress for more help. Crocker was in charge of construction. Hopkins handled the books. Together they reaped where they had sown.
General Jack Casement in Wyoming in 1868 poses on horseback in front of one of his construction trains. The Casements were in charge of laying the Union Pacific’s track and were simultaneously feared and respected by the workers.
Samuel B. Reed in Echo City, Nevada, in 1869. Reed was chief of construction for the UP, in charge of keeping the men building the road supplied with everything from food to rails, ties, spikes, and everything else. He was also responsible for keeping the graders, barge builders, tie cutters, and tunnel builders supplied.
The surveyors of the UP pose at their camp in Echo Canyon, Utah. They are formally dressed for the occasion. The surveyors came first. They laid out the line. Most of the time, they slept on the ground and did their best to avoid hostile Indians.
General and Republican presidential candidate Ulysses S. Grant and party at Fort Sanders, just south of Laramie, Wyoming, in 1868. Grant has both hands on the fence. General William T. Sherman, in profile, is in front of the door. Thomas “Doc” Durant, the sixth man from the right with his hands clasped, bends forward.
General Dodge and party crossed the continent in 1867. Back row: Lt.J.W. Wheelen; Lt. Col. J. K. Mizner; Dr. Henry C. Terry, assistant surgeon; John E. Corwith. Front row: David VanLennep, geologist; John R. Duff; General G . M . Dodge; Brigadier General John A. Rawlins, chief of staff; Major W. McK. Dunn, ADC to General Rawlins.
Some of the directors of the UP meet in their private car at Echo City, Utah. Silas Seymour is seated at the table, on the left, with Sidney Dillon seated beside him. Doc Durant is beside Dillon, with John Duff on the right. They were on their way to Promontory Summit for the driving of the last spike.
Bumettizing works of the UP at Omaha. This was one of three. Cottonwood ties went through the Bumettizing machine, which treated them by draining the water out of the lumber and putting a zinc solution in its place—otherwise the ties were too soft and perishable. The timbers about to go in are bridge timber; the men at the right are loading one into the works.
The first big bridge built by the UP was across the Loup River at today’s Columbus, Nebraska, where the Loup flows into the Platte River. The umbers were cut in Chicago. On top of the bridge is the telegraph line. The bottom photograph shows the interior of the structure.
Casement’s crew laying track in 1866. Sometimes they laid as much as two miles of track per day. For the sake of the photographer, the men are posed—about the only time they stood still.
On October 6, 1866, the UP tracks reach the one hundredth meridian, near Cozad, Nebraska. Some of the UP directors are posed under the sign. Doc Durant organized an excursion of reporters and politicians on the spot to celebrate and publicize reaching it. Bottom: Durant went beyond the end of the track to pose for a picture standing at the cross ties and emphasizing the theme of Westward the Course of Empire.
A supply train being unloaded at the end of a track, at Mud Creek, near Fort Bridger, Wyoming.
A UP turntable in Rawlins Springs, Wyoming, 1868. All through Nebraska and Wyoming, Grenvilk Dodge laid out towns that became major centers for railroad repairs and workers, such as todays Rawlins, Cheyenne, Green River, Laramie, and others.
Lewis CarmichaeVs camp in Bitter Creek Valley, three miles east of Green River, Wyoming. Carmichael was a major contractor for the UP and made camp here because in the Wyoming desert between Rawlins and the Green River, water was a major problem. Below: A cut dug out by CarmichaeVs crew in Bitter Creek.
Snow on the Laramie Plains, Wyoming, caused many difficulties for the UP. Sometimes—as for passengers traveling to Grant’s inaugural as president in March 1869, when this photograph was taken— the snow was so deep the passengers tried to shovel it away, or they attempted to walk along the tracks.
The UP’s temporary and permanent bridges cross Green River, Wyoming. Citadel Rock looms over the scene.
Left: A UP construction train at Granite Canyon, Wyoming, chugs its way across what the railroad called the “Big Fill,” at Mile Post 536 from Omaha, between Cheyenne and Sherman Hill. The fill was 375 feet long and 50 feet deep, the largest fill on the UP. Middle left: The Petrified Fish Cut two miles west of Green River, Wyoming. Fills and cuts, then more fills and cuts—it seemed it would never end. Bottom left: The engine Osceola passes through Fish Cut. The locomotive had been confiscated by the government during the Civil War and later turned over to the UP.
The UP’s steam shovel at Hanging Rock, in Echo Canyon, Utah. This was the only mechanical power used to move earth on the entire line.
Mormon graders at work in Echo Canyon. At the top, they are bringing down rocks for a fill and to make certain no rocks tumbled down to interfere with the scrapers working on the roadbed. In the bottom photograph, they are digging out a cut. Photos taken in 1868.
Mormons dig out the East Tunnel—the second of four. It was 772 feet long and consumed 1,064 kegs of black powder. As it was being dug, the UP built a flimsy eight-mile temporary track over a ridge. Photo taken 1869.
A UP train crosses the Weber River, having just gone through Tunnel 3. Photo taken 1869.
One of the Casements’ construction trains near Bear River City, Wyoming. Bear River City was one of the worst Hell on Wheels towns.
The dock of the steamships and the Pacific Rail Road Depot at the Sacramento River Wharf, where the CP began. Here rails, spikes, cars, and locomotives, shipped around South America from New York and other eastern ports, were unloaded and started toward the end of track.
At Sailor’s Spur, a cut is being made in the background and the debris being hauled by onehorse carts to the fill in the area in the foreground. This took enormous patience, since everything was being done by muscle power. Photo taken summer 1866.
Chinese laborers at work from both ends of the Heath’s Ravine Bank in the Sierra Nevada—one cartload of rock and dirt at a time. The trees have been cleared away on both sides of the fill; at the top center are trunks piled up to be cut at a sawmill for ties. Photo taken summer 1867.
Chinese laborers at work on the Prospect Hill cut in the Sierra Nevada.
A CP train going through Bloomer Cut, just beyond Newcastle, California. It was 63 feet deep and 800 feet long. Every foot of the way had to be blasted with gunpowder, and the CP used five hundred kegs of powder a day to do it. It was completed in the spring of 1865 and still stands today, although the line now runs through two tunnels to the north.
Fort Point Cut in the mountains. It was 70 feet deep and 600 feet long. The Chinese hauled away the debris layer after layer.
A freight train rounding Cape Horn, California. Cape Horn is just short (west) of Dutch Flat. It was three miles long. The Chinese laborers did the work of blasting out and making the roadbed. The slope was at an angle of seventy-five degrees and the American River was 1,200 to 2,200 feet below the line of the railroad. One magazine commented, “Good engineers considered the undertaking preposterous.” Work began in the summer of 1865 and was completed in the spring of 1866.
Top left: Taken in the summer of 1867, this photo shows a Chinese tea carrier outside one of the thirteen tunnels the CP drilled through the Sierra Nevada. Left: Another worker is hauling debris out of the east portal of the Summit Tunnel (length: 1,659 feet), which was drilled through both ends and from the inside out in both directions. Above: The tunnel before completion. The CP began drilling in the fall of 1865, and the Chinese worked twentyfour hours a day. The first train went through on November 30, 1867.
And then the snows came. The winter of 1866-67 was one of the worst ever. The CP tried everything to get through the snow j but even these gigantic plows on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada couldn’t buck their way through. Eventually the CP built miles and miles of snowsheds; at left is a photograph taken by Albert Hart of the frame for one of them. This was one of the early, experimental ones, between Cisco and Summit, built in 1867.
Donner Lake as seen from the summit. The west portals of Tunnels 7 and 8 can be seen. The track hugs the mountains and the south side of the lake. Photo taken summer 1867.
In 1868 the CP track got through the Sierra Nevada and down to the Truckee River. This is a Howe truss bridge across the river at Eagle Gap.
Superintendent of Construction James Harvey Strobridge’s car at the end of the track. He was the only man on either railroad to bring his wife and all the other comforts of home. Photo taken probably in summer 1868 in Nevada.
By 1868 the CP was laying out track in the Nevada desert. That meant the men, horses, and engines had to have water. Here Locomotive 49, the El Dorado, fills its containers at Humboldt Lake to take water to the end of the track.
The first construction train to go through Palisade Canyon in eastern Nevada., along the Humboldt River. Below: An Indian looks down at the CP from the top of the canyon. Photos taken in late 1868.
The race ended in the spring of 1869. Leland Stanford and his party at Devils Gate Bridge, east ofOgden, Utah, on Weber River, May 8, 1869. They were just looking around, waiting for the UP to reach Promontory Summit for the driving of the last spike, and for Durant to be released from the workers who had held up his train at Piedmont.
Noon, April 28, 1869, Camp Victory, Utah. The CP’s track layers have just completed putting down and spiking in six miles of track. They would do four more that afternoon, setting a record that still stands.
Done! East and West shake hands in a famous photograph by A. J. Russell. The CP’s engine Jupiter is on the left (it is using wood for fuel; thus the smokestack is round and covered by a screen to catch sparks). The UP’s Engine No. 119 is on the right (it used coal for fuel and thus had a straight smokestack).
The Great Event poster.