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The First Railroads

The Southern Pacific

The first western railroad project was put forth in 1835, when a line starting from Lake Michigan and extending to the Puget Sound was proposed. In 1849 Thomas Benton introduced a bill into Congiess to subsidize a road, to be rail where practicable, and the rest of the way turnpike, from St. Louis to San Francisco. At nearly every session of Congress after this date some proposal for a transcontinental road was submitted and discussed, but no decided action was taken until the act authorizing the Union and Central Pacific roads in 1862.

East Meets West - Transcontinental Railroad

In 1856 the first railroad in California, a line from Folsom to Sacramento, was completed. This road was built by a young engineer, Theodore D. Judah, who had come out from the east for this purpose. Judah became very much interested in the possibility of a transcontinental road, and made a careful examination of all the routes practicable through the Sierra Nevadas. In 1856 Mr. Judah published a pamphlet, "A Practical Plan for Building the Pacific Railway." A writer in the Overland Monthly says of this document, "Rarely has there been so much practical matter comprised within thirty pages. It suggested a plan for sleeping and restaurant cars, thus ante-dating the Pullman idea and obviating one of the greatest obstacles to the overland route."

In 1859 a Railroad Convention was called in San Francisco. Judah was one of the delegates, and presented the information that he had gathered and the plans that he had formulated. So impressed were the members of the convention that they appointed the young engineer to act as their accredited agent to present their proceedings at Washington. Mr. Judah went to "Washington and made a most favorable impression upon the statesmen with whom he came in contact, without accomplishing any immediate result.

Largely through Judah's zeal and his conviction in the 'feasibility of the route he had selected, Huntington, Crocker, Stanford and Hopkins became interested, and in 1861 the Central Pacific Company was organized with a sub- scribed capital of $125,000. Of this amount Huntington. Hopkins, Stanford and Crocker subscribed $15,000 each. These men gradually acquired most of the other stock subscribed, including that of Judah. The breaking out of the civil war increased the importance of the Pacific railway to the country at large, and the withdrawal of the Southern members of Congress minimized the opposition to the project. The Central Pacific sent Judah again to Washington to work in their interests, and largely through his earnest and well-calculated efforts, Congress, in 1862. passed an "Act to aid in the construction of a railroad and telegraph line from the Missouri river to the Pacific ocean and to secure to the govern- ment the use of the same for postal, military and other purposes."

For the carrying out of this construction the government gave, within tne boundaries of California, two million acres of land and six millions in bonds; the state gave $105,000 a year for twenty years; Sacramento gave S300,000 in stock and Placer took $250,000 in stock—all of this applying to the road only between Sacramento and the eastern boundary of the state.

Ground was broken in Sacramento in 1863 and the work was pushed with unexpected rapidity. The Union Pacific Company was also organized and work was begun at the eastern terminus on the Missouri. To these two roads the government, between the years 1865 and 1869, granted bonds to the amount of $55,090,692, bearing 6 per cent interest. Congress also gave them over 26.000.000 acres of land, as well as right of way 400 feet wide, and depot grounds throughout the route. Important concessions and subsidies were also granted by the states and cities through which the roads passed. Thus aided the work was pushed rapidly, and May 10, 1869, the last spike was driven when the two roads met near Ogden, and thus the Atlantic and the Pacific were at last united, and the long-talked of "transcontinental" railroad was a fact.


The First Railroads

L.A. & Independence

The Southern Pacific

Southern Routes

Southern Pacific

The Santa Fe System

Turning Point

The Proposal

Railroad Building
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