CPRR Depot. Sacramento. California (detail of A. A. Hart Stereograph) with Steamer Chrysopolis. Courtesy Dana Scanlon Collection.
The Central Pacific Railroad Company of California was organized on June 28, 1861 by a group of Sacramento merchants known later as the "Big Four " (Collis P. Huntington. [Gov.] Leland Stanford. Mark Hopkins. and Charles Crocker ); also called "The Associates ," they are best remembered for having built the western portion of the first transcontinental railroad ("the Pacific Railroad") through California, Nevada, and Utah. A.J. Russell View at Promontory Summit. Courtesy National Park Service. (Right)
Government bonds. required to be repaid after completion of construction, were issued to the Central Pacific and Union Pacific Railroad Companies as they completed construction milestones, and they were granted sizable parcels of land along the entire length of the track as an added incentive, placing the CPRR and UPRR in competition — a race
to the finish at an undetermined meeting point.
Pacific Railroad Construction 1863-1869
The Central Pacific began laying track eastward from Sacramento, California in 1863. and the
Union Pacific started laying track westward from Omaha, Nebraska, two years later in July, 1865. To meet its manpower needs, the Central Pacific hired thousands of Chinese laborers. including many recruited from farms in Canton. The crew had the formidable task of laying the track crossing California's rugged Sierra Nevada mountain range and had to blast fifteen tunnels to accomplish this. The crew of the Union Pacific, which was composed largely of Irish immigrants and Civil War veterans, had to contend with Indian attacks and the Rocky Mountains. On May 10, 1869, after completing 1,776 miles, 4,814 feet (2,859.66 km) of new track, the two rail lines met at Promontory Summit, Utah.
Courtesy Martin Gregor and Bruce C. Cooper.