Central Pacific Railroad

From FamilySearch Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Trestle on 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.[1] [2] [3] [4] 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.[5] 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.[6]

Route[edit | edit source]

The Last Spike 1869

The Central Pacific Railrad from west to east went through the following towns (listed with their modern county names):




This railway company laid 690 miles of track. During most of its history, the Central Pacific tracks through Nevada to Ogden, Utah were controlled by the Southern Pacific Railroad.

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.

Publications[edit | edit source]



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]

Sources[edit | edit source]

  1. Wikipedia contributors, "Central Pacific Railroad," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Central_Pacific_Railroad Wikipedia contributors,
  2. "Union Pacific Railroad," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Union_Pacific_Railroad Wikipedia contributors,
  3. "Golden spike," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Golden_spike and Wikipedia contributors,
  4. "Promontory, Utah," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Promontory,_Utah
  5. "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).
  6. Wikipedia contributors, "Lucin Cutoff" in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Lucin_Cutoff (accessed 10 July 2009).