Se inició el servicio ferroviario transcontinental - Historia

Se inició el servicio ferroviario transcontinental - Historia


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El 10 de mayo, en Promontory Point, Utah, se golpeó un pico de riel dorado, completando la primera línea ferroviaria transcontinental. El pico se unió a las líneas del ferrocarril Union-Pacific que se estaba construyendo hacia el oeste, desde Omaha, Nebraska; y los del Pacífico Central que se están construyendo hacia el este, desde Sacramento, California.

El ferrocarril transcontinental

La posibilidad de que los ferrocarriles conecten las costas del Atlántico y el Pacífico se discutió en el Congreso incluso antes del tratado con Inglaterra que resolvió la cuestión de la frontera de Oregón en 1846. [8] El principal promotor de un ferrocarril transcontinental fue Asa Whitney, un comerciante de Nueva York activo en el comercio de China que estaba obsesionado con la idea de un ferrocarril al Pacífico. En enero de 1845, solicitó al Congreso una concesión y concesión de una franja de sesenta millas a través del dominio público para ayudar a financiar la construcción. [9]

Whitney sugirió el uso de mano de obra de inmigrantes irlandeses y alemanes, que abundaba en ese momento. Los salarios debían pagarse en la tierra, asegurando así que habría colonos a lo largo de la ruta para suministrar productos y convertirse en patrocinadores de la línea completa. El fracaso del Congreso para actuar sobre la propuesta de Whitney se debió principalmente a la vigorosa oposición del senador Thomas Hart Benton de Missouri, que favorecía una ruta occidental que se originaba en St. Louis.

En 1849 Whitney publicó un folleto para promover su plan titulado Proyecto de Ferrocarril al Pacífico. Iba acompañado de un mapa de contorno de América del Norte que muestra la ruta de su ferrocarril desde Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, a través de las Montañas Rocosas al norte de South Pass. Una ruta alternativa al sur del paso se unió a la línea principal en el río Salmon y continuó hasta Puget Sound. Las líneas propuestas también se extendían desde St. Louis hasta San Francisco y desde Independence, Missouri, hasta Nuevo México y el río Arkansas. Este es uno de los primeros mapas promocionales presentados al Congreso y, según su autor, fue concebido ya en 1830 [10].

Aunque el Congreso no aprobó su plan, Whitney hizo del ferrocarril del Pacífico uno de los grandes problemas públicos de la época. La adquisición de California tras la Guerra de México abrió el camino a otras rutas hacia la costa. El descubrimiento de oro, el asentamiento de la frontera y el éxito de los ferrocarriles orientales aumentaron el interés en la construcción de un ferrocarril hacia el Pacífico. [11]

También se necesitaban ferrocarriles en el oeste para proporcionar un mejor servicio postal, como se había desarrollado en el este, mediante la designación de las líneas ferroviarias como "carreteras postales" en 1838. Fortalecidas por otras propuestas como las de Hartwell Carver en 1849 y de Edwin F. Johnson en 1853, estadistas tan importantes como John C. Calhoun, Stephen A. Douglas y Jefferson Davis declararon su apoyo a unir el país por vías férreas. Sin embargo, los legisladores no pudieron ponerse de acuerdo sobre un término del este y no vieron los méritos de las diversas rutas hacia el oeste. Para resolver el debate, en 1853 se asignó dinero al Cuerpo Topográfico del Ejército "para determinar la ruta más práctica y económica para un ferrocarril desde el río Mississippi hasta el Océano Pacífico".

Según las disposiciones de la Ley de Asignación del Ejército de marzo de 1853, se ordenó al Secretario de Guerra Jefferson Davis que examinara las posibles rutas al Pacífico. Cuatro rutas de este a oeste, siguiendo aproximadamente paralelos específicos, debían ser inspeccionadas por grupos bajo la supervisión del Cuerpo Topográfico. El levantamiento más al norte, entre los paralelos 47 y 49, estuvo bajo la dirección de Isaac Ingalls Stevens, gobernador del Territorio de Washington. Esta ruta se aproxima mucho a la propuesta por Asa Whitney.

La mala suerte del capitán John W. Gunnison fue explorar la ruta a lo largo de los paralelos 38 y 39, o la ruta del Paso de Cochetopoa, que fue defendida por el senador de Missouri Thomas Hart Benton. Después de la muerte de Gunnison a manos de indios hostiles, el teniente Edward G. Beckwith continuó la encuesta a lo largo del paralelo 41. El capitán Amiel W. Whipple, astrónomo asistente del Mexican Boundary Survey, y el teniente Joseph Christmas Ives inspeccionaron la ruta a lo largo del paralelo 35 hacia el oeste hasta el sur de California. Esta línea fue favorecida por Jefferson Davis y fue esencialmente la ruta atravesada por Josiah Gregg en 1839 y luego examinada por el coronel John J. Abert. La prospección más al sur, que siguió el paralelo 32d, fue realizada por el teniente John G. Parke de California a lo largo del río Gila hasta las aldeas Pima y el río Grande. El Capitán John Pope trazó un mapa de la parte oriental de la ruta desde Dona Ana, Nuevo México, hasta el Río Rojo.

Se llevó a cabo una quinta inspección, siguiendo una orientación norte-sur, bajo la dirección del teniente Robert S. Williamson. Este grupo volvió a realizar estudios topográficos para localizar pasos a través de Sierra Nevadas y Coast Range en California con el fin de determinar una ruta que conectaría California, Oregon y Washington se realizaron bajo la dirección del teniente Robert S. Williamson [12].

Estos estudios mostraron que un ferrocarril podía seguir cualquiera de las rutas y que la ruta paralela 32 era la menos costosa. Posteriormente se construyó el Ferrocarril del Pacífico Sur a lo largo de este paralelo. Las rutas del sur eran objetables para los políticos del norte y las rutas del norte eran objetables para los políticos del sur, pero las encuestas, por supuesto, no pudieron resolver estos problemas seccionales.

Si bien los problemas y desacuerdos seccionales se debatieron a fines de la década de 1850, el Congreso no tomó ninguna decisión sobre la cuestión del ferrocarril del Pacífico. Theodore D. Judah, el ingeniero del Sacramento Valley Railroad, se obsesionó con el deseo de construir un ferrocarril transcontinental. En 1860 se acercó a Leland Stanford, Collis P. Huntington, Mark Hopkins y Charles Crocker, los principales comerciantes de Sacramento, y pronto los convenció de que construir una línea transcontinental los haría ricos y famosos. La perspectiva de aprovechar la riqueza de las ciudades mineras de Nevada y la próxima legislación de ayuda federal a los ferrocarriles los estimuló a incorporar la Central Pacific Railroad Company of California. Esta línea más tarde se fusionó con el Pacífico Sur. Fue a través de los esfuerzos de Judah y el apoyo de Abraham Lincoln, quien vio los beneficios militares en las líneas, así como la unión de la costa del Pacífico a la Unión, que el Ferrocarril del Pacífico finalmente se convirtió en una realidad.

La Ley de Ferrocarriles de 1862 puso el apoyo del gobierno detrás del ferrocarril transcontinental y ayudó a crear el ferrocarril Union Pacific, que posteriormente se unió con el Pacífico Central en Promontory, Utah, el 10 de mayo de 1869, y señaló la unión del continente.


Artículos sobre el ferrocarril transcontinental de las revistas History Net

La novelista estadounidense Marcia Davenport quería descubrir por sí misma el Salvaje Oeste. El problema fue que su búsqueda de ese Oeste tuvo lugar solo en 1932, unas décadas demasiado tarde, deben haber pensado muchos estadounidenses. Ese año, el encuentro más salvaje para la mayoría de la gente sería lidiar con la pesimismo y la ruina económica. Davenport, sin embargo, encontró su Salvaje Oeste y escribió sobre él en Buen cuidado de casa revista en un artículo que tituló "Covered Wagon — 1932".

“[Yo] quería aventuras, o cualquier parecido que se pudiera tener en el año 1932”, escribió. "Así que, por supuesto, volé". Davenport creía que cruzar los Estados Unidos de Los Ángeles a Nueva York "prosaicamente por ferrocarril era una trampa". Explicó que "no tenía sentido para mí estar sentada durante días en grandes sillones de felpa, atendida por tropas de servidores expertos, comiendo y bebiendo manjares, buscando formas de consumir el aburrimiento". En lugar del constante "zumbido de los seguros rieles de acero", Davenport se embarcó en un viaje que para ella invocaba el romance de "¡Oh, Susanna!" fui a Oregon en un carro cubierto "con un banjo en mi rodilla".

Se requirieron cuatro vuelos separados para realizar el viaje transcontinental. En el segmento de Salt Lake City, United envió a los ocho pasajeros a bordo de un pesado biplano trimotor que seguía la ruta Overland “apreciada por la canción, el verso y la historia, la ruta de los trenes de bueyes, los Forty-niners, las diligencias, el pony express ". De camino a Cheyenne, el mal tiempo obligó al avión de Davenport & # 8217 a realizar un aterrizaje no programado en un campo de emergencia de correo aéreo del gobierno de EE. UU. Llamado Parco, Wyoming. pequeña choza del oeste lanudo en el borde del campo ".

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En este aislado aeródromo, los pasajeros esperaban que pasara la tempestad. Después de una noche inquieta de poco sueño, el grupo voló hacia el este de nuevo al día siguiente, pero la densa niebla lo obligó a realizar un segundo aterrizaje de emergencia, esta vez en Laramie. Para Davenport, todos esos problemas parecían ser un feliz recordatorio de una época en la que la naturaleza impredecible de los viajes a través del oeste hacía de cada viaje una aventura memorable, pero muchos años antes, los ferrocarriles habían sacado lo "salvaje" del oeste y hizo que los viajes de larga distancia fueran seguros, predecibles y, por lo tanto, aburridos para los viajeros aventureros como Davenport.


La ruta del sur y la compra de Gadsden

California se convirtió en territorio estadounidense en 1848 con el Tratado de Guadalupe Hidalgo que puso fin a la Guerra México-Estadounidense. Ese mismo año vio el comienzo de la Fiebre del Oro de California (más conocida en 1849) que llevó a un gran número de personas al oeste, muchas de las cuales se quedaron. California se convirtió en una parte cada vez más importante de los Estados Unidos y la idea de una conexión ferroviaria ganó apoyo.

Persistía la preocupación de que la nieve hiciera impráctica la ruta central. Una encuesta indicó que el mejor camino hacia el sur pasaba por territorio que aún conserva México. Por lo tanto, en 1853, solo cinco años después de tomar California por la fuerza, Estados Unidos hizo la compra de Gadsden a México, adquiriendo las partes del sur de lo que ahora es Nuevo México y Arizona. Esto colocó la ruta transcontinental del sur completamente dentro de los EE. UU. Sin embargo, a pesar de aprobar la Compra, el Congreso no financió la construcción de una línea ferroviaria en ese momento. La ruta sur se completó en 1881, lo que le otorga la dudosa distinción de ser la ruta de Estados Unidos. segundo carril transcontinental. La ruta es generalmente seguida por la Interestatal 10 en la actualidad.


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El ferrocarril transcontinental

El 15 de mayo de 1869, comenzó el servicio regular de trenes en el primer ferrocarril transcontinental de Estados Unidos. Miles de estadounidenses que se habían acostumbrado a viajar en tren en los estados del este ahora podían viajar detrás de un caballo de hierro hasta el mar occidental de Walt Whitman. Aunque no era posible, excepto en casos de excursiones especiales, abordar un automóvil en una ciudad del este y viajar sin interrupciones a California, la mayoría de estos viajeros pioneros parecían considerar los traslados necesarios en Chicago y Omaha, y Promontory u Ogden, como bienvenidos descansos en una aventura de ocho a diez días.

"Todo hombre que podía disponer de tiempo y dinero estaba ansioso por hacer el viaje", declaró el enérgico reportero viajero John Beadle, "y todo el que podía arrojar tinta se convirtió en corresponsal". Desde el principio, muchos viajeros se vieron obligados a hacer un registro escrito de sus experiencias. Sus relatos solían ser muy vagos hasta que pasaban por Chicago u Omaha. Durante el primer año de servicio transcontinental, los pasajeros del este llegaron a Chicago en el ferrocarril central de Michigan, pero a mediados de la década de 1870 tenían su opción de conexiones desde Pensilvania, Erie o Nueva York Central.

“Se permiten setenta y cinco minutos para llegar desde la estación de llegada a la estación de salida”, dijo William F. Rae, un inglés que hizo el viaje a fines de 1869. “En mi propio caso, los horarios de los trenes no se correspondían un tren había comenzado una hora antes de que llegara el otro ". Debido a que había planeado detenerse brevemente en Chicago, Rae no se sintió decepcionado por la demora forzada de veinticuatro horas, pero muchos de sus compañeros de viaje sí lo estaban, y durante otro siglo los viajeros a través de Chicago continuarían sufriendo la inconveniencia de cambiar de tren y falla al hacer las conexiones. Durante el apogeo de los viajes de pasajeros por ferrocarril en Estados Unidos, uno de los dichos comunes era que un cerdo podía viajar a través del país a través de Chicago sin cambiar de automóvil, pero un ser humano no.

Para llegar a Union Pacific desde Chicago, los viajeros podían elegir entre dos rutas directas, Rock Island o Northwestern, y una ruta indirecta, Chicago, Burlington y Quincy. Las personas conocedoras que tomaban las rutas directas pronto aprendieron a evitar los trenes expresos nocturnos que los dejaban varados en Council Bluffs u Omaha durante casi veinticuatro horas mientras esperaban la salida del tren diario de la U.P. hacia la costa del Pacífico.

Hasta que se completó un puente sobre el río Missouri en 1872, los viajeros en dirección oeste también tuvieron que soportar un cruce en un ferry desde Council Bluffs a Omaha. E incluso después de que se construyó el puente, los ferrocarriles se negaron a cooperar lo suficiente como para llevar los vagones de las carreteras del este a través del río hasta la estación Union Pacific. Al llegar a Council Bluffs, los pasajeros tuvieron que trasladarse ellos mismos y su equipaje a los autos de la Compañía de Transferencia. John Erastus Lester de Providence, Rhode Island, quien viajó al oeste en 1872 con la esperanza de mejorar su salud, dijo que el paso de la Compañía de Transferencia "provocó que se pronunciaran más palabras duras de las que se pueden borrar del gran libro durante muchos días". No solo estaba desilusionado por el trato de la compañía a los pasajeros, sino también por su requisito de que toda la carga se descargue de los vagones del Este y luego se vuelva a empaquetar para su envío al otro lado del río.

Los primeros viajeros del ferrocarril transcontinental vieron poco que admirar sobre Omaha. Uno descubrió que era "el lugar más embarrado que he visto", pero agregó que "las carreteras están generalmente llenas de polvo". Otro también describió la ciudad como una capa de lodo a través del cual “el ómnibus trabajaba lentamente, y el conductor aconsejaba a los pasajeros de afuera que se movieran de un lado del techo a otro para evitar volcar el vehículo sobrecargado. Una sensación general de alivio se manifestó cuando se llegó a la estación de Union Pacific Railway ".

Casi todos estuvieron de acuerdo en que rara vez habían visto una confusión tan bulliciosa como la que se desarrolló en la estación de Omaha a la hora de las salidas de los trenes. Durante los primeros años, cuando el viaje hacia el oeste se consideraba una empresa audaz, se difundieron deliberadamente rumores entre los compradores de boletos novatos sobre el peligro de que los indios salvajes destruyeran o atacaran trenes, lo que por supuesto ayudó a los agentes ferroviarios de Omaha en la venta de pólizas de seguro para el viaje.

Excepto por un silbido rápido del motor y el grito del conductor de "¡Todos a bordo!" no hubo ningún aviso de la salida del tren. Por lo general, esto provocaba una avalancha de pasajeros que tenían que subirse a los vagones en movimiento. “Durante tres o cuatro millas pasamos a lo largo de los acantilados sobre los que se construyó Omaha”, registró John Lester, “y luego avanzamos hacia la pradera abierta, las fértiles tierras de Nebraska. Una vasta llanura, salpicada aquí y allá de árboles, se extiende por todos lados ".

En primavera, la tierra ondulada se cubría de flores silvestres cuya fragancia se filtraba a las ventanas abiertas de los automóviles que avanzaban a veinte millas por hora en verano, miles de plantas rodadoras que rodaban sobre la hierba seca y las hogueras otoñales de las praderas resplandecían en el horizonte. “El espectáculo de una pradera en llamas es de una grandeza infinita”, dijo William Rae. "En kilómetros a cada lado, el aire está cargado de volúmenes de humo sofocante, y el suelo enrojeció con el silbido y el fuego".

Los viajeros del extranjero encontraron que la hierba de las Grandes Llanuras era más corta de lo que esperaban, y compararon el barrido del verde grisáceo impulsado por el viento con las olas del océano, "ondulando como el Atlántico con una fuerte marejada". También se quejaban de que sus ojos estaban cansados ​​por la uniformidad del paisaje, del tren que parecía estar parado en un inmenso vacío. Todos dieron la bienvenida a la primera ruptura en la monotonía de las llanuras: el río Platte, que el ferrocarril siguió hacia el oeste como lo habían hecho los trenes de carretas de años anteriores.

Cuando el ferrocarril transcontinental abrió sus puertas al servicio, George Mortimer Pullman había estado fabricando modelos experimentales de sus vagones cama durante cuatro años, y Union Pacific aceptó varios de ellos en 1869. Se llamaban Pullman Palace Cars y sus exteriores estaban pintados en ricos colores marrones. para distinguirlos de los monótonos entrenadores. Todos los que podían pagar los $ 25 adicionales por una tarifa de primera clase y $ 4 por día por un automóvil Pullman Palace estaban ansiosos por obtener un lugar. Los viajeros de primera clase pagaron f 100 por el viaje de Omaha a Sacramento en segunda clase o en autocar $ 75. También había una tarifa especial de $ 40 para los inmigrantes, que viajaban en asientos de tablero apretados. Por lo general, se requerían de cuatro a cinco días para completar el viaje en expreso, de seis a siete días en tren mixto. La velocidad de los trenes variaba de acuerdo con las condiciones de las vías y los puentes, descendiendo a nueve millas por hora en secciones construidas apresuradamente y aumentando a treinta y cinco millas por hora en vías más suaves. La mayoría de los viajeros de principios de la década de 1870 * 5 mencionaron el promedio de dieciocho a veintidós millas por hora. Aunque la velocidad se duplicó en una década, las paradas y los arranques que consumieron mucho tiempo en más de doscientas estaciones y los tanques de agua evitaron cualquier reducción considerable en el total de horas dedicadas al largo viaje.

Incluso en una era en la que los estadounidenses más capacitados ganaban menos de $ 100 al mes, la demanda de espacio Pullman de cien dólares en el ferrocarril transcontinental era tan grande que Union Pacific comenzó a operar tres vagones cama en algunos trenes a principios de 1870 y todavía se estaba alejando. -ser compradores de entradas. Debido al interés de George Pullman en Union Pacific, suministró a ese ferrocarril innovaciones de lujo mucho antes de que llegaran a las carreteras del Este. Los viajeros escucharon o leyeron acerca de los Palace Cars y estaban ansiosos por viajar en ellos sin importar el costo. “Tenía un sofá para mí solo, con una mesa y una lámpara”, escribió un ciclista satisfecho. “Los sofás se ensanchan y se convierten en camas por la noche. Mi litera tenía tres pies y tres pulgadas de ancho y seis pies y tres pulgadas de largo. Tenía dos ventanas que daban al tren, un hermoso espejo y estaba bien amueblado con ropa de cama y cortinas ".

Los viajeros británicos quedaron especialmente impresionados y enviaron cartas serias a los directores de los ferrocarriles de Londres instándolos a "tomar una hoja del libro de los estadounidenses y proporcionar vagones para dormir para los largos viajes nocturnos". También se deleitaron con la libertad de movimiento de un automóvil a otro, aunque el viajero que se firmó como "un párroco de Londres" admitió que tratar de vestirse en una caja de dos pies de altura era un poco incómodo. “Fue una experiencia extraña que una treintena de damas, caballeros y niños se acostaran en, prácticamente, una habitación. Durante dos noches tuve un matrimonio joven durmiendo en la litera encima de la mía. La dama fue la primera en entrar y, al cabo de un rato, colgaron el vestido sobre la barandilla a la que estaban abrochadas las cortinas de la cama. Pero la agitación de las cortinas que ocultaban su nido indicaba otros procesos de desvestirse. Como la misma cortina servía para ambas literas, la de ella y la mía, el caballero mantuvo su porción unida sobre mi cabeza cuando fue necesario que me retirara. Por fin todos se alojaron y algunos ronquidos se elevaron por encima del traqueteo del tren. No dormí mucho la primera noche, pero miré la pradera iluminada por la luna desde mi almohada ".

Aunque Pullman introdujo un "automóvil de hotel" en 1870 con una cocina en un extremo desde la cual se servían las comidas en mesas removibles colocadas entre los asientos del salón, Union Pacific programó el automóvil para un solo viaje por semana. Hasta bien entrada la década de 1880, el ferrocarril transcontinental alimentó a sus pasajeros en los restaurantes a lo largo del camino, lo que les permitió treinta minutos para obtener su comida y atornillarla antes de reanudar el viaje.

A juzgar por los comentarios de los viajeros, la comida variaba de miserable a medianamente justa. La primera parada para cenar fuera de Omaha fue Grand Island. "Mal cocinado y mal servido", fue el comentario directo de un pasajero. "Encontramos la calidad en general mala", dijo William Robertson de Escocia, "y las tres comidas, desayuno, cena y cena, fueron casi idénticas, es decir, té, filetes de búfalo, chuletas de antílope, batatas y comida india hervida. maíz, con tortas de azada y almíbar hasta la saciedad ". La neoyorquina Susan Coolidge también se quejó de la uniformidad de la dieta. "Era necesario mirar el reloj para saber si lo que estábamos comiendo era desayuno, cena o cena, estas comidas presentaban invariablemente las mismas características sobresalientes del bistec, huevos fritos, patatas fritas". Fue lo suficientemente generosa como para felicitar al chef de Sidney, Nebraska, por servir "cubos de papilla frita que diversificaron un desayuno de excelencia inusual". Harvey Rice de Cleveland, Ohio, describió la estación de desayuno de Sidney como una estructura tosca de tablas y lonas. “Aquí los pasajeros se reponían con un excelente desayuno, un estofado de pollo, como supusieron, pero que, como se les informó después, consistía en perritos de la pradera, una nueva variedad de pollos, sin plumas. Esta información creó una sensación desagradable en diversos y delicados estómagos ".

Según William L. Humason de Hartford, Connecticut, cuanto más se viajaba por las llanuras, peor se volvían los comedores, “formados por miserables chabolas, con mesas sucias y camareros no sólo sucios, sino también descarados. El té sabía como si estuviera hecho de las hojas de la brocha de salvia, literalmente té de salvia. La galleta estaba hecha sin soda, pero con bastante álcali, armonizando con la gran cantidad de polvo alcalino que ya habíamos ingerido ”. El único comedor para el que Humason tenía una buena palabra era en Cisco, California, donde el agua de la mesa era tan clara como el cristal, pero pensó que un dólar y cuarto era “un precio bastante alto a pagar por el jamón frito y las papas. "

En la mayoría de las paradas para cenar, los precios de las comidas eran de un dólar, y en la sección de California del Pacífico Central los precios se reducían a setenta y cinco centavos si el comensal pagaba en plata en lugar de en papel moneda. Ni Union Pacific ni Central Pacific operaban sus casas de comidas, prefiriendo contratarlas a particulares, sin un estándar de servicio requerido. La mayoría de ellos estaban en edificios de estructura tosca llenos de largas mesas sobre las que esperaban grandes fuentes de comida cuando los pasajeros descendían de los trenes. Gradualmente, las estaciones individuales adquirieron reputación en determinadas especialidades, como el bistec en Laramie, las galletas calientes en Green River, el antílope en Sidney y el pescado en Colfax. La parada para cenar más elogiada fue Evanston, Wyoming, donde la trucha de montaña era la especialidad. “Fue guardado por un hombre de color llamado Howard W. Crossley cuyo evidente deseo era complacer a todos”, escribió John Lester. Agregó que la mayoría de "los propietarios de las estaciones de comida deberían ser promovidos a puestos más altos porque evidentemente están por encima de administrar un hotel".

Debido a que Cheyenne figuraba en las guías turísticas como la ciudad más grande entre Omaha y Sacramento, muchos pasajeros esperaban una calidad superior en el servicio de comidas allí. Se sintieron decepcionados al encontrar una pequeña ciudad de edificios de madera y lona ocupada (como se escribió) por unos tres mil "mineros de aspecto peligroso con botas grandes, sombreros de ala ancha y revólveres". La única característica añadida en el comedor era una formidable hilera de cabezas de animales de caza mayor que miraban desde las paredes a los pasajeros hambrientos. "Las chuletas eran generalmente tan duras como madejas de latigazo, y los cuchillos tan desafilados como paletas de albañil", informó un viajero.

Entre las paradas para comer, los pasajeros fueron desviados por una procesión de vida salvaje desconocida a lo largo de cada lado de la pista, siendo los antílopes y los perros de la pradera los más comunes. Mucho más antílopes que búfalos se extendían a lo largo de las vías de Union Pacific, y largas filas de estos animales de pies ligeros a menudo se acercaban muy cerca de los trenes que pasaban, aparentemente corriendo con los autos y generalmente ganando. Aunque Union Pacific desaprobó la práctica, los cazadores ansiosos a veces disparaban contra estos animales con rifles y pistolas desde las ventanas abiertas de los automóviles. Se registraron pocos hits.

Las aldeas de perros de la pradera también estaban lo suficientemente cerca como para que los pasajeros pudieran observar a estos roedores gregarios sentados en las entradas de sus madrigueras. “Se lanzan al aire con una alegre agilidad hermosa de ver, dan una voltereta y presentan a la mirada de admiración del viajero dos tacones peludos y una pequeña cola peluda al salir del escenario de acción”, escribió uno. pasajero.

A menudo se veía alces, lobos y osos mientras el caballo de hierro tronaba por el oeste, y un viajero estaba seguro de haber visto una manada de perros salvajes trotando paralelos a la vía del ferrocarril, hasta que se enteró de que eran coyotes. Los enjambres de saltamontes y grillos eran otra vista desconocida que a veces descendían sobre las vías y provocaban que las ruedas de la locomotora giraran hasta quedar temporalmente estancadas.

Aunque solo quedaron rebaños de búfalos cerca del derecho de paso de Union Pacific después de que comenzara el viaje en tren, los caballos de hierro del Kansas Pacific (que corría menos de doscientas millas al sur y conectaba con Union Pacific en Cheyenne) ocasionalmente eran rodeada de búfalos y tuvo que reducir la velocidad o esperar hasta que pasara la manada. Un viajero en el Pacífico de Kansas contó que vio una manada que se extendía hasta donde alcanzaba la vista. “Con la cabeza hacia abajo y la cola hacia arriba, galoparon hacia la vía haciendo esfuerzos extraordinarios para cruzar por delante de la locomotora. Al intentar esta hazaña estratégica, un espécimen se vio elevado a la fuerza en el aire y arrojado a la zanja, donde yacía de espaldas, con los pies hendidos nutriéndose locamente ".

En sus primeros días, antes de que se programaran las conexiones con otros ferrocarriles, los ingenieros de Kansas Pacific detuvieron voluntariamente los trenes para permitir que los pasajeros dejaran los vagones y dispararan a los búfalos que pasaban. “Todo el mundo sale corriendo y comienza a disparar”, escribió el abogado John Putnam de Topeka a un amigo en 1868. “No pudimos atrapar un búfalo. No disparé, con ideas mal definidas en cuanto a rifles de caza, en qué extremo se coloca la carga y en qué extremo se suelta ... Pero salí corriendo con el resto —gritaba promiscuamente— ¡Búfalo! —¡Para el tren! 'déjame salir' '' ¡ahí están! - Whoop-pey '-' dales un trueno '-' no vayas '-' regresa '-' sigue adelante '- así que ya ves que ayudé mucho ”.

Los búfalos y otros animales entretuvieron a los viajeros en un contexto de paisaje que cambiaba constantemente y que se volvía cada vez más fascinante a medida que dejaban atrás las llanuras. El primer vistazo a la cordillera nevada de las Montañas Rocosas siempre enviaba una ola de emoción a través de los automóviles de pasajeros. "Mis sueños de niño se hicieron realidad", registró un hombre. “Durante horas, en el pupitre de la escuela, he reflexionado sobre el mapa y vagado, en mi imaginación, con Lewis y Clark, los cazadores y tramperos y los primeros emigrantes, lejos de estas Montañas Rocosas, alrededor de las cuales parece colgar un misterio semejante, Soñando, deseando y esperando contra toda esperanza, que mis ojos pudieran, algún día, contemplar sus alturas coronadas de nieve. Y aquí estaba la primera gran variedad en la pureza del blanco distante, sin duda, pero allí estaba, consagrado en belleza ".

Wyoming estaba lleno de maravillas para estos viajeros del este, pero cuando el caballo de hierro los llevó a través de túneles a los cañones Echo y Weber de Utah, no encontraron superlativos para describir las imponentes rocas con forma de castillo. "Grandioso más allá de toda descripción ... castillos en el aire ... formas y perfiles fantásticos ... la escena es tan aterradora como sublime". Poco después de entrar en Narrows of Weber Canyon, prácticamente todos notaron el árbol de las mil millas, un solo pino verde en una desolación de rocas y salvia, que marcaba la distancia desde Omaha. Los viajeros europeos compararon el Cañón Weber con las puertas de entrada a los Alpes. Castle Rock, Hanging Rock, Pulpit Rock, Devil's Gate, Devil's Slide, todos entraron en los cuadernos de pasajeros garabateando que parecían no estar de acuerdo sobre si eran creaciones de Dios o Satanás.

A lo largo del camino había recordatorios ocasionales de pioneros de un día anterior: huesos de bueyes y caballos muertos hacía mucho tiempo junto a los caminos llenos de surcos por donde se arrastraban los carros cubiertos, una lápida solitaria, una rueda rota, un mueble desechado. “Pulgada a pulgada, los equipos trabajaron para ganar terreno”, dijo un agradecido viajero del tren, “pulgada a pulgada bajaron por los accidentados pasos ahora en lujosos vagones, con caballos de hierro, con un hábil ingeniero como conductor. llevado con comodidad ".

Cuando no había animales o paisajes para entretener o asombrar, siempre estaba el clima cambiante de Occidente. El tren en el que Harvey Rice viajaba a California en 1869 atravesó una tormenta eléctrica típicamente violenta en las Grandes Llanuras. “Los cielos se volvieron, de repente, tan negros como la medianoche sin estrellas. Los relámpagos destellaron en todas direcciones y bolas eléctricas de fuego rodaron sobre las llanuras. Parecía como si la artillería del cielo hubiera convertido el valle en un objetivo y que estábamos condenados a una destrucción instantánea. Pero felizmente nuestros temores pronto se disiparon. La tormenta fue seguida por un arco iris brillante ".

Era probable que las fuertes lluvias inundaran las vías y, en los primeros años, antes de que los lechos de las carreteras estuvieran bien lastradas, las traviesas se hundieron en el barro. Un viajero se sorprendió al ver que el automóvil detrás de él levantaba una espuma de barro tal que parecía un bote corriendo sobre el agua. No era inusual que las tormentas de granizo rompieran las ventanillas de los automóviles y los tornados pudieran sacar un tren de la vía. Una de las leyendas del Pacífico de Kansas se refiere a una tromba marina tornádica que cayó de una tormenta eléctrica masiva, arrasó seis mil pies de vía y se tragó un tren de carga. "Aunque se hicieron grandes esfuerzos para encontrarlo", dijo Charles B. George, un ferroviario veterano, "nunca se ha descubierto ni rastro de él".

Los viajeros invernales podían esperar magníficas tormentas de nieve o feroces ventiscas que a veces convertían un viaje a través del continente en un calvario. En el viaje de regreso de William Rae al este desde California en el invierno de 1870, la locomotora de su tren libró una batalla de dos horas con una tormenta de nieve a lo largo de cuatro millas de las llanuras de Laramie. The delay played havoc with train schedules on the single-track Union Pacific, but Rae reported that the hot-air stove in his Pullman car kept it “as comfortable as the best-warmed room in an English house.”

Rae might not have been so fortunate had he been traveling on the Kansas Pacific, which suffered as severely from blizzards as it did from thunder squalls. High winds drifted both snow and sand into cuts, leveling them across the tops, and the sturdy little wood-burning locomotives would have to back up, be uncoupled from the cars, and then run at full speed into the snowbanked cuts. This was called “bucking the snow,” and usually had to be repeated several times before it was effective. Engineer Cy Warman told of bucking an eighteen-foot drift with double engines so hard that his locomotive trembled and shook as if it were about to be crushed to pieces. “Often when we came to a stop only the top of the stack of the front engine would be visible. … All this time the snow kept coming down, day and night, until the only signs of a railroad across the range were the tops of the telegraph poles.” If the passengers were lucky, the train was backed to the nearest station, but even then conditions might be harsh. A group of snowbound train travelers who crowded into a hotel in Hays City, Kansas, spent an uncomfortably cold night and at daylight found their beds covered with snow which had drifted through cracks in walls and roof.

The universal desire of all pioneer travelers on the transcontinental was to see a “real wild Indian.” Few of them did, because the true warriors of the plains hated the iron horse and seldom came within miles of it. After the resisting tribes finally realized they could not stop the building of the Union Pacific’s tracks, their leaders signed treaties which removed their people from the broad swaths of land taken by the railroad. As the buffalo herds also fled far to the north and south, there was no economic reason for the horse Indians to approach the tracks. The Indians that the travelers saw were mostly those who had been corrupted and weakened by contacts with the white man’s civilization—scroungers, mercenaries, or beggars by necessity.

Except for a few acculturated representatives of Mississippi Valley tribes (who still plaited their hair but wore white man’s clothing and frequented railroad stations from Chicago to Omaha) the westbound travelers’ first glimpse of Plains Indians was around the Loup Fork in Nebraska where the Pawnees lived on a reservation. Although the Pawnees had virtually abandoned their horsebuffalo culture and lived off what they could cadge from white men, the warriors still shaved their heads to a tuft, painted their faces, and wore feathers and blankets. To travelers fresh from the East the Pawnees had a very bloodthirsty appearance, and according to the guidebooks every one of them had several scalps waving from the tops of lodgepoles.

Anywhere across western Nebraska or Wyoming, a traveler might catch a quick glimpse of a passing Sioux, Cheyenne, Arapaho, or Crow staring at the iron horse, but they were few and far between. Not until the train reached Nevada was there a plenitude of Shoshones and Paiutes hanging about every station and using their treaty rights with the Central Pacific to ride the cars back and forth. Because these desert Indians were generally covered with dust and were often unbathed (there was no water readily available), the fastidious passengers found them objectionable, and the Central Pacific gradually put restrictions on their use of trains. At first they were confined to the emigrants’ coaches, and then after the emigrants objected to their presence, the Indians had to ride in the baggage cars or outside on the boarding steps.

Despite these docile remnants of the Great Plains tribes, some travelers spent a good deal of time worrying about Indian attacks. But train wrecks, and not ambushes, were the most immediate danger. Because of the relatively slow speeds of the early years, bruises rather than fatalities were the likely results unless the accident occurred on a high bridge or mountain shoulder. Poor tracks and hot boxes (overheating of axle bearings) caused many wrecks, and a surprising number of passengers suffered injuries from falling or jumping out of open car windows. One of the pioneer passengers of 1869 recorded how it felt to be in a train wreck in Echo Canyon: “On we bounded over the ties, the car wheels breaking many of them as though they were but pipe-stems. Every instant we expected to roll down the ravine. We ordered the ladies to cling to the sides of the seats and keep their feet clear of the floor. It seemed as if that train could never be stopped! But it was brought to a standstill upon the brink of an embankment. Had the cars gone a few rods further the reader would probably never have been troubled by these hastily written pages.”

Still another westbound traveler during that first year told of being shaken out of his seat when a Central Pacific train ran into a herd of cattle between Wadsworth and Clark’s Station, Nevada. The collision threw the locomotive off the track, but a telegrapher aboard climbed the nearest pole, tapped the line, and summoned a relief engine. During the eight-hour delay the hungry passengers butchered the dead cattle, built a fire, and cooked «teaks. Such encounters with cattle were among the most common causes of train wrecks in the West, and railroad men and ranchers were in constant friction for more than half a century over the rights of cattle to trespass on railroad property.

There were, of course, less-violent diversions than wrecks. At times on the journey, said Henry Williams in The Pacific Tourist , one could “sit and read, play games, and indulge in social conversation and glee.” By “glee” the guidebook author probably was referring to the improvised musicales and recitations that were especially popular among the Pullman passengers. In the early 1870’s some Pullman cars had organs intalled on them, and in the evenings amateur musicians as well as traveling troupes of professionals willingly gave performances. As one Pullman passenger described it, “music sounds upon the prairie and dies away far over the plains merrymaking and jokes, conversation and reading pass the time pleasantly until ten o’clock, when we retire. … If people who are traveling together will only try to make those about them happy, then a good time is assured. The second night on the road we arranged a little entertainment in the car and invited the ladies and gentlemen from the other cars into our ‘improvised Music Hall.’ The exercises consisted principally of recitations, with the delineation of the characters of Grace Greenwood. … The young ladies sang for us and we were all happy—for the time, at least.”

It was customary on Sundays to hold religious services in one of the cars. On a train rolling through western Wyoming in 1872, John Lester read the Episcopal service, the Reverend Mr. Murray delivered a sermon entitled “To Die Is Gain,” and a choir sang “Nearer, My God, To Thee” and the American national hymn. “Here in the very midst of the Rocky Mountain wilderness,” wrote Lester, “our thanksgivings were offered up and our music floated out upon the air, and resounded through the deep caverns, and among the towering hills.”

According to most travelers the popular pastimes were cards, conversation, and reading. “We had an abundant supply of books and newspapers. A boy frequently traversed the train with a good store of novels, mostly English, periodicals, etc. … In the evening we had our section lighted, and played a solemn game of whist, or were initiated into the mysteries of euchre, or watched the rollicking game of poker being carried on by a merry party in the opposite section.”

There may have been some “rollicking” poker games on Pullman cars, but most of them were as deadly serious as the real money-making endeavors of the players in that gilded age of the robber barons. Brakeman Harry French told of witnessing such a game one evening in the course of his duties. “The car was loaded to capacity with wealthy stockmen, and I suspect, a number of fancy women. In the cramped quarters of the men’s smoking room, a highplay poker game was in progress. Gold pieces and bills were the stakes, and they were very much in evidence. I was particularly interested in one of the players. Fine clothes, careful barbering, diamond-decked fingers marked him as a gambler.” Poker-playing professional gamblers, fresh from the declining riverboat traffic of the Mississippi River, could indeed be found on almost any transcontinental train in the 1870*5, and many a greenhorn bound west to seek his fortune lost his nest egg before reaching the end of his journey.

By the time the passengers arrived at Sherman Summit on their second day out of Omaha, they had formed into the usual little groups and cliques, and knew each other by sight if not by name. Sherman Summit, the most elevated station on the Pacific railroad (the highest in the world, according to the guidebooks), was also the halfway point between Omaha and the Union Pacific’s end of track at Ogden. If the westbound express was on schedule, the engineer would stop his panting iron horse longer than usual at the Sherman water tank in order to give the passengers a chance to stretch their legs, inhale the rarefied air, and enjoy the view before crossing Dale Creek bridge and plunging down the mountains into Laramie for a noon meal stop.

At Sherman some passengers were afflicted with nosebleed from the height, or were badly chilled by the cold wind, and were glad to leave it behind. Others found it inspiring: “Never till this moment did I realize the truthfulness of Bierstadt’s scenery of these hills. The dark, deep shadows, the glistening sides, and the snow-capped peaks, with their granite faces, the stunted growth of pine and cedar, all render the scene such as he has painted it.” And another traveler, Dr. H. Buss, whose medical skill may have been better than his poetry, preserved the memory of his visit in verse:

After lunch at Laramie, where “the people around the station are more intelligent-looking than at any place since leaving Omaha,” the train was soon across Medicine Bow River and into Carbon Station. Coal had been discovered there and was rapidly replacing wood for fuel on the Union Pacific locomotives. Westbound travelers usually crossed Wyoming’s deserts after nightfall, but even by moonlight the endless sweep of dry sagebrush and greasewood was described by various travelers as dreary, awful, lifeless. They complained of burning eyes and sore lips caused by the clouds of alkali dust swirled up into the cars, and thought Bitter Creek and Salt Wells appropriately descriptive names for stations.

About sunrise the train arrived at Green River for a breakfast stop, and for the next hundred miles everyone looked forward to the moment of crossing into Utah Territory, the land of the Mormons and their plural wives. Wahsatch was the noon dining station, and every passenger from the East who stepped down from the train peered expectantly around for Mormons, but the What Cheer Eating House looked about the same as all the others they had seen.

At Ogden, passengers awaiting connecting trains frequently had to spend many hours in a long narrow wooden building which had been erected between the tracks of the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific. In addition to ticket offices and a large dining room, sleeping rooms furnished only with curtains for doors were available upstairs. One Englishwoman considered her enforced stay there an adventure: “Except for the passing trains this is a most lonely, isolated spot, weird and still, lying in the heart of the mountains. In the evening a blinding snowstorm came on, and the wind, howling fearfully with a rushing mighty sound, shook the doors and rattled at the windows as though it wanted to come in and warm itself at our blazing wood fire.”

Upon boarding the Central Pacific at Ogden, the firstclass passengers found themselves in Silver Palace cars instead of Pullmans. Collis Huntington and his Big Four partners refused to accept George Pullman’s arrangement for the use of his sleeping cars and ordered their own constructed. The Silver Palaces were attractive with their white metallic interiors, but although they were outfitted with private sitting rooms and smoking rooms, they lacked the luxurious touches which travelers from the East had grown accustomed to in their Pullmans. Passengers complained that their berths were not as roomy or as comfortable, and some said the cars were often too cold. Eventually the Central Pacific had to give up the Silver Palaces because transcontinental passengers resented having to change from their Pullmans.

The Cosmopolitan Hotel of booming Elko, Nevada, was the first dining stop west of Ogden. Alkali dust swirled in streets filled with freight wagons drawn by long mule teams hauling supplies to miners in nearby Pine Valley. Chinese workers discharged by the railroad had established a colony here and were much in evidence around the hotel. Beyond Elko was the valley of the Humboldt and the crossing of Nevada’s barren deserts. In summer, passengers choked on dust if they left the windows open, or sweltered in heat if they closed them. After passing Winnemucca, the iron horse turned southward to the Humboldt Sink (where the river was literally swallowed up by the desert) and thereafter, instead of facing the sun, continued a southwesterly course to the Sierra.

By this time the passengers were beginning to show the effects of several days travel, “a drooping, withered, squeezed-lemon appearance,” as one observer put it. “There were the usual crumpled dresses, loose hanging and wayward curls, and ringlets, and possibly soiled hands and faces which reduces the fair sex from that state of perfect immaculateness. …” Even the self-reliant Susan Coolidge admitted that after two or three days on the Pacific railroad she began to hate herself because she could not contend with the pervasive dust which no amount of brushing or shaking could completely remove from her hair and clothing. And one of the most frequent complaints of all early travelers was the discomfort caused by “the very oppressive smoke” from locomotives which constantly drifted into the cars.

The bracing air of the Sierra, however, was a perfect restorative for the weary travelers. With two locomotives pulling the cars, the train slowly climbed the winding canyon of the Truckee River, rising eighty feet to the mile. Pine and fir replaced the dreary desert sagebrush, and then came a spectacular view of Donner Lake encircled by forested mountains. The guidebooks told the travelers all about the gruesome tragedy of the Donner Party during the winter of 1846–47. And then, as one observer wrote, “after snorting and puffing, whistling and screaming, for an hour and a quarter, our pair of Iron Horses stop in the snow-sheds at the station called ‘Summit.’ Here we have a good breakfast, well cooked and fairly served although we could not expect waiters enough to attend in a rush such as they have when the passengers, with appetites sharpened by mountain-air and a long ride, seat themselves at table, and all with one voice cry, ‘Steak! coffee! bread! trout! waiter! a napkin!’”

From the summit of the Sierra to Sacramento was 105 miles, a drop from 7,017 feet to thirty feet above sea level. According to William Humason, fifty miles of the descent was made without the aid of steam. “The conductor and brakeman ran the train with brakes on most of the way.” For some travelers the ride down the western slope of the range was terrifying, and the coasting trains made so little noise that unwary railroad workers, especially in the snowsheds, were often struck and killed. “The velocity with which the train rushed down this incline, and the suddenness with which it wheeled around the curves,” said William Rae, “produced a sensation which cannot be reproduced in words. … The axle boxes smoked with the friction, and the odour of burning wood pervaded the cars. The wheels were nearly red hot. In the darkness of the night they resembled discs of flame.”

Corresponding somewhat to the biggest drop and swing of a modern amusement park’s roller coaster was Cape Horn, nine miles below Dutch Flat. The guidebooks warned timid passengers not to look down upon the awful gorge of the American River two thousand feet below, and John Beadle said that although Cape Horn offered the finest view in the Sierra, the sight was not good for nervous people. “We’re nearing Cape Horn!” someone would always cry out, and the next moment the train would careen around a sharp curve. “We follow the track around the sides of high mountains,” said William Humason, “looking down into a canyon of awful depth, winding around for miles, until we almost meet the track we have before been over—so near that one would think we could almost throw a stone across. We have been around the head of the canyon, and have, therefore, ‘doubled Cape Horn.’”

Almost as fascinating as the scenery and the rollercoaster ride were the Sierra snowsheds built by engineer Arthur Brown. When passenger service began, these sheds—built with sharp sloping roofs against the mountainsides so that deep snowfalls and avalanches would slide right off them—covered forty miles of track between Truckee and Cape Horn. After numerous passengers complained that the walls blocked their view of the magnificent mountains, the Central Pacific responded by cutting windows at the level of those of the passenger cars. The result was a series of flickering scenes somewhat like those of an early motion picture, but even this pleasure was denied Sierra travelers during the snowy months of winter when the openings had to be closed again.

“A blarsted long depot—longest I ever saw,” was the comment of an oft-quoted anonymous Englishman as he passed through the snowsheds, and another British traveler said he had never seen “a more convenient arrangement for a long bonfire. The chimney of every engine goes fizzing through it like a squib, and the woodwork is as dry as a bone.” To prevent fires the Central Pacific kept watchmen at regular intervals inside the sheds, with water barrels and hand pumps always ready to extinguish blazes set by sparks from locomotives. There was little they could do, however, against the forest fires which sometimes swept across sections of sheds. And sturdy though the structures were, an occasional mighty avalanche would crush one of them. The train on which Lady Hardy was traveling was delayed all night by the collapse of a shed while fifty male volunteers from among the passengers went ahead to clear the tracks.

The snowsheds not only covered the main track, they also enclosed stations, switch tracks, turntables, and houses where workmen lived with their families. Children were born in this eerie, dimly lit world where without warning a huge boulder or avalanche might crash through the roof, where trains derailed with disastrous results, and at least on one occasion wild animals escaped from a wrecked circus train to terrify the inhabitants. As snowplows were improved, some sheds were removed, others were replaced with concrete, and the army of workmen declined to a handful of lookouts and track walkers.

Although passage through the Sierra was their introduction to California, most westbound travelers did not feel that they had truly reached that golden land until their iron horse brought them down into the blazing sunshine and balmy air of the Sacramento Valley and the flowers and orchards of the Queen City of the Plain. “We seem in a new world,” said one. “The transition was sudden and the transformation magical,” said another. “The sun descended in a flood of glory toward the Pacific Ocean.” In Sacramento they were still more than a hundred miles from the Pacific, and like inspired pilgrims most decided to travel on to that legendary Western sea. Until 1870 they transferred to the cars of the California Pacific, which took them to Vallejo—where again they had to change, this time to a steamboat running down the bay to San Francisco. After the Central Pacific completed its subsidiary Western Pacific to Oakland in 1870, the journey was easier, although they still made the final crossing by boat before reaching San Francisco and the Pacific shore. After a week of noise, dust, and locomotive smoke the first act of those travelers who could afford it was to register at the magnificent Palace Hotel and seek out a quiet room and a warm bath.

And what were the feelings of travelers after they had completed their first journey by rail across the American continent? Those from other countries were impressed by the grandeur of the Western land, and of course they made comparisons with their own nations, sometimes favorable, sometimes unfavorable. They found travel by train across the West less tedious because they could walk about in the cars and stand on the platforms to enjoy the passing landscapes, yet at the same time they complained of the lack of privacy. They praised the comforts of the Pullman cars, but deplored the necessity for constantly changing trains. They confessed that before the journey they had feared the rumored American defiance of rules and regulations and recklessness in regard to speed, but they were pleased to find that American railway men held human life in as high regard as it was held in their native lands.

American travelers on the other hand were more concerned with feelings of national pride. After crossing the vastness of the American West, the endless unclaimed fertile lands, the prairies and forests, the broad rivers and towering mountains, they felt that they had seen a new map unrolled, a new empire revealed, a new civilization in process of creation. In the first years after the Civil War, the salvation of the Union was still a glorious promise of destiny. “I felt patriotically proud,” wrote one traveler to California. He saw the transcontinental railroad as a force binding the Union together “by links of iron that can never be broken.” Although Americans were aware that private corporations had built this first railroad to the Pacific, they rejoiced in the belief that California was a rich prize of empire which had been won for them by those connecting links of iron. In their first flush of triumphant pride, they viewed the railroad as a cooperative venture shared by the builders and the people. The disillusionment would come later, as would their doubts in an everexpanding empire.

For Americans and foreigners alike, there was a deepening sense of wonder at this final link in the encirclement of the earth by steam power. From San Francisco they could now journey to China and Suez by steam-powered vessels, from Suez to Alexandria by rail, from Alexandria to France by water, from France to Liverpool by rail and water, from Liverpool to New York by water, and from New York to San Francisco by rail. In reaching the Western sea, the iron horse had shrunk the planet.


Transcontinental Railroad of 1869

The Pacific Railway Act of 1862 called for the laying of track by the Union Pacific (UP) and the Central Pacific (CP), the former going west from Omaha and the latter going east from Sacramento. The two roads would eventually link.

The project had more than its share of problems. The government subsidies introduced perverse incentives, all chronicled by Professor Folsom. Since the railroad companies received land and loans in proportion to the amount of track they laid, management had an incentive to lay track rapidly in order to collect as much federal aid as possible. There was much less emphasis on the quality of track laid or on following the shortest possible route than there would have been in the absence of these government handouts. To the contrary, circuitous routes meant more track laid and therefore more federal aid. Moreover, since low-interest loans were granted in higher amounts for more mountainous terrain, the railroad companies had greater incentive to lay track over less suitable land than if they had had to lay track with their own resources.

As the two tracks approached each other in Utah in 1869, more serious troubles began. Seeing the end of subsidies looming, the two lines built track parallel to each other instead of joining, and both lines applied for subsidies on the basis of the parallel track. Worse, physical destruction and even death resulted when the mainly Irish UP workers clashed with mainly Chinese CP workers. The celebrations that took place on May 10, 1869, when the two lines finally met, obscured the often shoddy workmanship that government grants had inadvertently encouraged, and it was not until several years later that all the necessary repairs and rerouting were completed. Looking back on the construction process, UP chief engineer Grenville Dodge remarked, “I never saw so much needless waste in building railroads. Our own construction department has been inefficient.”


Transcontinental Railroad

The first Transcontinental Railroad (known originally as the "Pacific Railroad" and also as the &ldquoGreat Transcontinental Railroad&rdquo and the &ldquoOverland Route&rdquo) was a continuous railroad line constructed between 1863 and 1869. It connected the existing eastern U.S. rail network at Omaha, Nebraska/Council Bluffs, Iowa with the Pacific coast on San Francisco Bay.

While Asa Whitney published his ideas on the idea of a railroad to California in 1849, others also joined the chorus. Eventually Theodore Judah, chief engineer for the Sacramento Valley Railroad, undertook a survey to find a manageable route through the Sierra Nevada mountains and presented his plan to Congress in 1856. The next stop on the timeline is July 1, 1862 when Congress passed the Pacific Railroad Act of 1862 which created the Central Pacific Railroad and the Union Pacific Railroad. In total, the rail line was built by the Central Pacific Railroad Company of California (CPRR), Union Pacific, and Western Pacific Railroad Company over public lands provided by extensive US land grants.

It opened for through traffic on May 10, 1869 when CPRR President Leland Stanford ceremonially drove the gold "Last Spike" (later dubbed the "Golden Spike") at Promontory Summit. The entire line wasn&rsquot completed until November 1869 when the Central Pacific finally connected Sacramento to the east side of San Francisco Bay and Union Pacific connected Omaha to Council Bluffs completed the Union Pacific Missouri River Bridge in 1872.

The material here is just a fraction of what is written on the topic and is only intended to get researchers started. The following materials link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to digital content are provided when available.


Transcontinental Rail Service Begun - History

Not everything the railroads brought was desirable. Railroads provided an endless supply of transient strangers, which proved great prospects for those of evil intent. Historian Ryan Roenfeld noted, "The wily skills shown on the muddy streets of Council Bluffs during the late 19th century would be the envy of the author of any Nigerian e-mail scam circulating the Internet today." Council Bluffs was a centralized location for con artists to work from it was so much easier to just stay put and let the pigeons flock to them. Better yet, the victims were generally just passing through. Before they could cause too much fuss they were on another train out of town, somewhat less financially well off than when they arrived. Where were the police during all of this? It appears as long as no locals were hassled strangers passing through were considered fair game. It was a different era with a different attitude one law enforcement officer was quoted as saying it serves the victims right "The shenanigans only succeeded because of the fundamental dishonesty of the victims wanting something for nothing."

The railroads were, and remain, as important as ever, but it doesn't take nearly as many people to keep the trains rolling. Diesels don't require the manpower that steam locomotives did they need less maintenance and a fireman isn't necessary in the cab. Much that had been done by hand became mechanized. Even the Railway Mail Service terminal became a casualty of the ZIP code and the mechanization it permitted. Though the trains kept right on rolling to and through Council Bluffs employment dipped precipitously and the city fell into economic doldrums. As business dipped local merchants couldn't afford improvements, making the downtown look outdated by the 1960s a whopping 77% of southwest Iowa retail business was going across the river to Nebraska. This triggered the aggressive urban renewal project that dramatically changed downtown.

So where does that leave us in our "what if" game? If the transcontinental railroad had started elsewhere the best guess is the metro area would be much smaller some prognosticators have speculated the Council Bluffs/Omaha population would be closer to ten thousand than the nearly one million it is today. We would likely be minus some of our tourist attractions. Seems unlikely the Union Pacific would have placed their museum in Council Bluffs had milepost zero been elsewhere. Would UP Chief Engineer Dodge have built his home in Council Bluffs if he had been working out of a different city? The "Squirrel Cage" jail came into being because the explosive growth of the city fueled by the railroads outpaced the efforts of law enforcement to keep up. Additional capacity was need quickly and economically. Certainly there wouldn't have been a Golden Spike monument, as there would have been no milepost zero along Ninth Avenue to mark.

What Council Bluffs really would have looked like without the transcontinental railroad will never be known exactly. It's not a risky assumption, however, that the metro area would be much different had that encounter between Lincoln and Dodge not taken place on the veranda of the Pacific House Hotel 160 years ago this summer.

The economy was booming Council Bluffs was the fifth largest rail center in the country— quite an impressive feat considering it was nowhere near the fifth largest in population. Then times changed.

The railroads were, and remain, as important as ever, but it doesn't take nearly as many people to keep the trains rolling. Diesels don't require the manpower that steam locomotives did they need less maintenance and a fireman isn't necessary in the cab. Much that had been done by hand became mechanized. Even the Railway Mail Service terminal became a casualty of the ZIP code and the mechanization it permitted. Though the trains kept right on rolling to and through Council Bluffs employment dipped precipitously and the city fell into economic doldrums. As business dipped local merchants couldn't afford improvements, making the downtown look outdated by the 1960s a whopping 77% of southwest Iowa retail business was going across the river to Nebraska. This triggered the aggressive urban renewal project that dramatically changed downtown.

So where does that leave us in our "what if" game? If the transcontinental railroad had started elsewhere the best guess is the metro area would be much smaller some prognosticators have speculated the Council Bluffs/Omaha population would be closer to ten thousand than the nearly one million it is today. We would likely be minus some of our tourist attractions. Seems unlikely the Union Pacific would have placed their museum in Council Bluffs had milepost zero been elsewhere. Would UP Chief Engineer Dodge have built his home in Council Bluffs if he had been working out of a different city? The "Squirrel Cage" jail came into being because the explosive growth of the city fueled by the railroads outpaced the efforts of law enforcement to keep up. Additional capacity was need quickly and economically. Certainly there wouldn't have been a Golden Spike monument, as there would have been no milepost zero along Ninth Avenue to mark.

What Council Bluffs really would have looked like without the transcontinental railroad will never be known exactly. It's not a risky assumption, however, that the metro area would be much different had that encounter between Lincoln and Dodge not taken place on the veranda of the Pacific House Hotel 160 years ago this summer.


The Chinese railroad workers who helped connect the country: Recovering an erased history

May 10, 1969, marked 100 years since the golden spike was hammered in at Promontory, Utah, signifying the completion of America’s first transcontinental railroad — a monumental engineering feat that linked together the nation's coasts.

A ceremony commemorating the anniversary drew a crowd of around 20,000. Among the attendees were Philip P. Choy, president of the San Francisco-based Chinese Historical Society of America, and Thomas W. Chinn, one of its founders.

Centennial officials had agreed to set aside five minutes of the ceremony for the society to pay homage to the Chinese workers who had helped build the railroad, but whose contributions had been largely glossed over in history. Choy, Chinn and the others gathered at Promontory that day had hoped this would be the moment when the more than 10,000 Chinese who labored for the Central Pacific Railroad finally got their due.

“Who else but Americans could drill 10 tunnels in mountains 30 feet deep in snow?” then-Transportation Secretary John A. Volpe said in his speech, according to a May 12, 1969, San Francisco Chronicle article.

“Who else but Americans could chisel through miles of solid granite? Who else but Americans could have laid 10 miles of track in 12 hours?”

Volpe’s remarks referenced some of the backbreaking and deadly work done on the Central Pacific by a labor force that was almost 90 percent Chinese, many of them migrants from China, ineligible to become U.S. naturalized citizens under federal law.

But the ceremony featured nothing more than a “passing mention of the Chinese.” The five minutes promised to the society never happened.

Choy and Chinn were incensed.

“Short of cussing at those people . I was beside myself,” Choy, who passed away in 2017, recalled during a 2013 interview.

This May, for the 150th anniversary, descendants of the Chinese railroad laborers and other advocates have been working hard to ensure history does not repeat itself. Among the events planned around the sesquicentennial is the 2019 Golden Spike Conference, organized by the Chinese Railroad Workers Descendants Association, which will feature workshops, lectures, tours and a musical by Jason Ma entitled “Gold Mountain.”

“It is the best opportunity I will have in my lifetime to have this story shared, to have it understood and appreciated by people outside our community,” said Michael Kwan, the association’s president, whose great-great grandfather worked for the Central Pacific.

AN EXPERIMENT YIELDS SUCCESS

The Central Pacific broke ground on the first transcontinental railroad Jan. 8, 1863, and built east from Sacramento. The Union Pacific Railroad pushed west from Council Bluffs, Iowa (bordering Omaha), where their rails joined existing eastern lines. Acts of Congress provided both companies with land grants and financing.

The first transcontinental railroad became a boon to the economy of a nation recovering from a civil war, shaving significant travel time across the continent from several months to about a week. Produce and natural resources were among the things that could now be moved more quickly and cheaply from coast to coast.

It also generated tremendous wealth for railroad tycoons such as Leland Stanford, a former California governor who ran under an anti-Chinese immigrant platform. Stanford also served as president of the Central Pacific and later established the university that bears his name.

To grow its workforce, the Central Pacific took out an advertisement in January 1865 seeking 5,000 railroad laborers, but only a few hundred whites responded, according to “The Chinese and the Iron Road: Building the Transcontinental Railroad,” a book scheduled for release in April and edited by Gordon H. Chang and Shelley Fisher Fishkin, co-directors of the Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project at Stanford University.

Many whites who took the jobs did so for only a time, reluctant to shoulder the demanding and hazardous work expected of them. Eventually, they headed to the Nevada silver mines for better wages and the prospect of striking it rich, Hilton Obenzinger, the project’s associate director, said.

Facing a labor shortage, the railroad may have turned to recruiting Chinese at the suggestion of Central Pacific construction contractor Charles Crocker’s brother, E.B., a California Supreme Court justice and an attorney for the company. The Chinese had earlier worked on other California railroads as well as the Central Pacific in small numbers, according to the project.

But the plan hit opposition amid anti-Chinese sentiment that stemmed from the California Gold Rush. Among those initially against it was the Central Pacific construction supervisor, James H. Strobridge.

“He didn’t think they were strong enough,” Obenzinger told NBC News in a 2017 interview.

Strobridge also worried that the whites wouldn’t labor alongside the Chinese, who he thought lacked the brainpower to perform the work as well.

Eventually, he yielded and in 1865 the Central Pacific tested out 50 Chinese laborers. They were among the 50,000 to 60,000 Chinese living in California who arrived in the early 1850s to work in mining and other sectors of the American West, according to the project. They hailed from Sacramento, San Francisco and the gold-mining towns of the Sierra Nevada.

The success of the experiment led the Central Pacific to hire additional Chinese workers, but the Chinese labor pool in California soon ran out. So the company arranged with labor contractors to bring workers directly from China, mostly from Guangdong province in the south.

At the time, it was a region enmeshed in political and social turmoil, but residents there often had contact with foreigners and were less fearful of taking long ocean voyages, making them good recruits, according to Fishkin.

“And particularly for sons who were not the first sons in the families, it often made more sense to try to seek your fortune abroad,” Fishkin added.

By the end of July 1865, boatloads of Chinese were arriving in San Francisco. Less than two years later, almost 90 percent of the Central Pacific workforce was Chinese the rest were of European-American descent, mostly Irish. At its highest point, between 10,000 and 15,000 Chinese were working on the Central Pacific, with perhaps as many as 20,000 in total over time.

The Union Pacific, by contrast, had no Chinese laborers during the construction of the first transcontinental railroad. They instead relied on Civil War veterans and East Coast immigrants, among others, according to Chang.

THE LIVES THEY LIVED

“The Chinese and the Iron Road: Building the Transcontinental Railroad” and Chang’s separate book “Ghosts of Gold Mountain: The Epic Story of the Chinese Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad,” which is scheduled to be released in May, both describe the Chinese taking on some of the most dangerous, most exhausting assignments for less pay (and worse treatment) than their Euro-American counterparts.

Often toiling in extreme weather, they cleared obstructions, moved earth, bored tunnels and built retaining walls — work done virtually all by hand. They became experts in drayage, masonry, carpentry and track laying. Sometimes they were lowered off cliffs to plant explosive charges when blasting was necessary, knowing that once the fuse was lit the difference between life and death hinged on how fast they were brought back up.

But it wasn’t just the blasting that was dangerous.

“There were occasions when avalanches buried workers in snow and they weren’t found until the snow melted the following spring,” Fishkin said.

Since records of worker deaths weren’t kept, Stanford scholars don’t know precisely how many Chinese died building the railroad. They estimate there were hundreds, possibly more than a thousand.

Though they have discovered evidence that many workers were able to read and write in Chinese, Stanford researchers have found no letters or journals from them, perhaps because they were destroyed or not preserved during the ensuing social upheaval in China.

Despite this, the Chinese Railroad Workers Project has been able to glean insight into aspects of the laborers’ lives through their research.

They know, for instance, that the Chinese boiled water for tea, which helped stave off dysentery and other waterborne illnesses. They also know the men set up camps along the worksites, didn’t imbibe too much alcohol, worked well together, and sent money back to their families in China.

They even staged a strike in June 1867 demanding pay equal to whites, shorter workdays, and better working conditions, an action that helped counter the image that the Chinese were docile and wouldn’t fight for their rights.

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News 150 years ago, Chinese railroad workers staged the era's largest labor strike

From tunneling through solid granite to laying down 10 miles of track in a day, the Chinese workers proved their mettle time and again.

Even Leland Stanford, whose anti-Chinese views were central to his gubernatorial campaign, changed his tune.

“He comes to have open respect for the abilities, the work ethic, the talents and the hard work, the industriousness of the Chinese,” Chang said.

But at times Stanford, who was later elected to the U.S. Senate, still resurrected certain anti-Chinese rhetoric when running for or in office, Chang noted.

“Stanford became one of the wealthiest men in the world because of their labor,” he said. “But there’s also lots of evidence to show that the Stanfords had an affection for many of the Chinese, especially in their employ. So it wasn’t just an exploitative relationship.”

A HISTORY ERASED, A HISTORY RECOVERED

After completing the first transcontinental railroad in 1869, Chinese laborers fanned out across the United States to work on at least 71 other rail lines, according to Fishkin.

This came amid rising anti-Chinese sentiment and violence in the U.S., as whites blamed the Chinese for squeezing them out of jobs by accepting work at lower wages.

Owing to white hostility, tens of thousands of Chinese were forced to leave the U.S. by 1882, according to “The Chinese and the Iron Road.” That same year, Congress responded by passing the Chinese Exclusion Act, the first and only major federal law to explicitly suspend immigration for a specific nationality. It wasn’t repealed until 1943.

It is the best opportunity I will have in my lifetime to have this story shared, to have it understood and appreciated by people outside our community.

Almost a quarter of a century later, in 1969, amid the backdrop of the civil rights movement, Choy and Chinn found themselves at Promontory Point, Utah, waiting for a moment that never came.

Since that day, advocates have continued working toward giving Chinese railroad laborers the recognition they deserve, in an effort to recover a period of history that connects China and the U.S.

In 2014, the U.S. Department of Labor inducted Chinese railroad workers into its Hall of Honor. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders elected to Congress in record numbers are among supporters of a House resolution to recognize the workers and their contributions. And a commemorative postage stamp in their honor has been proposed as well.

También está el Proyecto Conmemorativo de los Trabajadores de Ferrocarriles de China, que ha recaudado al menos un cuarto de millón de dólares para un monumento, y la Asociación de Descendientes de Trabajadores de Ferrocarriles de China, cuyos miembros visitan las escuelas de Utah para enseñar a los niños sobre los trabajadores chinos.

Incluso artistas, fotógrafos, periodistas y académicos de China, así como académicos de Taiwán y aquellos con el Proyecto de Trabajadores del Ferrocarril Chino de Stanford, se han sumergido en el tema.

"Queremos asegurarnos de que esto no termine el 10 de mayo", dijo Kwan, presidente de la asociación de descendientes.

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Más de la serie de NBC Asian America sobre los trabajadores ferroviarios chinos:


Ver el vídeo: Quien fue el creador del ferrocarril?


Comentarios:

  1. Coigleach

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  2. Fitz Water

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  3. Jacan

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  5. Shakar

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