|Iron Horses in the Golden State:
A Whistle-Stop Tour
Through the California Countryside
California's history is filled with visionary
pioneers, free thinkers, captains of commerce, whimsical
vagabonds, edgy entrepreneurs and legends of letters.
helped to open the West, and had huge impact on California
history and life. With the connection of the Transcontinental
Railroad in 1869, trains brought people to California
and provided a means of exporting made-in-California
products, ideas and attitudes across North America.
The rich legacy of railroading is particularly
evident in the smaller cities, towns and whistle-stops
of the California Countryside.
Train One: The Transcon
California's contribution to the Transcontinental
Railroad, the Central Pacific Railroad started in Sacramento
and headed eastward through the rugged Sierra Nevada
The Central Pacific stretched 690 miles
from Sacramento to Promontory, Utah, where it met the
Union Pacific to span the continent. The Central Pacific
was bankrolled by four of California's financial giants
- Mark Hopkins, Collis P. Huntington, Leland Stanford,
and Charles Crocker. Men drawn to the nation's western
horizon by prospects of finding mineral riches in California,
the "Big Four" instead found a gold mine in investing
in the railroad.
The majority of workers who performed
the dangerous and backbreaking labor of laying track
through California's soaring Sierra granite and into
the searing western plains were Chinese immigrant workers.
Originally considered too slight to do the work, the
Chinese made perhaps the greatest contribution toward
completing the Transcontinental Railroad.
The Transcontinental Railroad spawned
a golden era of railroad development in California.
The opportunity to link to the commercial opportunities
of a national and international distribution network
stimulated the building of railways up, down and across
the Golden State. Interests ranging from agricultural
to mining to travel invested in the dream. Today, tracking
the state's train heritage is a great way to see the
California Train History, Yesterday
are alive and well in California, with Amtrak (www.amtrak.com)
offering a comprehensive travel train network that can
transport visitors to virtually every corner of the
state. But that's just the contemporary side of the
tracks. California rail lore lives on and is very accessible
"California was brought into the Union
as a state quite literally with the 'promise of the
railroad' in the minds of those who were behind the
transition," says Paul Hammond, the California State
Railroad Museum and Foundation's director of marketing.
"When the Transcontinental Railroad became a reality,
the growth and development of modern-day California
was truly underway," Mr. Hammond adds.