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The railroad was a national dream.
It wanted a dreamer of action.
A man came forth who found a way
Across the Sierra Nevada.
The dream needed more to give it life,
Needed money to make it move.
Not dreamers now, but men of means
Were found in Sacramento.
The Four could start; that was all.
More was needed yet.
They sent the dreamer to the East,
To the Capitol in Washington City.
Out of the Chaos of Civil War
Came decision for the road.

Organization of the Central Pacific

While Congressmen debated in the immediate pre-war years, a handful of Californians acted. An engineer of the Sacramento Valley Railroad, Theodore D. Judah, became obsessed with the idea of a transcontinental railroad. Like Whitney before him, Judah lobbied with politicians, merchants, and financiers, both in Washington and in his home State. Making little headway, he took to the field in the summer of 1860 to locate a line through the formidable Sierra Nevada. With preliminary data indicating the feasibility of Donner Pass, Judah set out to raise money for the project. San Francisco gave him a cool reception, and he turned to Sacramento.

Here Judali infected four merchants of modest fortune with his enthusiasm. Leland Stanford, Collis P. Huntington, Mark Hopkins, and Charles Crocker were convinced that a transcontinental railroad could be built and that its builders would become rich and famous. But more immediate advantages interested them at the moment. Not only did the prospect of Federal aid appear brighter than ever in the spring of 1861, but immense profits seemed assured to the railroad that tapped the Nevada mining towns burgeoning on the eastern slope of the Sierra. On June 28, 1861, these men incorporated under State laws, the Central Pacific Railroad Company of California.

As chief engineer of the Central Pacific, Judah went again to the mountains for the summer. In October 1861 he set out once more for Washington, this time with a briefcase full of maps, profiles, and plans.


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Last Modified: Sat, Sep 28 2002 10:00:00 pm PDT

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