Central Pacific Railroad Photos and Description
by Eric and Peggy Egli
Central Pacific Railroad
Eric and Peggy Egli are relatives of Pat Oakes who live in Auburn, California, about 35 miles northeat of Sacramento. Those familiar with the Central Pacific Railroad will know Auburn
as it appears in historical accounts of the construction of the transcontinental railroad. In a conversation with them about the railroad they volunteered to provide some photos of what the old rail line looks like today. Below are their pictures and descriptions. Thanks to both for providing these.
Central Pacific Railroad
China Wall and Tunnel #8 at Donner Pass. The wall was stacked from the back side by Chinese laborers working 24/7 in a snow cave. Tunnels in this area are no longer active RR track. Nowadays the track goes under Mt. Judah a mile to the south. The newer tunnels accommodate double-decked (= tall) shipping containers. Union Pacific still owns all the old track and has made a few noises about redoing the old tunnels. There’d be a big stink from RR history buffs, I am sure. Some years back when they quit using this track, they removed the old track so they wouldn’t have to pay taxes on the route. There are spots below the old track where you can see piles of old ties.
West end of Tunnel #6 by Donner Ski ranch, looking east. Halfway along the tunnel is a vertical shaft which allowed workers to excavate in 4 directions at once. There’s a ton of graffiti in the tunnels.
Here’s the top of that vertical shaft, now capped. It’s pretty close to Donner Pass on US40.
Chinese workers made 5'-6’ long, hand-bored holes for black powder blasting to create the tunnel. In this photo the trip leader fitted her hiking pole into one of the bore slots while she explained the hand-drilling method. (
A single 3/4 inch diameter hole could take two men a full day to drill. Vertical holes must have been especially difficult as they would require removal of the loose granite in the hole many times during the drilling.-Mel Oakes)
Here we’re facing east to Tunnel #8. The cement structures on each side in foreground date from when an underpass was created for the old Lincoln Highway which mostly followed the old stage route to the Comstock mines. The original auto road crossed over the tracks (seems bumpy!), which was a problem because the incline up to the RR crossing was very steep. So steep that, because of how gasoline reached the old car engines, they had to back up the road and pray no train was coming! Something like that, anyway.
Fairly near and north of the pass is a pond high atop the cliffs where to this day, catfish stocked by the Chinese RR workers still survive! Maybe that’s because we feed them when we visit?
Moving downhill to Auburn... Here’s the historical marker for Bloomer Cut. It’s along the road into a subdivision, but to see the cut requires a 1/3 mile stroll thru empty land between houses. It only took us 19 years to go find it even though it’s a mile walk from home.
"Bloomers Cut, So named because of its location on the Bloomer Ranch, it remains virtually unchanged since its original construction in 1864. The overwhelming task of construction was undertaken by the diligent, hard working efforts of a small band of Chinese laborers. Using picks, shovels and black powder, they inched their way through the conglomerate rock cemented together with rock-hard clay. At the time of its completion, Bloomers Cut was considered the eighth wonder of the world. The first Central Pacific train rolled into Auburn on May 11, 186. Erected 1991 by Native Sons of the Golden West, Thomas W. Perazzo, Grand President"
We didn’t walk along the cut because I read that it’s so narrow that if a train came through there’s not much extra room. The lack of clearance isn’t up to current Union Pacific standards, but the cut has been so stable through the years that they have no interest in changing it. This is the “downhill” track which runs somewhat close to our house, so we hear the trains and, often first, the coyotes that howl to the whistle.
Cobble cemented in clay
Another view, but from the “uphill” end.
Near the cut, we found this old river rock encased in a very hard clay shell. Maybe that’s why the cut is so stable!