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August 16, 2012

Theodore Judah


Railroad Engineer

    Civil engineer Theodore Judah (1826-1863) was the son of an imigrant New England Episcopal minister who fought in the War of 1812. Theodore Judah figured out the Erie Locks and the Niagra Train Route which allowed crops from Ohil and Western New York to be moved on rail and changed the course of American history by conceiving and laying out the route of the First Transcontinental Railroad over the Sierra Nevada Mountains thus opening the West and enriching the Big Four that owned the Central Pacific Railroad.

    The first motorized train appeared in England in 1814. The first death was in 1819 when a member of parliment stepped onto the tracks to watch a train approach; the train approached at 27mph and ran over him.

    Charles Lincoln Wilson convinced Theodore Judah to come here and work on trains when the closest trains were Texas and Misouri. Intercontinantal railroad plans for Pennsylvania to the southwest and to a southern United States port in San Diego were conceived in 1834.

    Theodore Judah is one of the greatest engineers in the history of the United States. Mid-May of 1854 Theodore Judah figured out the railroad route for Sacramento to Folsom which was started in 1855 and finished in 1856; the first steam engine that came to California ran in Folsom and ran from Sacramento to Folsom in February of 1856. This engine was disassembled, loaded onto clipper ships which sailed around the Horn, brought up the river on barges and re-assembled. So, in 1856 the Sacramento Valley railroad was finished; the tracks were supposed to go to Marysville and did a few years later but not by Theodore Judah's efforts.

    Theodore Judah started working on the intercontinental railroad in 1857 but no one had figured out how to get through the Deutch Flat area, but Aaron Sargent, a member of the California senate sold him on the idea of a pass that was wide enough with timber on both sides and so they went to Washington D.C. to propose that route. Aaron Sargent became the head of the Railroad Commission and Theodore Judah became the secretary of the Railroad Commission, and, together they got the route passed by congress.

    Theodore Judah returned to California to do some ground work and then got back onto a ship to return to Washington D.C.; he contracted Yellow Fever (Malaria) while going across Panama and died four days later. So, although Theodore Judah was a brilliant man, he was just as human as the rest of us - a little mosquio put him in the ground.

Reported by,

Brother Don "Peanut Butter" Breeland, well known Historian Extraordinaire

Additional Reading: Mountainh Democrat, 31AUG12: The Sacramento Valley Railroad: The first railroad of the West, (local copy).