Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip. That started from this tropic port aboard this tiny ship —- No wait, wrong story!
This hysterical report is on the Sacramento Valley Railroad, the “First in the West”. We’ll actually the second in the West, but we’ll save that report for another time, it involves three drunk brothers. This report will be in three parts, first the Sacramento Valley Railroad, kind of a timeline. Second the Big Wigs in charge and how they all intertwined and lastly who really built the Sacramento Valley Railroad.
Plans for the Sacramento Valley Railroad were first drawn up in 1852 and after some legislative changes in the railroad financial laws in the year of 1853, the idea of starting a railroad from Sacramento to the mining town of Negro Bar, thence to Marysville was started in earnest. The need was clearly there, with some 239,000 people in the greater area purchasing an average of 162,700 tons of product and supplies a year, a faster more reliable way of transporting goods throughout the region was required. Charles Lincoln Wilson President of the SVRR set the project in motion, first traveling to New York and recruiting 28 year old engineer Theodore Judah to layout the route. Judah himself had the overall vision of building a transcontinental railroad which earned him the nickname of “Crazy Judah” as such a notion was clearly nuts, crossing the Sierras, deserts and vast open expanses, JUST NUTS.
In 1854 a New York construction firm had agreed to build and equip the project for 1.8 million dollars, a huge amount of money for the time. Construction on “The Road”, as it was called, began February 12th 1855. Wilson resigned as president of the SVRR on Feb 10th of 1855 and was replaced by Captain Joseph Libbey Folsom an Ex Army officer and businessman who was buying land in San Francisco as well as thousands of acres along the American River, including Negro Bar and Granite City. Folsom granted SVRR right of way across his land and two blocks of his land in Granite City for the rail yard.. Construction was moving right along when Folsom croaked in mid July of 1855 and was replaced by C.K.Garrison, a businessman from San Francisco. His Vice President was none other than William Tecumsah Sherman, banker and business man, later to be known for his civil war exploits.
The little settlement of Granite City was renamed “Folsom” shortly after J.L. Folsom kicked the bucket. In July and August of 1855 the Road was being built at the rate of two city blocks a day. The project was moving along Balls to the Wall.
October of 1855 proved to be a shitstorm month for the SVRR! The company didn’t have the money to pay the contractors, so the whole kit and kabootle went into receivership. San Francisco banker J. Mora Moss was appointed as trustee and he cobbled together a deal with the investors and the contractors to continue on with the “Road”.
January of 1856 the Road reached the town of Folsom following the route that Theodore Judah had laid out. On February 22nd 1856 the Sacramento Valley Railroad officially opened for business. A big Inaugural Ball was held with lots of hoopla, dinning, dancing and excursion trains running the route from Sacramento to Folsom. The party lasted well into the morning hours, musta been some clampers involved! The route is still in use today and has been used everyday since it’s completion. It is the route that the light rail takes today from Sacramento to Folsom. Running from R street in Sacramento, along Folsom Blvd to the town of Folsom ending along Sutter Street. Judah had decided to build the first section of the Road from Sacrament to Negro Bar and when it was complete he would build the next section from Folsom to Maysville. With the completion of the first section the SVRR owners decided to make Folsom the terminus of the line. This bode well for the city of Folsom.
With Folsom set as the terminus 90 % of the materials, supplies equipment and other necessities for the mining communities in California and Nevada (in the 1860’s) flowed through Folsom, via the SVRR. SVRR built brick buildings housing machine shops, foundries, freight drops, warehouses. There were 20 Stage Coach Lines, 30 freight wagons a day left Folsom most with 8 mule teams or more heading out to mines all over the mother lode country as well as crossing the Sierras to the Silver mines of Nevada. There were Hotels, restaurants, churches, hardware stores, every manor of commerce was locating in the town of Folsom. While most mining towns died away after the gold was played out < Prairie City, Salmon Falls, Mormon Island to mention a few > Folsom continued to prosper, the community grew into a solid town.
The Big Wigs
While there are many more then I will mention here these are some of the more connected men involved one way or another with the Sacramento Valley Railroad. Listed in no particular order.
- Charles Lincoln Wilson first president of the SVRR. Wilson owned a steamship company servicing Sacramento, owned toll roads, bridges, and he started the SVRR with a few other associates (money men) He was instrumental in lobbying the legislation that eased the financial restrictions placed on building of Railways in California.
- Peter Burnett, 1st Governor of California, clerk for John Sutter and was no doubt one of the persons that Wilson was lobbying with to pass the reform on railroad financing
- Sam Brannan, well known shit disturber and hustler of the time. Ordered the first steam locomotive in California in 1849 from the Globe Locomotive works in Boston. He intended to use it to build up the lowland in San Francisco to create his own land on which he would then build warehouses, businesses, and wharfs. He named the Locomotive the “Elephant”. A common phrase at the time was “ to go see the Elephant”. His Elephant turned into a giant Elephant turd when the city leaders of San Francisco refused him the rights to use city streets to run his locomotive. Of course they were the very ones who already owned the waterfront, warehouses and wharfs. And again it was his own shit disturbing that caused his plan to fail. He has had many other failings due to the same problem. Another hysterical lesson for another time. Long story, no shorter, he sold his Locomotive to the SVRR, and Theodore Judah renamed it the CK Garrison and was the first Locomotive run in the State of California
- Theodore Judah (Crazy Judah) civil engineer, planned the Niagara River Gorge Railroad and saw it to completion. He completed the SVRR, was recruited for the Central Pacific Railroad transcontinental project and successfully laid out the route from Sacrament to Promontory Point Utah. He died in 1863 before completion of the CPRR of Malaria contracted while transiting the Panama Isthmus enroute to New York City for another meeting to recruit more investors for his transcontinental project.
- The “Big Four” Stanford, Huntington, Hopkins and Crocker they had their fingers in every pie.
- Captain Joseph Folsom, Ex army officer, Businessman, Banker, Land speculator, took over for Charles Wilson when he resigned as president of the SVRR. Folsom was sharp enough to buy thousands of acres of land along the American River just happening to coincide with the route of the SVRR. Overall probably a good guy.
- C.K. Garrison, 5th Mayor of San Francisco, Steamboat Captain on the Mississippi River, Shipping Agent, Ship Builder and Capitalist. No doubt hob knobbed with the “Big Boys” of the times. Was in charge of the SVRR when it went tits up.
- William Tecumsah Sherman “Banker” Vice President of SVRR under C.K. Garrison. Also was well known to John Sutter and helped John Sutter Jr. lay out the town of Sacramento. Later, Sherman became best known for his civil war exploits.
- J Mora Moss, San Francisco banker appointed as trustee of the SVRR after its insolvency. Later he became the 1st Vice President and 3rd President of the San Francisco Gas Company (later to be known as PG&E). He was involved with the California Telegraph Co., the Market St Railroad as well as regent of the University of California. Another well connected businessman.
On a personal note, most of these afore mentioned men came to California with little to their name, no money, no supplies, mostly just the clothes on their backs. I believe that the one thing that most of them had in common was the ability to legally steal. Some were lawyers, some had been businessmen in the East, but all ended up running in the same circles. From that stand point I’d say not much has changed today.
Who Really Built the Railroad?
I want you to look at the brother next to you, across the table from you, down the table from you.
These are the men who really built the SVRR, men just like us, men who go to work everyday, men who do the hard jobs, men who get the job done. We are the men who in the mid 1840’s would have gone to California to see the Elephant. We are Clampers and we are the embodiment of those who have gone before us. We built it all.
What Say The Brethren?
Most of these words have been stolen (plagiarized – big word for a clamper) from other sources. Most notability from Cindy L. Baker’s book “First in the West The Sacramento Valley Railroad” other sources include the internet which as everybody knows always contains the truth, or at least a part of the truth, or maybe a small part of the truth, or maybe none at all, but none the less I stole (plagiarized) it anyway.
You think I’m putting’ my name on this stolen piece of shit!! What the Hell, are you Bat Shit CRAZY!