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THE PUBLICATION of this historical sketch of the development of Southern Pacific seems particularly appropriate at this time when the railroad's organization has added, in terms of achievement, another outstanding chapter to the history of the road. Out on line, in the yards, in the shops and offices, day and night they will continue to do the greatest job in our history." Such confidence was, indeed, well merited; for during the entire war period the Southern Pacific organization, despite serious handicaps of manpower and equipment shortages, kept unprecedented volumes of traffic moving to surpass any previous accomplishment in the company's existence.
The Pacific Railroad Act was signed by President Abraham Lincoln on July 1, 1862, and six months later, on January 8, 1863, the first shovelful of earth was turned by Central Pacific in constructing the pioneer line.
Construction began at Sacramento in 1863 following authorization by Congress in 1862.
The original unit of the transportation system that today comprises more than 15,000 miles of rail lines in this country and Mexico, was built from Sacramento 690 miles over the Sierra Nevada Mountains and across Nevada to meet the Union Pacific at Promontory, Utah, where the Last Spike was driven on May 10, 1869.
Southern Pacific is a monument to the enterprise and vision of Leland Stanford, Collis P. These Sacramento merchants, famed in later years as the "Big Four," became impressed with plans for a railroad east over the Sierra as conceived by Theodore D. Typical of the courage and daring that characterized the successful exploits of many western pioneers, the four associates launched the project, unmatched in all the story of rail transportation, without any one of them ever having been remotely connected with a construction project of greater magnitude than the erection of their own store buildings.
Against the advice of their friends and in the face of strong opposition and ridicule they threw their entire resources and personal credit into the project.
Its completion gave birth to a new era, and the expansion of its western lines is evidenced today in the far-flung properties of the Southern Pacific Company.
Pioneer of transcontinental railroads, Southern Pacific had its origin in the Central Pacific Rail Road Company of California, incorporated June 28, 1861, to build the western portion of the Pacific Railroad.
To an unknown editor in the little village of Ann Arbor, Michigan, belongs the credit for making in 1832 the first suggestion for a railroad that would span the continent from the Great Lakes to the Pacific.
At that time less than 100 miles of rail lines had been built in the United States during the three years since the first public railroad [Baltimore & Ohio RR] was operated out of Baltimore.
But his proposal was branded by many as fantastic or a vicious money-grabbing scheme.
He failed to impress men with money to invest until he got the attention of the Sacramento merchants.
After passage of the bill, Huntington wired his associates: "We have drawn the elephant, now let us see if we can harness him." In granting this aid to the Central Pacific and Union Pacific, Congress followed a federal policy already established, and one extended to several other railroads built before and after the Pacific Railroad was authorized.