Collis Potter Huntington - Vol. 1

By Cerinda W. Evans | Go to book overview

Chapter XXIV
DIFFICULTIES, NATURAL AND MAN-MADE

MR. HUNTINGTON was in New York and not present at the celebration of the beginning of construction, January 8, 1863, nor did he approve of it. "If you want to jubilate," said he to his associates, "go ahead and do it. I don't. Those mountains look too ugly and I see too much work ahead. We may fail. There are many years of hard work between the beginning and the completion of this road."

Those mountains did indeed look insurmountable by any railroad line, and were so considered by reputable engineers. The Sierras, over one hundred miles wide, reared a snowy crest 12,000 feet and more in height through which the railroad must crawl by a pass more than 7,000 feet above the Sacramento Valley. To reach this pass required an army of workmen and teams to be sheltered and fed; an incalculable amount of grading, filling, trestle building, cutting and tunneling, much of it through solid rock. A number of saw mills must be established in the mountains to produce timber and cross-ties. All the iron to be used had to be shipped around Cape Horn, one of the longest voyages for commercial purposes on the face of the earth; or across the Isthmus of Panama, necessitating two expensive transfers.

There had been years of discussion, innumerable articles and many plans made concerning a Pacific Railroad, yet neither Congress, individual states, nor syndicates of capital-

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