The problems encountered by the engineers in locating the Union Pacific Railroad were, in general, the same kind of problems as those faced by the engineers of the Central Pacific. There was, however, considerable difference in detail.
Once the terminal point on the Missouri River had been fixed near Council Bluffs by President Lincoln, the general route of the road was west toward central California. The east and west valley of the Platte River fixed the route for some 500 miles westward from Omaha. The Rocky Mountains were then encountered where the Wyoming Basin offered the best location for that part of the line. Then the basin of Great Salt Lake had to be reached, and from there on the obvious route was by way of the Humboldt River to the border of California.
There were thus a number of possible solutions to be investigated before the best location could be determined. When the forks of the Platte were reached, should the route follow the p232Emigrant Trail up the North Fork and thence by the Sweetwater River, through South Pass to Green River; or should the route take the South Fork of the Platte and by way of Lodgepole Creek or the Cache la Poudre branches, reach the divide of the Black Hills (Laramie Mountains) and there cross the Wyoming Basin to Green River? From Green River, several routes were possible across or around the Wasatch Mountains to the plains of Great Salt Lake. Should the route pass north or south of Great Salt Lake, and what line will be followed to the Humboldt? Once that stream was reached, there were no uncertainties as to where the railroad should be built. To solve these problems many surveys were required, just as the desires of several localities, such as Denver and Salt Lake City, had to be considered.
In commenting upon the location of Union Pacific Railroad, General Dodge said: "It is a singular fact that in all of these explorations (by the government) the most feasible line in a engineering and commercial point of view, the line with the least obstacles to overcome, of lowest grades and least curvature, was never explored and reported on. Private enterprise explored and developed that line along the forty-second parallel of latitude.
"This route was made by the buffalo, next used by the Indians, then by the fur traders, next by the Mormons, and then by the overland immigration to California and Oregon. It was known as the Great Platte Valley Route. On this trail, or close to it, was built the Union and Central Pacific Railroads to California, and the Oregon Short Line branch of the Union Pacific to Oregon."
The statement is essentially correct, as there were no government surveys for a railroad from Council Bluffs to Fort Bridger, a distance of •942 miles. However, surveys had been made by the government engineers westward from Fort Bridger via Salt Lake City to and along the Humboldt River as far west as Winnemucca. The Weber River, down which the railroad was finally p233built, had been selected as one of two possible crossings of the Wasatch Mountains, and the route along the Humboldt had been explored. The route along the Platte River needed no surveys, while the line across the Wyoming Basin had been explored but not surveyed by Captain Howard Stansbury, and to some extent by Frémont.
In the summary of the several routes as surveyed by the government in 1853 and 1854, Captain A. A. Humphreys stated:
"The eastern terminus of the route may be either Council Bluffs or Fort Leavenworth. It ascends the Platte and passes through the eastern chain of the Rocky Mountains (the Black Hills), either by the North Fork and its tributary, the Sweet Water, or the South Fork and a tributary called Lodge Pole Creek. By the former it enters upon a great elevated tableland in which the headwaters of the Platte and the Colorado of the West are found, by the South Pass, the ascent having been gradual from the first mountain gorge in the Black Hills, 30 miles above Fort Laramie, to the summit of the so‑called pass, a distance of nearly •300 miles, bounded generally on either side by mountains. . . . By the second route, the same difference of elevation is overcome by the Cheyenne Pass, probably in about the distance usual in Rocky Mountain passes, the route thus entering the Laramie plains, which may be considered to form the eastern part of the Great Plateau first mentioned."
In a later paragraph he adds: "The route along the South Fork of the Platte and Lodge Pole Creek, by the Cheyenne Pass and Bridger's Pass, is not so well known as the other. Lodge Pole Creek has never been continuously explored, and there is no profile of this route."
With regard to the Cheyenne pass, Captain Stansbury says his "examinations fully demonstrate the existence of a route through the Black Hills, not only practicable, but free from any obstructions involving in their removal great or unusual expenditure." He gives no estimated grades, and had no barometer or other instruments for measuring elevations.a
p234 "From the Cheyenne Pass to Fort Bridger," Stansbury continues, "the country can be crossed in many places, the choice being determined by considerations of fuel and water."
As has been stated before, the route indicated by Captain Stansbury from his exploration in 1850 was substantially that upon which the railroad was built from the head of Lodgepole Creek across the Black Hills and the Wyoming Basin to Green River. The surveys westward from Green River made by Lieutenant E. G. Beckwith, indicated the possibility of using the Weber River as a passage through the Wasatch Mountains to the plain of Great Salt Lake. It can be seen from these abstracts that the general route of the railroad from Council Bluffs to Salt Lake Valley had been outlined before the surveys of the railroad company started.
In June, 1856, Lieutenant F. T. Bryan, of the Topographical Engineers, accompanied by three topographers, a geologist, and thirty men, escorted by a company of infantry, traveled up the Kansas River and passed over to the Platte at Fort Kearney. They then followed the Platte to Lodgepole Creek. The region was explored, the Black Hills were crossed at the head of Lodgepole Creek, and the Wyoming Basin explored as far west as Bridger Pass, the party going south of Medicine Bow Butte. Returning, they passed north of that mountain, and from the Laramie Plains crossed probably by Antelope Pass, to the Cache la Poudre, and by that stream to the south fork of the Platte. A detachment explored the region from Howard Creek to Crow Creek. The Republican River was explored on the return trip. The party had been close to the future line of the Union Pacific along several hundred miles of the trip.
The selection of the general route for the railroad was comparatively simple, because the way was an open one, over a route that had been known for many years. In referring to this subject, General Dodge said:
"There never was any very great question, from an engineering point of view, where the line crossing Iowa and going west p235from the Missouri River, should be placed. The Lord had so constructed the country that any engineer who failed to take advantage of the great open road out of the Platte Valley, and then on to Salt Lake, would have not been fit to belong to the profession."
When Congress passed the first law for building the road, every populated center along the Missouri River started campaigns to have the initial point located at their town. How the point at Council Bluffs was selected was later related by General Dodge:
"I returned to Council Bluffs (1857) and continued my examinations until 1861. I remembered that in 1859, when I returned from a trip on the plains, I met Mr. Lincoln at the Pacific House. Mr. Lincoln came up from St. Joseph on a steamer to look after an interest he had bought in the Riddle tract from N. B. Judd of Chicago. He also found here and visited some old Springfield (Illinois) friends, W. H. M. Pusey, Thomas Officer and others. Mr. Lincoln sought me out, and was greatly interested in the subject of the Pacific railroad, and I gave him all the information I had, going fully and thoroughly into it. I was very decided that the Great Platte route was, from our explorations and surveys, the best, most feasible, and far superior to any of the routes explored by the Government. . . .
"In 1863, I think about June, while in command at Corinth, Miss., I received an order to report in Washington, and was informed that the President wished to see me. I had no idea what the President could wish to se me about — in fact, was a good deal puzzled at the order. When I reached Washington and called upon the President, I found that he desired to consult me upon the proper place for the initial point of the Union Pacific, and that he had not forgotten his conversation with me in 1859. . . .
"After his interview with me, in which he showed a perfect knowledge of the question, and satisfying himself as to the engineering questions that had been raised, I was satisfied that he p236would locate the terminus, at or near Council Bluffs."
Lincoln's first order was issued on November 17, 1863, in these words:
I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, do hereby fix so much of the western boundary of the State of Iowa as lies between the north and south boundaries of the United States township within which the city of Omaha is situated as the point from which the line of railroad and telegraph in that section mentioned shall be constructed."
This description was not considered definite enough by the Union Pacific Railroad Company, and on March 7, 1864, President Lincoln issued the second executive order:
I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, do, upon the application of said company, designate and establish such first-named point on the western boundary of the State of Iowa east of and opposite to the east line of section 10, in township 15, south of range 13, east of the sixth principal meridian in the Territory of Nebraska."
Formal notification was given to the United States Senate on March 8, 1864, when Lincoln explained the later change. That closed the subject.
The Union Pacific Railroad Company was organized in late 1862 and early 1863. Before completion of the organization, Durant had selected Peter A. Dey to make a complete reconnaissance from the Missouri River to Salt Lake Valley, instructions for which were contained in a letter dated September 6, 1862. He was to examine the passes between the 100th and the 112th degrees of longitude with reference to their practicability for a railroad route.
Dey's preliminary report covered the salient features of the country to Salt Lake City. The rolling prairie between Omaha and the Platte Valley could be crossed without difficulty. The Platte Valley, with its tributaries, as far as the mouth of Lodgepole Creek, was an excellent location for the road. Three possible routes through the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains p237existed, all from the South Fork of the Platte. The first was by way of Lodgepole Creek and Cheyenne Pass, the second via the Cache la Poudre and Antelope Pass into the Laramie Plains, and the third up the South Fork of the Platte to Denver and thence up Clear Creek to Berthoud Pass. Once in the Laramie Plains, the road could use Bridger Pass to reach Green River from Fort Bridger. Two routes from that point were possible, one by Kamas Prairie and the Timpanogas (Provo) River, the other by Weber River to Salt Lake Valley.
While Dey did not settle on any one route, he expressed definite objections to the one by way of Denver and Berthoud Pass, basing his opinion upon the survey made by Francis M. Case and on a report issued by John Evans, the governor of Colorado Territory. The distance from Omaha to Great Salt Lake Valley was estimated as 960 miles. A list of possible products of the country along the route, such as coal and iron, was included in the reconnaissance. The report evidently formed the basis for the surveys of the following year.
While the location of the railroad westward from Omaha to the valley of the Platte River is mentioned in some detail, the first real problem of importance was found in the Laramie Mountains, or, as they were called then, the Black Hills. These mountains are an extension northward of the main mass of the Rocky Mountains, where the elevations range from 11,000 feet up to peaks over 14,000 feet. At the region of the Colorado-Wyoming boundary the mountains break down to elevations of from 8,000 to 10,000 feet in the higher peaks. The northern limits of the range are indicated by the North Platte River, which, rising in the northern slopes of the main ranges, flows across the Wyoming Basin northward and then curving eastward and southward around the north end of the mountains, joins the South Platte to form the main river. The only stream that crosses directly through the mountains is the Laramie River.
The course of the railroad was due west, and in keeping to p238that course it was compelled to cross the range or go around it. Hence a pass to the Laramie Plains and the Wyoming Basin was of prime importance. On the east, the mountains joined the Great Plains at elevations of about 5,500 to 6,000 feet: on the west, the Laramie Plains were at elevations from 7,000 to 7,500 feet.
The summit of the Laramie Range is a tableland or peneplain formed of Pre-Cambrian granite, the width varying from one to three more miles. From a point at the headwaters of one of the tributaries of the Cache la Poudre, where the tableland joins Boulder Ridge, which is a spur of the southern mountains at an elevation of about 8,000 feet in the highest portion of the tableland, the distance from Laramie east to Cheyenne Pass is about •twenty miles. It is in this stretch of the mountains that a concentrated search for a pass was made by the surveyors. The tableland lies generally north and south, but at its southern end it curves westerly to the junction with Boulder Ridge. Northward from Boulder Ridge there is a gradual rise, with the elevation at Cheyenne Pass being about 8,600 feet. On the westerly slope numerous streams descend 1,000 feet or more into the Laramie Basin and the Laramie River. On the easterly slope a number of streams, Lodgepole and Crow creeks and their tributaries, flow easterly out onto the rolling plains. Lone Tree Creek, south of Crow Creek, flows from the summit east to a point near Cheyenne and then turns southward to a junction with the Cache la Poudre, with various tributaries such as Dale and Fish creeks draining the southern portion of the Sherman tableland.
The granite core of the Laramie Mountains is bordered on the east by the upturned strata of the Great Plains, of much older formation. In general, these strata have been eroded below the summit of the tableland, the drop from Cheyenne Pass being over 500 feet in two miles. From the base of the tableland as exposed, the plains run out in ridges between the local streams, so that the problem before the engineers was not p239so much to find the lowest pass as it was to discover the best approach to the granite tableland where the passage from the sedimentary rocks to the granite tableland would involve the smallest amount of heavy grades between the two. As a matter of fact, the lowest point was at Antelope Summit, elevation about 8,050 feet at the upper end of Dale Creek, but, as will be described later, the line up the South Platte and the Cache la Poudre was thirty-seven miles longer than the adopted line and this difference in length overcame any disadvantage that the lower pass might have had. The adopted location was up the ridge between Crow Creek and Lone Tree Creek, the ridge running directly east and west and leading without a break to the granite formation of the tableland. This location was also best for descending the western slope of the mountains into the Laramie Plains.
Crossing the main range of the southern Rocky Mountains westerly from Denver was also given consideration, but at no time did it offer a line at all comparable to those over the Black Hills. The route up the North Platte had a number of disadvantages, such as the narrow canyons through which it flowed above Fort Laramie, as well as the much longer length. That route was therefore discarded. The Laramie River, passing as it does directly through the mountains, would seem to have offered a favorable route and it was examined with care, but it was rejected because of its narrow, steep, and precipitous canyon. The choice narrowed down to the short length of the Sherman tableland at the head of Lodgepole, Crow, Lone Tree, and Dale creeks, and here the determining factor of the location was the advantageous ridge between Crow and Lodgepole creeks.
Durant, in his report to the directors of the Union Pacific, dated October 30, 1863, gave details of Dey's surveys and refers to the examinations made the previous year by General Dodge and Mr. Dey being of great value. Requests for military escorts and provisions were refused, as there was no authority for such action. A geologist, Professor J. T. Hodge, was sent with the p240parties to examine the character of the coal fields and iron deposits. As the railroad company was not yet organized, the expense of the surveys had to be borne by individuals.
The first survey to the Rocky Mountains was in charge of B. B. Brayton, civil engineer, with instructions to survey the Cheyenne Pass over the Black Hills and the Bridger Pass over the Continental Divide in the Wyoming Basin. Since the party did not reach the mountains until late in the year, the work was made exceedingly difficult, owing to heavy snow conditions. The survey from the summit of Cheyenne Pass eastward down the branch of Lodgepole Creek revealed the tortuous nature of that route where the stream descends from the mountains. Brayton was of the opinion that a route south of that over Cheyenne Pass would be better. In his report he says:
"From a point of rocks some two hundred feet above the general plane of Pass, I, with a field glass, observed a route to the south of the one I examined, which would enable us to reach the summit by a grade apparently easier. The line would leave the plains on the east side of the mountains from one to three miles south of Camp Walbach (on the Lodgepole), and reach the summit east of Willow Spring Station, fifteen miles southeast of the station on Big Laramie. From this summit west, the grade will probably not exceed fifty feet per mile. The line would be over good ground, and the distance would not be increased."
This was practically a description of the summit of the Black Hills over which the railroad was built. Brayton could not examine this suggested route because of lack of provisions and the approach of winter. In the face of driving snowstorms and heavy winds, Brayton went west and made a survey through Bridger Pass, which he found good for a line. Professor Hodge, who accompanied Brayton, found indications of coal and iron, but lack of time and presence of snow prevented him from making a complete geological survey. Brayton's report contains tables of grades over the two passes and some estimates of costs.
p241 For explorations in the Wasatch Mountains in 1863, Durant communicated with Brigham Young at Salt Lake City, who sent his son, Joseph A. Young, with a party to survey a route up the Timpanogas Canyon as far as Kamas Prairie. This line was run, and at Kamas Prairie information was obtained that there was no pass from the upper reaches of the Timpanogas across the Uintaº Mountains to the headwaters of Bear River. The Weber River also borders the prairie, and an attempt was made to run line upstream into the mountains, but the party was turned back by a severe snowstorm on November 10, 1863. As a result of the surveys, Young described two routes, one by the Timpanogas across Kamas Prairie and by way of the upper Weber River to a crossing to Bear River. The second route led up Weber Canyon from Great Salt Lake to Chalk Creek and by way of that stream over the divide to Bear River. Young gave a table of grades and advised additional surveys when the season would permit explorations in the mountains. In this work Brigham Young had cooperated willingly in the surveys, even to the extent of paying the expenses of his son's field party.
While a party under Brayton and the one under Young were busy in the autumn of 1863, Dey had been active in making surveys from Omaha westward across the fifteen miles of rolling prairie to the valley of the Platte River. Six survey lines were run, two of which were north of Omaha, the third somewhat westerly, the fourth southerly from Omaha to Papillion Creek, and thence up that stream, across a low divide through the bluffs on the east of Elkhorn River to the Platte Valley. The fifth line ran from Bellevue, a village on the bank of the Missouri about seven miles south of Omaha. It was carried up the valley of the Papillion into the Platte Valley by the same route as number four. The sixth line ran up the Platte Valley from the junction of that stream with the Missouri. It is clear that the entire region was carefully surveyed by Dey and that the information gathered enabled him to make his final location from Omaha to the Platte Valley and westward for •100 miles. p242In his 1863 report, Dey favored the fourth or "South Line," as it was called. Apparently his selection was confirmed by the company, for it was upon this line that construction was started when ground was broken on December 2, 1863.
The surveys of 1864 were devoted to a more accurate determination of the several routes through the Rocky Mountains from the eastern base to the Salt Lake Valley. Silas Seymour had been appointed consulting civil engineer for the company on January 1, 1864. Three survey parties were sent to the mountains and a locating party under Mr. Ogden Edwards was also employed.
Mr. James A. Evans started his survey at the abandoned Camp Walbach on Lodgepole Creek where it is crossed by the Cheyenne Pass. Incidentally, there is some confusion of names here. An open valley at the eastern foot of the Black Hills, extending from Crow Creek northward •some thirty miles to Chugwater Creek was known as the Cheyenne Pass because it was the route followed by the Cheyenne Indians in their annual migrations. Camp Walbach was located in this valley. The term Cheyenne is also applied to a pass from the Laramie Plains east of Laramie across the Black Hills to the headwaters of Lodgepole Creek. In 1864 there was a wagon road through this pass, and it was by this route that B. B. Brayton made his survey in the fall of 1863. This pass is the one to which the name Cheyenne is usually applied.
After crossing Cheyenne Pass to the Laramie Plains, Evans went westward across the Laramie to the North Platte River, which at that point runs northward from its source in the Medicine Bow Range. The Medicine Bow Mountains were passed on the north, with the line continuing through Bridger's Pass, thence by way of Muddy and Bitter creeks to Green River. The survey line was 270 miles long. The elevation of Cheyenne Pass was determined to be 8,656 feet and Bridger's Pass to be 7,534 feet, which is close to the correct elevations. On his trip westward, Evans noted that there were no obstacles to a line p243along the Platte and up Lodgepole Creek that would prevent the construction of a railroad. The line over Cheyenne Pass would require a switchback and maximum grades of 116 feet per mile. At the summit, a tunnel 1,500 feet long would be necessary. In his report Evans describes other features of the passes and streams, and while using the permitted maximum grades, he found nothing to prevent the building of the road. He comments upon the presence of coal and timber and notes that the emigration road by this route was increasing in importance over the longer route by the North Platte and the South Pass.
Evans also mentioned that further examination of the summit of the Black Hills should be made to the north and south, in order to determine where the best crossing should be made. Time and other circumstances did not permit his doing this. However, on his return he made some surveys on the west side of the Black Hills southward but found elevations too great at the crest of the range. He was kept away from the tributaries of Crow Creek on the eastern side nor did he extend his line far enough to the south to discover the pass that was later used. With a few men from his party, Evans went northward to the Laramie River and made a reconnaissance of that stream. He found that it passed through the Black Hills by a canyon not adapted for a railroad and rejected it as a possible route. Instructions had been sent to Evans to make reconnaissance of the South Pass route, but as the Indians were then active and as there was no provision for supplying him an escort or transportation, he returned with his party to Omaha in the fall of the year. However, he talked with Jim Bridger and learned of the difficulties of the route up the North Platte and the Sweetwater to South Pass, information that was of considerable value.
The second party of 1864 was organized under F. M. Case, who was given the problem of investigating the several passes through the southern Rocky Mountains on the upper reaches of p244the South Platte. Six passes in all were examined, two of which, the Berthoud Pass due west of Denver, and the Hoosier Pass on the South Platte, were surveyed. All the passes through the Front Range were over 10,000 feet in elevation, they were in a region of heavy snowfall, the mountains were steep, and long tunnels would be necessary for any line of railroad — all in all, no place for the Union Pacific. Case therefore devoted his time to a survey over the Cache la Poudre route and Antelope Pass into the Laramie Plains, where he connected with Evans' surveys. It is significant that Case suggested that a line could pass the Black Hills by a pass at the heads of Crow Creek or Box Elder Creek, the foot of the mountains being much higher than where Evans started his survey, and possibly furnishing a uniform grade to the summit. He referred to the report by Captain Stansbury regarding such a pass and urged a greater study of that region.
Samuel B. Reed was in charge of the third survey of 1864, which he organized at Salt Lake City with the help of Brigham Young. His first line ran from Salt Lake City northward to the mouth of Weber River Canyon, thence eastward up Weber River to Echo Creek, and up that stream across the mountains to Sulphur Creek, a tributary of Bear River. This line proved much more favorable than had been anticipated. He also made a survey eastward across the range by way of Chalk Creek to Bear River. From Bear River the surveys were extended over the intervening summit eastward via Muddy Creek and Black's Fork to Green River, where practicable connection was made with Evans' surveys. The length of line by way of Weber River and Echo Canyon from Salt Lake City to Green River was found to be 233 miles. The general conditions were more favorable to this line than to the one by way of Chalk Creek.
Eastern portal of Union Pacific Tunnel No. 3 in the Weber River Canyon not far from the city of Ogden, Utah.
Reed also ran a line down the Timpanogas River. It started from the line on Weber River, ran southward twenty-six miles up the valley of the Weber to Kamas Prairie, thence down the p245Timpanogas River to the valley of Utah Lake. The difficulties of the route are discussed in Reed's report. In addition to the instrumental surveys, Reed also made extensive explorations of the region between Green River and the Salt Lake Valley, especially the crossing of the Wasatch Mountains. He concluded that Weber River-Echo Creek line was the best, and it was along this line that the railroad was later built. Reed reached Omaha on the 18th of November, where he made his report to Durant in New York.
While the eastern terminus of the road had been fixed by President Lincoln on the Iowa side of the Missouri, near Council Bluffs, the effective starting point was at Omaha, across the Missouri River from Council Bluffs. Both of these cities are located on or near the plateau of rolling hills that rise from 100 to 200 feet or more above the river, which itself is at an elevation of 980 feet above sea level. The development of the city of Council Bluffs was largely on the level ground of the river bottom, but Omaha, where the river washes close to the bluffs, was built upon the undulating plain of the high ground.
Between the two bluffs, the flood plain of the Missouri River is about four miles wide. The present channel of the river, which is adjacent to the Iowa shore above Council Bluffs, swings across the flood plain and runs close to the Nebraska shore below the central part of Omaha. The rolling hills extend southward along the river to the valley of the Platte River, which joins the Missouri about thirteen miles south of Omaha. The hills, which are actually an elevated plain, extend westward some fifteen miles to the valley of the Platte, where the Elkhorn River is reached. A line of bluffs borders the valley, at the base of which the Elkhorn River flows southward on its way to the Platte. A railroad from Omaha to the Platte Valley must cross this elevated plain and descend to the Platte Valley. This was the first location problem to be solved, and to that end the surveys of Peter A. Dey were directed.
The rolling plain is drained by Papillion Creek, a stream p246with several branches that flow in a generally southeasterly direction, and after uniting, discharge into the Missouri. West of Omaha the stream has incised channels into the gravel and loose formation of the region to depths of more than 100 feet below the general surface. To locate the railroad directly west across the several streams was inadvisable; so the first location was bent southward to avoid the principal branches of the stream, and then use the west branch northwestward to the bluff above the Elkhorn River, through which bluff there was a low pass down to the valley of that river.
As Dey first located the line, after climbing about two and a half miles out of the terminal at Omaha on a grade of sixty-six feet per mile, it went down into and climbed out of the two branches of Papillion Creek on grades up to eighty feet per mile until the westerly branch of the creek was reached. The line then ascended the stream valley and proceeded through the bluffs to the Elkhorn River in the Platte Valley. Grades up to eighty feet per mile were used there too, such being well within the limits set by the government. It was claimed by Dey that these grades could be reduced at some later time by deepening the excavations as well as by increasing the height of the fills across the streams.
Silas Seymour, who had been appointed consulting engineer of the company on January 1, 1864, began in the fall of 1864 to question the location made by Dey, and with Williams, a government director of the company, he visited the work then in progress. In a report to the directors, dated December 21, 1864, Seymour advocated a change in location, although the work of construction had been in progress for a year. The change meant relocating the line south of Omaha along the Missouri to Mud Creek, a tributary of Papillion Creek that ran parallel to the Missouri River. Mud Creek was to be followed to a point near the junction with Papillion Creek and to proceed thence up the westerly branch of Papillion Creek to join the Dey location. It increased the length of the line by some p247thirteen miles, but the grades were reduced to forty feet per mile or less. A number of prominent railroad engineers gave their opinion that the change was to better the road and was therefore advisable.
In accordance with the Law of 1862, President Lincoln had approved the original location, and it was therefore deemed necessary to have the change of location approved by the President. It was approved by the railroad directors in January, 1865, and on May 12 of that year General Dix asked for the presidential approval and urged a speedy decision. However, the Presidentb desired the opinion of a disinterested person, whereupon Secretary of the Interior Harlan appointed Colonel J. H. Simpson, U. S. Engineer Corps, to make a full investigation. Colonel Simpson visited Omaha and Council Bluffs in July, 1865, looked over the ground with railroad and government engineers, heard the testimony of committees of citizens, and ordered surveys to be made of the new line. He was bombarded with letters from interested parties, in one of which Durant maligned Dey, stating that he had never been chief engineer of the railroad, questioned his accounts and ability, and generally disparaged him, although Dey had been in the employ of the company for several years on surveys, as well as on actual construction for nearly a year. Citizens of Omaha accused Durant of various crimes, such as desiring to move the railroad terminus to Bellevue and awarding the contract for building the road at sums far exceeding the estimated or actual cost.
Colonel Simpson made his report to the Secretary of the Interior on September 18, 1865, approving the change in location, and on September 23, President Johnson gave his approval. Durant had stopped work on the original location in December of the preceding year, thus allowing ten months to be lost in the controversy. It may seem that here was an engineering problem, but actually there were other matters of more importance involved. The company had spent about $100,000 on the original line and had tried construction with minor p248contractors, but the procedure had not proved satisfactory, as men were scarce in that remote region and the Civil War was on. It was then that the notorious Hoxie contract, for the first •100 miles, was signed, dated August 6, 1864, and accepted by the company on the 23rd of that month. Hoxie was to receive $50,000 per mile for the work. As has been described elsewhere, Hoxie was nothing more than a subterfuge for the Credit Mobilier. When the contract was seen by Chief Engineer Dey in November of 1864, at about the same time that the change of location was being agitated, he would approve neither the contract nor the change of location, and so resigned. His letter to General Dix was dated December 7, 1864; therefore his resignation was evidently based upon the Hoxie contract, as the location change was not finally adopted until ten months later.
Union Pacific Railroad,
Omaha, December 7, 1864.
I hereby tender you my resignation as chief engineer of the Union Pacific Railroad, to take effect December 30, 1864, one year from my appointment. I am induced to delay until that time that I might combine the results of surveys of the present year and present them to the company and to myself in a satisfactory manner. My reasons for this step are simply that I do not approve of the contract made with Mr. Hoxie for building the first hundred miles from Omaha west, and I do not care to have my name so connected with the railroad that I shall appear to indorse this contract.
Wishing for the road success beyond the expectation of its members, I am
Peter A. Dey.
Hon. John A. Dix.
In the same enclosure Dey sent another letter to General Dix, in which he called attention to the disastrous effects of issuing p249bonds and stock beyond the actual cost and cited the experience of the Mississippi and Missouri Railroad. He concludes his letter in the following words:
"You are doubtless uninformed how disproportionate the amount to be paid is to the work contracted for. I need not expatiate upon the sincerity of my course when you reflect upon the fact that I have resigned the best position in my profession this country has ever offered to any man."
It was another case where an honest engineer would not countenance the method of extracting undue profits in an underhand manner. From that time on, the methods of Dr. Durant became the procedure by which the Union Pacific was constructed. The struggle of Dey is reminiscent of the similar contest that Theodore Judah had with the people building the Central Pacific. One man resigned and the other died.
In defense of his project for the change in location, Silas Seymour assembled estimates of the cost of the line located by Dey with that which he advocated. Such comparisons are not of much value, but it is interesting to note that Seymour's statement of the cost of the proposed line for 30.76 miles was at the rate of $34,141 per mile. However, he did not protest the Hoxie contract at $50,000 per mile, which actually represented an even higher rate, as •some seventy miles was over the Platte Valley, where the unit costs were materially less than on that portion of the line across the tableland west of Omaha. It is not in the records that Seymour objected to the Hoxie contract, and it is certain that the government directors approved not only that contract but those of a similar nature that followed.
While the location change near Omaha might be justified on engineering grounds, the additional cost to the company was at least $400,000, which, added to the money expended on the original line that was not used, makes about half a million dollars' extra cost. It should also be noted that when the Union Pacific Railroad was rehabilitated at the turn of the century, the new route west from Omaha followed substantially the p250route selected by Dey on his first location. On the situation, General Dodge, who should know, had the following to say:
After the location of the road at Council Bluffs, the first serious question threatening Council Bluffs was the change of Mr. Dey's line from Omaha to Elkhorn, adding nine miles in distance, claiming to avoid heavy work and heavy grades. Many saw in this change, advocated by Colonel Seymour, the consulting engineer, and Mr. Durant, the vice president of the Union Pacific, an intention of utilizing Bellevue instead of the Bluffs as the real terminus of the road, and this aroused not only Omaha, but the Bluffs with all the influence of Iowa against such a result.
The main argument for adding nine miles of distance in thirteen miles of road was that it eliminated the eighty and sixty-six foot grades of the direct line. If this had been done there would have been some argument for the change, but they only eliminated the grades from the Omaha summit, which it took •three miles of sixty and sixty-six foot grades to reach, and east of the Elkhorn summit, which was an eighty foot grade, so by the change and addition of nine miles they made no reduction in the original grades or in the tonnage hauled in a train on the new line over the old line if it had been built.
The Government provided that the change should only be made if the Omaha and Elkhorn grades were eliminated, the first by a line running south from Omaha two miles in the Missouri valley and cutting through the bluffs to Muddy Creek, giving a thirty-five foot maximum grade, and the Elkhorn, by additional cutting and filling without changing the line; but this was never done. The company paid no attention to the decision, but built on the changed line, letting the grades at Omaha and Elkhorn stand, ignoring the conditions of the change, and bonds were issued upon it, although it was a direct violation of the government order.
The extensive surveys of 1865 were directed to a final determination of routes through the Rocky Mountains to Great Salt Lake. A survey was also run connecting the surveys from p251the east at the 100th meridian with those at the eastern base of the Black Hills. Seymour outlined a program of work for two parties, in which he arranged the line in two divisions, the Atlantic and the Pacific, meeting at the continental divide in the Wyoming Basin. The work was naturally placed in charge of the men who had carried on the surveys of the previous year.
Mr. James A. Evans was appointed engineer for the Atlantic Division. His work showed that a line up the Platte Valley was a good location; also that a line over the Black Hills by the general route of the Cache la Poudre branch of the South Platte and over the Antelope Pass into the Laramie Plains was feasible under the limitations imposed by the government. Evans also ran a new line from the Lodgepole, where it meets the mountains, by way of Crow Creek over a pass that Durant named Evans Pass. The survey showed that a good line could be obtained by this route. This was near to the pass that was eventually used by the railroad, but the line from the Lodgepole was changed by later surveys. Although longer than the route by Cheyenne Pass by about •twenty miles it was shorter than the one over Antelope Pass by nearly thirty-five miles. Under instructions from Evans, Case made a partial examination of the Laramie River as affording a possible route up the North Platte into the Laramie Plains. Evans also made surveys showing the possibility of connecting the line with the valley of the Republican River to the south, as a part of the plans of the company. He found the valley of the Republican narrow and crooked when compared with that of the Platte.
The work of the Pacific Division was placed in charge of Samuel B. Reed, who had conducted the surveys of the previous year. His party was organized at Salt Lake City and in general continued the surveys of 1864. He made a survey for a possible route from Black's Fork of Green River across the country to South Pass and a short distance down the Sweetwater River toward the North Fork of the Platte. Reed considered the route inadvisable on account of snow and the greater length of line p252over the more southern route. Additional surveys were made along the line of his 1864 surveys and some work was done on Weber and Echo canyons. Reed also made a complete survey of a line westward from Salt Lake City by a route south of Great Salt Lake and across the deserts of the former Lake Bonneville. The line was extended across the intervening valleys and mountains to the Humboldt River. Lack of supplies prevented the extension of the survey to the California line. Reed considered this a good line. Another problem that was also considered on instructions from Durant was a reconnaissance across the Wasatch Mountains to Green River south of the Uinta Mountains. The result of this trip was to condemn the plan of a road through the central part of the southern Rocky Mountains.
The surveys of 1865 amounted to 1,254 miles of continuous instrumental line and gave sufficient information upon which to base the main location of the railroad. The work was completed in the following year.
The surveys of 1866 brought to a close the final determination of the route of the railroad as far west as the valley of Great Salt Lake. After the resignation of Dey there was no chief engineer, as Durant took upon himself the direction of the field parties during 1865. When the Civil War ended in 1865, the officers of the Union Pacific requested General G. M. Dodge to take the position, which he did finally on May 1, 1866. In a letter to Dodge, General Sherman expressed the hope that his going on leave of absence from the army would "be the real beginning of the work" of the railroad. Dodge went to the mountains, and additional surveys were made by several parties, the results of which, along with those of preceding years, were assembled by Dodge in a comprehensive report made to Vice President Durant at Omaha, dated November 15, 1866. The report sets forth the various routes that had been investigated by reconnaissance and by instrumental surveys, all of which Dodge had examined. It closed with a definite recommendation for the location.
p253 During the progress of the surveys in the mountains, the people of Denver, then an active mining town, wanted the railroad to be built through their community. A number of passes through the Rocky Mountains had already been suggested, which led to their examination by the Union Pacific. Some of these have been mentioned. In 1866, additional surveys were made by way of Clear Creek and Berthoud Pass. Other passes were either examined or surveyed as the situation indicated, the important ones being Boulder Pass, elevation 11,700 feet; Argentine Pass, at the head of Leavenworth Creek; Quail Creek Pass; Jones Pass; Vasquez Pass; a pass at the head of Fall River; and another at the head of North Boulder Creek. All of the later passes were higher than Berthoud Pass, where the elevation was 11,304 feet above sea level (1866 measurements). A tunnel 3.1 miles in length would have been required, as well as many miles of maximum grades through a difficult mountain canyon. To these obstacles were added the troublesome country west of the Front Range through the Yampa, White, and Uinta valleys and over the Wasatch Mountains. It would also have necessitated a crossing of the Colorado River; all of which united to cause rejection of this and any other route across the mountains westward from Denver.
When the routes mentioned had been turned down, General Dodge considered the possible lines through the Black Hills.
Examination of the route by the North Platte, Sweetwater, and South Pass, including the line to Green River, had caused its rejection for many reasons, among which were the greater length, greater snowfall, and difficult construction, when compared to the southern route across the Wyoming Basin. After several reconnoissances of the Laramie River, it was finally surveyed by Evans and rejected on account of the difficult construction in a winding canyon with walls up to 1,500 feet in height. The location of the line thus narrowed down to the region between Cheyenne Pass on the north and Antelope Pass on the south. While there was a possibility of a route being p254found anywhere in a distance of •sixty miles along the eastern base of the mountains, the descent on the west was limited to a length of about ten miles between the passes named.
Because streams in that area have an excessive fall at their heads, it was necessary to seek an approach to the pass by a rising ridge between two streams. It was a problem similar to that faced by Judah when locating the Central Pacific over the Sierra Nevada, but on a smaller scale. Final surveys were made by Evans of the lines up the Cache la Poudre, up Crow Creek, by Cheyenne Pass, and also up Lone Tree and Crow Creek divide. Other surveys were made on the sloping plain leading up to Crow Creek. The Cache la Poudre route was found to be thirty-seven miles longer than by Evans Pass. In summing up the advantages of the line up Lodgepole and Crow Creeks and to the summit of the ridge between Crow and Lone Tree, Dodge emphasized the remarkable condition that the ridge led by an uninterrupted rise to the pass. He said:
"This line commences ascending the mountains in the valley of Crow Creek. . . . The divide line between Lone Tree and Crow Creek is reached with easy grades and light work. It crosses the junction of the sedimentary and granite rocks at a point where they come together at nearly the same level; and it is the only point, so far discovered, where this occurs in these mountains. At this point an elevation of 1,169 feet is reached in 18.1 miles, being the same meridian on which all other lines have to commence their ascent.
"The mountains, at this point, run out into the plains in a succession of ridges, some •twenty miles in length, while at all other points the mountains end abruptly, falling in one mile at the base from 500 to 1,500 feet.
"The line follows the ridge between Lone Tree and Crow Creeks, making the summit at Evans Pass, with an elevation of 8,242 feet above the sea."
After crossing the plains, the line led down the west side of the mountains to the Laramie plains. The problems of grading and p255bridging were simpler and of less cost than by any other route, and Dodge thought they could cross the mountains with the track in 1867.
Along with the search for a pass over the Black Hills, there was the problem of reaching Denver by a branch line. A number of routes were considered, the total length of line being one basis for reaching a conclusion. In the end a branch line from the future city of Cheyenne, 112 miles southward to Denver, proved to be the best. Dodge strongly urged the route with the branch to Denver and on November 23, 1866, it was adopted by the board of directors of the railroad. Thus ended the long investigation to obtain the best route over the greatest obstacle on the way west, the Black Hills of Wyoming. Dodge states that to achieve that goal more than twice the amount of survey work had to be done in 1866 than in any previous year.
The discovery and location of the pass over the Black Hills was a development of many years. In 1850, Captain Howard Stansbury passed that way and camped for the night. He was within two or three miles of the pass through which the railroad was built eighteen years later. It has been recorded on a preceding page how Engineer B. B. Brayton saw the pass in the distance but did not have time to examine it. From an engineering point of view it was not the pass that was most important in that particular location, but rather the long sloping ridge approach from the plains up to the summit. This was the key to the problem, and the ridge up to the pass between Crow and Lone Tree creeks was discovered by General Dodge, while still in command of the troops in the Indian campaign of 1865. He tells the story in these words:
In 1865, as I was returning from the Yellowstone country, after finishing the Indian campaigns, I took my command along the east base of the Black Hills, following up the Chug Water, and so on south, leaving my train every day and going to the summit of the Black Hills with a view of trying to discover some approach from the east that was feasible. When we got down to the crossing of the Lodge p256Pole, I knew the Indians were following us, but I left the command with a few cavalrymen and guides, with a view of following the country from the Cheyenne Pass south, leaving strict orders with the command if they saw smoke signals they were to come to us immediately. We worked south from the Cheyenne Pass and around the head of Crow Creek, when I looked down into the valley there was a band of Indians who had worked themselves in between our party and the trains. I knew it meant trouble for us; they were either after us or our stock. I therefore immediately dismounted, and giving our horses to a couple of men with instructions to keep on the west side of the ridge out of sight and gunshot as much as possible, we took the ridge between Crow Creek and Lone Tree Creek, keeping it and holding the Indians away from us, as our arms were so far-reaching that when they came too near our best shots would reach them . . .
We made signals for our cavalry, but they did not seem to see them. It was getting along in the afternoon, as we worked down this ridge, that I began to discover we were on an apparently very fine approach to the Black Hills, and one of the guides has stated that I said, "If we saved our scalps I believed we had found a railroad line over the mountains."
About four o'clock the Indians were preparing to take the ridge in our front. The cavalry now saw our signals and soon came to our rescue, and when we reached the valley I was satisfied that the ridge we had followed was one which we could climb with a maximum grade within our charter and with comparatively light work.
As soon as I took charge of the Union Pacific I immediately wired to Mr. James A. Evans, who had charge of that division and who had been working on this mountain range for nearly a year, describing this ridge to him, as I had thoroughly marked it by a lone tree on Lone Tree Creek and by a steep-cut butte on Crow Creek, and a deep depression in the ridge where the granite and sedimentary formations joined. He immediately made an examination and discovered a remarkably direct line of only a ninety-foot grade reaching from the summit to the valley of Crow Creek where Cheyenne now stands, and this summit I immediately p257named for my old commander, General Sherman. The Union Pacific is constructed over this line and it is one of the two eighty-foot grades left on the Union Pacific that they were unable to reduce during the construction of the road.
As the years went by, the decision of General Dodge to avoid the crossing of the Rocky Mountains directly west of Denver was proved correct when other railroads were built therein. Comparison of lengths in east and west directions may be made between Cheyenne and Ogden on one hand and Denver and Salt Lake City on the other, since Cheyenne and Denver are substantially on the same degree of longitude, and the same is true of Ogden and Salt Lake City. The distance from Cheyenne to Ogden by the Union Pacific as now operated is 483 miles.
In 1883, fourteen years after completion of the Union Pacific, the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad was completed to Salt Lake City. It was a narrow-gauge road, and by using 4 per cent grades it surmounted Marshall Pass at an elevation of 10,856 feet, the distance between the two cities being 719 miles. It exceeds the Union Pacific in distance by 50 per cent. This writer recalls a trip over the Rio Grande in the winter of 1885 when four locomotives were required to haul five passenger cars over the summit where the snow depth was higher than the car windows. Later, when the road was converted to standard gauge, the mountains were crossed at Tennessee Pass at an elevation of 10,240 feet. The line was lengthened to 745 miles to Salt Lake City, thus exceeding the Union Pacific by 54 per cent.
In the intervening years the Denver and Salt Lake Railroad, the "Moffat Road," was built westward from Denver, up South Boulder Creek to a crossing of the continental divide at Corona, elevation of 11,660 feet. In 1923 the Moffat Tunnel through the divide, six and two tenths miles long, was started by the railroad and completed in 1928 by a state improvement district. The tunnel reaches an elevation of 9,239 feet; and a connection p258with the Denver and Rio Grande Western, the "Dotsero Cutoff," was built at a later date. The maximum grades are 2 per cent. The cost of the tunnel was about $18,000,000. The distance to Salt Lake City by this route is 570 miles, which is eighty-seven miles longer than the Union Pacific from Cheyenne to Ogden.
These comparisons are not made to disparage the work of the able railroad engineers who have built railroads through the southern Rocky Mountains in the most difficult situations, but rather are made to show that the engineers of the Union Pacific made no mistake in locating that line through the Wyoming Basin.
When the passage of the Black Hills had been fixed at Evans' or Sherman Pass in the winter of 1866, the problem of crossing the Wyoming Basin was in front of the engineers. The eastern end at Sherman Pass became a fixed point, but the passage through the Wasatch Mountains into Salt Lake Valley was still uncertain. In 1867 and 1868 the several routes were explored at great length, and the final route narrowed down to a definite line as more information became available.
In one sense, the location across the Wyoming Basin was a difficult one to solve. While the country appears as a rolling plain bordered by mountains, it is actually cut by streams, and so the question of keeping close to a straight line was combined with the requirement of keeping the grades as light as possible. Once the Sherman Summit had been fixed, the descent into the Laramie Plains presented no difficulty and the same applied to the line northwestward around the Medicine Bow Range. From there, several alternate routes were examined, with Dodge making a long reconnaissance late in 1867 northward from Salt Lake City up Bear River, then eastward across several ranges of mountains to Green River and South Pass, thence across the basin to the lines being surveyed on the south. At that time he also had in view the possible construction of a railroad to Oregon. A survey line had been run up Bear River from its mouth at Great Salt Lake to the bend around the north end of p259the Wasatch Mountains and thence south up the river to a connection with the lines across the divide to Weber River. Similar surveys had been made by the Central Pacific.
The results of all the surveys was the location substantially where the railroad now runs. The North Platte was crossed at Fort Steele, after the line had been found through the Rattlesnake Hills by way of a small stream cardinal Mary's Creek. From the North Platte, the summit of the continental divide was reached by way of Rawlins Springs, Separation Creek, and Dodge's Pass, thus passing about •twenty miles to the north of Bridger's Pass, through which the first surveys were made. From the divide, the line passed across the southern rim of Red Desert to the headwaters of Bitter Creek and down that stream some seventy-five miles to Green River. The divide to the west was reached by way of Black's Fork and Muddy Creek Valley, thence down to Bear River, and then across the second divide into Echo Creek a tributary of Weber River. The line followed down Echo Creek and Weber River to what is now Ogden, at the edge of the Salt Lake Valley. The tracks of the railroad had reached Cheyenne in the fall of 1867, when construction work was suspended for the winter. The surveys were continued into 1868, extending across the mountains and down the Humboldt River, since it was expected that the Union Pacific would be built to the border of California. The surveys and examinations made of a possible route south of Great Salt Lake, when compared with those on a line north of the lake and across the low mountains to Humboldt Wells, had forced the Union Pacific to the conclusion reached by the Central Pacific engineers that the best route lay north of the lake. Brigham Young wanted very much to have the line pass through Salt Lake City and was greatly disappointed when the final decision was reached. At first a survey was made across Bear River Bay to the southern end of Promontory Point; and General Dodge, who was in favor of the route, said in his report of January 1, 1868:
"I may say that a careful examination convinced me that our p260true line west is north of Salt Lake and that if the Bear River arm could be crossed in •three miles distance, in shallow water, it is better to do so rather to overcome the high grades and elevation of Promontory Point, with the heavy work involved." Evidently later investigations caused Dodge to change his opinions. His statement that the width was three miles indicates that the investigations were for a line across the northern portion of Bear River Bay. The location of the Central Pacific Railroad, made a third of a century later, is across the bay directly from the extreme southern point of the Promontory Mountains, where the crossing is •eight miles in length. The plan considered by Dodge was to cross the bay and then continue around the shore of the lake at lake level. However, in making the survey the party in a sounding boat nearly drowned. The lake had risen fourteen feet since the time of Stansbury's survey in 1849‑1850, and there was no certainty that it would not go higher. The crossing of the western arm of the lake had water twice as deep as on the east arm of the lake. Even to build to Promontory Point was beyond the means of the railroad, and the line was forced to the route north and over the Promontory Ridge, where the two railroads met in 1869.
The work of the surveyors who explored the country was one of exceeding difficulty. The region was uninhabited; it was at a high elevation; and much of the Wyoming Basin was desert, where the parties suffered from winter storms, lack of good water, and the terrible alkali dusts of the plains. The work had to be done under the constant protection of companies of the regular army, as the Indian menace grew worse the further west the line went. It was especially bad from the Black Hills to Salt Lake. Two of the best chiefs of parties, Percy T. Brown and L. L. Hills, were killed by Indians and their parties dispersed. General Dodge describes their deaths in the following words:
In the spring of 1867 there was a party in the field under L. L. Hills, running a line east from the base of the Rocky p261Mountains. The first word I received of it was through the commanding officer at Camp Collins, who had served under me when I commanded the department. He informed me that a young man named J. M. Eddy had brought the party into that post, its chief having been killed in a fight with the Indians. I enquired who Eddy was and was informed that he was an axman in the party, and had served under me in the civil war. . . . The fight in which Mr. Hills, the chief, was killed occurred some six miles east of Cheyenne, and after the leader was lost young Eddy rallied the party and by force of his own character took it into Camp Collins. Of course I immediately promoted him.
In July, 1867, Mr. Percy T. Brown, whose division extended from the North Platte to Green River, was running a line across the Laramie Plains. His party was camped on Rock Creek, where they were attacked by Sioux. Brown was out on the line with most of the party, but those in camp were able to hold the Indians off; but a small party out after wood, under a promising fellow named Clark, a nephew of Thurlow Weed of New York, was killed with one of his escort, and several of the escort were wounded.
The Indians on the plains this year were very aggressive and were not satisfied with stealing. Brown, on reaching the divide of the continent found it an open prairie, extending some 150 miles northeast and southwest and •seventy miles east and west. The Rocky Mountains had from an elevation of 13,000 feet dropped to one of 7,000 feet into an open plain, and the divide of the continent is really a great basin some 500 feet lower than the general level of the country.
Brown, in reconnoitering the country, expected to find a stream leading to the waters of the Pacific, dropped into this basin and in exploring it near its southern rim he struck thirty Sioux Indians who were on the war path. He had with him eight men of his escort and he immediately took possession of an elevation in the basin, and there, from 12 o'clock until nearly dark, fought off those Indians.
Just before dark, a shot from one of the Indians hit Brown in the abdomen. He begged the men to leave him and save themselves but the soldiers refused to do so. They had to give up their horses, and as soon as the Indians p262obtained them they fled, and those eight soldiers made a litter of their carbines and through the tall sagebrush for fifteen miles they packed Brown to La Clede Stage Station, thinking to save him, but he died soon after reaching the station."
It is hardly to be wondered that the hand of the white man was turned against all Indians. The outrage described above was but one of hundreds of useless attacks on parties. The emigrants, being without escorts, suffered the most, and everyone was in constant danger from the savages.
The work of locating the railroad over the Wyoming Basin and the bordering mountains was delayed by constant friction in the company, together with the efforts of Durant to foment strife among the men in charge of the location and construction. Here again appears Colonel Silas Seymour, the so‑called consulting engineer. A man of some experience, he seems to have been a pedant who tried to apply eastern railroad practice to this new road. Apparently he followed Durant in whatever action that gentleman desired to take. Samuel B. Reed describes him in these words:
"Col. Seymour was outfitted after the following style. First the horse which he selected and paid a good round price for was, or ought to have been twin brother to old 'Knockumstiff.' On the horse he would have placed the saddle, attached to which was his carbine in its case securely strapped and buckled to be convenient in case of a sudden Indian attack; also his poncho, bed, etc., in bulk about a barrel, leaving very little room for the Colonel. When mounted he would hoist his umbrella and leisurely follow in the wake of the escort or perhaps leading them a few paces. The Pawnee made fun of him from beginning to end."
It would be of little point to mention Seymour were it not that Dr. Durant apparently used him for his own ends. Changes were made in the line that Seymour seemed to have initiated. Reed was of the opinion that "Seymour seems to be p263determined to delay the work as much as possible. The object apparently is to injure somebody's reputation. General Dodge appears to be the scapegoat."
Two of the important changes are thus described by Dodge:
Two changes were made by the contractors [the Ames trustees] in the line so as to cheapen the work, and this was at the expense of the commercial property. This was always opposed by the division engineer [Evans] who located the line, and he was supported by the chief engineer [Dodge]. The changes were always made when the chief engineer was absent. The company would agree to a change, and the work on the changes would be so far advanced that it was too late to rectify the matter when the chief engineer returned. The first change was of Mr. James A. Evans' location on the eastern slope of the Black Hills from Cheyenne to Sherman. Evans had a ninety-foot equated grade with a six degree maximum curvature. It was a very fine location and the amount of curvature was remarkably small for a mountain line. It rose ninety feet to the mile in a steady climb. Col. Silas Seymour, the consulting engineer, undertook to reduce this grade to eighty feet, but increased the curvature so much that an engine would haul more cars over Evans' ninety-foot grade than on Seymour's eighty-foot grade, but Seymour was obliged when he reached the foot of the mountains, to put in a ninety-foot grade to save work as he dropped off the foothills to the plains, and a portion of this grade remains today. When Evans took up the change in his report and compared it with his line, he made it so plain that the change was wrong that the government directors adopted it for their report.
The next change was from the Laramie River to Rattlesnake Hills, or Carbon Summit. The original line ran north of Cooper Lake, and O'Neil, who had instructions to locate on that line, changed it by order of Col. Silas Seymour, consulting engineer, to a line dropping into the valleys of Rock Creek and Medicine Bow River to save work. This increased the length of the line •twenty miles and caused the report that we were making the line crooked to gain mileage and secure $48,000 per mile of the bonded p264subsidy. The amount of grading on this line was about half that of the original line. During 1903 and 1904, in bringing the Union Pacific line down to a maximum grade of forty-seven feet to the mile, except over the Wasatch Range and the Black Hills, the company abandoned this principal change made by the consulting engineer, and built on or near my original location, saving twenty miles in the distance.
It may appear at first thought that it was strange that the contractor should desire to lengthen the line by •twenty miles, but the object is clear when it is recalled that the work was being done under Oakes Ames' contract, which at that place was being paid for by the Union Pacific Railroad Company at the rate of $96,000 per mile. By increasing the length of the line at or near that point by twenty miles, the contractor, under the Oakes Ames contract, received from the railroad company $1,920,000 additional pay for building unnecessary railroad at a smaller cost than by the shorter line located by Dodge and his engineers. The government bonds for that extra length were at the rate of $48,000 per mile, or a total of $960,000. The line was probably built for less than that amount, as the construction was relatively light, so that the change undoubtedly netted the contractor over a million dollars. The railroad had twenty miles of extra and unnecessary railroad to maintain and operate and an additional amount added to its debt. It is small wonder that Durant relied upon a consulting engineer who would countenance such a procedure. As Dodge said, when the railroad was rebuilt, in 1903 and 1904, the changed route was abandoned and the railroad rebuilt along the original location of thirty-five years before.
The changes made by Durant and Seymour in the line led to emphatic protests on the part of Dodge, as shown by his report of January 1, 1868. The matter was carried to Washington, as the Ames interests were opposed to Durant and, in general, supported Dodge. Finally, a notable delegation of army men (no less than eleven general officers) and government directors p265came to Fort Sanders. The party included Generals Grant, Sherman, William S. Harney, Phil Sheridan, Dodge, August Kautz, Frederick Dent, John Gibbon, Adam Slemmer, Joseph Potter, and Louis C. Hunt, Dr. T. C. Durant, and Colonel Silas Seymour. The whole subject of Durant's interference with the work of the chief engineer and his locating parties, together with the conduct of the work, was thrashed out. Dodge told the meeting that interference with his work had to be stopped immediately or he would resign. No engineer could work under the conditions that prevailed. The result was that General Grant ruled that Dodge was to continue as chief engineer and Durant should stop his methods of interference. As General Grant was soon to become President of the United States, Durant accepted the situation, because he needed the help of the government. From that time on, no further changes were made in the line selected by Dodge.
During the location and construction of the road, the location was subject to the review of the government directs, and late in 1868, when all important problems had been solved and the road nearly completed, O. H. Browning, Secretary of the Interior, appointed a special commission to examine and report upon the Union Pacific and other railroads that came under the laws of 1862 and 1864. After an examination, the commission made an exhaustive report, in which there is the following comment upon the location:
Taken as a whole the Union Pacific Railroad has been well p266constructed. The general route for the line is exceedingly well selected crossing the Rocky Mountain ranges at some of the most favorable passes on the continent, and possessing capabilities for easy grades and favorable alignment unsurpassed by any other railway line on similar elevated grounds."
Progress of the final location is apparent from the following data: First •100 miles, October 19, 1864; second 100 miles, June 20, 1866;from the 200th to 380th mile post, November 23, 1866; from 380th to near the 700th, from April to November 15, 1867; from that point to Ogden, May 1 to July 3, 1868. The map showing the general route from 100 miles west of Omaha to Salt Lake City was filed June 28, 1865.
During the years from 1899 to 1902, after the road had been in service for nearly a third of a century, it was almost completely rebuilt. During that period rolling stock had greatly increased in weight, and the country traversed had been so developed that revenue from traffic was upon a definite basis. Ample funds were therefore provided with which the road was largely rebuilt. Grades were reduced, sharp curves eliminated, and permanent structures built to replace temporary ones. Relocations of the line were made for short distances and elevations over summits reduced by excavating long tunnels.
Two relocations were made that corrected the obvious mistakes of Durant and Seymour. Out of Omaha across the rolling plain to Elkhorn, a new line, the Lane Cutoff, was built close to the original location made by Dey at the beginning of the work in 1864. The saving in distance was nearly nine miles. The other relocation of importance was made between Laramie and Rawlins, where, as has been mentioned, the road was rebuilt close to the location originally selected by General Dodge.
By digging an 1,800‑foot tunnel at the Sherman Summit, thirty-one miles west of Cheyenne, the elevation was reduced 236 feet, but about half a mile was added in distance. A fill of 475,000 cubic yards of material was made over Dale Creek, replacing the trestle of the old line.
p267 The other important relocation was made near the western border of Wyoming, at the Aspen Ridge dividing the drainage of Green River from that of Bear River. A section of the old line •over thirty miles long was abandoned, and a new line, 21.61 miles long, substituted, effecting a saving of 9.56 miles, together with the use of curves of longer radius and the reduction in curvature from 2,017 degrees to 646 degrees. To accomplish this, some heavy railroad work was done, which included digging a tunnel 5,900 feet long, with a 2,200‑foot cut on the east end and a half-mile cut on the west. This operation necessitated the excavation of 420,000 cubic yards of earth and solid rock.
The relocation and reconstruction of the railroad was in charge of J. B. Berry, chief engineer. With two exceptions, the ruling grade of the new line was 0.82 per cent, or 43.3 feet per mile, a material reduction from the former ruling grade of 82 to 97.7 feet per mile. One of the two exceptions was directly west of Cheyenne, the other being in Weber and Echo canyons. The length of line in Wyoming was reduced from 438.89 miles to 408.13 miles, a saving of 30.76 miles. The decrease in curvature was 7,168 degrees and in rise and fall, 632 feet.
At first it would seem that these changes were a censure to the men who made the original location. Actually, the contrary is true. Mr. Berry in his report made the following statement:
It may appear to those unfamiliar with the character of the country that the great saving in distance and the reduction of grades would stand as a criticism of the pioneer engineers who made the original location of the railroad. Such is not the case. The changes have been expensive and could be warranted only by the volume of traffic handled at the present day. Too much credit cannot be given Gen. G. M. Dodge and his assistants. They studied their task thoroughly and performed it well. Limited by law to a maximum gradient of 116 feet to the mile, not compensated for curvature, they held it down to about 90 feet per mile. Taking into consideration the existing conditions thirty-five years ago, the lack of maps of the country, hostility of p268the Indians, which made United States troops necessary for protection of surveying parties, difficult transportation, excessive cost of labor, uncertainty of probable volume ofº traffic, limited amount of money and necessity to get the road built as soon as possible, it can be said with our present knowledge of the topography of the country that the line was located with very great skill.
These conclusions of Mr. Berry only restate the opinions of the members of the engineering profession who are familiar with railroad location. From the Missouri River to the Pacific Coast, the Pacific Railroad was located with uncanny precision. The changes made in later years were of minor amount compared with the overall job of constructing the original railroad. The route selected remains today a magnificent steel pathway across the continent and justifies the faith of those who carried out the great work.
a The standard method of determining altitudes at the time: the details of the (theoretically straightforward) procedure can be found in Florian Cajori, "History of Determinations of the Heights of Mountains".
b President Johnson, since Lincoln had by then been killed.
Images with borders lead to more information.
A page or image on this site is in the public domain ONLY
Page updated: 9 Mar 13