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Bill Thayer

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The First Transcontinental Railroad
Central Pacific • Union Pacific
John Debo Galloway, C. E.

[image ALT: A head-and-shoulders photograph of a man in his late middle age, wearing a suit and tie; his hair is only slightly receding, and he sports a short bristly moustache extending only about half the length of his lips. His expression is stern, or maybe better, no-nonsense. It is John Debo Galloway, a 20c American railroad engineer.]

John Debo Galloway

The Author and the Book


As for the author, I'm glad for the following informative preface:

 p. ix  Preface

John Debo Galloway will ever be rated as one of the great engineers who had an important part in the development of Western America. A recital of the list of important engineering projects with which he was associated through more than half a century and the many honors bestowed upon him may not be so interesting to the readers of The First Transcontinental Railroad as is a word as to his personality and the interests which led him to write on this subject.

Mr. Galloway, the son of James and Emily (Hoover) Galloway), was born on October 13, 1869, at San Jose, California. His ancestors were residents of Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania prior to the American Revolution. His boyhood experiences, some of which were acquired at Virginia City, Nevada, when that city was the center of the great mining activity incident to the discovery and development of the famous Comstock Lode, Middle Ages deep impression upon him, as is evidenced by his Early Engineering Works Contributory to the Comstock, published by the University of Nevada. His parents died when he was quite young. At the age of eight he was taken to live with friends in Napa Valley, California. His technical education was gained, not without some financial struggles, at Rose Polytechnic Institute from which he was graduated in 1889.

After a brief period of employment in railroad work in the Pacific Northwest, Mr. Galloway returned to California and for more than fifty years maintained his headquarters in San Francisco, although his practice often took him far afield. He was an authority on the design of dams, hydroelectric works and structures generally. He took a leading part in the reconstruction of San Francisco following the great fire and earthquake of 1906. He served his country in both World Wars.

Mr. Galloway was a life member and past president of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific; a member of the Society of Military Engineers; a member of the Seismological Society of  p. x America; a member of the California Historical Society and a charter member and life member of the Commonwealth Club of California. He was also a member of San Francisco'sº noted Bohemian Club. He was elected a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers on December 6, 1905, and on October 14, 1940, he was made an Honorary Member, the highest honor which the Society can bestow on one of its members. He passed away March 10, 1943.

"J. D.," as he was affectionately known to his friends and associates, lived a rich life filled with interests far beyond his professional practice. He was a great student. Left to his own resources when quite young, one of his dominant characteristics, self reliance, early came to the fore. With this quality so soldierly developed it was very natural that he should admire it in others. This is evident in his analyses of the characters of the great builders who organized and built the first transcontinental railroad. Because of his own great engineering ability, eh had a fuller appreciation of the difficulties, which were overcome by the pioneer locators, designers, and builders than would a lay student. He had a passionate fondness for historical research, particularly when it related to the early development of the West. He derived much pleasure in retracing on the ground the scenes of early construction works. Although he had a wide knowledge of the region from his long engineering practice, his historical studies led him over all of the route of the first transcontinental railroad, some parts of it many times in the course of detailed studies. His enthusiasm and his known thoroughness and accuracy gained for him ready access to the early records of the Southern Pacific Railroad (successor to the Central Pacific Railroad) and those of the Union Pacific Railroad. It is fortunate indeed that these studies, begun as one of the author's avocations, should be made available to the general public as well as to those of us of the engineering profession.

Walter L. Huber,

Consulting Civil Engineer, San Francisco.


The Pacific Railroad


The Origin and Development of Railroads Prior to 1870


Early Projects and the Pacific Railroad Surveys


The Builders of the Central Pacific Railroad


The Central Pacific Railroad Company


Locating the Central Pacific Railroad


Constructing the Central Pacific Railroad


The Builders of the Union Pacific Railroad


The Union Pacific Railroad Company


Locating the Union Pacific Railroad


Constructing the Union Pacific Railroad




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Technical Details

Edition Used

This transcription follows the original edition, Simmons-Boardman, New York, 1950. It is in the public domain because copyright was not renewed in the appropriate year, which would have been 1977 or 1978: details here on the copyright law involved.


In addition to the frontispiece portrait of the author, above, the printed edition includes a signature after p86 of 38 photographs relating to the Central Pacific, and a signature after p182 of 34 photographs relating to the Union Pacific. I've moved all of them to places in the text that seemed suitable; the original placement is indicated in the sourcecode as well as by the URL of the image.


As almost always, I retyped the text by hand rather than scanning it — not only to minimize errors prior to proofreading, but as an opportunity for me to become intimately familiar with the work, an exercise which I heartily recommend: Qui scribit, bis legit. (Well-meaning attempts to get me to scan text, if success­ful, would merely turn me into some kind of machine: gambit declined.)

This transcription has been minutely proofread. In the table of contents above, the sections are shown on blue backgrounds, indicating that I believe the text of them to be completely errorfree. As elsewhere onsite, the header bar at the top of each chapter's webpage will remind you with the same color scheme.

The edition I followed had its share of identifiable typographical errors, and there may be some in the dates and numbers. I marked my corrections, when important (or unavoidable because inside a link), with a bullet like this;º and when trivial, with a dotted underscore like this: as elsewhere on my site, glide your cursor over the bullet or the underscored words to read the variant. Similarly, bullets before measurements provide conversions to metric, e.g., 10 miles.

A small number of odd spellings, curious turns of phrase, etc. have been marked <!‑‑ sic  in the sourcecode, just to confirm that they were checked.

Any mistakes are thus probably my own, so please drop me a line, of course: especially if you have a copy of the printed book in front of you.

Pagination and Local Links

For citation and indexing purposes, the pagination is shown in the right margin of the text at the page turns (like at the end of this line p57 ); these are also local anchors. Sticklers for total accuracy will of course find the anchor at its exact place in the sourcecode.

In addition, I've inserted a number of other local anchors: whatever links might be required to accommodate the author's own cross-references, as well as a few others for my own purposes. If in turn you have a website and would like to target a link to some specific passage of the text, please let me know: I'll be glad to insert a local anchor there as well.

My icon for the book is a slightly colorized detail of one of the illustrations in the book's Union Pacific section, showing Tunnel No. 3 and the bridge over the Weber River; for the full photograph, see Chapter 10. Only the man-made features in the image are colorized, to a version of the orange that I use on maps throughout this site to represent railroads; the landscape is as printed in the book, in which the monochrome photographs are all tinted this color and match its endpapers.

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Site updated: 5 Oct 10