The Roots of Progress

A Practical Plan for Building the Pacific Railroad

By T. D. Judah, Civil Engineer, San Francisco, January 1, 1857. Washington, D.C., Henry Polkinhorn, Printer.

This is a primary source document originally hosted at The Museum of the City of San Francisco. Their version has some formatting problems that make it hard to read, so I’ve reformatted the text. I’ve also corrected some typos and modernized spelling.

Some historical notes: In 1857 there was no transcontinental railroad in the US. The rail went only as far as the Missouri River. The Panama Canal had not yet been built. The West was like a foreign colony. To travel from New York to San Francisco took six months—whether by land, by sea, or a combination—and the journey was hazardous.

Everyone wanted the railroad. But the tension between North and South was still strong, and they could not agree on where it should be built. Everyone wanted the railroad to run through their country and service their cities. Neither side wanted the other one to have the railroad. So Congressional support for the project was gridlocked. This is why Judah was convinced that the only feasible plan was to build the railroad entirely with private capital.

Europe was still the center of banking at the time. If the money for a project this big were raised from bankers, it would most likely be in London, not New York. Thus the reference to “loans to be negotiated in Europe”, and why Judah wanted instead to essentially crowdfund the railroad.

At the time, equity was often sold on a “subscription” basis. The money for the shares of stock was not paid all at once, but a certain percent was made as a down payment, and then installments were paid on a regular schedule, or when called for. (Today, this method has been replaced by the mechanism of raising multiple rounds of capital: Series A, B, C, etc.) This explains the reference to “subscriptions requiring at least ten per cent down at time of subscribing.”

A few years later, the Civil War began. With the Southern states seceded, the North voted to support a railroad with land grants and bonds. Judah, who had been the biggest promoter of the railroad, tragically died in the early years of the project. Traveling from the West Coast to New York, he had caught yellow fever in Panama—which he had traveled through because the railroad was not yet built.

Multiply all dollar figures by about 30 to get 2020 dollars.


The project for construction of a great Railroad through the United States of America, connecting the Atlantic with the Pacific ocean, has been in agitation for over fifteen years.

It is the most magnificent project ever conceived.

It is an enterprise more important in its bearings and results to the people of the United States, than any other project involving an expenditure of an equal amount of capital.

It connects these two great oceans.

It is an indissoluble bond of union between the populous States of the East, and the undeveloped regions of the fruitful West.

It is a highway which leads to peace and future prosperity. An iron bond for the perpetuation of the Union and independence which we now enjoy.

Many projects for the prosecution of this enterprise have been presented.

Various schemes for the fulfillment of these projects have been devised.

Our wisest statesmen, most experienced politicians, scientific engineers, and shrewdest speculators, have each and all discussed the subject in nearly every point of view, and given the results of their wisdom and experience to the world.


Their projects have proved abortive.
Their schemes have failed.

The world has listened with attentive ears to the words of eloquence and wisdom, from the lips of great and wise men.


This project has not been consummated.
The road has not been finished.
Its practicability has not been established.
A survey has not been made.
It has simply been made the subject of reconnaissance.


During the first twenty-five years, twenty-five thousand miles of Railroad has been constructed in the United States, and a thousand million of dollars expended thereon.

This road is but two thousand miles in length, and its cost not over, say $150,000,000.

As many as eight or ten great avenues of transit between the present East and West (three of which, in the State of New York alone, cost one hundred million of dollars) have been constructed.

This highway, the greatest and most important of them all, remains unbuilt, it may be said unsurveyed, simply reconnoitered.

Why is this?

Its popularity is universal.
Its importance admitted.
Its practicability believed in.
Its profitableness unquestioned.

1st. It is because these projects have been speculative in their nature; and the people are disposed to look with distrust upon grand speculations.

2ndly. There are different routes, advocated by diverse interest, each eager that the road be built to subserve its own particular interest, but unwilling to make common cause upon a common route.

3dly. From the lack of confidence in private capitalists, dissuading them from investing in any project, through which they cannot see their way clear.

This plan assumes to obviate these objections; and,

1st. To build the Pacific Railroad.
2ndly. To accomplish the same in ten years.
3dly. To raise the capital therefore.

And suggests practical means for the accomplishment of its object by means of private capital.

It assumes that, without confidence of the people, the road cannot be built.


It proposes to divest the project of its speculative features, and thereby endeavor to inspire the public with confidence.

To do this, therefore, its direction and destiny must not be controlled by a grand stock jobbing company, whose united aggregate wealth will not pay one per cent upon their magnificent subscriptions.

2ndly. To divest it of the difficulties consequent upon sectional prejudices.

It is proposed to ask aid of no kind whatsoever from the General or any State Government, but to combine the interest of either the Northern or Southern States, upon their favorite route; to ask for private capital, and confine the sphere of action entirely to one or the other of these sections.

This insures unity of action.

The experience of all legislation in this country, upon a subject of general interest, but arousing sectional prejudices, shows conclusively that the fate of a project of this nature, dependent upon the general will, is most likely to provide an unhappy one.

No one doubts that a liberal appropriation of money or of public lands by the General Government, ought to insure the construction of this Railroad, but the proposition carries the elements of its destruction with it; it is the house divided against itself; it cannot be done until the route is defined; and, if defined, the opposing interest is powerful enough to defeat it.

Nor does the project for three independent routes, with grants of land for each, divest its project of its objections.

There is, at present, no necessity for three roads. The traveling public will be very well content with one; the time may come when three roads may be required, but it is at present as impossible to raise, as unnecessary to spend four hundred million of dollars to accomplish the same result which can be obtained with one hundred and fifty millions of dollars. The advocates of any do not believe that more than one road will be built—afraid, therefore, to give all a fair opportunity, lest their neighbor might get the advantage; they will probably manage to do as they have done before, defeat the measure.

The same policy is observable on a minor scale, in the action of State governments—as, for instance, in the State of California an appropriation is badly needed for a survey of a wagon road across the Sierra Nevada mountains, but there are here also three routes, the Northern, Middle, and Southern; and each believing its route the best, insists upon the survey being made, and appropriation spent, upon their route—unable to accomplish this, they defeat the whole.

We are therefore brought to a consideration of the 3d objection, viz: The want of confidence—dissuading capitalists from investing in a new project, through which they cannot see their way clear.

We assume, that this road must be built with private capital.

That private capital can be had with which to build Railroads, and sometimes even unprofitable ones, will not be denied; for it has built us twenty-five thousand miles within the last twenty-five years, costing one thousand millions of dollars, and to many of them the name of dividend is unknown. This at once suggests the interrogatory of—from whence came this capital? and what means were employed for its development? The answer.

It is private capital, and it was confidence, (perhaps in many instances misplaced) but it was confidence which developed this capital.

This, then, is the solution of the enigma.

Why is it, if this vast amount has been raised to build our Railroads, that the same course cannot be adopted to procure the money for construction of the Pacific Railroad?

Simply because, as yet, no survey has been made upon which capitalists can base their calculations, they do not know that a line is wholly practicable upon any route.

When a Boston capitalist is invited to invest in a Railroad project, it is not considered sufficient to tell him that somebody has rode over the ground on horseback and pronounced it practicable. He does not care to be informed that there are 999 different variety and species of plants and herbs, or that grass is abundant at this point, or Buffalo scarce at that; that the latitude or longitude of various points are calculated, to a surprising degree of accuracy, and the temperatures of the atmosphere carefully noted for each day in the year.

His inquiries are somewhat more to the point. He wishes to know the length of your road. He says, let me see your map and profile, that I may judge of it alignment and grades.

How many cubic yards of the various kinds of excavation and embankment have you, and upon what sections?
Have you any tunnels, and what are their circumstances?
How much masonry, and where are your stone?
How many bridges, river crossings, culverts, and what kind of foundations?
How about timber and fuel?
Where is the estimate of the cost of your road, and let me see its details?
What will be its effect upon travel and trade? What its business and revenue?

All this I require to know, in order to judge if my investment is likely to prove a profitable one.

It will be remembered that we start with these grounds assumed, viz: That the Pacific Railroad must be built with private capital.

This can only be had by inspiring the capitalist with confidence.

The only manner in which this can be accomplished, is by laying before him the results of an actual reliable survey; such an one as he can understand, and upon which he feels justified in forming his opinions.

He must see a map and profile, must know the grades and curves, the depths and quantity of excavation and embankment; he must see for himself the obstacles to be encountered, and the difficulties to be surmounted.

He does not wish to expend his money on a portion of the road, and afterwards find a portion of it impracticable, or which presents difficulties which will swallow up a like investment; he must know beforehand what the road will cost, what its probable business, what the cost of operating it, and what the probable returns for his money; in short, he must see his way clear.

When the friends of the Pacific Railroad can approach a capitalist and answer all these questions, they may begin to hope for a realization of their wishes.

This, then, involves a survey, a practical Railroad survey; and before the success of the enterprise can be established, both time and money must be expended in a survey.

Some will say, how is it possible that a survey must be made, when Government has had half a dozen routes surveyed, and has spent so much money and time upon them?

This is the answer. It is because Government has spent so much money and time upon so many routes, that we have as yet no proper survey of any one of them.

If Government had concentrated her engineer parties, and spent her money in making a thorough survey of some one route, in a practical Railroad fashion, we should now have some reliable data wherewith to answer these questions—but the dog in the manger policy required that the appropriation should not be spent upon any one route, but distributed over half a dozen; the results of which is an abundance of general information, vastly interesting, and of little use; but a dearth of that kind of practical knowledge, which capitalists require to induce them to invest in Railroads. No disrespect is intended, or fault to be found with Government engineers, who are generally highly scientific as well as estimable gentlemen, and who obey orders to the letter.

If directed to ascertain distances by latitude and longitude, or with a rodometer instead of a goneometer, they do so; or, if directed to ascertain the altitudes with a barometer instead of a leveling instrument, they do so. If ordered to survey two thousand miles at the rate of twenty miles per day, they obey orders and ask no questions; but it is no less true that the former means give only general and interesting, while the latter gives useful and practical, results. The one tells us that the route abounds in obstacles and difficulties, or is inexpensive and easy of construction; while the latter determines what these obstacles and difficulties are, or how easy and inexpensive the character of the route is.

For the information of those unacquainted with the manner of conducting a railroad survey, a brief description of the modus operandi is given.

The engineer in charge of survey goes over the country upon which it is proposed to construct a line, and carefully examines the ground with reference to the proposed location. He notes its character, examines the water-courses, ravines, the elevations to be overcome, the undulation of ground, the most feasible points for crossing rivers, the character of the soil, and decides upon the general course of the line. This done, he organizes a party, composed of what is usually termed a transit and a leveling party.

The business of the transit party is to run a line over the route indicated, measuring distances with a chain, and taking courses or direction of the line by compass or goneometer, leaving stakes behind every one hundred feet, or as often as requisite, as guides for the leveling party. The results are put on paper, and gives a map or correct miniature representation of the line, as run, showing its curves and tangents, the crossing of all roads, rivers and streams, farms, township and county lines, name of land owners, and all points of interest along the line.

The leveling party follows the transit party, and runs, with the utmost accuracy, a line of levels, touching upon each of these stakes, taking observations of the undulations of the ground, sections of the river crossings, high and low water marks, &c., &c. These plotted give what is called a profile, or vertical representation of the surface of the ground and its undulations.

With these the engineer has a correct representation of the direction and distance, as well as a profile with the rise and fall of the ground.

Grades are now laid up the profile as to conform with the surface of the country, making the excavations and embankments balance each other as nearly as possible, so that when done the length and height of each excavation and embankment are given in figures. The line is then divided off into sections of about a mile each, and the quantities of excavation and embankment calculated on each section. If an extensive cut occurs he knows exactly how many cubic yards of earth is to be taken from it; and knowing the cost of excavating and hauling the same, it is readily reduced to dollars and cents.

Calculations are also made of the quantities of masonry and timber necessary to build the bridges, culverts, &c., on the line, so that, supposing the survey complete, the engineer is in possession of all the information requisite to estimate the cost of [the] road, which is reduced to practical results.

He knows the length of road, or straight line, the length, number and radius of its curves, the distance across each man’s farm, the names of land owners, the grades, quantities of excavation and embankment, and haul of same, the number and length of all bridges and culverts, the quantities of masonry and timber, so that he can tell you the quantity of material and cost of each section, in detail, or of the whole road, in dollars and cents. Adding to this the known cost of iron, ties, buildings, equipment, &c., and he is able to present the cost of such road, deduced from facts and figures, and not from fancy or speculation, and upon such estimates the capitalist bases his calculations for raising money to construct the road; with this he has something tangible and reliable. This is what we want for the Pacific Railroad, and until this is done nothing is done.

This plan proposes such a survey, such an estimate, and such a report. With it any company can, in their office, refer to any section or particular point upon the line, and tell its grades, curves, quantities, characteristics, facilities, and cost.

If they wish to examine a river-crossing, here is a profile of its bed, the character of material for foundations, high and low water mark, the number and heights of its piers and abutments—in short, they know all that is necessary to know in order to determine the character and cost of the structure to be erected.

Who can doubt that with all this information, obtained in a practicable manner, everything deduced from actual calculation, and reduced to dollars and cents, that capitalists can be found who will invest in such a project, providing it can be satisfactorily shown that it will prove remunerative.

It will no doubt be urged, that such a survey will consume three or four years, and cost a half a million of dollars. Suppose it does; if this is the right way to go to work is it not best to consume the time and spent the money. But it can, on the contrary, be clearly shown that a survey of this description can be made in one year, and at a cost of $200,000. We will assume that $200,000 has been raised for this purpose.

Instead of appointing a Board of Engineers to control the matter, or applying to Government for one of their Engineers; instead of wasting time and money on useless discussions as to the routes or directions of the survey, or the manner in which it shall be done, let the Company look about for a practical Railroad Engineer, who has distinguished himself for the celerity of his movements and the accuracy of his work as Locating Engineer, or invest him with the entire charge of the enterprise, with directions to complete his survey in the shortest space of time consistent with accuracy, and present the results of his labors in the most practical manner—embodying as much general information as his time will allow.

The general course of the line may be determined, but liberty given to him to deviate from the same if, in his judgment, it is desirable.

We will suppose, for example, that a northern party has undertaken the survey; that such an Engineer is found, and has received these instructions, with directions to commence at or near Fort Kearney, run a line westward up the south branch of the Great Platte River, taking in the Salt Lake settlement, if possible, and, by the most eligible route, to the Sacramento valley, in California.

Assuming these responsibilities, we will suppose that the Engineer resolve the plan of operations in his mind. The probable distance 2,000 miles. He knows that about two-thirds of this will be over level, open country, offering no obstacles, and that an ordinary party, on preliminary survey, will make three miles per day without difficulty, and that one mile per day can be made in difficult country. He will proceed to organize his party, as follows:

The Road to be apportioned into four divisions, of about 500 miles each, and a Resident Engineer, to be invested with the charge of the surveys on each division, to be given the control and direction of the following party, and made responsible for the faithful performance of their duties:

His party to consist of

Transit party for running Lines - Salary per mo.

1 Principal Assistant $250
1 Transit man $150
2 Chainmen, each $50 $100
2 Axemen, each $40 $80
2 Flagmen, each $35 $70
1 Stakeman $35

Party for taking Trigonometrical Observations of points along the line tracing up streams, rivers, &c.

1 Transit man $100
2 Tape men, each $40 $80

For sketching Topography.

1 Topographer $100
1 Draughtsman $100

For running Levels.

1 Leveller $100
2 Rodmen, each $50 $100
1 Axeman $35

For running test Levels.

1 Leveller $80
1 Rodman $45
1 Axeman $35


2 Hunters, each $40 $80
2 Teamsters, each $50 $100
2 Wagons and Horses
1 Steward or Commissary $75
1 Cook $50

We will assume that the average cost of provisioning these men will be $1.50 per day or $1,350 per month, and we have a total of $3,150 per month. We have, then—

1 Chief Engineer, 1 year, at $10,000 $10,000
1 Asst. Engineer, at St. Louis, at $3,000 $3,000
1 Asst. Engineer, at San Francisco, at $5,000 $5,000
1 Draughtsman at each place, at $2,400 $4,800
1 Asst. Draughtsman at each place at $1,500 $3,000
4 Parties’ salaries, at $20,000 per year $80,000
4 Parties’ subsistence, at $16,250 $65,000
  Instruments $5,000
  Stationery and office expenses $3,000
20 Horses, at $100 $2,000
8 Wagons, at $200 $1,600
  Tents, camp equipage, &c. $5,000
  Travelling expenses, incidental, &c. $13,000

Or a total of $200,000 gives four efficient, practical Railroad parties, for twelve months; an average of 4500 miles per each party and counting but two hundred and fifty working days, making an average of only two miles per day for them to accomplish.

The distance to be surveyed will not probably exceed 1,800 miles. That portion through the Sacramento Valley will probably be surveyed by parties there; and the portion each of Fort Kearney, by the Railroad Companies in Missouri and Iowa.

The first 600 or 700 miles will present no difficulties, and a good party ought to make five miles per day over such a country. At this rate they would complete their labors in four months, and would proceed on to the assistance of the parties upon the other divisions, where the survey was more difficult. Two of these parties are sent to Salt Lake, or to a point about mid way of the line, one from Missouri and the other from California, in order that each may go over the ground of its operations, taking such notes and observations of the features of the country as their time will allow.

Upon meeting at the appointed centre of operations, they will organize, with proper field discipline, and proceed to make their surveys in opposite directions.

The other parties will start—one from Fort Kearney, or some point in the State of Missouri; the other, from the Western slope of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

The minutia or details for surveying cannot be given here; but we will assume that a general letter of instruction is forwarded to each Resident Engineer, somewhat as follows:

To the Resident Engineer of 1st Division Pacific Railroad Survey:

Sir: You are hereby invested with the charge of the 1st division of Pacific Railroad Survey, extending from Fort Kearney westward 600 miles, and for that purpose are provided with a party, complete in all its equipments and details, sufficient to make the survey in, say six months’ time.

You will run your lines with a Transit Instrument or Goneometer, taking angles by vernier, but each tangent is to be checked by compass. In this survey it is not necessary that any time be spent in endeavoring to get long, straight lines. You will change the direction of your lines, as may be necessary, in order to find the best ground. Believing that, with the instrument furnished you, sights of 1,000 feet can be taken, and it being difficult to procure or carry a sufficient number of stakes without impeding your progress, you had best leave a permanent mark, by stake and peg only at 1,000 feet intervals; but the intermediate distance is to be chained over, and temporary points given as often as the undulations of the ground may require for the Levellers.

You will observe that party is furnished you for taking trigonometrical observations and gathering important information upon either side of the line. They can be used in tracing up the courses, or rise and fall, of streams, rivers, water courses, &c., examining other ground in the vicinity of the line, running out cross sections, examining the nature of soil, and procuring information with regard to timber, stone, water, grass, &c.

A topographer is also furnished, whose business will be to sketch topography, taking notes of every feature presenting itself in order to insure a full and accurate delineation of the line.

The leveling party is sufficiently strong to enable them to keep up with the transit party, and it is considered of great importance that this should be done. Instruct them to leave benches at intervals of not less than one mile along the whole route, and particularly to note the lines of high water in the various river, water-courses, &c., which they cross or run in proximity of. They will be careful, in the crossing of all rivers, to take such levels as will give the exact cross sections of the same at point of crossing, the level of the present water, its depth at frequent intervals, its velocity, the character of its foundations, and the soil upon either side.

You will observe that another leveling party is provided for the purpose of running a test-level. The consequences of an error in reading lights or making up notes on so long a line of surveys would be so annoying that this test-level party has been provided for the simple purpose of insuring accuracy in the levels. You will issue orders that the notes of the leveling party be made up either in the field or at night each day, and compared with the test-levels, and that any discrepancies or errors discovered by immediately rectified.

Let all field-notes be taken in the fullest and plainest manner, perfectly systematized, with each book numbered, labeled and paged, and a table of contents made out, so that any person can refer to the same for any information contained therein, and find it without trouble.

The business of the draughtsman will be to plot up the work of each day as it progresses, putting on all the notes taken by topographic and trignometrical parties; and you will have an exact copy of all this work made to be forwarded to the St. Louis office, as hereinafter mentioned.

Once in each month you will forward, by express, to the office at St. Louis, copies of your maps, profiles, and a journal of your proceedings, with all information of every kind and nature which you have gained, with such suggestions and advice as you may have to offer.

Upon arriving at the end of your division you will probably be required to proceed to the assistance of the Resident Engineer on division No. 2. You will find detailed orders awaiting you there.

The information thus obtained is collated at the offices at San Francisco and St. Louis, grades put on the profiles, calculations of quantities and plans of structures made, a report, embodying all the information written, and the results of the first and only practical, reliable survey of the Pacific railroad ever made presented to the public.

Whether or not this is worth $200,000 let the public judge.

This being done we come to the consideration of another important part of the subject, that is, raising the capital necessary to build this road.

It will be remembered that there have been built in the United States 25,000 miles of railroad, costing $1,000,000,000 (one thousand millions of dollars). The fact is therefore apparent, that the money can not only be had with which to construct railroads but that nearly ten times as much as been raised within the last twenty years for this purpose.

It is believed that the subject of the Pacific Railroad is pretty well understood throughout the United States, and it is deservedly popular. If true that it is popular, let us try its popularity in dollars and cents—let us see how much its popularity is worth. We will assume that such a survey as the one projected has been made, and that is has developed the fact that a practicable line exists at a cost of $150,000,000. This is a large sum, and for 2,000 miles of road would give $75,000 per mile. For example, we will assume that the route adopted is the Central. By examining with care and attention a map of the United States, it is found that fifteen wealthy and prosperous States will be directly benefited by the construction of the road upon this route, while three other States would be sufficiently benefited to throw their influence upon this locality. If then, we can combine the influence and interests of these fifteen States upon one route, by dividing the 150,000,000 among them, the average will be $10,000,000 per State.

It is not to be understood that it would be fair to make an equal division of this amount among the States—for some are richer, more able to contribute, and more benefited than others—but for our present purposes, in order to make it as plain and simple as possible, we will consider that each state is to raise $10,000,000. According to the plan here presented, the Pacific Railroad could be built in ten years. The whole amount will be called in in ten annual installments. This, then, would give $1,000,000 per year, for ten years, as the amount to be contributed from each State.

Now that this amount of $1,000,000 per year could be withdrawn from each State, for ten years, without its being felt, no one doubts. The question to be solved is, how can this result be obtained in the quickest and most reliable manner? There are various means, and many schemes will be devised to attain this result. It might be justly argued, that the States might impose a direct tax upon real estate. This would probably be the most equitable mode of raising the money, but a real estate tax is the most difficult kind of a one to impose, most warmly contested, and could never be carried in fifteen States.

This mode requires legislation, and any attempt at legislation, is for our project, the signal of defeat. We start with this assumed as an incontrovertible fact; we must build the road without legislation.

Some one proposes that each State issues her bonds, for this purpose for $10,000,000. This is a very beautiful mode of raising the money, but carries with it the same objection as the preceding one.

No, the only feasible plan is to raise the money by private subscription; and we propose to discuss the subject, and show how it can be done.

As has been before stated, the project of a Pacific Railroad is a popular one, and there are thousands—nay, hundreds of thousands—of public spirited, intelligent individuals who would give out and out a moderate sum, in proportion to their means, without ever expecting a return for the same, did they feel confident that this project was a practicable one, and that their money would be invested in the legitimate construction of the road, and not squandered or wasted among speculators.

Suppose that our survey being made the route is found to be a practicable one, and its cost, as per estimate of the engineer, ascertained.

In order that there shall be no question as to the cost of the road, let a board of five or six of the most eminent and skilful Railroad Engineers in the country be selected to examine the estimate, as made by the Engineer of the survey, and let each one report his opinion of its cost. Take then, if you please, the highest estimate returned, and assume this to be the cost of the road. The question, then, of the cost of the road ought to be satisfactorily settled in such manner as to entitle it to the confidence of the public. Two preliminary points are then settled.

Let then the report of the Engineer be published, and, accompanying it, put for a plain, simple, concise statement of the plan proposed for raising the money, and for building the road. Divest it of everything speculative, and send a copy to every editor in these fifteen States, asking their aid and co-operation. Send copies to all public spirited men in every town and village, and then call public meetings, at which the report and plan shall be read and discussed, so that it shall be fully understood by the people. Let these meetings then appoint a delegate to a State convention of delegates, for the purpose of choosing a delegate to attend the general convention—each State sending one delegate. Let this man be the best man in the State—one in whom the whole have the most perfect confidence—selected solely on the grounds of merit and reliability and honesty, irrespective of party or profession.

Let then these fifteen State delegates convene, and apportion to the respective States the amounts to be therein raised, and each delegate be invested with power to appoint such agents as may be necessary to carry out the details of the plan in his State.

Upon returning to his State, and upon consultation with, and the advice of, the delegates in his State, let this amount so apportioned, be apportioned to the various counties, in the proper amount for such county to raise, and let an agent be appointed for the purpose of transacting all business appertaining to the same in his county.

Let this agent give good and satisfactory bonds in an amount equal to the amount apportioned to his county, and receive subscriptions requiring at least ten per cent down at time of subscribing. Let a great simultaneous effort be made throughout the whole country at one and the same time. Let popular speakers be employed in behalf of the enterprise. Let it be impressed upon the public that it is a people’s railroad; that is not a stupendous speculation for a few to enrich themselves with. Show them that it is entirely in their hands and under their control; that its officers and managers are to be appointed by them, and hold office only at their pleasure. Explain that every agent in each county is under their eye; that the money which he receives from them is to be deposited as they direct; that his office, books and accounts are to be open at all times to their inspection. When he receives a subscription the name, date and per centage are all matters of record; that each month he shall make a report of all business. Let the papers strive to induce a spirit of emulation between counties and districts, by publishing the various amounts raised in various counties, districts, or by individuals.

Let the lecturers show that there is not a man in the whole community who has hands to labor with who cannot afford to take one share of $100, and pay $10 per year, or three cents per day, in upon it; that there is no retail merchant, doing even an ordinary business, who cannot afford to take ten shares and pay in his $100 per year, or thirty-three cents per day. How many of them pay five times that amount for superfluities; let them show that there is money enough thrown away each year in superfluous luxuries to build a Pacific Railroad each year.

Show them that the money is not thrown or even given away; that a receipt or certificate is given to them for each installment, which represents so much money paid, and which ought to be worth its face in all business transactions. A treasurer’s receipt for ten dollars ought to be as good as a ten dollar bill. When the installments are paid in up to the one hundred cents on the dollar, which can be done at any time, they receive one full share of capital stock, which is actually worth $100. If they have children what better heirloom can they leave them than shares of this stock? The road will become profitable even before its completion, but by the time they are old enough to commence in the world for themselves, with their judgments ripened, so they can appreciate and take care of it, here are the shares of stock representing so much money, saved for them, perhaps from earnings which would have been dissipated and thrown away in useless luxuries, &c.

This stock ought to pass current in market, like land warrants, for its face. What better basis for banking could be had? In those State where banks are obligated to purchase an amount of State or other stocks equal to their capital stock, which is held as security, let this stock be taken in the same way.

It is then to the interest of every body to keep up the credit of the stock, for every body is then interested in it. Nothing can affect its value but mismanagement. How can this road be mismanaged when the people themselves manage it? If built upon this plan it cannot become embarrassed. It is let to the lowest responsible bidder, for cash; this insures its being built economically. It is paid for in cash as the work progresses; this insures the steady progress of the work, and enables the company to perform their pay of the stipulation of the contract without embarrassment, thereby giving the contractor no cause to present bills for delay, detention, or neglect to pay estimates when due; and as the cash is called in from the stockholders only as wanted to carry on the work, it leaves no enormous fund on hand as a prey for dishonest agents, speculators, &c., but leaves the money in the people’s own pockets until wanted and called for to pay for work already done, or being done.

There is no money to be borrowed at enormous rates of interest; no loans to be negotiated in Europe; no first, second or third mortgage bonds to be issued and sacrificed at one-half their value; there are no commissions to be paid to negotiators. There is no mortgage on the road; it is built and paid for as built in ready money. It is a clean thing, built and owned by the people, for its actual cost and no more.

By what other mans can this object be accomplished? Can the United States Government do it? Have they done it? Have they tried? No, and they will not; and what is more the people do not much care to have them, for they have little confidence in their ability to carry it out economically, or to protect themselves and the treasury from the rapacious clutches of the hungry speculators who would swarm round them like vultures round a dead carcass. Can a private company of moonshine speculators—do it? They may—that is, if they can induce simple-minded individuals to invest enough to give them a start, and then, upon the principle of putting in more to save what they have already invested, may drag its slow length along, and in thirty, or forty, or fifty years may build a railroad; but what a railroad! Say twenty millions of its cost has been actually paid in in good faith by the stockholders, then we will find a first mortgage, at eight percent., of say fifty millions of dollars; a second mortgage of fifty millions, at say ten percent; a third convertible mortgage of say fifty millions, at say ten percent., and a floating debt of fifty millions besides. We will find that a few men have become enormously wealthy, that English bondholders own the road, and that it takes all the earnings to pay the interest.

It is a great and national treasure, worthy of the attention of our Government, and should in fact be built by them; but, as before mentioned, the proposition carries the elements of its own destruction with it.—What is the difference? If built by Government the people will have to pay for it; in the present case people pay for it.

The difference is here: In this case it is built by the spontaneous free will of those of the people who favor and are willing to pay for it, and who desire to protect the public purse from plunder, believing themselves better able to manage it than their political representatives.

On the other hand, if built by Government it is built by a political party, is a stepping stone to power, and will present upon a grand scale a repetition of the scenes enacted in some of our States, where the State works are used to control the legislation of the State.

Nor will the sectional prejudices of the partisans of the different localities ever allow Government to build the Road upon any one route, for rather than not have their own route they will not have any. Neither is it desirable to build three, for one is all that is needed. The action of Congress, however, in this present session, will soon decide, if they will vote in favor of Government’s even encouraging the construction of three routes. This is the only kind of a bill which can pass Congress.

These are some of the arguments which can be used to promote the objects of this plan, and being true will not be without their effect.

When a certain amount has been thus subscribed, let the stockholders call a meeting for the purpose of electing one director from each State, for the formation of a Board of Directors to carry into effect the construction of the Road.

With an amount equal to fifteen millions per year, they will determine upon the amount of work to be put under contract. Let, say 100 miles of each end of the Road be located and put under contract. Let notices be issued, publicly inviting proposals from contractors, and the work be let for the lowest responsible bidder, the work to be completed in, say one year; but, in order to prosecute the work with greater economy of time, say 200 miles of each end built within two years; this can be done, and there are plenty of responsible companies of contractors who will undertake the same, and fulfill their contracts for cash payments.

This done and, at the expiration of two years, we have 400 miles of the Pacific Railroad completed, the gap narrowed up to 1,600 miles, and the Road so completed that the material for construction of the next divisions can be carried out over it. The road would commence to pay something as soon as this were done.

During this two years the Engineer is preparing another two hundred miles of each end for letting, other contracts are made for its construction, and built in the same manner; and thus, in like manner, each succeeding division is built every two years, shortening up the gap, and bring more travel to the road. In ten years the whole road can be constructed upon this plan.

As this plan is open to the criticism of the public, and may be commented on by those who may discover what they may deem to be a mare’s nests, among its details. As, for instance, it may be stated that this plan makes no difference for the kinds of work to be done, but builds two hundred miles of each end of the road in the same length of time, and for the same amount of money, when one end is over plains and prairie lands is remarkably easy, while the other end is over mountains and valleys is remarkably hard, will take twice as long, and cost twice as much.

To all such objections it is answered that this plan does not propose to accomplish impossibilities, nor does it presume without a survey to assign the exact lengths of road, or amounts of work to be done per year, but that it speaks generally; and upon an average when it says two hundred miles of each end, simply for the sake of illustrating the principle of the thing. It means to say that, with a certain amount of money to expend upon each end, a certain amount of work is to be accomplished; and that if it should prove to be one hundred miles upon one, and three hundred miles upon the other end, the average of them would be the two hundred miles of each end. But it does mean to be understood that it advocates in the strongest manner the building of the road from the two ends by divisions, and perhaps from the centre each way, if deemed advisable, after the facts have been ascertained. If it is found, as has been represented, that in the vicinity of Salt Lake exists an abundance of the best quality of iron and coal, it is not unlikely that it may be found profitable to manufacture the iron for middle divisions there.

There is one more point which may not be amiss here to touch upon, and that is the construction of a wagon or stage road upon the route of this Railroad.

This should be regarded as a preliminary step in the construction of the Railroad, and should be the first thing done. It is necessary for many good reasons, and can be so constructed, that all the labor expended on it shall count as so much toward the other.

A wagon road is indispensable, for over it will have to be carried the supplies for the Railroad; it will induce settlers to come in and locate upon its line, knowing for a certainty that, in a few years, the Railroad will be built, when they will be properly located. Farms will be laid out, fenced in, and farmers will commence raising grain, cattle, and all the necessities requisite to feed those employed in constructing the Railroad; they will be sure of finding a market for their produce without being obligated to haul it hundreds of miles. Little villages will spring up at points, where it is proposed to have depots; and when the time comes for building the Railroad, instead of finding a wilderness inhabited by savage or hostile Indians, it will have been transformed into a country of life and animation, teeming with all the results of culture and civilization; here they will find rich farms, well stocked with all the necessaries of life, cultivated by a band of thrifty western farmers, with their churches and their school-houses—is it doubted? California is not yet ten years old, yet seven years ago its present state would have been doubted.

But let this wagon road be located anywhere but on the line of this Railroad, and the reverse will be the result. Who will come in and make permanent improvements, with the knowledge that, in a few years, they may be hundreds of miles from the right locality?

If this wagon road is built by Government, in advance, let it be done on the line of the Railroad survey, a more proper location cannot be found, for they will seek the best ground, the lowest summits, and the best crossings of rivers. All the work done on it will be as so much done towards the Railroad, and not thrown away. If the survey shows a cut of forty or fifty feet, at some particular point or hill upon which the Railroad, take off eight or ten feet for the wagon road and carry it out into embankment. It would be the best policy, even if the wagon road appropriation were but four hundred thousand dollars, to expend one half if it in making a survey.

With regard to many of the objections urged against this project, it is answered, that no great project of the kind ever originated without similar ones. That there are portions of the route where snows exist, and which may form an impediment to the running of trains, is conceded. And this is one of the points which a survey of the kind proposed will solve. We know there are snows, but do not know to what extent they exist, or how deep they are. With such a survey the depth of snow at each hundred feet is measured in feet and inches; it is ascertained, whether and how much is caused by drifts, and how much by natural fall. Cross sections are run out, and the depth of snow taken on each side of the line. Other passes or slopes are examined, to find where the least snow exists; the temperature is taken each day; the force and direction of the wind, &c., &c.

These depths of snow are plotted on the Engineer’s profile, and then he is ready to answer any questions that may be asked, by referring to his profile, he can tell in feet and inches the exact or greatest depth of snow at each hundred feet through the snow region—this is the sort of information we want. It is not sufficient to know that Mr. A or Mr. B has pronounced the Pacific Railroad impracticable on a certain route, because he has seen or rode over snow drifts a hundred feet deep. He may be mistaken in its depth, as he has not measured it; and the route for this road is not necessarily to be located through all the immense snow drifts of the Rocky and Sierra Nevada mountains. We expect that there will be a division of this road, on which snows will exist; but that must be managed accordingly. Upon the great roads leading across the Allegheny mountains, there are divisions, where the grades and curves are light, and the engines built with a view to run rapidly. There are also divisions where the grades and curves are heavy, and the engines and the entire management of the division different from the others. So with our mountain division—if we are to have snows, we must prepare for them. The worst points for drifts are very soon determined. Put on men the whole length of the snow line; where most needed have most men; let them live there, if necessary, and do nothing but shovel snow. Build comfortable houses with huge fire-places for accommodation of the passengers at all these worst places, so that, if the trains are detained, they shall be comfortable; put on powerful engines, with the best snow plows, and keep them running constantly; and, if the sun will not melt, try a little indomitable Yankee energy and perseverance on them—that will melt almost anything.

Obstructions from snow is not a new thing. There is scarcely a road in the northern or middle States [that] is not partially obstructed with snow in the winter season. The writer has ridden in a stage over snow drifts twenty-five feet deep, in the Green mountains; and, while riding, could see the fall of frozen lumps of earth, in the formation of a Railroad embankment, sixty feet high, in process of construction across these mountains, and now completed. In the New England States, Maine particularly, and in the Canadas, snows are as violent, lasting and deep. Were a person to travel in these countries who was not accustomed to the construction and working of Railroads, he would be very likely to ridicule the idea of building and running Railroads there. Nevertheless, they are built and run profitably. So will it be found with the Pacific Railroad.

Another obstruction urged is, the destruction of the track by hostile Indians. Before the Pacific Railroad is constructed, all danger to be apprehended on this score will have vanished; for the construction of the wagon road, the settlements along its route, and subsequent construction of the Railroad, will concentrate, upon the line, such an array of strength as would effectually protect it, were no other protection furnished. There will be settlements along its whole route, and little villages at nearly all the depots. What more terrible rod of power we hold over these Indians—the power to concentrate hundreds, ney, thousands of men in a few hours upon any desired point? How much harm could they do before the fighting train would be upon them at the rate of fifty miles an hour.

We will, for illustration, suppose the road to be managed in divisions of say one hundred miles each. Each division has its superintendent, sub-officers and men. For purposes of track repair, the superintendent sub-divides his divisions into ten sections of ten miles each. Upon each of these is a gang of ten men, with their hand-car and tools for repairing track. Upon each fifty miles is a repair engine for hauling material. It is the business of this track party to go over their division, say twice a day, or preceding the passage of any train. Even supposing that hostile Indians were to attempt to injure it, they could only have a few hours’ time to work before it would be known. The Repair Engine starts out, picking up her repair men and all others at each station, swelling her numbers at each stop, and is among the Indians in a few hours’ time. Are the Indians gone, and repairs only to be done? The men have been trained to fight Indians as well as repair track. Are the Indians too powerful for the party? They retreat just far enough to keep the Indians within rage of the Minnie Rifle, and themselves out of rate of the Indian Rifle. Do the Indians pursue? They soon find that the wild horse of the prairie is no match for the iron horse of civilization.

Or let the United States Government establish one company, posts at each one hundred miles; it would then take but two regiments for the whole line, which, supposing the companies to be full, would give an effective force of two thousand United States regulars—the whole of which could be concentrated, in a few days, at any point. What better distribution of troops could be made in the Indian country? To the United States Government alone, were it to be used for no other purpose than as an aid in the future government of the Indian territory, the Road is worth its cost. How long will it take a protracted Indian war in these territories to dissipate one hundred and fifty millions. Let the experience of the Seminole, or the more recent Oregon war determine.

We now come down to the last practical point of discussion in the running of the Road.

How long will it take to go from St. Louis to San Francisco?

The answer is as short as the question. It can be run in three days, or seventy-two hours, including stoppages. That is to say, leaving St. Louis at 8 A.M., Monday we will arrive in San Francisco at 8 A.M., Thursday. This is practicable, with our present locomotive and at present rates of speed. How much this rate of speed will be increased by future improvements, time alone can develop. This, calling the distance 2000 miles, would give an average rate of speed of 27 3/4 miles per hour, including stoppages. That this comes within practical limits, no one will dispute; for even greater than this speed is made on all our principal roads in the country, and upon roads where heavy grades and curves exist.

This road, as has been before observed, will probably be managed in divisions, each complete within itself, the aggregate forming the whole. These divisions will be different in character, managed differently, and run over at different rates of speed; as for instance, the New York and Erie road—it will possess one advantage, however, over that or any other road of similar character, inasmuch as the stoppages will be less frequent, and the first eight hundred miles over an unbroken plain, where the line will be almost straight and level, sixty miles an hour can be made over this distance as easily as thirty. We will however assume, for the sake of illustration, that one thousand miles is run at the rate of fifty miles per hour.

Total 2,000 miles in 62 hours, running time, giving ten hours for stoppages—ample time for all stops required on the journey.

This is a practicable rate of speed for express trains—sixty miles per hour, for short distances, is made on many of our roads. The writer has traveled ten miles in ten consecutive minutes; and twenty-seven miles in thirty-one minutes, including one stop, in a road with forty-five feet grades, when neither the road nor engines were built for high rates of speed.

Express trains, on the Great Western Railroad in England, proceed, when in motion, at from 65 to 75 miles per hour, and accidents are rarely known.

Let the Pacific Railroad be properly constructed, with double track, and a trip from St. Louis to San Francisco and back can be made in one week, with perfect ease and safety, with our present class of engines.


Is there to be no improvement in our present class of engines? have we reached a point in the stage of progress where we must stop, beyond which we cannot go? Are we willing to admit that fifty miles per hour is the limit to speed? Are we contented, and do we desire to go no faster?


However well we may be satisfied with the present rate of speed in traveling, we dare not admit the principle—we wish to go as fast as we can. Improvements are progressive and the future is before us. No, we have not arrived at the limit, at a final stopping place; we are only at a station, a way station—we have paused, but not to remain. We do not travel fast enough, nor will we, until a speed of one hundred miles per hour is attained with as much ease, and as little risk, as at present.

Does the idea seem preposterous? Is it foolish, visionary? Is it absurd?

Let us inquire into the matter a little: let us extract a few notes from the history of progress.

The age of this world of ours is differently given by different learned authorities. We will assume its age to be the least number of years given, or, say, 6,000 years.

This is a long, a very long time; yet it was not until about thirty years ago that the present system of Railway was developed.

Truly a long time for this idea to slumber.

Let us see how our traveling was effected in the 16th century. We extract from our Iron Roads, and from Chambers’ Miscellany.

People did manage to go from one part of the Island to another, but, as regards the masses, travelling was rather a matter of theory than practice. A journey was a serious affair. The only way of proceeding was on horseback; the horse compelled to go till he was tired, and then he and his master had to wait and rest. If the horse fell down, the rider was obliged to tarry till he was sound again; if he died, and another could not be obtained, the traveller had to stop or proceed on foot.

But, putting such disasters (common as they were) out of question, the comfort of the rider was dependent on the state of the roads, which were often in a miserable condition. Fatigue, even for the strongest, was inevitable, and danger often imminent. The horse might suddenly plunge into a marsh, or there being no ford or bridge over a river, the swollen flood would often prevent passage; or, if attempted, both the rider and horse might be drowned. Sometimes the way lay through deep woods, where the track was not easily discernible; and, instead of the cheerful fire, or the well-spread table of an inn to cheer his steps, he had often to seek repose on the cold earth, while the winds whistled round him; or to find refuge from the falling rain in some roofless ruin; and, having gathered a little warmth from the dying embers of a wretched fire, to sink into slumber on the cold damp ground.

And it is necessary that we should have before us such retrospects as these, not only to form a just idea of the past condition of road travelling, but to appreciate the benefits we now enjoy.

We find that in the early part of the 17th century, (not more than 200 years ago,) that the communication between the North of England and the Universities was maintained by carriers with trains of pack horses. To their care was consigned not only the packages, but frequently the persons of the young scholars. It was through them, also, that epistolarily correspondence was conducted; and, as they always visited London, a letter could scarcely be exchanged between Yorkshire and Oxford in less than a month.

In 1635 Charles 1st having seen the evils arising from a deficiency in the existing means of communication, ordered a running post or two to run night and day between Edinburgh and London; to go thither and come back again in six days; and other towns were promised similar advantages.

In 1660, General Post Office was established by act of Parliament, and all letters ordered to be transmitted through it, except such as should be sent by coaches, well-known carriers of goods, by carts, wagons, and pack-horses.

But about this time a great innovation was made—coaches were establishing—and how was the improvement received?

In a pamphlet, called the Grand Concern of England, published in 1673, the miseries and ruin of trade occasioned by the introduction of coaches are thus depicted:

“Before the coaches were set up,” says he, “travellers road on horseback; and men had boots, spurs, saddles, bridles, and saddle cloths, and good riding suits, coats and cloaks, stockings and hats; whereby the leather and wool of the kingdom were consumed. Besides, most gentlemen, when they used to travel on horseback, used to ride with swords, belts, pistols, holsters, portmanteaus, and hat cases, which, in these coaches, they have little or no use for. For, when they rode on horseback, they road in one suit, and ordered another to wear when they came to their journey’s end; but in coaches they ride in a silk hat, with an Indian gown, with a sash and silk stockings, and the beaver hats men ride in, and they carry no other with them. This is because they escape the wet and dirt which, on horseback, they cannot avoid; whereas, in two or three journeys on horseback these clothes were wont to be spoiled; which done they were forced to have new very often, and that increased the consumption and manufacture.

“If they were women that travelled, they used to have safeguards and hoods, side saddles and pillions, with strappings, saddle or pillion cloths, which, for the most part, were laced and embroidered—to the making of which went many trades, now ruined.

“Those who travelled by the new conveyances, too, became weary and listless, when they rode only a few miles; they were unwilling again to get on horseback, and unable to endure frost, snow, or rain, or to lodge in the fields. Besides” he asks: “What advantage could it be for a man’s health, to be called out of bed into those coaches, an hour or two before day, to be hurried in them from place to place till one, two or three hours within night. Inasmuch, that sitting all day in the summer-time, stifled with head and choked with dust; or, in the winter-time, starving or freezing with cold, or choked with filthy fogs, they are often brought to their inns by torch-light, when it is too late to sit up or get supper, and next morning they are forced into the coach so early that they can get no breakfast.

“What addition is it to a man’s health to ride all day with strangers, oftentimes sick, ancient, diseased persons, or young children crying; all whose humors he is obliged to put up with, and is often poisoned with their nasty scents, and crippled with boxes and bundles? It is for a man’s health to be laid fast in foul ways, and forced to wade up to his knees in more, afterwards to sit in the coach till teams of horses can be sent to pull the coach out? Is it for their health to travel in rotten coaches, and to have their tackle, or perch, or axeltree broken, and then to wait two or three hours, perhaps half a day, and afterwards travel all night to make up their stage.”

He argues, that only a few coaches should be allowed to go through with the same horses they set out with, and not travel over thirty miles per day in summer and twenty-five in winter, and shift inns every journey, that trade may be diffused; while accommodation would thus be furnished for the sick and lame, which they pretend cannot travel on horseback. Even those, however, should be suppressed within fifty miles of London, where they were no way necessary.

Thus was the innovation of stage coaches received—but little did the writer think that he was arguing in favor of Railroads as well as for horse-back traveling.

In 1754, a stage coach was established on the route between Edinburgh and London; and in the Edinburgh Courant for that year, it was advertised that—

The Edinburgh Stage Coach, for the accommodation of passengers, will be altered to a new, genteel two-end glass coach machine, hung on steel springs, exceeding light and easy, to go in ten days in Summer and twelve in Winter; to set out on the 1st Tuesday in March, and continue it from Hosea Eastgate’s the coach and horses in Dear street, Soho, London; and from John Smith’s in the Canongate, Edinburgh, every other Tuesday, and meet at Burrowbridge on Saturday night, and set out from thence on Monday morning, and get to London and Edinburgh on Friday. In Winter, to set out from London to Edinburgh every other (alternate) Monday morning, and go to Burrowbridge on Saturday night, and set out thence on Monday morning and get to London and Edinburgh on Saturday night. Passengers to pay as usual. Performed, if God permits, by your dutiful servant,


This, then, was traveling one hundred years ago—and what would he have been considered, who had dared to look into the future, and told the world of the change which one hundred years would bring about. In the year 1820, Mr. Gray published a work propounding a general iron Railway, and land steam conveyance, to supersede the necessity of horses in all public vehicles, in which he maintained its vast superiority over all the existing means of conveyance.

His was a noble mind, which dared to look into the future, and his dream has now been accomplished; his views were correct, but the age was not prepared to receive them.

He visited unsuccessfully Brussels, where a large canal was in contemplation, and advocated a railroad.

From there he went to Manchester and laid his scheme before the capitalists of that city, but the men who had passed their lives among the marvels of machinery and owed their fortunes to steam could not appreciate his project—they dismissed him as a visionary. He subsequently made application to the government, the board of agriculture, and the Lord Mayor and corporation of London for assistance. Mr. Hume presented a petition from him to the House of Commons, the only result of which was that some called him knave, others simpleton. Still he persevered; he talked of enormous fortunes to be realized, of coaches annihilated, of one grand system of railroads, but was only laughed at; he nevertheless continued his importunities.

In a few years the idea supposed to be born of a disordered imagination became a great reality; but Thomas Gray found his reward only in himself. In remembrance of his efforts, and the invaluable blessings they had conferred on society, an attempt was subsequently made to give him some pecuniary acknowledgment of national gratitude, but it was unsuccessful. His was the usual fate of great benefactors to mankind; he died steeped to the lips in poverty.

The first road ever opened for public traffic was the Stockton and Darlington, in 1825, horses being used for motive power.

In 1826 permission was obtained of Parliament to construct the Liverpool and Manchester Railroad; and in 1829 so much had been written about, and so much advantage was claimed for, a locomotive engine, that the directors of that road publicly offered a premium of 500 pounds for the best locomotive that could be constructed under certain stipulations.

They were required to consume their own smoke; that if they weighed six tons each they should be able of drawing a load of twenty tons, including tender, at a speed of ten miles an hour on a level railway, a preference to be given to an engine of less weight if it performed an equal amount of work. Now that the results of this great enterprise are before the world, it is curious to observer how completely they were unforeseen. The idea was received with ridicule by the most eminent engineers of the day. “It is far from my wish,” said a distinguished writer on railways, “to promulgate to the world that the ridiculous expectations, or rather professions, of the enthusiastic speculatist will be realized, and that we shall see engines traveling at the rate of twelve, sixteen, eighteen or twenty miles per hour. Nothing can do more harm towards their general adoption and improvement than the promulgation of such nonsense.”

“As to those persons,” said the Quarterly Review, “who speculate on making railways generally throughout the kingdom, and superseding the canals, wagons, mails, stage coaches, post chaises, and in short, every other mode of conveyance by land and water, we deem them and their visionary schemes unworthy of notice; they will be weighed in the balance and found wanting. The gross exaggerations of the powers of the locomotive steam engine, (or, to speak in plain English, the steam carriage,) may delude for a moment, but must end in the mortification of those concerned,” &c. “We should as soon expect the people of Woolwich to suffer themselves to be fired off in one of Congreve’s ricochet rockets as to trust themselves to the mercy of such a machine going at such a rate.”

Such opinions thus expressed by authorities of such eminence, in opposition to what is now an every day reality, may well induce the most intelligent and far sighted to hesitate in making dogmatical assertions as to what may or may not be the revelations of the future.

Three engines attended the trial—the Novelty, Sans Pariel, and Rocket. The Rocket was successful. She, with the load attached, weighed seventeen tons; its average speed was fourteen miles per hour; and her builder, Mr. George Stephenson, was appointed to construct the engines of the railroad, and on the 15th September, 1830, the line was opened. The railway system was commenced in the United States in the same year, and from this date, twenty six years ago, a new era dawned upon the world.

Since then we have progressed, and those short twenty-six years are a living monument in the progress of time more grand, lofty and noble than the proudest pyramid which the world has yet gazed upon.

Twenty-five thousand miles of railroad have been built in this country or an average of one thousand miles per year.

Where is the man who can sum up the grand, mighty benefits which have, in consequence, accrued to mankind. If the man could be found with a mind vast enough to comprehend and with talent sufficient to compass them, he could write a tale in comparison with which the mightiest achievements of the collective world would sink into utter insignificance. No one appreciates the innumerable blessings which have flowed in consequence, for the story has never been told; it is not understood.

But it is one of the first steps of the newly awakened young giant, Progress, and shall we measure his glorious march by a few strides? No: he may pause to rest, but it is to recruit his powers for new conquests, and among them some of will yet see the realization of our preposterous, absurd idea, viz, “traveling by railroad at the rate of 100 miles per hour, with the same safety as present,” is not near so startling or absurd a proposition, in this age, was that of 20 miles per hour only thirty years ago. We have seen that the first locomotive weighed six tons, and instead of the required speed of 10 miles per hour, made the unparalleled speed of 14 miles per hour, with an enormous load of 17 tons. It is but 25 years, and we have improved so that 75 miles per hour has been made, and trains run regularly at 65 to 70 in England; and upon many roads in this country a speed of 50 to 60 miles per hour is often attained, while a single freight engine has drawn a load of 400 tons.

Now, we propose to so construct the Pacific Rail Road that, while all ordinary business is done, and trains are run in the ordinary way, an express train shall be run through once a day, or twice a week, or once a week, as the business may require, that shall run over the light grades and long straight lines, at a speed of 100 miles per hour, and accomplish the distance of 2000 miles, including stoppages, in 40 hours.

Is it possible?

Arguing from our present experience in running railroads, we assume that the practical limit to speed is only to be found in that centrifugal force acquired at high velocities, which would disturb the cohesion of the material forming the periphery of the wheels, causing them to fly asunder.

A speed of 100 miles an hour is within this limit. The present and generally acknowledged limit is found in the size of the driving-wheels, which, for express engines, are from 5 ½ to 8 feet in diameter. It is found, after reaching a certain limit of size, that if built of greater diameter, it carries the centres so high that it gives an unsteady motion and a rocking tendency to the engine. This is true; but it is no less true that it is owing to the want of breadth of base, or distance between the rails. It is a natural law, that as increase height you must the base. If this is done, you preserve equilibrium.

Therefore, we argue that if, with a breadth of base of 4’ 8 ½”, the proper proportion for diameter of driving wheel is 6 feet, with a breadth of base of say 16 feet, we may safely build a driving-wheel 20 feet in diameter. But to be within limits, let us call its diameter 14 feet. The circumference 6 feet driving-wheel is 18 feet. With a driving-wheel of 14 feet in diameter, the same traverse of the piston accomplishes 42 feet, or say 2 ½ times the distance.

Now, if this movement of the piston is made in the same length of time, it will not be denied that the larger wheel will accomplish 2 ½ times the distance of the smaller in the same time; or, in other words, if the speed of the engine with the smaller driving-wheel, with a certain number of revolutions per minute is 40 miles per hour, the speed of the large one, with the same number of revolutions per minute would be 2 ½ times as great, or 100 miles per hour.

It is a simple proposition.

Let us, then, build an engine with 14 feet driving-wheels, and run 100 miles per hour.

But a hundred scientific gentlemen start up with their objections. Let us hear them.

It is said, you immediately destroy the usefulness of your great road by making it cost enormously for construction, making your tracks 16 feet wide, (an impracticable width,) and transacting your whole business with these enormous engines, and cars which would cost a proportionately enormous price. You cannot get a length of bearing between axles of 16 feet, without making your engines and cars of such enormous magnitude and weight that they will crush the iron. You will have to lay an immensely heavy rail, and your passenger cars will be cocked way up in the air, to be above the centres of the axles.

To this we answer, that the Road shall not cost one dollar more to construct, for we simply build a good double track road, with say a gauge of 5 feet, and six feet between rails, this makes the outside rails 16 feet apart.

To the second objection, viz, that we will be obligated to transact our whole business with engines of this enormous magnitude, we answer that, having a modern double-track Railroad, there is no reason why it should not be used as all double-track roads are used, for the transaction of their business in the usual manner. Therefore, we do not destroy the usefulness of the road for transacting business, as is now the custom upon all Railroads.

Thirdly, We build the engines of such enormous magnitude as to crush the rails, and cannot get bearings of 16 feet.

To this we answer, that we do not propose to have the bearings any further apart than at present, for we propose to run on four rails instead of two, and to have bearings upon each of the four rails; and, as to our engines crushing the rails, we will contrive to have no more weight come upon the rail than is usually the case. Our engine is to weigh ninety tons and to bear upon four rails. An ordinary express engine will weigh say thirty tons, which is sustained by two rails, or say fifteen tons per rail, this would give twenty-five tons weight upon each rail, and is obviated by making the rail a little heavier, or by simply distributing this extra weight over a little more length of engine or on more wheels.

With regard to the passenger cars we propose, it is true, to build double cars, or a car twenty-two feet wide and seventy-five feet long—it is simply neither more nor less than running two cars up side and side, connecting them together, and taking away the siding or partition between them, making one room of two; they run as at present upon two tracks, side and side, the car being upon a piece of timber extending from centre to centre of trucks, allowing each to follow the ordinary inequalities of the road, as at present, but rendering them imperceptible.

So simple is this arrangement that in a train of large cars two ordinary cars may be attached and a larger car joined on to them again, they are never out of place.

Thus have we met some of the weightiest objection. We now proceed to present a claim for its advantages;

1st it will reduce the time of two thousand miles to forty hours. This has already been explained.

2dly. It insures greater ease and comfort in traveling, with an equal degree of safety.

Our engine and cars run on four rails instead of two; there are; therefore, four flanges to confine the car instead of two. Our engine weighs 90 tons; it is thrice as difficult to get such an engine off the track as one weighing only 30 tons, and it would run through a herd of cattle or buffalo with the same impunity, that the latter would run through a drove of sheep. A system of steam breaks could be so applied as to stop all speed on one-quarter of a mile, and a telescope mounted, that over the level prairies could distinguish obstructions at five miles distance.

As to the ease and comfort of such cars, it will be readily perceived that the passengers can be made as comfortable as they would be on a steamer, without the discomforts and danger of storm and sea sickness, or the risk of change of climate. A room 22 feet by 75 feet is a large room. Let us see what we can do with it. We will make up a train—1st is our engine; then comes our tender; next is our first car which carries coal for one-half the trip, with a machine shop or work-room, 30 by 22 feet, containing a forge, lathes, &c., and a complete set of tools for making repairs, and a duplicate set of the most important parts of the engine.

2d is the baggage, mail and express car.

3d is a car devoted to victualling the passengers, one-half the car, or say 30 by 22 feet, contains the kitchen and pantries, and the remaining 35 by 22 feet is a dining room or restaurant, where you can go at any time and order what you like to eat.

The 4th car is likewise divided into two compartments, one of which is a smoking room, the other a reading room, provided with a library.

Nos. 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 are cars for second class passengers, so arranged that they can be used as either day or night cars. They are 21 feet inside, a row of seats on either side of 5 feet 9 inches, takes off 11 ½ feet, two passages of 21 inches take an additional 3 ½ feet, leaving a centre seat of 6 feet in width. These seats are say 3 ½ feet apart, there being 18 seats, lengthwise.

These seats would hold, if crowded, 4 persons each, or 216 passengers; but we will allow only 2 for each seat, so that in day time two persons would have nearly 6 feet room to move about in. At night let the back of the seat turn up half way, secure it in that position, and you have two couches or berths, one above the other, and long enough for a person of ordinary length to lie down upon. One of these cars might be devoted exclusively to ladies or partioned off into rooms.

Thus, we see, we can accommodate 108 passengers with sleeping arrangements per car; this, with our 6 cars, give accommodation for 650 second class passengers.

Nos. 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 and 16 are fitted up for 1st class passengers, 4 of them somewhat similar to those of the 2nd class, and two with a double row of state-rooms for families, 4 holding 432, 2 holding 118, or 550 1st class passengers.

We then have a train of 16 cars, 1200 feet in length—all the cars connected together, so one can promenade the whole length of the train. And we respectfully submit, that such a train will not offer more resistance to the air than two ordinary trains of the same length running side by side at the same rate of speed.

We submit that is practicable—that railroads are as susceptible of as great improvements now as they were 20 years ago—that the great Pacific Railroad is a project glorious and magnificent enough to require the latest improvements, and that it is worthy of, and from its great length adapted to it—that it will involve no extra cost in construction, over a good double track road, but only the extra cost of say two locomotives, costing $50,000 each, and 30 cars, costing say $10,000 each.

With regard to the running of this train—it will run to an exact timetable, passing each station at a certain time, and all the other trains on the road will be on side tracks at the time of passing; should a delay occur, the telegraph announces it to each station, and gives the time of its passing each station.

It carries three sets of conductors, engineers, &c., who go through the train, and are on duty 8 hours at a time each.

It is proposed that the engine takes coal enough to last one half the journey, replenishing but once; this, allowing 100 lbs. per mile, is 50 tons, and is from 3 to 4 times the amount consumed by an ordinary train. The cost of her fuel, then, even at $10 per ton, would be for the trip but $1,000.

Let us inquire as to the profits.

The present rates of passage to California are about $250 in first and $150 in second cabin; the time consumed, twenty-three days.

In the present case, assume first class fare to be $100, and second do. at $60, which, with five hundred and fifty first, and six hundred and fifty second class passengers, gives, as receipts for trip $94,500. Add mails and expenses, and it is over $100,00 per trip.

Allow the business of the Road to require only two such trains per week and back, and the receipts are $20,800,000 per year. Deduct one-half for working expenses, and it leaves a profit of $10,400,000, or seven per cent. per year upon a capital of $150,000,000, without reckoning either freight or way business.

This would be equal to an average of three hundred and fifty passengers per day each way.

It is to be borne in mind that we are not presuming to make a reliable estimate of the receipts of this Road, but endeavoring to show its capacity for business. It is hoped, therefore, that these estimates will not be criticised as an attempt to estimate the business of the Road.

It will undoubtedly be said that there cannot be so many through passengers carried; but it is rather unsafe, in this age, to hazard a prediction as to the increase of business consequent upon the construction of Railroads.

The receipts of the New York Central Railroad, for the year 1856, were $7,700,000. This Road, it is true, is through a populous region.

But the receipts of the New York and Erie Railroad are even greater, and the road, when built, passed, for a greater share of its length, through a section of country but sparsely populated, unproductive, its resources undeveloped. It has made this country productive and fruitful.

So with the Pacific Railroad. The present business does not afford proper data whereby to estimate its receipts. It creates a business; it makes the country.

Is there evidence wanting as to the developing influences of Railways? We find it in the history of nearly every Road constructed in this country.

Take, for example, the State of Illinois alone.

The public lands in this State were brought into market in the year 1813. For a period of thirty-seven years thereafter, reaching up to 1850, the sales amounted to 22,573,436 acres, averaging 595,000 acres per annum. During the five years succeeding 1850 the sales have reach 12,500,000 acres or 2,500,000 acres per annum; and now there are less than 100,000 acres of government land in the State. This is the result of the influence of railroads; but it does not end here. The value of lands has been at least quintupled since the iron ways sat down upon our magnificent prairies. Another effect has been to equalize the values throughout the State, so that we do not now witness the great disproportion between land in the vicinity of the lakes and rivers and the interior which formerly existed.

In 1840 the assessed value of the taxable property in Illinois was $58,752,000. In 1850 it had risen to $117,560,000—showing an increase of $58,808,000 or 100 per cent. in 1855 the valuation was $335,000,000, showing an increase of about 300 per cent. in half the time. Here, again, we see the developing influence of railroads.

There is yet another point from which this branch of the subject may be viewed. Illinois commenced the present century, with a population of less than 3,000. In 1810, there were about 13,000. By following the increase through the several decades and semi-decades since the census has been taken, it will be seen that the gain has been much larger during the last five years than in any former period…. The increase of population has been double during the five years ending, with 1855, that it was at any former period, and the annual sales of land were nearly five times as great—some of these lands had been in market for twenty or thirty years at Government prices, and had it not been for Railroads they would doubtless have remained unsold for much longer. They were inaccessible—away from navigable streams—away from markets—they would bring a dime an acre. Produce was worthless, as it cost more to transport it than could be obtained for it in the market—there was no wood for fencing or building, and no means of getting it, save by land carriage, so tedious and expensive as to be entirely impacticable.

And be it remembered that it is not the through business of California alone upon which this road is to rely for through travel. There is Utah, Oregon, Washington, the Russian Possessions, the Sandwich Islands, China, and the East Indies—all of which are brought, more or less, within the influences of this Road.

It is hoped and believed by many that Congress will, at this session, pass a bill donating alternate sections of land to aid in the construction of either this enterprise, the Wagon Road or both. Should this be effected, it will obviate the necessity of adhering strictly to the plan as herein proposed; but whether or not that is done, it does not alter the justice of the conclusion as to the proper steps to be taken in making such a survey as proposed, and locating the wagon road upon it.

There are numerous points in the proposed plan, which will, no doubt, appear to many as bold, startling, and apparently, impracticable; but if its boldness will have no other effect than to induce sensible men to read and reflect upon them, the desire of the writer will have been gratified.