On the Railroad 150 Years Ago

Jack Casement

During October 1868, the Union Pacific contract workers, under the direction of General Jack Casement, increased the pace at which they laid track. The typical rate averaged two to three miles per day, occasionally five. On October 26, however, they placed a record-setting eight miles in a single day. Casement paid his men triple time. He had staged this special effort because the Central Pacific had managed to lay more than six miles in one day a few weeks earlier. Doc Durant, the UP’s vice president and general manager, was so pleased he bragged it was “the achievement of the year.”

Charles Crocker

This naturally incensed Charles Crocker, the Central Pacific’s construction supervisor, who had set the earlier six-mile record. He began to plan revenge, but he would bide his time before he attacked—saving his surprise until May 1869, just before the golden spike was to be driven. In the meantime, he continued to push the CP across northern Nevada. On October 1, their tracks had reached Winnemucca, Nevada. From there on, the CP would have to push across virtually uninhabited land until it joined with the UP at Promontory Summit, Nevada.

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