Railroad Beginnings in California
Having proven successful in the East, the first railroads built in California also provided transportation from inland communities to the rivers and ocean harbors to meet the needs of the growing population of California.
The discovery of gold in California near Sutter's mill, near Sacramento in 1848 brought a huge number of people lured by the promise of "gold laying in the streams" into California during 1849. An estimated 55,000 arrived by overland routes and another 25,000 by sea. Transportation from the mines to the Sacramento River became increasingly important. Freight wagons and stagecoaches provided transportation to the mining camps over the often rugged roads.
Sacramento Valley Railroad
In August 1852 the Sacramento Valley Railroad was incorporated, and hired Theodore D. Judah to survey a line eastward from Sacramento to Folsom and Plasser. The first railroad in California, it made its first trial run from Sacramento to Folsom on August 17, 1855. It opened for business on February 22, 1856, hauling ore, food, goods and passengers along the 22 mile line between Placer and the river docks in Sacramento.
The SVRR was acquired by the Central Pacific Railroad in August, 1865.
California Central Railroad and other connecting lines
Other railroads were constructed to provide passenger and freight service to other parts of the Sacramento Valley area. Groundbreaking for the California Central Railroad took place on June 1, 1858. By October 13, 1861 the railroad connected Lincoln to the Sacramento Valley Railroad at Folsom Junction.
The Sacramento, Placer and Nevada Railroad was organized in 1859 to connect Nevada City, Auburn and Folsom. At Folsom the railroad connected with the California Central RR at a spot called Ashland Station. Service on the line was inaugurated to Wildwood Station in July 1862, eight miles from Folsom. The track opened to Auburn Station, about six miles from Auburn in October 1862. Track laying stopped at Loomis, 11 miles from Folsom, when construction funding ran out. The line was abandon in May 1864 due to competition from the Central Pacific.
Incorporated in 1862, the Placerville & Sacramento Valley Railroad completed its 26 mile line from Folsom Junction to Shingle Springs in June 1865. With the discovery of Silver in Nevada in 1865, the small village of Shingle Springs witnessed sudden growth as a bustling freighting and transportation center in the mountains. The depot was 800 feet long and saw the arrival of one freight and two passenger trains daily from Sacramento. Stages ran daily from Shingle Springs to Placerville and all stations east, burdened with passengers and express. All shipping to the Comstock mines passed through Shingle. From here freight was transported by wagons pulled by teams over the Sierras.
Central Pacific Railroad provides connection to the East
Leland Stanford, Collins P. Huntington, Mark Hopkins, and Charles Crocker incorporated the Central Pacific Railroad Company of California on June 28, 1861, convinced by Theodore D. Judah that a railroad could be built between California and the East and be profitable. President Lincoln signed the Pacific Railroad Act on July 1, 1862, chartering the Central Pacific to build eastward from Sacramento. The Central Pacific Railroad broke ground at Front and K Streets in Sacramento on January 8, 1863, and laid its first rail on October 26. Trains began running on the Central Pacific Railroad from Sacramento to Newcastle on June 10, 1864, and Auburn on May 16, 1865.
The Central Pacific completed the line connecting Sacramento to San Francisco, on November 8, 1869, via subsidiaries Western Pacific Railroad and San Francisco Bay Railroad.
San Francisco & San Jose Railroad
Railroad passenger service between San Jose and San Francisco began in October 1963 with the opening of the San Francisco & San Jose Railroad. The railroad was incorporated in 1859, most of the financing for the project came from county government in San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties following a three-county election in 1861. The University of Santa Clara and local industry also playing a significant role in both stock acquisition and placement of the depots.
The Santa Clara passenger depot was constructed by the San Francisco & San Jose Railroad Company, one of two "way depots" built between San Francisco and San Jose in late 1863. It was the oldest continuously operating railroad depot in the State of California until the ticket office was closed in May 1997.
The Southern Pacific Railroad acquired the San Francisco & San Jose Railroad in 1870.
San Francisco, Oakland & Alameda Railroad
The San Francisco & Oakland Railroad was incorporated in October 1861. The railroad began operation of a steam transit line from Broadway down 7th Street to the Oakland Mole in September 1863, extending to LaRue's Wharf and San Antonio by 1865.
The San Francisco & Alameda Railroad was incorporated in March 1863. The line was built from High Street in Alameda to the Old Alameda Point. Service began in August 1864 and provided ferry boat service to Davis Street in San Francisco. The San Francisco & Alameda Railroad built a wharf at the foot of Pacific Avenue, and a railway through town and over to the mainland. They did not acquire a boat until 1865, when they began service to San Francisco. The San Francisco and Alameda Railroad built the Alameda in 1866, the first double-ended ferry on the bay.
The line consolidated with the San Francisco, Alameda & Stockton Railroad which completed a line to Hayward in August 1865. Consolidated with the San Francisco & Oakland Railroad to form the San Francisco, Oakland and Alameda Railroad Company in June 1870. Consolidated into the Central Pacific in August 1870.
Napa Valley Rail Road
The Napa Valley Rail Road began operation from Vallejo to Calistoga in 1868, built by Samuel Brannan and a group of business associates. Brannan owned a hot springs resort and real estate in Calistoga. Stops were made at Napa, Yountville, Oakville, Rutherford, Bello, St. Helena, Barro, Bale and Walnut Grove. California Pacific purchased the Napa Valley Rail Road Company at foreclosure in June 1869.
Western Pacific Railroad
Construction of the Western Pacific Railroad began in San Jose in 1865. Absorbed into the Central Pacific, the 123 mile line was completed from Sacramento via Stockton, Tracy and Niles Canyon to San Jose in September 1869. The San Francisco Bay Railroad Company 22.5 mile long line was consolidated into the Western Pacific Railroad Company in November 1869, adding a line from Niles Canyon to East Oakland, which became the western terminus of the Central Pacific. (This Western Pacific Railroad is not associated with the later Western Pacific.)
California Pacific Railroad
The California Pacific Railroad Company was incorporated in 1865. The railroad ran from Sacramento to Vallejo and thence via passenger ferryboat to San Francisco. Construction began in Vallejo in December 1866 and was complete to Davis in August 1868. California Pacific purchased the Napa Valley Rail Road Company at foreclosure in June 1869, which it operated as a branch line, and another branch line from Davis to Marysville. Completed in 1870, the railroad provided a shorter 90 mile route from Sacramento to San Francisco Bay than the Western Pacific (Central Pacific) line. The California Pacific was sold to the Central Pacific in 1876.
Los Angeles & San Pedro Railroad
Following the entry of California into the United States in 1850 the number of ships calling in the state increased. August W. Timms and Phineas Banning both opened wharfs in San Pedro Bay. Banning's Wharf soon became the center of the shipping industry in San Pedro Bay. Cargo and passengers moved between the harbor and Los Angeles in wagons and stagecoaches along the wagon road which was little more than a rutted path. Growing commercial activity in Southern California created a need to improve transportation between Los Angeles and the harbor.
Banning was elected to the State Senate, and in 1866 sponsored legislation to authorize a bond measure to fund a railroad linking Los Angeles and the harbor, which the City and County of Los Angeles approved. Banning broke ground for the 22 mile long Los Angeles & San Pedro Railroad on September 19,1868, the first railroad in Southern California. By mid-December two miles of track were completed.
The railroad's first locomotive was a tiny four wheel locomotive called the San Gabriel. The locomotive was one of two small "pony" engines built several years earlier by the Vulcan Iron Works of San Francisco for the Napa Valley Railroad, which had found them too light for their service. It was purchased for the construction of the line and arrived by ship from San Francisco at the Wilmington wharf on January 12, 1869.
On September 8, 1869, the tracks were completed to the railroad's new depot at the corner of Alameda and Commercial streets. To celebrate the formal opening of the line Banning and the railroad directors invited all of Los Angeles for a free round-trip on the train and a huge dedication ball afterward at the Los Angeles depot on October 26, following the arrival of the railroad's second and larger locomotive, the Los Angeles. Over 1,500 took the excursion. The Los Angeles & San Pedro Railroad provided an efficient overland route linking Wilmington and Los Angeles. Sold in 1873 to the Southern Pacific Railroad, the Los Angeles & San Pedro Railroad continued to operate as part of the Southern Pacific until the name was dropped in 1875.
Southern Pacific Railroad
The Southern Pacific Railroad was incorporated in December 1865. In July 1866, congress passed a bill authorizing the Southern Pacific Railroad Company, based in San Francisco to build a southern transcontinental line from San Francisco to meet the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad Company, building westward from St. Louis. Both companies were to meet at the Colorado River near the 35th parallel. The Southern Pacific acquired the San Francisco & San Jose Railroad following authorization by the state legislature in March. Grading began on the extension southward at 4th Street in San Jose in April 1868, carried out by the Santa Clara & Pajaro Valley Railroad which had been incorporated in January.
The Southern Pacific was purchased by the directors of the Central Pacific, Leland Stanford, Collins P. Huntington, Mark Hopkins, and Charles Crocker in September 1868. The Southern Pacific line was extended, with service operating to Delano in July 1873.
When the Southern Pacific Railroad, began planning a route through the Southern part of the state, both the City and County of Los Angeles realized that Los Angeles and its emerging port were dependent on a railroad link to the rest of the nation to have any hope of survival. Southern Pacific partner Charles Crocker reminded city leaders of the consequences if they failed to cooperate, telling them "I will make grass grow in your streets." To insure that the Southern Pacific would terminate their second transcontinental railroad in Los Angeles County, the City and County of Los Angeles gave their holdings in the Los Angeles & San Pedro Railroad to the Southern Pacific Railroad on April 23, 1873. In addition, the county provided a $602,000 cash subsidy to the Southern Pacific and rights of way to build lines to Pomona and Anaheim. Phineas Banning and Henry Tichenor also sold their shares in the line making the directors of the Southern Pacific virtually the sole owners.
Southern Pacific work crews began construction of a branch line to Anaheim in the summer of 1873, which opened on January 17, 1875. Another line was extended from the station on Alameda Street to Naud Junction where one line continued 22 miles northward to San Fernando, and the other 29 miles eastward to Spadra in 1874.
Southern California and the East were linked at Lang Station, near Palmdale on September 5, 1876 with the opening of the Southern Pacific line between Los Angeles and San Francisco.