Chapter 5

THE SAN FRANCISCO & GREAT SALT LAKE RAILROAD

Page 3

At the same time a railway project in which Mr. Bridgeford of Junction City, Oregon, was trying to interest the California League of Progress in was not so well on its way. Just what Mr. Bridgeford's scheme was no one seemed to know. It had been hinted by railway men that it may have some connection with James Hill's road, the Great Northern, as the proposed road was said to be a Tacoma project.

It was believed by some railway men who interested themselves in such matters that Hill had already secured an entrance to San Francisco Bay. They thought William Graves, who had recently secured control of the North Pacific Coast Railway and had been running that narrow-gauge road on broad gauge principles with great success ever since, represented Hill. Two years prior in Spokane Falls, James Hill had declared that he intended to build to San Francisco. He acquired a Washington road just as Mr. Graves acquired the Sausalito narrow-gauge.

In a conversation with a reporter Mr. Graves called attention to the deep water about his docks at Sausalito and said he intended to build out further into the bay. His plans called for the construction of a wharf and quay that would support a depot building, and provide accommodation for a large amount of traffic. He spoke, too, of his tunnels, so constructed originally that the road could be turned into a broad-gauge without any great expense. If a transcontinental road wanted a terminus on San Francisco bay Mr. Graves was evidently prepared to have one ready, even if he himself was not the forerunner of Hill's line.

The directors of the San Francisco and Great Salt Lake Railroad, held a brief and rather informal meeting July 14, 1892 and discussed and examined the reports of the preliminary surveys that had been hastily but not conclusively made between Oakland and Stockton. They did not give an outline of the contents of the reports, nor in what direction and across what ranches the surveys, so far as made ran. They admitted, however, that some talk had been indulged in, relative to inviting the public to subscribe to $5,000,000 of the capital stock soon.

In charge of the subscription books would be Director Daniel Meyer, and if the directors present intentions were not altered, the company would first be capitalized for $25,000,000 and $3,000,000 set aside immediately for popular subscription, with probably an additional $2,000,000 later on. The directors themselves were to put their subscriptions down on the books first, but in what amounts was not known although the impression that their subscriptions would be made on a handsome scale.

Directors Steele, Meyer, Babcock and their associates, together with Henry P. Sonntag and others, who were taking a great interest in the project, expected to see a large number of subscribers on the books in the course of a few weeks after they were opened. They also were of the opinion that the first $3,000,000 to $5,000,000 of the stock would all be taken in San Francisco. The gentlemen expressed great faith in the enterprise and said that for a great many reasons they could give but little information as to what work had been accomplished and what they expected to do.

July ended and the subscription list for shares in the San Francisco and Great Salt Lake Railroad had not yet been opened to the public, although the committee in charge of the enterprise continued to add to its membership and all the new members were subscribing to the stock,

There were to be fifty members of the committee who had shown their faith in the enterprise by large subscriptions before the public was to be invited to take action to help build the road. Those who had interested themselves in the work from the first seemed more and more sanguine. Mr. Kennedy, the engineer who was in charge of the field work, was in the city on July 29 and called on several of the railroad projectors and advisers. Reporters attempted to interview Mr. Kennedy, but the engineer refused to answer any questions about the progress made, about the lines run, or, in fact about the field work in any way. The same care was manifested by all who were concerned in the road-building project. Already certain persons of considerable wealth had expressed a desire to take hold. One person said that he would take $50,000 worth of the stock because he thought that a road of the sort projected would increase the value of his landholdings at least $100,000.

The present local traffic that a road by the proposed route through Butte and Plumas counties would be able to control was a matter that was now being closely looked into. Within the past few weeks the projectors of the road had been put in possession of many facts and figures that showed very favorably the paying character of the country through which the road would pass in following the north fork route between Oroville and Beckwith Pass.

Much had been said about the progress of the San Francisco & Great Salt Lake Railroad. From time to time there had been publications that the surveys via the Beckwith Pass had been accepted, that the directorate had been increased to fifty members and that the necessary capital had been subscribed.

Daniel Meyer, the head and front of the projected enterprise financially, was one of the oldest and shrewdest financiers of the pacific coast. Simple in his personal habits but full of acute business tact, he had for many years held the confidence of the principal capitalists not only in San Francisco but all along the coast.

The financier found in his private office on Sansonie Street, reclining, as he was in the habit of doing, on a leather sofa, smoking a long pipe, and although as a rule reluctant, was speaking of his enterprises, he for once declared himself willing to talk about the Salt Lake Railroad.

"It is lots of hard work," Mr. Meyer said in the way of a preliminary remark, "but we have every reason to hope that the line will be built and that before the end of the year of 1892 the dirt will fly, as they say in railroad parlance.” Then the great financier went on to explain just how matters stood at the present. “We decided some weeks ago to increase the number of directors to fifty, and it being, in our opinion essential that the road should be built by San Francisco capital principally, we have canvassed the city to find men who are desirable as members of the directorate.

“Every man on our list has been approached and we now have forty-two directors, so that there are only eight more vacancies. We do not desire to have men who take a financial interest only, although, of course, money is what we need to build the railroad, but we make it a point to select such men as have large commercial interests here and, therefore, as a matter of necessity, will work for the interests of the mercantile community."

Mr. Meyer then went on to say that the eight vacancies still existing would be filled within a few days. He stated that several desirable merchants are on the list, and that it would not take long before the fifty directors were enrolled.

"When we have the fifty directors we will issue our prospectus to the public. It is now in the hands of our attorneys," continued Mr. Meyer between pulls out of his long pipe, “and then we will be ready for general subscriptions. Our prospectus will be a document, worth reading; it will contain all that has been done and all that is proposed for the future in the way of making the San Francisco & Great Salt Lake Railroad a successful enterprise. It will point out to the uninitiated what difficulties we had to overcome, and it will also show them the vast advantages that will be received by the people of San Francisco from the new line."

With a weary sigh Mr. Meyer acknowledged that the building of a new railroad was extremely hard work, and it could easily be seen that although the Salt Lake road was his pet scheme the millionaire banker had found it much up-hill work to get matters into shape. "I have no trouble at all with the merchants," he said in conclusion, but the real estate men seem somehow not to be able to see the great possibilities for the future and they show an unwarrantable lack of interest so far."

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