Chapter 5

THE SAN FRANCISCO & GREAT SALT LAKE RAILROAD

Page 5

It now gives us great pleasure to inform you that being so minded, the following resolution was unanimously adopted at a meeting of the Board of Control of the California League of Progress, held at the headquarters of the league on August 18, 1892, to wit:
"Resolved. That a communication be addressed to the promoters and organizers of the Salt Lake and San Francisco Railroad Company, expressing the entire confidence of this league in the proposed railroad, and that we tender our earnest support in assisting the Salt Lake and San Francisco Railroad to place its bonds and stocks and secure contributions to that end."

"When we come before the public," E. L. G. Steele of the Board of Directors said on September 13, "it will be as if the road were built." He was described as looking decidedly cheerful as he spoke. It was rumored that decidedly reassuring additions to the list of subscribers to the stock had been received — men who not only subscribed themselves, but whose example would certainly induce others to follow.

Four surveying parties were now in the field between Suisun Bay and Beckworth Pass, including one party that had just began its work above Big Bend, on the Feather River. Another party had surveyed a line into the San Joaquin Valley for the proposed feeder of the main Great Salt Lake Railroad, and this survey had exposed some poor engineering work on the part of Southern Pacific engineers. The Salt Lake road's surveyors had the pleasure, therefore, of profiting by the Southern Pacific's mistakes.

The last surveying party sent out was in charge of Emory Oliver. Mr. Oliver began work at a point above Big Bend, on the Feather River. The survey from Beckworth Pass to the point where Mr. Oliver began work was nearly completed, it had been made under Surveyor Keddie of Quincy. Then the route from Beckworth Pass — in fact, from the state line — would be completely surveyed from that point to and above Big Bend and from Oroville to Suisun Bay. Mr. Oliver's instructions were to go ahead as rapidly as possible and make a permanent survey from his point of beginning on the Feather River to Oroville, then the chain would be complete.

As the general route was now known, there was no further concealment to be made of the fact that the San Francisco & Great Salt Lake Railroad would have a shorter route from San Francisco to Sacramento, and into the San Joaquin Valley, much shorter than the Southern Pacific. The road as planned would cross to the Sacramento side from Contra Costa County at a point near New York Landing, sometimes called Black Diamond. Thence it would run direct to Sacramento, and thence direct to Oroville.

The Southern Pacific was nervous and on September 16 gave a notice of an intention to reduce the rates on certain commodities. The following changes were to go into effect on Saturday, September 17th: On high explosives from California common points to Denver, Pueblo, Colorado Springs and Colorado common points for carload lots per 100 pounds $2.35, instead of as heretofore $3; for fuse in less than carload lots $2.65 per 100 pounds, instead of $3, and for green coffee in carload lots per 100 pounds $1.05, instead of $1.20.

The advance guard of Chief Engineer Kennedy’s corps had arrived at Palermo, California on October 20 and was to at once commence the preliminary survey for the new road. Three surveying parties were now in the field.

The surveys showed three ranges of mountains and that Beckwith Pass lies in the most easterly of the three. At the very highest point peach and apple trees were found bearing fruit, showing that the snowfall was never excessive nor the cold severe. The surveyors had made investigations and asked questions of hundreds of old residents of the mountains and their testimony agreed upon this point that the snow falls mostly upon the two western ranges of mountains and the third or easterly one, where Beckwith Pass is found, was comparatively free of snow at all seasons. A splendid lumber and dairying region was found in the Beckwith and Mohawk Valley country. What inquiries were made showed that a large quantity of ore awaited shipment as soon as the road was built.

It was found that the only difficult portions of the road to build on the line surveyed by Root's party was through the Delaney Canyon where considerate cutting would have to be done in the canyon below the mouth of Jamison Creek, where the sliding nature of the hills caused two lines to be run, one on each side of the middle fork, and at Lee Summit or the divide between the middle and north fork, where a tunnel 5,000 feet long would have to be run. Below American Valley contrary to expectations the grade was excellent, being as low as forty-six feet to the mile. Above the valley the highest grade at any point was seventy feet while the line rarely exceeded sixty feet to the mile.

From Soda Bar in Plumas County to Big Bar in Butte County there was no trouble in grade, snow, sliding hills or from any other causes. Below Big Bar and around what is known as the Big Bend of the Feather River the country was more precipitous and heavier cuttings would have to be done.

One party under Engineer Root was at work in Sierra Valley. One under Mr. Lorain was between Big Bar and Flea Valley Creek, and was in process of finishing the survey to Big Bar where the work was begun by Engineer Oliver. The party under Oliver was at the mouth of the west branch of the Feather River and had completed all the difficult work of the route. From the mouth of the west branch to Oroville the distance was but fifteen miles and the country an easy one with low grades. It was stated by two of the surveyors that the whole work would be completed within six weeks. This probably included the running of a second or final line for location as the parties in the field had received orders to make this as speedily as possible.

Also in October 1892 the San Francisco and Great Salt Lake Railroad had made arrangements whereby a bay terminal was secured. The company had purchased a bay front in the vicinity of San Pablo consisting of over 200 acres, and on this property intended on erecting wharves, freight sheds, etc.

The property secured by the new railway company consisted of the undivided interest in 200 acres of Thomas Bishop in the Rancho San Pablo. The deed was recorded in Martinez on September 2, 1892, by which Bishop transferred to Charles Main his interest in the aforesaid property. Then Mr. Main transferred his interest to E. L. G. Steele. Neither Mr. Bishop nor Mr. Main was interested in the newly projected railway, but E. L. G. Steele was, being one of the incorporators.

A good deal of preliminary work had been done in the line of surveying, and about $50,000 had been expended. The work of securing subscriptions was at once taken up and though many gentlemen did much to urge the scheme, and even solicited in person, only one-third the sum which it was agreed should be subscribed before floating the bonds could be got together even on paper. It was agreed at the outset that six months would be allowed for the collection of the subscriptions, the understanding being that if at the expiration of that term the money was not subscribed all would be released of their pledges to take stock. Although there was still two and a half months of the six to run, the general apathy was such that the promoters seemed to feel that it would be useless to attempt to go any further.

Considerable excitement was caused in November 1892 by the circulation of a rumor that the San Francisco and Salt Lake Railroad enterprise had collapsed; the reason given was that only $1,000,000 could be raised, when at least $3,000,000 was needed to form a capital before bonds would be issued and floated to supply sufficient money to build the proposed road. Many who had clamored loudly for a competing road had become very shy when the subscription list was presented to them. This, it was said, discouraged the promoters of the scheme, who complained bitterly against these local capitalists who were refusing to take steps toward the construction of a competing railroad.

Alvina Hayward was one of the leading spirits in the undertaking; he gave both time and money, but was now quite discouraged. He had subscribed $100,000 to start the subscriptions and had agreed to take more stock as soon as a general desire for the stock was shown.

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