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The Future of California Railroads

The sale of a certain amount of stock in the Central Pacific Railroad has given rise to speculation as to the future of California railroads. Some people think they see in this sale a design on the part of the present owners to withdraw from railroad enterprises. If these surmises were correct they would furnish much cause for sorrowful regret throughout the Pacific coast.

Though it is true that the people of this coast have done much for the railroad men, it is equally true that the railroad men have done a very great deal for the coast. Their interests are identical, and cannot now be severed without great injury resulting to the coast, and to the whole people thereof. The withdrawal of the stout hearts, willing hands and fertile brains that are building and operating the railroads of California would be a public calamity. We are, therefore, glad to have the knowledge that they have no intention of withdrawing. The exact contrary is their intention. They mean to lengthen and strengthen their stakes, and to become more than ever allied to the coast and its interests. The sale of stock alluded to is a step in that direction. It is a move that means two things. First, it means a recognition of the wisdom of giving a larger number of persons an interest in the Central Pacific. There will be more people interested in its success and in protecting it from wanton attack. It will have more friends and fewer enemies. The national debts of England and of France remain unassailed, for the good reason that the people own their country’s indebtedness. If a considerable portion of our most influential citizens own stock in our railroads they, so far from assailing it, will become its defenders and guardians of its interests. Secondly, the sale of the stock of the completed road will supply funds for the building of the yet uncompleted one. With great ends and aims in view of the Southern Pacific is about to be pushed on until it makes connection with the City and Gulf of Mexico. Governor Stanford’s wish, that he may live to see the day when he may look down from his residence with satisfaction at the sight of long trains arriving in San Francisco, laden with the wealth of Arizona and with the products of Mexico, seem as if it will be realized at an early date. A new departure has been made.

The Southern Pacific is to be pushed ahead as fast as men and money can push it. Large quantities of material are already on the ground. Workmen are being sent forward as rapidly as possible, and soon the track will be laid at the rate of two miles per day, or more. It is confidently believed that within two years this road will be completed from ocean to gulf, and a continuous line of steel rails, owned by one company, will stretch from San Francisco to Galveston, and perhaps to New Orleans. This means not merely the opening of another transcontinental line, but it means a line of 1,600 miles from ocean to ocean instead of 3,000. It means a transcontinental line on which there shall be no break of ownership, and which shall be controlled from the Pacific Coast, and operated so as to build up its interests.
The Central Pacific is but a single section of the great overland road, and, in all their arrangements relating to through business, its owners are very much at the mercy of the Eastern roads, and this difficulty is the cause of much of the discrimination in local rates, that has given such dissatisfaction. The Central Pacific people have, we believe, long realized that the arrangements forced upon them by other roads are against their true interest, and have wished to put down fares to such a low figure as to attract immigration; but have been prevented by the demands of the other roads, the Union Pacific especially, having been actuated by the policy of keeping the tide of immigration from flowing west of Ogden, in order that it might spread along its lines, taking up its lands and building up a way business. Of the $65 charged for emigrant tickets, the Central Pacific gets only $6, so that the reduction they desire is impossible. But with a road from ocean to ocean they will be masters of the situation. They will not only be able to carry passengers and freight as low as they please from New Orleans to the Oregon line, but they will compel these connecting roads to lower their rates or lose their business.

The Southern road, when completed along the route now proposed, will nowhere have a grade of over forty-two feet to the mile, on which one locomotive will be able to pull sixty-five freight-cars, and where there will be no difficulty from snow, and the great expense of building and maintaining snow-sheds and tunnels will be altogether avoided. The Railroad people have already a line of steamers running from San Francisco to China. They propose to put on between Liverpool and their Eastern terminus a line of the very largest steamers that can be run swiftly and economically. This done, they will be prepared to compete with the Cape Horn route, and even with that of the Isthmus of Darien, should the canal ever be built, for the trade of the Pacific. They propose to take in this way all the grain export of California and Oregon. At all the stations in our great interior valleys will be erected warehouses, from which the grain will be dumped into cars. At Galveston or New Orleans it will be emptied into the holds of steamers, and be raised at Liverpool or London by elevators, thus avoiding the cost of handling, and, what is still greater, the cost of sacks. Three months’ interest will be saved, and the insurance by this route will be merely nominal. They expect to so lower the rates as to turn the whole export of grain over their line, and, as the cars must necessarily return, it is intended that freights westward shall be equally low. This is not only a new departure, but a great departure also. It involves big things for this coast, among which we may name the development of Southern California, of Arizona, New Mexico, western Texas, and the northern States of Mexico. It means an impetus to the growth of California in population and wealth, such as has not been seen since the discovery of gold.

San Francisco News Letter and California Advertiser
January 31, 1880

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