The Union Pacific|
The Union Pacific (cont.)|
The Union Pacific (cont.)|
Burlington & Missouri River Railroad|
Sioux City & Pacific Railroad
Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha Railway Co.
The Express Companies
The matter was laid before the Board of Directors at their meeting, in January, 1865, when a resolution was adopted approving of the change, provided the facts assumed in the arguments of the Government director and consulting engineer, in relation to the topography of the country and feasibility of the proposed line should be borne out by actual surveys. A survey of the proposed route was accordingly made, which showed results much more favorable than had been assumed, and the work of grading was therefor suspended upon the old line and commenced upon the new.
Inasmuch as the action of the board, including the five Government directors, had been unanimous in adopting this change of route, and their action had been informally approved by the then Secretary of the Interior, who was present while the subject was under discussion, and in view of the further fact that the arguments of the consulting engineer had been indorsed by the most experienced railroad engineers and managers in the country, no doubt was entertained that the President of the United States would also approve of the change of route whenever the subject should be properly submitted for his decision.
Application was consequently made to the President on the 12th of May, 1865, for his approval of the change of route, accompanied by a report of the consulting engineer and a carefully prepared statement of the reasons upon which this application was based. In reply, His Excellency, while being of the opinion that he was empowered, at the request of the company to approve the abandonment of the existing location and the adoption of the contemplated or new location to the extent described in the map delineating the same, was constrained to defer action until a thorough examination of both locations was made and a report, setting forth their relative advantages, was submitted to him. In June, Lieut. Col. James H. Simpson was appointed for the purpose of making a personal examination of the respective routes, and, on July 4, arrived at Omaha, where he was joined by Springer Harbaugh, Government director, and Consulting Engineer Silas Seymour, who accompanied him in his examination of the routes and so much of the adjacent country as could have the most remote bearing upon the subject.
Upon his arrival, Enos Lowe and Gilbert C. Monell composing a committee representing the commercial and financial interests of Omaha, as also of resident stockholders, addressed Col. Simpson and Director Harbaugh on the subject of the proposed route, which was regarded as injurious to the city and her interests. The original location of the lines, for 100 miles west of Omaha, had given a new impulse to enterprise, rapid improvements had been made and a large amount of capital invested about that city and Council Bluffs, with full faith that the location was permanent and would not be changed, insisted the committee. In this view, her citizens had guaranteed to secure the right of way through the city for all necessary tracks and sufficient ground for buildings required for the terminus, besides 500 acres of bottom land between the bluff and the river; private individuals had subscribed 700 acres on the same terms, and the business of Omaha was made to adapt itself to the future development thus inaugurated. Soon after a portion of these donations were completed by transfer, continued the committee, work was suspended on the direct route and a diverging line located, running six miles east of south of the former, where it intersected the old route from Bellevue and thence returned to the direct line from Omaha. Shortly after, works contracted for at Omaha were suspended and preliminary steps taken to remove the same to Bellevue.
In view of this procedure, the committee could see nothing but a covert desire to change the terminus for speculative purposes, or, by holding it subject to change, expose to present loss and future peril a large national and commercial interest, depending upon the work as primarily located and being conducted in honesty and good faith. If Omaha was not entitled to the central point, as already stipulated, or if the fixed line of direction west would be so changed as to render the initial point useless as a terminus, then let permanent change of the latter be at once made.
Supplementary to the above, the Burlington & Missouri Railroad Company filed a remonstrance with the Secretary of the Interior against the proposed change of route, for the reason that since the passage of the Pacific Railroad Act, Congress had made an appropriation of lands through Nebraska to aid in the extension of the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad through that Territory to the junction of the Pacific road at the 100th Meridian, and the alteration of the route as suggested would be an invasion of the Territory justly and properly that upon which the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad was dependent for business and whose resources it would develop.
To these protests of the citizens of Omaha, Mr. Durant, Vice President of the road, responded, though he was unable to see why either communication should effect the question at issue, and reluctant to notice the complaints or censure of parties rendered hostile because a great work could not be made to serve local interests. The object of the change, he stated to be a change of the ruling grades from eighty to forty feet between Omaha and Platte Valley. The case as presented by a committee "who claim to be representing the commercial and financial interests of Omaha," might bear the construction of a "covert design to change the terminus for speculative purposes" if the real facts in the case justified such a conclusion. The laws of Congress required that 100 miles of the Union Pacific Railroad, between the Missouri River and the 100th Meridian, be completed within three years after the filing of the company's assent to the organic law, filed June 27, 1863. This and a knowledge of the difficulties to be overcome under the most favorable auspices, in order to complete sufficient of the road in one season to redeem the pledge, was in mind when orders were given to commence at Bellevue as the only alternative to save the enterprise, and the only thing to be done seemed to be to organize, under the general railroad act of Nebraska, by which to legalize proceedings, then lay a temporary track at or near Bellevue to the intersection of the original location over which to convey the necessary material for the track from that point westward into the Platte Valley.
To the protest of the Burlington road, Gen. Dix replied that "the apprehended invasion of the territory for which that railroad proposes to furnish railroad facilities is altogether imaginary * * and in order to remove all objection to the proposed measure, I am authorized by the executive committee to say that" the Pacific road "will waive all claim to any lands to which the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad Company is now entitled under existing acts of Congress as far as such claim may arise from the proposed change of line. That I may not be misunderstood, I put the proposition in another form of words--that the Union Pacific Railroad Company will not claim any lands, by reason of the change of line, to which the other company is now entitled."
This concluded the correspondence in re the proposed change of route, and, on September 23, 1865, the report of Col. Simpson in relation to the application of the Union Pacific road for an amended location of a portion of the route of their road, with a recommendation that the same be granted, was submitted to President Andrew Johnson, and by him approved on the express condition that the company amend line No. 3 to make it conform to the Missouri Valley route, with ruling grades ascending westward and eastward of thirty feet to the mile.
While this action had been severely condemned by citizens of Omaha and Council Bluffs, as already indicated, the benefits to be derived by the former city and the country contiguous thereto very soon manifested themselves, and, as the road progressed, daily became apparent. They were evidenced by the tide of emigration setting hitherward, the purchase of property and the improvements made in every direction.
By this time work had been pushed forward in all the departments with such commendable vigor that ten miles of track had been laid and was progressing at the rate of one mile a day. Eighty miles of iron, four locomotives, thirty platform, a number of freight and several passenger cars were received from below, together with an abundant supply of chairs, spikes and switches. During the winter, the track was laid down as far west as Columbus, producing a thorough revolution in the freighting business of the Platte Valley. The company at this time employed six steamboats in transporting supplies to Omaha and thirteen sawmills in their preparation. Extensive buildings for the accommodation of the company were in progress of construction, and a survey of the bridge was ordered, with a view to its completion by the time any of the Iowa roads should be finished to the east bank of the Missouri.
On Tuesday, March 13, 1866, it was announced that sixty miles of the road had been completed and awaited examination by the Commissioners of the Government. The latter, consisting of Gen. S. R. Curtis, Col. J. H. Simpson and W. M. White, reached Omaha on April 15 of the same year, and, the following day, accompanied by a party of friends, boarded a train of cars and proceeded to North Bend, the point to which the road had been completed, returning to Omaha the same evening; soon after, the first 100 miles of the railroad were completed; in July, 1866, 135 miles were announced as ready for the "cars" west of Omaha, and 305 miles of the road and its various branches as finished, stocked and in operation, with machine shops, depots and water stations in good supply and order. Its fine bridges spanned all the principal streams which were the terror of emigrants in the days when the slow, toiling team carried him and his household goods to the mountains of gold or the green valleys and plains of the Pacific Slope. The North Platte was thus rendered the superior route for emigration, whether to the gold fields of Montana, Idaho, Colorado, Nevada and California, or the fertile lands of Utah, Oregon and Washington. Its formidable obstacles had been overcome and it was rendered freer from danger of interruption by the incursions of hostile Indians than any other of the routes which stretched out over the mountains and plains. Travel westward increased astonishingly, and Omaha at once became the great point of departure for emigrants tending in that direction.
While the Union Pacific had nearly crossed the plains of Nebraska and was rapidly approaching the Rocky Mountain Range, the Central Pacific was making equally gratifying headway. During the fall of 1867, the last and greatest of the tunnels on the western link was opened and the crossing of the Sierra Nevada Mountains into the Great Salt Lake Basin was effected. This achievement of hewing and blasting a pathway through primæval barriers, although included within 150 miles, was equivalent to more than 600 miles of ordinary railroad in cost and resistance to overcome. Early in 1868, the national highway pierced the rich mineral regions of the mountains and continued its movement to the Pacific. But as the eventful day approached when the last link was to be riveted in the great chain of railway communication across the continent, the struggles of rival interests to cover the remaining intervening space became intense. To the public eye there had only been presented the grand spectacle of a wonderful prosecution of the greatest of modern enterprises, and the admiration of a whole people had been challenged by the energy and indomitable pluck which laid this iron highway across the wild and almost unexplored wastes that stretched but yesterday from the Missouri to the Pacific.
When the railroad first approached completion, the various connecting lines between the Missouri River and the Atlantic seaboard began negotiating for through arrangements over its rails; for a long time interests and the confidence inspired in the owners of the Central and Union Pacific by the brilliant prospects of business before them delayed this; but toward the close of 1869, an arrangement was effected with the Chicago & North-Western Railroad line by which their through freighting interests were consolidated on a pro rata basis, thus giving the Pacific roads a terminus at Chicago, with close connections thence to the Atlantic coast. The effect upon the Pacific Mail Company of the competition thus created, both in time and rates, was marked. In the zenith of its prosperity, the company dispatched a steamer weekly to California by the isthmus. Soon after, their stock steadily declined, and, in January, 1870, the company, anticipating disastrous results from the competition, made overtures to the Central Pacific looking to the abandonment of its California line. The proposition was to concentrate the company's vessels upon the China line and its natural branches and connections, giving up the traffic from the Atlantic coast to the railroads, provided the latter would pro rata with them on through business between New York and Eastern Asia. But the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company and the Pacific Steam Navigation Company began to regard the growing trade of China with jealousy, and, threatening to put on a line to contend with the Pacific Mail, the railroad companies returned no answer, wishing to be free to make the best terms it could and not be compelled to carry the losing steamship company on their backs.
The race between the Union and Central Pacific to build the greatest number of miles of road, and thereby measure the relative power of each, gave birth to a spirit of rivalry vexations, if not injurious.
No great enterprise can be presented but enlists the opposition of those who are jealous of all success in which they do not share, or who are greedy to reap the benefits of other men's brains and energies. And so as the Union Pacific approached its connections with the Central Pacific, two classes of obstacles seem to have been thrown in its way. Nature's obstacles had all been overcome. The Rocky Mountains had been scaled, broad rivers bridged, desert plains crossed and 1,000 miles of track laid across the wide prairie, before untraversed save by the Indian and the buffalo. While the managers of this enterprise grappled with and subdued material difficulties, it was necessary to contend with a more difficult description of obstacles they encountered in their rear. At Washington and New York, there was a steady adverse interest at work, and yet this grand work was brought to its conclusion in spite of these hindrances.
The race between the Union and Central to build the greatest number of miles of road and thereby measure the relative power of each, gave birth to rivalry annoying, if not factious, unpleasant, if not damaging. But other forces were drawn into the contest. The special Commissioner, who, it was claimed, had been selected by the Secretary of the Interior, like Baalam's ass, to prophesy evil things of one branch of the enterprise, returned from his visit and submitted a report which demonstrated the spirit and the folly of opposition. Once again, in 1869, trouble was brought about through the efforts of James Fisk, Jr., who, acting in his own behalf, or prompted by a combination, was the last person who honored himself by throwing a pebble in the way of the undertaking. During that year, he purchased a limited number of shares of stock, paying for them with the check of another party indorsed by himself. The check was dishonored and the stock was not delivered, though it had been transferred to Fisk's name on the books of the company. Fisk allowed it to remain there until the annual election of directors, when he interposed his claim and applied to Judge Barnard, in New York, for an injunction restraining action until his relations with the company should be judicially determined. These proceedings, however, came to a sudden termination by the witnesses refusing to testify, under a decision of Judge Blatchford, declaring the proceedings in the State courts null and void. The difficulties between the Union and Central were settled on April 9, 1869, under the following circumstances: It seems that the railroad committee of the House of Representatives on that date, after a stormy meeting, agreed to ask the passage of a joint resolution declaring that no bonds be issued to either corporation for the eighty-mile section between Ogden and Monument Point until Congress arranged a plan for the junction of the two roads.
In the meantime and prior to the introduction of this resolution, the agents and representatives of the two companies held a conference at which preliminary steps were initiated for a consolidation of the two lines, and writing drawn up to that effect. The junction was mutually agreed upon and located at Promontory Point, between Ogden and Monument Point, and both companies severally bound themselves to put all their energies into the business of pushing on the road to completion. This agreement concluded, a rivalry between the companies ceased, though it did not affect the New York suits against the Union Pacific, already mentioned, which remained pending. There were financial troubles, too, which occasioned no inconsiderable apprehension at times, which were provided for about this time.
It will be remembered that the charter of the Union Pacific Company required that the books be kept open for subscription until $100,000,000 of stock should have been subscribed and paid for, under which it was impossible to obtain money to build the road. Capitalists could not be found to take the whole amount; if they put in $20,000,000 and the enterprise failed, they might lose the whole, while if successful, other parties who had not participated in the risk of loss could come in as subscribers to the remaining $80,000,000, and take four-fifths of the profit earned by the capital and at the risk of the first investors. It was necessary that the chance of profit to the builders should be commensurate with the risk incurred. To effect this object, the Credit Mobilier, whose business it was to furnish capital and take such risks, was utilized, and subsequently, other capitalists were introduced. In view of the risks, it was important to the contractors to be protected from personal liability, and hence that they should be incorporated. It was asserted that they obtained an excessive premium for assuming the labor and risk of construction; but this should be estimated by the then existing conditions and chances of success or failure. The general belief was that the expense of the Rocky Mountain section of the work would be ruinous, that the profit to builders would consist mainly of stock in the road, and that the road would not for the first ten years pay the expenses incident to its operation.
As a consequence, no little trouble was experienced in obtaining funds, not only to carry on, but complete, the undertaking. After seeking in vain for essential help in New York, Albany, Philadelphia and elsewhere, one of the corporators visited Boston and was successful in securing at first only small investments. Gradually, a large proportion of the company's indebtedness centered in that city, and, in 1889, when it became necessary to negotiate the sale of the first mortgage and land grant bonds of the company, to secure money for the completion and equipment of the road and payment of outstanding indebtedness, these were taken up in Boston. This was in April, and the news was a source of infinite joy to the citizens of Omaha.
The depression which had weighed upon matters in that city because of the temporary financial embarrassment of the company was severe and unquestionably possessed a serious influence upon the business prosperity and general progress of Nebraska. This was felt in every department of trade and by every individual in the community. The company's successful financial negotiations set the city once more afloat upon the highest tide of material prosperity, and similarly affected the surrounding country.
The company met all obligations held in large amounts in Nebraska, and, having furnished once more the sinews of commerce, so to speak, work was at once resumed and pushed to completion with the greatest possible expedition. Five years before, many who were at this period residents of Omaha and witnessed the ceremony of breaking ground, as quiet spectators, listened to the remarks of the speakers and heard with misgivings repeated declarations from friends of the enterprise that the work would not be completed within ten years. Precisely one-half of that period had elapsed, and the greatest and grandest enterprise of this or any other age became an indisputable fact. The wonderful energy which characterized the management of the road from its inception to its ultimate completion became the marvel of the period, not only in this country, but throughout civilized Europe. Eleven hundred miles of railway constructed through a country fifteen hundred miles distant from the great iron manufacturing districts, in the presence of hostile Indians who opposed its progress at every step, and all this within a period of five years, was an achievement without parallel in the annals of time. At this accomplishment, of the most daring enterprise and fruition of the efforts of such indomitable energy and perseverance as the world never before saw, not only a continent, but a world rejoiced. Not only this, but, as succeeding generations contemplate its results, they will stand awe-struck at the stupendous and magnificent character of the enterprise--the grandest conception of the world--and realize that Americans of the present day were able to fashion as readily and as ably as they were to conceive; that with them thought and power went hand in hand.
The completion of the road, the great event of the nineteenth century, occurred on Monday, May 10, 1869. On that day, two oceans were united, a continent was spanned with iron bands, and a revolution was accomplished in the commerce of the world. The Anglo-Saxon and the Celt met in friendly greeting the tawny Asiatic at Promontory Point, and rejoiced together over the final consummation of the enterprise which their united labors had achieved. California shook hands with New York and New England, and the mingled screams of steam whistles upon engines constructed at points 3,000 miles distant waked the echoes of the mountains. Fruitful as has been the present century in important discoveries and useful inventions, varied and multiform as have been the improvements wrought out by patient toil and unequaled energy of the men of the age in which they lived, no single achievement will compare in its immediate and ultimate consequence to the material prosperity of the people, not only of America, but of Europe and Asia, with the grand work which reached its final consummation on Monday, May 10, 1869.
Looking backward from tidewater at San Francisco to tidewater at Washington, the pathway traveled seems to lie over an ocean of land, whose waves run from ripples up to the height of the Alleghanies, downward to the calm, long swell again in the bottom of the Eastern lakes, and so on to Omaha. Then come the waves again. The train starts at an elevation of near a thousand feet above tide. In 500 miles, it has been borne up to 7,000 feet; fifty miles beyond, it stands upon the king billow of all the voyage, at Sherman, on the summit of the Black Hills, over 8,000 feet above the ocean. From this point, the immense waves succeed each other rapidly; in twenty-four miles, the surface has sunk away 1,000 feet; in seventy-five miles, 1,000 more, and then, in 100 miles, the great land wave has run up nearly, 2,000 feet, where the great watersheds of the continent divide on the crest of the Rocky Mountains. And this rolling of land, which becomes so strong at Cheyenne, sweeps on without break for 500 miles, to the basis of Salt Lake, and crest after crest bears up the train 1,000 feet, and from them it sinks as often and as far.
Leaving the Union Pacific road at Promontory, there is the same succession, till at Reno, near the California line, the ridges of 1,000 feet seem but as ripples compared with the mighty ranges which swell up into the ever snow-capped Sierra Nevadas, where the train stands at an elevation of over 7,000 feet again. From this summit, in 100 miles, the descent reaches a point only fifty-six feet above the Pacific at Sacramento. These all have been mighty billows, and to cross them, as ships tack to gain an advance on a level sea, so the great engines which drag the trains have tacked time and again to climb a single wave, and time after time have tacked again to reach the trough of the valley below it. Looking westward, this constant succession of mountains cannot be felt, but looking eastward, the continent seems as an ocean rolling into veritable mountains with wreaths of clouds along their crests for spray.
Of the wondrous results which followed this signal triumph, much has been said and written. But it is probable that the human mind can comprehend them only to a limited extent--for the human mind rarely comes up to the full height of its own victories. Along the procession of years that has passed, it sees their influence, and, by their light, is able to peer farther into the future than it otherwise could; but still, the reach of its vision is limited by the finiteness of its nature. It can only see a part of the great totality. It sees how the great railroad has peopled and developed the vast wilds of a continent; its influence upon the commercial, intellectual, social and material interests of the world come to it in sanguine but dimly comprehensive shades, and it is powerless to view the immensity and universality of the results accomplished. These will come to the knowledge of posterity as the fruition of the past has come to their ancestry. Mankind waits for time for the solution of all problems.
The revolution effected by the new route in international communication has been beyond all calculation. It has made a short cut from Europe to Asia, and practically brought Hong Kong 5,000 miles nearer to England than before.
To America, the line opened up a mode of traveling between New York and San Francisco, which contrasted favorably with the tedious voyage by the Isthmus of Panama, or the long and dangerous route across the plains, which have been strewn by the skeletons of thousands who have fallen a prey to the tomahawk and scalping-knives of the Indians, or to fatigue and starvation.
But to Europe, the increased facilities for travel were immense. To-day, the journey between London and Yokohama, in Japan, can be accomplished in less than a month, and mail facilities have improved proportionately.
Now the teas of China and the silks and spices of India find their way to the markets of New York and London, not by the slow and hazardous routes employed in years gone by, but across the continent of America, by the more safe and expeditious means of the great railway, the completion of which electrified the nation and astonished mankind. Marking, as it did, a new era in commerce, is it surprising that the people of Omaha, situated, as it is, midway between the two oceans and at the initial point of the route, united their rejoicings and congratulations over the spiking of the last rail? Omaha owed all she was to the Union Pacific Railway. When the great enterprise was commenced, her population scarcely exceeded five thousand, and her commerce with the West was transported on ox and mule trains, subject to the delays and dangers incident to high waters, treacherous quicksands and hostile Indians. Limited as was this Western trade, it was divided between Leavenworth, Omaha and the intermediate river towns. Upon its completion, Omaha counted a population exceeding twenty thousand, and a commerce with the West embracing the trade of Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Idaho and Montana, carried forward by the iron horse and undisputed by former business rivals. No wonder, then, at the rejoicings that were heard on every side; that a procession of almost unlimited dimensions, made up of the civic and military, embracing alike the merchant and the laboring man, the professional and the artisan, turned out en masse to swell the throng of ten thousand souls who assembled on Capitol Hill to witness and participate in the ceremonies of the day. To Omaha, the completion of the work possessed a peculiar and significant importance. Here through trains to the Pacific are made up; here is collected the commerce of the converging lines which form connections with the Grand Trunk, are billed through to that proud city by the blue waters of the bay which flow outward through the Golden Gate to the Pacific; and here the returning commerce of California, Nevada, Oregon and the far-off trade of the Western Hemisphere is distributed to the various quarters of America and Europe.
The question which was then propounded, "Will it pay?" has since been answered. Amidst the general jubilation over the great event of the century, this question was constantly recurring to persons of a business and practical turn of mind. In 1868, there were estimated to have been one hundred ships, with an aggregate tonnage of 80,000, plying from the Atlantic shore around Cape Horn; of steamships connecting with China and California at Panama, there were fifty-five, with a total tonnage of 120,000; while the tonnage of overland wagon trains, stages, etc., was estimated at 30,000. The return tonnage was fully as much, and it may be safe to assume that the freight both ways was not far from 500,000 tons. If the general rule of the increase of travel deduced from an examination of railway statistics, when applied to the Pacific Railroad, holds good, these figures would be increased during the first year of its operation to at least 500,000 passengers, at $150 each, or $75,000,000; calculating the cost to shippers of freight at $10,000,000, the gross proceeds would be $85,000,000--an amount far above the running expenses, interest on capital and tear of material. The history of railroads shows that the longest lines pay the best, and the Pacific will not be proved an exception.
The Union and Central Pacific have been in successful operation for nearly fifteen years. The question as to whether they can be employed alike in winter and summer has been long since answered. Through the rigors and storms of winters almost unparalleled in severity, these companies have demonstrated their capacity to run trains over mountain tops and through the passes and canons with a regularity and certainty which none of the great lines of the East have ever surpassed. Their roads must, therefore, through all future time, constitute the outlet for the immense network of railways which skirt the shores of the great lakes and converge at Chicago. The fact that Nebraska occupies a central position between the great oceans, on the direct line from Boston, New York and Chicago, is evident to all, and is the converging point for the following lines from the latter city and elsewhere to form connections with the Union Pacific:
As such, they will construct the main artery of travel and commerce across the continent--the great highway for an exchange of commodities between the Orient and the Occident. Europe and America must in all the future employ these avenues across the continent in their intercourse, socially and commercially, with the Asiatics. They will always remain the main lines of communication.
As is known, the Union Pacific terminus was at Omaha, to which point Congress authorized the company to construct a bridge for the transfer of Eastern freight and passengers. Upon the completion of the bridge, the delivery of freight and passengers destined for the East was sought by the State of Iowa in her territory by prohibiting railroads deriving their charter from that State from making deliveries beyond her boundaries. The Union Pacific had no status in Iowa, that State not having passed an enabling act authorizing the company to have its terminus within her limits. The city of Omaha had made grants of land to the company, and the county of Douglas had voted bonds in aid of establishing the terminus of the road on the west side of the river, which the Union Pacific had stipulated to do upon accepting these gratuities. Apprehending that an attempt would be made through the Union Pacific company to transfer a very important portion of their business to Council Bluffs, Omaha citizens became considerably excited. In March, 1872, when the bridge was completed, the Iowa railroads refused to run their trains through to Omaha or permit them to be run by any transfer company, insisting upon the delivery of freight and passengers on the eastern side of the river, where the same should be received by the Union Pacific. The latter company, being prohibited, under the terms of its contract with Omaha, and by want of legal authority, from running through trains over the bridge and delivering within Iowa, contracted temporarily with a third party to make the transfer over the bridge. A commercial necessity soon disposed of the affair, however, and upon the arrival of freight and passengers at Council Bluffs they were immediately transferred to the Omaha side by the transfer company, which was subsequently regularly incorporated. The terminus question was definitely settled in May, 1873, and the General Superintendent of the road was ordered to proceed without delay to complete plans for the depot and general offices preparatory to their construction at Omaha.
When work on the Union Pacific Railroad was organized in 1865, there were many who opposed the inauguration of the undertaking on the ground that it was a chimera, which could not be practically carried into successful operation and become a paying institution. They brought forward other objections--the difficulty of securing Eastern connections to this gigantic highway by reason of the presumed impossibility of bridging the Missouri River. It was insisted upon that the bottom of the "Big Muddy" was of a character so soft and yielding as to preclude the possibility of sinking stationary piers and erecting a solid superstructure of masonry indispensable to the construction of this all-important work. Many engineers of science and ability shared in this view of the subject, and the objections thus canvassed occasioned serious doubts in the minds of persons of intelligence, not few in number, who were otherwise in favor of the magnificent scheme of uniting two oceans with iron bonds.
This question involved many considerations of great importance, not only to the Union Pacific Railroad, but also to the various railroads which should sooner or later connect with it or at its eastern terminus, as it was therefore to be considered with reference to its present and future relations to the interests of all parties concerned.
The successful building of the bridge across the Missouri at Kansas City in 1866 had the effect of allaying fears to a certain extent, and those who had demurred to the project were obliged to cease giving utterance to their annoying predictions.
On the 25th of July, 1866, Congress adopted an act providing for the construction of certain bridges across the Mississippi, Missouri and other rivers in the Northwest, and, in December of the same year, Silas Simpson, Consulting Engineer, addressed a communication to Oliver Ames, President pro tem, of the Union Pacific road, giving his views as to the location and proper construction of a bridge across the Missouri River at Omaha. It was based upon information contained in a report upon the same subject submitted by Chief Engineer Dodge, and was considered sufficiently reliable to enable Mr. Seymour to arrive at substantially correct conclusions in comparing the relative advantages of the different routes prepared for discussion. These conclusions may be briefly stated as follows:
1st.--If the company desired to build a bridge within the shortest possible time for the least amount of money, and with a view of deriving the greatest amount of benefit from it during the construction of the road, then throw across a low wooden bridge, with draw, at some point either at or just below what is known as the Telegraph Crossing. This could be done for about $350,000.
2d. If the company decide to build a permanent bridge at a point to be mutually agreed upon, that should accommodate not only its own traffic, but the traffic of all its Eastern tributaries, for all time, it was recommended that, if the approaches would permit, a high bridge, without draw, with iron superstructure and stone piers, be built, at an estimated cost of about $850,000.
At this time, the Union Pacific was completed and in operation a distance of 305 miles westward from the Missouri. Upon the eastern side of the river, the grading of the Chicago & North-Western road was completed to its western terminus--a point almost directly opposite the Union Pacific depot grounds; the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific had been located, and would be completed to the Missouri River within the ensuing two years; the Burlington & Missouri River road was in process of construction, while the Sioux City and other feeders of the Union Pacific were under survey or construction.
The different railroad interests on the east side of the river had, up to this time, failed to agree upon a common local point at which to converge for the purpose of transferring their business to and from the Union Pacific, and it was esteemed by Mr. Seymour as somewhat premature to attempt to locate and construct a bridge that should necessarily force such a combination of interests as would induce them to render the aid necessary to its construction, or obligate themselves to use the bridge for any length of time after its completion.
The feasibility of building the bridge having been disposed of, the next question of interest in that behalf which attracted public attention at Omaha and the vicinity was the matter of location. Of course, in its consideration, there were many combating interests called into existence and exercise, and lively discussions concerning the project were had through the press and on the platform. Arguments for its location at Childs' Mills, three miles below the city, where it was claimed the structure could be erected for $500,000 less than at any other point selected, were advanced; also, for its building at Bellevue Crossing, South Omaha and elsewhere. Engineers claimed that, if the President of the United States had been aware of the great advantages opposite the mouth of Pappillon Valley, he would have fixed the initial point of the road with reference to a crossing at that point, instead of at the point designated by him above Omaha City.
Childs' Mill lay nearly in an air line between the natural point of convergence of the three lines of railroad terminating or to terminate at Council Bluffs and the southerly bend of the Union Pacific road when it left Mud Creek and entered the Pappillon Valley, when the saving in distance, adaptation to a high bridge and cheapness of construction were advantages which could not be ignored.
South Omaha Crossing was situated about three-fourths of a mile from the workshops of the company, which would render it available for future use; in addition, the company, by erecting the bridge here, would virtually comply with its implied obligations to the Government and the people with reference to the terminus of the road as fixed by the President of the United States.
The estimated total capital chargeable to the bridge if erected at Childs' Mill would be $2,882,131; and $2,596,356 if erected at South Omaha, showing a difference in favor of the latter of $285,775.
In March, 1868, Messrs. Alvin Saunders, Francis Smith, Augustus Kountze, Ezra Millard, Enos Lowe and O. P. Hurford, a committee representing the city and citizens of Omaha, empowered with authority to enter into and consummate any arrangements calculated to adjust and settle the entire question of the final location of the bridge, addressed a communication to the railroad officials submitting reasons why a crossing at some other point than at Childs' Mills should be determined upon. These arguments proved irresistible, and the indomitable energy, perseverance and business tact of these gentlemen eventually prevailed, in spite of the efforts of consolidated railway interests, who, seeing the necessity of direct railway communication with the Union Pacific, offered large pecuniary inducements for the location of the bridge at some point where it would be most serviceable to them and secure advantages.
The committee above designated proceeded to New York, where the question was to be finally decided at a meeting of the road Directory, and presented their reasons for its present location so forcibly as to accomplish the object of their mission, and on March 26, 1868, Chairman Saunders telegraphed, "The bridge is located at Train Table. Omaha pledges the depot grounds and $250,000; Council Bluffs pledges $200,000; ground and right of way will be condemned."
Upon the announcement of this intelligence in Omaha, the utmost joy and enthusiasm was manifested throughout the city. Bonfires were lighted, houses illuminated, church bells rung, and citizens manifested unalloyed pleasure in all available ways.