First Through Scheduled Passenger Train
Over the Western Pacific
|With the last rails joined Lenonard Tomasso and the crew pause for a picture.
|Hogan Photo, Frank Brehm Collection.
High in the Sierra Nevada’s on a trestle crossing Spanish
Creek, north fork of the Feather River, the last rail was put in
place from the track laying machine and spiked into place by the
rail gang, the date being November 1, 1909.
that moment of completion of the great undertaking, Charles H.
Schlacks, first vice-president of the Western Pacific, and
Charles M. Levey, second vice-president and general manager,
arrived in San Francisco, Schlacks coming from Denver, where
until recently he had been vice-president and general manager of
the Denver and Rio Grande, and Levey from his first official
inspection of the new road as far north as Oroville.
Vice-President Schlacks stated that the company hoped to operate
trains for freight service over the new road before January 1,
1910 although “No appointments of operating and traffic officers
have been made, and until we return from a trip of inspection
over the entire line no conclusions will be reached in this
connection. We desire to see the line and to study its
condition, so that we may form some idea as to when we may begin
operating. We hope to run trains, at least for freight service,
by January 1st."
|The first through train, an inspection by officials, pauses at Oroville.
|Frank Brehm Collection.
The first train to make a trip over the
now completed Western Pacific Railway line from the Pacific
terminal at San Francisco, California to Salt Lake City, Utah
where the line connected with the Denver and Rio Grande, left
San Francisco on November 5, 1909 carrying Schlacks, Levy, and
Virgil G. Bogue, vice-president and chief engineer.
"This will be the
first through passenger train." said Schlacks, "but it will be a
special and will not make any schedule time, it will be the
first train on the Western Pacific that has started from one
terminal and will have reached the other. The trip probably will
last several days and will be entirely one of inspection."
Local freight operations had been started as soon as
possible after rails had been laid in some areas and would now
begin running the complete distance across the new system once
cleared for through operations. Through passenger service was
set to begin as soon as the proper equipment and motive power
was on hand. In a telegram to the Western Pacific Celebration
Committee in Sacramento, California on February 22, 1910 Levey
wrote: “We now hope to inaugurate through passenger service June
5th, or shortly thereafter, but expect to commence running a
local passenger train between San Francisco and Oroville early
Neither service began when hoped though as it
was announced on March 29 that the WP would not start its local
passenger service as previously anticipated. There was still a
tremendous amount of work to be accomplished at the various
stations and in getting the whole line ready for business with
no estimate of when the system would be opened.
roadbed down the canyon was rapidly being put in condition for
fast train service. The unballasted portions of the road were
receiving gravel just as fast as trains could deliver it, and a
large force of men were engaged in raising and properly
ballasting the track. At many points, during the previous winter
the tracks had settled considerably, thus throwing the rails out
of alignment and rendering the running of trains difficult and
somewhat dangerous. These shortcomings were quickly being
corrected in anticipation of providing regular freight and
Mother Nature though had other ideas
concerning WP running any trains. C. H. Levey and C. H. Schlacks
left San Francisco on April 5 to the scene of a washout on the
south shore of the Great Salt Lake. Superintendent Ogilvie of
Salt Lake City had made a personal examination of the damage but
was unable to state when traffic over the line could be resumed.
The washout occurred in a peculiar way on the extreme south
end of the great salt sea between the towns of Grants and Lego,
which are eleven miles apart. The Western Pacific tracks had
been laid upon a high embankment built across a marsh on the
shore of the lake.
|Flooding from the Humbolt River
caused considerable damage to the new road.
|Frank Brehm Collection.
withstood the power of the heavy salt waves which fell upon it
as a result of the wind storm, but the ties and rails were swept
off the embankment for some distance. Traffic over the Western
Pacific lines had consequently been stopped in that division.
Officials of the division where the washout occurred had been
congratulating themselves because they had just succeeded in
overcoming the congestion of local freight traffic.
and Schlacks would have some trouble getting to Salt Lake
though, as the same storm had also battered the line in Nevada
along the Humboldt River.
|Repair crews began working on
the damaged areas as soon as the worst of the storms had
|Frank Brehm Collection.
Repair crews were
mobilized, and the line made passable in less than two weeks.
This made it possible to have a train of inspection cross the
system beginning on April 12 with Darius Miller, president of
the Burlington; Charles H. Schlacks, first vice-president of the
Western Pacific and of the Denver and Rio Grande railroads, and
Thomas M. Schumacher, vice president in charge of traffic of the
Western Pacific. This was significant in that a probable traffic
agreement between the Hill roads and the Gould lines was in the
Being able to have that line inspection proved
beneficial as traffic agreements were concluded at a conference
of railroad officials on April 16 whereby the Chicago,
Burlington & Quincy railroad and the Denver & Rio Grande’s
Western Pacific line would interchange business in Denver and
the Gould lines would thereby become the outlet to California
for the Hill roads. It was also announced that through passenger
trains probably would be operated from Chicago by way of Denver
to San Francisco.
Official confirmation of this traffic
agreement between the Burlington and Western Pacific was
soon as the Western Pacific opened for passenger business a
regular Burlington train was to leave San Francisco daily.
The train would run over the Western Pacific to Salt Lake
City; over the Denver and Rio Grande to Denver and thence over
the Burlington to Chicago, touching at the different cities of
the middle west that are on the Burlington line.
Schumacher left Thursday evening, April 28, for New York with
the express intention of conferring with President Jeffery of
the Western Pacific relative to the organization of the
passenger department. Instead Mr. Schumacher submitted his
resignation, effective June 1, as vice-president in charge of
traffic for both the Western Pacific and Denver and Rio Grande
to become assistant to T. C. Stubbs, traffic director of the
|Thomas M. Schumacher.
|Frank Brehm Collection.
This undoubtedly would now cause a delay in
the opening of the Western Pacific for passenger traffic. It had
been expected that a large number of appointments would be
forthcoming upon his return to San Francisco. With Schumacher's
resignation, however, Western Pacific was left without a traffic
head at a time the road was preparing to open for passenger
business, which made it necessary that the vacancy be filled at
the soonest available opportunity.
May 23 marked the
beginning of through freight traffic over the entire Western
Pacific system when consignments from the eastern end of the
line to the west coast could now be handled.
on the system was being rushed all along the line it was still
impossible to say when through passenger service was to begin.
For some months freight transportation had been carried on
extensively in the Sacramento Valley and many local merchants
had already received large shipments consigned over the new
June 5th had been envisioned for beginning through
passenger service from Salt Lake to Sacramento, but whether the
road would be open in time was still in doubt. In some parts of
Nevada considerable work still had to be completed which had not
been figured on when the date for completion of the system had
been set, and now there was reason to doubt whether even July
1st would see the beginning of through service.
anticipation of the completion of all parts of the road a good
deal of the rolling stock to be used for passenger traffic had
recently been forwarded from Salt Lake, where it had been kept,
to Oakland. Dining cars and passenger coaches formed the major
portion of this group, having come from the Denver and Rio
The surprise of the year in railroad circles was
created on the afternoon of June 27, 1910, when it was announced
that Edward L. Lomax, general passenger agent of the Union
Pacific at Omaha, had received the appointment of passenger
traffic manager of the Western Pacific, with his office to be
located in San Francisco. The appointment would become effective
on July 1.
The appointment of a passenger traffic chief
for the new Gould line had been in limbo ever since the road
began to operate its freight department in January 1910. Many of
those in the railroad industry throughout the country had
anxiously awaited the announcement, expecting that a Denver and
Rio Grande official would be named to the job so this
announcement caused a sensation among railroad officials as the
expectation had been the appointment of a Gould system traffic
The appointment of Lomax meant that the Western
Pacific was definitely getting ready to operate its passenger
service. Passenger trains were now set to begin running about
the third week in August, following a general inspection of the
road by its officers, several of whom were now on their way to
The announcement was also made that
through sleeper service between San Francisco and Chicago was to
be inaugurated on the Western Pacific and Burlington within a
short time, while through train service would be given from San
Francisco to St. Louis also.
Prior to beginning scheduled
through passenger service Western Pacific wanted to give the
public a glance at what they had to offer in service and
scenery. How better to do that than run a press special as part
of the inauguration.
"We want the public to know what
kind of a railroad we have," said Lomax on August 16, 1910. "We
are giving the press the first peep. They will let the public
know." With that said elaborate preparations were already being
made by all the cities along the line of the Western Pacific to
welcome the first regular through passenger train on the road.