Building the Central Pacific Railroad:
The Photos of Alfred A. Hart

Considered one of the great engineering feats of the 19th Century, the Central Pacific Railroad was a seven-year, 690-mile undertaking that connected California to the rest of the country.

From 1864 to 1869, Alfred A. Hart, the railroad's official photographer, recorded the progress of the railway from Sacramento, over the Sierra Nevada range, across Nevada to Promontory, Utah, using a 5-by-8 inch wet-plate stereo camera and processing his fragile glass plates in a portable dark tent.

Historian Mead Kibbey has generously donated to the California State Library the glass plate slides Hart took of the railroad's construction.

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Road in Auburn Ravine, Placer County. Image of the front of a steam locomotive heading around a curve on the side of a steep mountain.
View of the Forks of the American River, 3 miles above Alta. Photo of the engine of locomotive on the edge of a mountain. 4 men are standing near the train looking down at the river.
All aboard for Virginia City, and the overland mail. Photo of the front of steam locomotive outside of an early Wells Fargo Office. Stagecoaches and horses are next to the train.
Bound for the Mountains - 12 Mile Tangent. Engine of a steam locomotive heading down a track through open barren land.
'Oneonta' at Cisco. Image of the steam locomotive, Oneonta, carrying a load of wood. Man is standing on the side of the locomotive. There are several wood buildings in the background. Stacks of wood and railroad ties are piled near the locomotive.
J Street, Sacramento City. View from the Levee. Taken in 1865 this photograph shows the Central Pacific Railroad locomotive 'A. A. Sargent.' In the foreground, two railroad workers look toward the camera. In the background is a sign for the Brannon House and the hardware store named Carolan.
Locomotive on Turntable. Steam engine sits on wood turntable with group of men watching. On one side is a horse and cart. In the distance, a wood train trestle stretches over lowland.
Main Street Upper Cisco, 5911 feet elevation. Horses and wagons crowd a dirt road. Unpainted wood buildings line one side. Pine trees and hill in background.
Snow Gallery around Crested Peak. A man standing in a wooden structure through which railroad tracks run. Man in hat and coat stands beside rail track inside tall wood lattice-like structure. Lumber is stacked on both sides of the track.
Constructing Snow Cover. Scene near the summit. Five men stand on top of wooden snow shed, laying beams. Beneath is the train track hugging the side of a steep mountain. Four men and a horse stand on and around the track.
Winnemucca Depot (334 miles from Sacramento). Two steam engines and train cars holding water barrels sit outside building. Scrub brush country in background.
End of Track, near Humboldt Lake. Several men work on track in sandy scrub brush country. Woman in long dress stands with child at side of track. Steel rails are piled on sides of track.