In , the final spike was set on the first American transcontinental railroad. It was a milestone connecting the east and the west of the United States. While the Union Pacific built the eastern tracks with the ease of flatter lands, the Central Pacific Railroad Company faced a tougher time going through the rough terrain of the Rocky Mountains. In addition, the Central Pacific faced the hindrance of not having enough workers since most men did not wish to risk their lives. However, they were not welcomed with open arms; rather they faced skepticism because they appeared to have delicate, effeminate hands and were too small for a giant project. How did the Chinese come to work for the railroads? Most of them were young men in search of adventure and job opportunities.
They Helped Build a Railroad−and a Nation: Honoring the Chinese Railroad Workers
Key Questions – Chinese Railroad Workers in North America
JOHN T. House of Representatives, Thursday, April 29, Speaker, today I rise to honor the Chinese-American community and pay tribute to its ancestors' contribution to the building of the American transcontinental railroad. On May 8th, the Colfax Area Historical Society in my Congressional District will place a monument along Highway at Cape Horn, near Colfax, California to recognize the efforts of the Chinese in laying the tracks that linked the east and west coasts for the first time. With the California Gold Rush and the opening of the West came an increased interest in building a transcontinental railroad.
History of Chinese Americans
They toiled through back-breaking labor during both frigid winters and blazing summers. Hundreds died from explosions, landslides, accidents and disease. And even though they made major contributions to the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad , these 15, to 20, Chinese immigrants have been largely ignored by history. Looking back, historians say, the Chinese, who began arriving in the United States in significant numbers during the California Gold Rush of , were deemed too weak for the dangerous, strenuous job of building the railroad east from California. Hilton Obenzinger, associate director of the Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project at Stanford University, says that Central Pacific Railroad director Charles Crocker recommended hiring Chinese workers after a job ad resulted in only a few hundred responses from white laborers.
The Chinese railroad workers were grading and digging tunnels across a stretch of the Sierras when they decided to lay down their tools. It was the end of June and snow still covered the mountain tops. So they put them to their employer, the Central Pacific Railroad, and a strike was on.