Planning begins for 150-year anniversary of railroad in Truckee |

Planning begins for 150-year anniversary of railroad in Truckee

Hannah Jones

Members of the community are gearing up for the 150-year celebration of the completion of the transcontinental railroad next summer and are looking for community input on how to best commemorate an event that shaped Truckee for years to come.

The Truckee Donner Railroad Society, Truckee Donner Historical Society and the Donner Summit Historical Society are working to organize a Golden Spike celebration and have created multiple committees on different aspects of a summer-long celebration.

While the exact date of the railroad completion took place on May 10, 1869, the groups plan to host events throughout the following months.

"We've been doing an awful lot, but we need your help," said Chaun Mortier of the Truckee Donner Railroad Society at a community meeting Wednesday.

"It all started because of the trains," said Jerry Blackwill, board member of the Truckee Donner Railroad Society during a presentation Wednesday. "And that was a very major event."

According to Blackwill, museums from California to Omaha along the transcontinental railroad will all be celebrating the anniversary.

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The construction of the tracks through the Sierra Nevada, headed by Central Pacific Railroad, was long and laborious, with workers having to cut through hard granite and blast tunnels through Donner Pass. The longest was Tunnel 6, which was to run 1,659 feet through the summit ridge at Donner Pass.

As Union Pacific Railroad was making quick progress through Omaha, Central Pacific was struggling to complete a mile of track while risking government funding if they did not make substantial progress.

In early 1868, the tracks from Sacramento to Reno were finally completed and the first passenger car completed a trip from Sacramento to Reno on June 16, 1868. That first train to ride through Truckee marked the start of development of the town as Truckee shipped more freight than any other point on the Central Pacific during the 1870s.

Getting organized

The groups will be holding the first of many committee meetings and community members who wish to help organize the event are encouraged to attend.

All meetings will take place at the Joseph Research Library behind the Public Utility District building.

A committee in charge of gathering funding for the event will meet on Oct. 22 at 7 p.m.

A committee to organize talks, hikes and additional events surrounding the railroad's history will meet on Oct. 24 at 7 p.m.

A committee of docents who will lead talks at historical sites and provide commentary will meet on Oct. 24 at 5:30 p.m.

The committee in charge of organizing live music at the top of China wall on Donner Summit will meet on Oct. 25 at 5:30 p.m.

The committee to organize a downtown walking tour will meet on Oct. 25 at 7 p.m.

A committee that will collect ideas for commemorative stamps and passports for the celebration, potentially through a community wide art contest, will meet at 5 p.m. Oct. 22.

A committee to develop sets of "then and now" pictures will meet at 7 p.m. Oct. 23.

The committee in charge of a Stanford Project book signing, which documented the work of Chinese immigrants on the railroad, will meet at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 26.

A committee that will produce a Golden Spike book, and weekly newspaper article, will meet at 7 p.m. Oct. 26.

Hannah Jones is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at 530-550-2652 or