Truckee celebrates 150 years of trains
Exactly 150 years ago on Tuesday a train used the newly constructed tracks and tunnels that wound through the Sierra Nevada mountains and through Truckee for the first time, a milestone that would shape the development of the Town of Truckee for years to come.
The train, powered by the locomotive Antelope, left Sacramento at 6:30 a.m. on June 16, 1868, pulling a freight car, a baggage car, and three loaded passenger cars, stopped in Truckee before arriving in Reno around 8 p.m.
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.
“It took quite a long time to get through tunnels,” said Jerry Blackwill of the Truckee Donner Railroad Society. “And on top of that those two companies were in a race to the finish.”
Blackwill said workers began laying track starting in Truckee and moving in both directions toward Donner Summit and Reno.
In early 1868 the tracks from Sacramento to Reno were finally completed. The first passenger train to ride through Truckee marked the start of development of the town.
During the 1870s Truckee shipped more freight than any other point on the Central Pacific.
“Truckee was a train town from the start,” said Jerry Blackwill of the Truckee Donner Railroad Society. “Development took off in Truckee after that.”
Since the start railroads have played an important part in the development of Truckee, as a major stop in America’s first transcontinental railroad. As tourism grew, a tourist railroad linked Truckee to the shore of Lake Tahoe, connecting the country to scenic Lake Tahoe.
Hannah Jones is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at 530-550-2652 or firstname.lastname@example.org.