Sacramento Valley Railroad

Sacramento Valley Railroad The Sacramento Valley Railroad carried the Pony Express mail between Sacramento and Folsom, California, a distance of 22 miles. Folsom was the terminus of the express riders' trail from June 1860 to June 1861 when the western verminous became Placerville.

The Sacramento Valley Railroad had been completed in 1856, largely with the aid of San Francisco capital. It was the first commercial railroad west of the Mississippi and, like so many other similar proposals of the 1850's, its promoters held high hopes that it would become the western leg of the first transcendental railroad when it would be built.

Theodore Judah

Charles Lincoln Wilson, a San Francisco transportation businessman, successfully lobbied the State Legislature to allow the construction of a railroad between Sacramento and Marysville. The route would head 22 miles east to the mining town of Negro Bar, later to become Folsom, cross the American River, the skirt along the foothills 20 miles north to Marysville.

Wilson enlisted the services of New York railroad engineer Theodore Judah. Judah's route was easy to build. The only challenges were building trestles over three creeks and cutting a 600-foot-long embankment near Negro Bar.

The Sacramento Valley Railroad led directly to the building of the transcontinental railroad. As a result of the 22 miles of track to Folsom, laws were passed that eased railroad financing. More importantly, Theodore Judah came to California, eager to find a path for the tracks of a railroad over the Sierra.

After completion of the Sacramento Valley Railroad, Judah became involved with the "Big Four," Stanford, Hopkins, Huntington and Crocker, who would eventually build the western half of the transcontinental railroad, the Central Pacific.

The Sacramento Valley Railroad lost out to the Central Pacific as the all-important transcontinental railroad was routed through Roseville instead of Folsom. Unfortunately, on a trip east in 1863 to seek investors for his railroad, Judah contracted malaria crossing the Isthmus of Panama and died in New York at the age of 37. His legacy today is the route and the laws he helped make reality.

The Central Pacific Railroad Photographic History Museum contains stereoviews, engravings, maps, and documents illustrating the history of the first transcontinental railroad. The Sacramento Valley Railroad page is of particular interest.

Return to List