Report from Samuel B. Reed to Oliver Ames, 1867

In this copy of a report from 1867, Samuel Reed writes to Oliver Ames, President of the Union Pacific Railroad, detailing the progress of the railroad's construction over the past year. He describes the totality of the work that has been done on the railroad from October 1, 1866 to September 1, 1867, giving very specific accounts of the miles of track laid, telegraph lines built, railroad ties used, bridges constructed, amount of earth and rock excavated during grading, and the like. He also discusses the great difficulty he has had in obtaining ties for the railroad, particularly from the Black Hills and in the area of Laurence Fork, Nebraska. He writes that there have been "serious delays in grading and in furnishing ties caused by the decided hostility of the Indians, our grading men have been frequently attacked, some men have been killed and a large amount of stock lost." Reed also includes an account of the materials on hand as of September 1, 1867.

Reed's Report [Oct. 1, 1866?]

page image

Oliver Ames. President U.P.R.R. Co.

Dear Sir.

I have the honor to submit the following report in relation to the construction of the Union Pacific Rail Road for the year commencing October first 1866.

On the first of October last the grading was completed two hundred and seventy eight miles west of the initial point, and partially completed to the end of the third one hundred miles.

The track was laid two hundred and fourty [sic] one and fourty [sic] eight one hundredths miles.

The bridge over North Platte River was about one third built.

All the Round houses, Shops, Station buildings, and Water houses, were complete to Plum Creek.

The work of grading, bridging, track laying, and building stations, was pushed ahead vigorously and at the close of the season's work December eighth, there were three hundred and thirty five miles nearly graded. Track laid three hundred and five miles.

One Round house of ten stalls, and one Eating house, ninety eight by thirty, with wing seventy eight by thirty, completed at North Platte.

Station buildings were completed at Willow Island, Brady Island, and North Platte.

page image

After work was suspended on the grading, track laying, and buildings, on account of the severity of the weather, a large portion of the men were employed by the various tie and wood contractors in the Missouri River and Platte valleys.

Early in the spring of 1867 the various parties for grading, track laying, bridging, & c. were organized to commence work as soon as the frost was out of the ground; but in consequence of the unprecedentated [sic] high water at the breaking up of the ice in the Platte and Loup Fork rivers, portions of the road between Omaha and North Platte were impassable nearly all the month of April, and it was impossible to get men and supplies over the road until the first of May; one month later than the year before.

At the same time that the work was resumed where left off last fall, a psmall party of about fifty men in charge of Lewis Carmichael was started for the mountains to commence work on the East slope of the Black Hills. In consequence of the change in location nearly all the work done in the Black Hills up to August fifteenth has been thrown out.

There has have been serious delays in grading and in furnishing ties caused by the decided hostility of the Indians, our grading men have been frequently attacked, some men have been killed and a large amount of stock lost. The tie men on Laurence Fork and in the Black Hills have been driven from the timber, greatly retarding the work.

page image

The grading notwithstanding the serious Indian war that has been raged against all whites on the plaines [sic] , has been pushed ahead rapidly and successfully as you will see by referring to the amount of work done.

There are now at work in the Black Hills two parties on company account and two other parties are organizing to go there.

Five parties are at work on the rock and earth in the Mountains by contract. A large force of men and teams are now there and the number is constantly being increased.

The work there is not as far advanced as it should be in consequence of a change in location which is now being made.

All the light work and most of the heavy rock excavations through the first range of Mountains and fifty miles west of the Laramie river can be completed before winter.

The track laying has been pushed with energy since commencing this spring with the exception of two weeks when the Missouri river was too high to cross material. The numerous small bridges have been framed at North Platte and Julesburg and sent forward to the end of track and thence hauled by teams and raised by a set of men kept in advance of the track for that purpose.

Most of the iron work for the bridges has been made in the company shops in Omaha.

page image

A contract has been made with Mr. Richmond to build all the station houses to SCheyenne.

The tanks are made in the company shops at Omaha and put up, including the tank houses by days work.

The wells as far as the road is built are all dug and a permanent supply of water obtained at all stations except Julesburg where I am now drilling for water, have sunk three hundred and thirty feet through soft chalky rock without finding a stream strong enough to supply the station. At Big Springs the tank is supplied from a pipe spring nine hundred and fifty feet long distant with sufficient head to supply the tank without pumping.

The supplying of ties and bridge timber has been performed with great labor and trouble. Some large contracts were made last winter with parties that failed to deliver a single tie. As soon as the contracts so made could be broken up I made arrangements with other parties that have not done much better than the original.

Much valuable time was thus lost and I was compelled to resort to the Missouri river valley and the line of road east of Julesburgh to supply most of the ties required for the first eighty miles east of the base of the mountains.

The extreme high water in the Missouri river prevented my getting as many from that source as I expected, and the timber along the line of road was nearly all exhausted last season.

page image

The only place where any considerable amount of ties could have been obtained was in the Red Cedar Coņons [sic] south of North Platte and Brady Island stations. Owing to the Indian troubles it was impossible to get but very far from that place. As a last resort I authorized Mr. Minor and [Houie] (agent) to purchase and ship me as soon as possible one hundred thousand ties from Chicago, and from that source I rely for most of the balance required to complete the road to the base of the Mountains.

Contracts were made early in the season with L.B. Boomer of Chicago for all the timber required for trestle bridges and for what all truss bridges wanted east of the base of the mountains. Owing to some misunderstanding that contract was not carried out and other parties with whom contracts were made failed to deliver the timber as fast as required causing some delay and great trouble in securing a supply of that kind of material as fast as required.

A large portion of the wood used for construction purposes has been purchased and sent west by the Superntendaent [sic] of the completed road and the accounts kept in the office at Omaha.

I closed contracts in June and July for ten thousand cords to be delivered on the line of road west of Julesburg, two thousand cords to be delivered near Sidney, and eight thousand cords near Pine Bluffs. All the wood was to be delivered by the first of September.

page image

All that has been received on both contracts is two hundred and fifty cords. It is impossible to get wood west of North Platte to operate the road until the track is laid to the mountains.

coal has been purchased and all the construction engines are now using that fuel, which costs loaded on the cars at Omaha about eleven and one half dollars per ton.

Whereat little wood can be obtained west of North Platte will cost delivered twelve to fifteen dollars per cord. delivered on line of road

Since commencing work this spring the grading has been completed to a point four hundred and eighty seven miles west of the initial point, and will be completed five hundred and seventeen miles to SCheyenne by the first of October. The grading from there to the summit of the Black Hills, thirty two miles, is being rapidly completed and can all be done in time to lay the track to that place this season.

Track has been laid from the three hundred and fifth mile to the four hundred and fifty fourth this season, and if we lay the same amount this month that we did last on the first of October the track will be laid five hundred and two miles.

page image

  • 209 Miles of Road graded.
  • 40 Miles of Road one third graded.
  • 2,006,630 Cubic yards of earth excavated excavation mooved.
  • 10,000 Cubic yards of earth Rock excavated excavation moved.
  • 67 bridges built. Equals 9,922 lineal feet.
  • 980,256 Feet timber (board measure Bm) used in bridges.
  • 13,777 Lineal feet red cedar piles drove (North Platte bridge)
  • 100,744 Pounds of iron used in bridges.
  • 300 Lineal feet of truss bridge delivered for Crow Creek.
  • 212 71/100 Miles of main track laid.
  • 10 76/100 Miles of side track laid [n].
  • 556,870 ties laid in track.
  • 25,000 ties used in repairs and lost by fire and during the high water in April 1867.
  • 11 Wells dug.
  • 11 Water tanks and tank houses built.
  • 6 Passenger and freight houses combined 24x48 built.
  • 2 Freight houses 35x70 (North Platte and Julesburg) one at North Platt [sic] & one at Julesburgh built.
  • 1 Passenger house 24x48 (Julesburg) built.
  • 1 Eating house at North Platte 98x30, with wing 78x30 built.
  • 1 Brick round house (20 stalls) North Platte. built
  • 1 Brick smith and machine shop 60x100 (North Platte. built
  • Machinery ordered for shop but not received

page image

  • 1 Brick round house (10 stalls) commenced at Sidney. Material purchased for one of 10 stalls at SCheyenne.
  • 2 iron turn tables 46 feet in diameter, one at North Platte and one at Sidney.
  • 2 Temporary tables that can be moved ahead for future use.
  • 212 71/100 Miles of telegraph line built.

  • 188,960 ties on hand October first 1866.
  • 468,572 Purchased and received since.
  • 657,532
  • Laid in track inclusively including 25,000 used for repairing old road and lost by fire and during the high water in April of 1867.
  • 581,870
  • 75,662 On hand September first 1867.
  • 200,744 Feet, board measure, bridge timber on hand.
  • 35,000 Feet, board measure, timber for buildings. on hand
  • 20 Miles of iron purchased punched for fish joints.
  • 1365 Regs of spikes.
  • 3111 Chairs.
  • ---- Splices.
  • 70 Miles of telegraph wire.
  • 2500 Red Cedar telegraph poles.
  • 15200 Brackets.
  • ----- Insulators.

page image

ties and bridge timber and lumber for future use.

From former reports I was led to believe that an abundant suply [sic] of this material could be obtained in the Black Hills not only to build the road East of the first range of Mountains as far as it is economy to haul by teams but that a large suply [sic] could be obtained to extend the road west atacrost the Laramie Plaines [sic] The I On personal examination of all the count Mountain country adjacent to the line over the first range of Mountains I find that the timber has been greatly over estimated. And do not believe we can get more than two hundred thousand ties and a limited quantity of bridge timber in the Black Hills.

It will require one hundred and fifty thousand to build the road from Cheyenne to Fort Sanders.

After I had made a thorough examination of the timber I rode from Fort Sanders southwest acrost [sic] the Larame [sic] plaines [sic] [twenty] five miles to the Mountains where Little Laramie river enters the plaines [sic] and there found a large track of spruce pine extending from near the base of the mountains to the summit about five miles. I entered the timber and rode through it westerly to Rock Creek about twenty five miles. The timber is mostly small suitable for ties only. But very little was found large enough for bridge timber or lumber. I could not

page image

make a very close estimate of the timber but should not hesitate to agree to get from the timber that I rode through one million ties and quite a large amount of bridge timber. I was informed that the same belt of timber extends west to Elk Mountain near old Fort Hallock. About twenty five miles west of rock creek.

There is now a small party of tie makers putting up winter quarters in the timber near the Little Laramie river [preparatory] for winter work. The timber is from fifteen to twenty five miles from the road.

We must rely on this timber to build the road west to Green River and perhaps to Bear River in the Great South Lake Basin.

A large force should be put in the timber this fall to secure ties for next seasons work.

The various contractors and other men imployed [sic] in the work have have worked [?] and each individual man has done all they could to advance the work.

All of which is respectfully submitted
Saml. B. Reed. Supt. & Engineer.

About this Document

  • Source: Letter from Samuel B. Reed to Oliver Ames
  • Extent: 10 pages
  • Citation: Special Collections, University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City, Iowa, Papers of Levi O. Leonard, Box 3
  • Date: 1867