Frederick E Shearer.

The Pacific tourist : J.R. Bowman's illustrated trans-continental guide of travel, from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean ... : acomplete traveler's guide of the Union and Central Pacific Railroads ... online

. (page 39 of 61)
Online LibraryFrederick E ShearerThe Pacific tourist : J.R. Bowman's illustrated trans-continental guide of travel, from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean ... : acomplete traveler's guide of the Union and Central Pacific Railroads ... → online text (page 39 of 61)
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Fair's broad shoulders kept me from many a
wetting in that memorable trip.

At the heaviest grade the water came in so
furiously in front, that it was impossible to see
where we were going, or what was ahead of us ;
but, when the grade was light, and we were go-
ing at a three or four-minute pace, the vision was
very delightful, although it was terrible.

In this ride, which fails me to describe, I was
perched up in a boat no wider than a chair, some-
times 20 feet high in the air, and with the
ever varying altitude of the flume, often 70
feet high. When the water would enable me to
look ahead, I would see this trestle here and
there for miles, so small and narrow, and appar-
ently so fragile, that I could only compare it to
a chalk-mark, upon which, high in the air, I was
running at a rate unknown upon railroads.

One circumstance during the trip did more to
show me the terrible rapidity with which we
dashed through the flume, than anything else.
We had been rushing down at a pretty lively
rate of speed, when the boat suddenly struck
something in the bow a nail, or lodged stick of
wood, which ought not to have been there. What
was the result ? ^ The red-faced carpenter was
sent whirling into the flume, 10 feet ahead.
Fair was precipitated on his face, and I found a
soft lodgment on Fair's back.

It seemed to me that in a second's time, Fair,
himself a powerful man, had the carpenter by
the scruff of the neck, and had pulled him into
the boat. I did not know that, at this time,
Fair had his fingers crushed between the boat
and the flume.

But we sped along ; minutes seemed hours. It
seemed an hour before we arrived at the worst
place in the flume, and yet Hereford tells me it
was less than 10 minutes. The flume at the point
alluded to must have very near 45 inclination.

In looking out before we reached it, I thought

the only way to get to the bottom was to fall.
How our boat kept in the track is more than I
know. The wind, the steamboat, the railroad
never went so fast. I have been where the wind
blew at the rate of 80 miles an hour, and yet my
breath was not taken away. In the flume, in the
bad places, it seemed as if I would suffocate.

The first bad place that we reached, and if I
remember right, it was the worst, I got close
against Fair. I did not know that I would sur-
vive the journey, but I wanted to see how fast
we were going. So I lay close to him and placed
my head between his shoulders. The water was
coming into his face, like the breakers of the
ocean. When we went slow, the breakers came
in on my back, but when the heavy grades were
reached, the breakers were in front. In one case
Fair shielded me, and in the other, I shielded

In this particularly bad place I allude to, my de-
sire was to form some judgment of the speed we
were making. If the truth must be spoken, I
was really scared almost out of reason ; but if I
was on the way to eternity, I wanted to know
exactly how fast I went; so I huddled close to
Fair, and turned my eyes toward the hills.
Every object I placed my eye on was gone, be-
fore I could clearly see what it was. Mountains
passed like visions and shadows. It was with
difficulty that I could get my breath. I felt that
I did not weigh an hundred pounds, although
I knew, in the sharpness of intellect which one
has at such a moment, that the scales turned at
two hundred.

Mr. Flood and Mr. Hereford, although they
started several minutes later than we, were close
upon us. They were not so heavily loaded, and
they had the full sweep of the water, while we
had it rather at second hand. Their boat
finally struck ours with a terrible crash.

Mr. Flood was thrown upon his face, and the
waters flowed over him, leaving not a dry thread
upon him. What became of Hereford I do not
know, except that when he reached the terminus
of the flume, he was as wet as any of us.

This only remains to be said. We made the
entire distance in less time than a railroad train
would ordinarily make, and a portion of the
time we went faster than a railroad train ever

Fair said we went at least a mile a minute.
Flood said we went at the rate of 100 miles an
hour, and my deliberate belief is that we went
at a rate that annihilated time and space. We
were a wet lot when we reached the terminus of
the flume. Flood said he would not make the
trip again, for the whole Consolidated Virginia

Fair said that he should never again place him-
self on an equality with timber and wood, and
Hereford said he was sorry that he ever built the
flume. As for myself, I told the millionaire that


I had accepted my last challenge. When we left
our boats we were more dead than alive.

We had yet 16 miles to drive to Virginia City.
How we reached home, the reader will never
know. I asked Flood what I was to do with my
spoiled suit of English clothes. He bade me
good night, with the remark that my clothes were
good enough to give away. The next day,
neither Flood nor Fair were able to leave their
bed. For myself, I had only strength enough
left to say, " / have had enough of flumes."


Proceeding from Reno, dii-ectly to San Fran-
cisco, the line of the railroad is along the
Truckee River.
The meadows
grow narrower,
and the mount-
ains approach on
either side, then
widen again in
Pleasant Valley.

Verdi is 234
miles east of San
Francisco, has
three stores and a
planing mill ; de-
rives its impor-
tance from the
lumber trade, and
its notoriety from
the robbery o f
the express and
mail cars, of an
overland train.

The scenery is
now becoming
fine ; Crystal Peak
may be seen on
the right, and win-
ter moonlight
nights will add
charms to make
the views more
lovely and unique
between this point
and Truckee.
Then the mount-
ains, denuded at
their base of all
timber, and the
shrubs and stumps
buried in deep
snow are of un-
broken, silvery

1 . . 1*1 , -I *

white, while the

lofty pines, farther up the steep sides or on the
rounding tops, form a veil of green, and above
all irregular, fleecy clouds float fantastically by,
as if a silvery mist in the valleys was rising over
the dark peaks, mingling light of many shades,

while exulting clouds, glide smoothly and silently
along the azure sky.

The Truckee River foams, as its rapid waters
battle with the rocks, and it is crossed and re-
crossed on Howe truss bridges, and the mount-
ains, often precipitous, show their volcanic origin
in masses of basaltic rock.

Essex, 233, and Mystic, 227 miles from San
Francisco, are side tracks at which passengers
trains do not stop.

Bronco is 223 miles from San Francisco.
Soon after leaving the station there will be
noticed a post marked "State Line," stand-
ing on the one hundred and twentieth meridian
west of Washington, D. C., and this passed,

the traveler is in
the Golden State
of California.

Between Bronco
and Boca, at what
was Camp 18, a
flag station has
just been located
and named Dover.
.Boca, a tele-
graph station, is
218 miles from
San Francisco,
with a population
of about 150. It
is at the mouth of
the Little Truckee
River, and is the
Spanish name for
"mouth." Th.e
only business is
that of the Boca
Lumber Mill and
Ice Company, and
the Boca Brewery,
the latter the larg-
est on the Pacific
Coast, and on ac-
count of the equa-
ble temperature,
expected to pro-
duce the best lager-
beer in' the world.
ice are cut yearly
from the pond.
The cold is some-
times severely felt,
the mercury
standing at 22 be-
low zero d uri ng the
winter of 1875-6.


Prosper Creek is 216 miles from San Fran-
cisco at the mouth of a creek of the same name,
called from a hotel keeper in early days. It is a
flag station, and the terminus of a flume for sev-
eral milling stations, and the ice-field for two


companies that supply San Francisco. Continu-
ing west 3.3 miles, we reach

froctor's, 212 miles from San Francisco,
but trains do not stop. On the left will be
noticed a large tract of flat land covered with
timber, or stumps, and a ranche or two. Across
this and over the range of hills beyond, lies
Lake Tahoe, but keeping to the river, 3.2 miles
from Proctor's, we reach

Truckee, 209 miles from San Francisco,
the dividing line between the Truckee and
Sacramento divisions of the railroad, with
a roundhouse for 24 engines. It has one
weekly newspaper, the Republican, and is the
most import-
ant town in
the Sierras, on
account of the
business done,
as a summer
resort, and be-
cause of its
convenience to
other favorite
resorts. It is
the seat of a
large lumber
trade, and
would be ben-
efited by the
of an exten-
sive fire insur-
ance business.
The town was
burned in
1868, 1869,
twice in 1870,
in 1874, and
in 1875.

The prevail-
ing winds are
west, and in
summer one
might think
the great width of the street is designed to pre-
vent fires from the locomotive sparks, but in
winte'r the more probable suggestion is that
it is for the convenience of piling up the snow
when the people shovel out their houses. The
population is about 2,000, nearly one-third of
which are Chinamen. A large number of good
stores are arranged on the north side of the
street, and considerable trade carried on with
Sierra and Pleasant Valleys on the north.

The Truckee Hotel, where the train, stops,
is a very popular resort, the tablp being
always supplied in season with the choicest
trout and game. Many desiring the bene-
fit of mountain air, and the convenience of
the railroad, spend their summer months in


Truckee, from which Donner Lake is distant
only two miles, and Tahoe 12.

Stages leave Truckee on Tuesdays, Thursdays
and Saturdays for Randolph, 28 miles, time four
hours, and fare $4; Sierraville, 29 miles, time
four and one-fourth hours, fare $4 ; Sierra City,
60 miles, time ten hours, fare $8 ; Downieville,
72 miles, time twelve hours, fare $10; Jamison
City, 55 miles, time ten hours, fare $8, and Eu-
reka Mills, 58 miles, time ten and one-half hours,
fare $8. On Mondays,Wednesdays, and Fridays
for Loyalton, 30 miles, time five hours, fare <$4 ;
Beckwith, 45 miles, time seven and one-half
hours, fare $5.

The stages
leaving on
and Fridays,
are also the
stages for
Webber Lake,
16 miles north
of Truckee,
and Independ-
ence Lake,
about the
same distance.
At each of
these is a good

Lake is about
the size of
Donner, en-
circled by
high, snow-
capped mount-
ains, but beau-
tified by a
rim of f er.
tile meadow
around its
pebbly beach.
Lake is one of
the most popuiar resorts for trout fishing on
the coast. The accommodations are excellent,
and the fish plentiful. It has, perhaps, no rival
except the McCloud River and Castle Lake,
near Mount Shasta. The tourist who stops a
few days to sojourn ai Webber will be amply re-
paid both in scenery and sport. Stages leave
the summit daily, passing along Donner Lake to
Truckee, thence to Tahoe City on Lake Tahoe.
Fare from the summit to Tahoe, $2.50. Truckee
to Tahoe, $2 ; John F. Moody, of the Truckee
Hotel, also runs an elegant open coach, of the Kim-
ball Manufacturing Company, between Truckee
and Tahoe City, daily, fare $2 ; and Campbell's
stages leave every morning for Campbell's Hot
Springs on Lake Tahoe.


A Snoiv-Storm at Truckee. At mid-
night, the mountain peaks stood clear and white,
with deep shadows here and there, and above, a
cloudless sky ; but, at daylight, a foot of new
Sjjow lay upon many previous snows.

The one-story houses were hid from view.
While the air was full of falling flakes, busy men
were shoveling off the roofs of their dwellings
shoveling all the while, and half a hundred
Chinamen were loading cars with snow from the
railroad track to throw it down some steep
mountain side. Men are coming in with their
shoes in hand not number thirteens, but thir-
teen feet long, and stand them up against the

These snow-
shoes are about
six inches wide,
turned up in
front like the
runner of a
skate, and wax-
ed to make
them slip easi-
ly over the
snow. Near the
middle is a
leather that
laces over the
instep (a skele-
ton half -shoe),
and out of
which the foot
will slip in case
of a fall or acci-

A long pole
is carried like
a rope-dancer's
to preserve a
balance, and to
straddle and sit
upon for a
brake, when
descend ing a
hill. They are
essential to
safety in these

As I watched the falling snow, nothing could
exceed the beauty. As it curled and shot
through the air, the mountains were shut out
with a gauzy veil and darker mists. Now and
then I caught a glimpse of a clump of pines on
the mountain side, indistinct and gray in shadow,
and as the fitful snow favored the straining eye,
the long white boughs seemed bending as if con-
scious of the enormous weight that threatened
every living thing.

When the clouds broke suddenly away, a flood
of golden light leaped from hill to hill. The tall
pines, partly green, but now like pyramids of


snow, lift their heads above the mountain sides.
But in less than fifteen minutes after the first
sight of the sun, a long stratum of dark cloud
came down the mountain, and the snow falls
thicker and faster than ever. Its hard crystals
were driven so furiously as to make one's cheeks
burn, and give exquisite torture to the eyelids.
I looked upon the rapid river, and around its
snow-capped rocks the water played in foaming

The enormous snow-plows at length grappled
with this monster of the elements.

From east and west came reports of ava-
lanches, snow sheds down, trains wrecked and
snow-bound, and soon the telegraph refused to

do its bidding.
The ponder-
ous engines
were thrown
from the rails
in the streets,
before our eyes,
by the hard
crystals which
they crushed
into glacier-like
ice. With five
of them behind
the largest
snow-plow o n
the road, we
started toward
the summit.
The snow flew
and even
the ground
trembled, and
every piece of
the short snow
sheds was wel-
comed with joy
and misgiving.
The blinding
snow, I thought,
will cease to
fly, but suppose
that, when
crushed into ice
like granite, it
lifts the ponderous plow of 30 tons, or that we go
crashing into the shed prostrate beneath twenty
or forty feet of snow ; or that an avalanche has
come down and our way lies through the tangled
trunks of these huge Sierra pines ; five boilers
behind that may soon be on top of us.

Never before did I realize the need of the
snow sheds, but I often rebelled against the shut-
ting out of nature's mountain charms from the
weary or unoccupied traveler.

Let the discontented not forget that five feet
of snow may fall in one day ; that twenty and
thirty feet may lie all over the ground at one



time ; that forty and fifty feet are sometimes to
be seen, where the road-bed is secure baneath it,
and that the canons often contain a hundred

These -capacious reservoirs are the pledge of
summer fruitful ness. A winter scene in these
Sierras without even the sight of unfriendly
bruin, will beget a fondness for the snow sheds
that the summer tourist cannot imagine, and a
better appreciation of the boldness and daring
of the men who brare the hardships of these
mountain storms, and peril their lives at every
step for other's safety. Day and night I saw
the servants of the public, from highest to low-
est, haggard and worn, yet never ceasing in their
battle against the tremendous storm, and was
overwhelmed thinking of our indebtedness to
their energy, skill and endurance, as well as by
viewing the wonderful works of God. "The
feeding of the rivers and the purifying of the
winds are the least of the services appointed to
the hills. To fill the thirst of the human heart
with the beauty of God's working, to startle its
lethargy with the deep and pure agitation of
astonishment are their higher missions."

Snow Sheds. The snow sheds, so important

to winter travel, are found east of Strong's Canon
Station, and west of Emigrant Gap, wherever
there is no side hill, and the removal of the snow
would be difficult for the plow. Between these
two stations, they are without break, except for
tunnels and bridges. In all, there are about 40
miles of the sheds.

They are of two kinds, the flat roof, built to
hold the weight of 25 or 30 feet of snow, or slide
it down the mountain side, and those with the
pitched or steep roof, and " batter brace." The
massiveness of the huge pine trunks, or sawed
timbers, twelve or sixteen inches on a side, may
be easily seen from the cars. The cost per mile
varied from $8,000 to $10,000, and where it was
necessary to build heavy retaining walls of ma-
sonry, some dry and some cement walls, the cost
was at the rate of $30,000 per mile. Sometimes
the heavy square timbers are bolted to the solid
ledge, that avalanches may be carried by, and
the sheds remain.

At a distance the sheds look small, but they
are high enough to insure the safety of break*
men who pass over the tops of the freight cars.

During the summer months when everything
is sun-scorched, the destruction of the sheds by


fire is often imminent, and great loss has been
suffered in this way. To prevent fires, the
greatest precaution is used, and the most
effective measures adopted to extinguish a con-
flagration. At short intervals, both sides and
roof are of corrugated iron to stop the progress of
a fire, and the whole line from Strong's Canon to
Emigrant Gap, provided with automatic fire-
alarms, telegraphing the place of danger, and at
the summit is a train with tanks, and the engine
ready to become instantly a well-equipped fire-

Near Truckee the railroad leaves the river
which turns to the south, and it follows Donner
Creek, the outlet of Donner Lake, for a short dis-
tance and then turns up the great and magnifi-
cent canon of Cold Stream Creek, in a direction
nearly south-west. Before leaving Donner
Creek, we are hard by

" Starvation Carnp," where in the winter of
1846-7 a company of eighty-two persons, coming
to California, were overtaken by snow, lost their
cattle, and were reduced to such straits that
many survivors fed on the remains of their
starved companions. The company comprised
eighty-two persons, of whom thirty-two were
females, a large proportion of the whole being
children. Thirty-six perished, of whom twenty-
six were males. Of a party of thirteen, who
went out for help, ten perished. Relief was sent
to the company, but it was impossible to save
all. Mrs. Donner, when the alternative was
presented her, early in March, of leaving her
husband, and going away with her children, or
remaining with him and soon perishing, refused
to abandon him, and when, in April, the spot
was visited again, his body was found carefully
dressed and laid out by her. How long she sur-
vived him is not known. The sufferings of this
party were insignificant in amount when com-
pared with the whole aggregate of misery en-
dured in the early peopling of California by the
Overland, the Cape Horn, and the Panama Route,
but no other tale connected with these early days
is so harrowing in its details as this, and no one
thinking of Donner Lake, turns from its quiet
and beauty, to think of this tragedy that gave it
its name, without a shudder.

The old road across the mountains to Sutter's
Fort, followed up the Cold Stream, where snows
no longer forbid a passage across the dangerous

Along and rounding this Cold Stream Canon
are the finest views on the eastern aide of the
Sierras, not shut out by snow sheds from the
traveler by rail. The canon is wide and long,
and far above and across, the road-bed is cut on
the steep mountain side, and then protected by
long snow sheds till at last it enters tunnel No. 13.
Looking up the canon, on the right, soon after
entering, or back, after the Horse-Shoe Curve
has been made, a long line of purple pyramids

and jagged precipices surround the valley, and if
the road is not at the bottom of everything, the
enormous face of the mountain seems to forbid
the most daring attempt to ascend. But upward
still looking back to the valley of the Truckee
far below, and the train reaches

Strong's Canon, 203 miles from San Fran-
cisco, which is a side track, telegraph office and
turn-table, for snow-plows, principally. Cold
Stream must not be confounded with Strong's
Canon, for the latter will not be reached till the
train has passed half-way along the lofty wall of
Donner Lake. The station was originally a*
Strong's Canon, but was afterward moved to tun-
nel No. 13, the point where the road leaves Cold
Stream Canon.

Donner Lake the gem of the Sierras, is just
below, and the vigilant eye will be rewarded by
a sight of it through the observation holes in
the snow sheds, and when the train crosses a
bridge in doubling Strong's Canon. After leav-
ing this Canon, the road-bed is cut out of rough,
rugged, granite rocks ; and before the summit is
reached, it has passed through the seventh tun-
nel from Cold Stream. These are almost indis-
tinguishable from the sombre snow sheds, and
Nos. 11 and 12 and likewise 7 and 8, are almost
continuous. The longest are Nos. 13 and 6, the
former 870 feet, and the latter, 1,659 feet, and
the longest on the line of the road. Emerging
from tunnel No. 6, the

Summit,- 195 miles from San Francisco, is
announced, and the train is ready to descend
rapidly to the valley of the Sacramento. It is a
day and night telegraph station, and has an alti-
tude of 7,017 feet 119.8 feet above Truckee
and is the highest point on the line of the road.
Many of the surrounding peaks are two and
three thousand feet higher.

The Summit House is the largest hotel along
the line of the road, accommodates 150 guests,
and is one of the most popular in the Sierras.

One who lets the train go by, to climb to
the top of the ridge through which the tunnel
leads, or some higher peak, will never be sorry,
for an enchanting panorama will be unrolled.

Summit Valley, with its bright pastures, and
warm with life, while it touches bleak rocks, and
receives the shade of the inhospitable pine or
the drip of the snow one of the loveliest val-
leys at such an altitude lies toward the setting
sun. In the rim that shuts out the south-west
wind, towers the Devil's Peak, a bold cliff rising
from out of wild surroundings ; and following
the ridge eastward with the eye, and around
toward the point of vision, there are prominent,
Old Man's Peak, just across the valley, sharp-
ened by the wintry storms of his long life, and
on the main ridge, Mount Lincoln, 9,200 feet high,
and Donner Peak, 2,000 feet above the railroad,
and 3,200 above the lake that sleeps in quiet
beauty at its base; and across the railroad





the peak from which Biers f ,adt sketched the
" Gem " beneath. Then there are a thousand
other charms in the vast heights above, and
vast depths below ; in contrasts of light and
shade, form and color; in mists hanging over
the lake, and clouds clinging to the peaks ; in
the twilight deepening into darkness, or colossal
pyres, kindled by the coining sun, and going out
in the clear light of the day ; or, in the gloom of
the forest mingled with the living silver of the
moonlit lake.

The peaks
may be ascend-
ed some with
difficulty, and
some with mod-
erate exertion
but p3rsons of
feeble constitu-
tion may enjoy
all the varied

The lake is of
easy access, and
has on its banks
a hotel for tour-
ists. The dis-
tance to the lake
by the carriage
road is 2 1-2
miles, and
Truckee 9 miles.
The summit di-
vides the waters
that flow east
and sink amid
desert sands,
from those that
flow west into
the Sacrameiito,

Valley 2^
miles long and
one mile wide,
heads in the
high peaks
south of the hotel. It has pasturage during
the summer for many cattle, and its springs and
abundance of products fresh from the dairy
make it a delightful place for camping out.
Its waters are the source of the South Fork of
the South Yuba Eiver. The railroad descends
to the foot of this valley, keeping the divide on
the north to the right, then, about three miles
from the summit, crosses the most southerly
branch of the Yuba. A few yards before the
crossing is a summer flag station, or

Online LibraryFrederick E ShearerThe Pacific tourist : J.R. Bowman's illustrated trans-continental guide of travel, from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean ... : acomplete traveler's guide of the Union and Central Pacific Railroads ... → online text (page 39 of 61)