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Nov. 13, 1867

UP Rails Reach Cheyenne; CP Battles Sierras

On one of their most important surveying excursions, General Dodge and his crew made camp at Crow Creek Crossing, at the base of the Rocky Mountains. Dodge quickly platted a town that members of his party would name “Cheyenne,” after the American Indian nation. By the time the Union Pacific rails reached Cheyenne, its population had grown to more than 4,000. Residents dubbed it “The Magic City of the Plains.” Meanwhile, CP's crews blasted through granite by dangling over cliffs with nitroglycerine between their teeth and hauled steam locomotives to the Truckee Valley on snow sledges. Construction labor was unavailable in gold-rich California, so CP contracted with a Chinese supplier to bring as many as 12,000 Chinese workers to California. The Chinese employees worked diligently lifting the railroad 7,000 feet to Donner Pass despite dozens of blizzards. They built 15 tunnels, as well as miles of snow sheds to protect the railroad.

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In mid-1867, Union Pacific crews worked seven days a week and 12 to 16 hours a day. Before long, workers were laying a mile or more a day. General Dodge wrote, "They could lay from one to three miles of track per day as they had material, and one day laid eight-and-a-half miles." Challenged by Dodge's progress, CP laborers laid 10 miles of track in 12 hours, a record that still stands. According to one story, Durant and CP's Charles Crocker had made a $10,000 bet on which team could lay the most rail in a day.

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